life as understood

by jeff carr, master of the arts, -------------------------------------------------------------------------- presumably from a couch


die luft der freiheit weht

courtesy of Jeff |

They handed out Hershey's Kisses on 9/11. It's not integral -- just an anecdote. I wondered how United would commemorate the tenth anniversary of their darkest day without scaring the passengers prior to takeoff. The flight attendant handed out Kisses, and mine melted on the surface when I held it too long in my lap, waiting for the drinks.

The candy was a cheap and imperfect way to remember the thousands of lives taken a decade earlier, but anything would have been inadequate, and besides, it seemed like the Kiss money came straight from the flight attendant's own pocket. United didn't plan anything for this flight to L.A., so she stepped in to fill the void. She clearly wasn't accustomed to using the intercom for weighty matters, so her ad-libbed speech about her fallen comrades was stumbling, but genuine.

Perhaps the greater commemoration was that it was a full flight. Ten years later, and on a day that had seen multiple threats, dozens of people were not afraid to go up again. At least not too afraid.

Our connecting flight to San Francisco wasn't full, because we weren't on it. Upon landing at LAX, our plane sat waiting for a gate for so long that our ride home took off without us. It was the last flight of the night, and the hotel voucher wouldn't get me to Stanford by work time in the morning, so I made an executive decision. I took my undersized wife and baby, rented a Mercury Grand Marquis, and headed off through south-central Los Angeles at just before midnight.

Despite what the movies show, L.A. to Stanford is a full six hours, even without traffic. I don't remember most of what happened during that time, though I was technically awake for nearly all of it. It was dark. Radio stations came and went. Sarah, my sweetheart, never complained once, even though the likelihood of us veering off of I-5 into a lake at 4am was probably far greater than getting hijacked and rammed into the Golden Gate Bridge at 11:30.

In the light of day, after a single hour of subpar sleep, I arose and attended the orientation for my new job at Stanford -- the job that is our reward for taking a leap of faith, or rather, several. I'm not sure if my rash commitment to punctuality would have impressed or perplexed my superiors. Almost certainly the latter. I never brought it up.

The point is that I have a job. At 26, for the first time, I have a salary, benefits, and an open-ended position that could last as long as I want it to. The freedom from doubt and worry is exhilirating. But after months of searching, schmoozing, applying, it all came down to me being in the right place at the right time. Perhaps the midnight drive was my penance -- the toil I owe to my superiors and to Stanford for entrusting me with this position, which should have been harder to come by. Freiheit isn't frei. At least, it shouldn't be. But how refreshing it feels.

1 responses:

Sarah said...

I thought the German made you sound like a fascist.