After brushing up on my handyman-skills (read Returning Home) it’s time to leave the beautiful winter of Phoenix for a change of scenery and, hopefully, to make a few decisions. After a few days of work at the Fiesta bowl for an old client, and a short-stay at my friend Eileen’s house, I’m headed to Sun Valley, Idaho (Ketchum to be exact), where my friend Melissa has been generous enough to offer me a two-week solo-stay in her time share condo. I’m grateful for a few reasons; getting away from my house to make some decisions is so needed. It’s also expensive to stay in Phoenix as I’ve needed to rent a car (remember? I sold mine) and, while I became somewhat of a public transportation expert over this past year, Phoenix is not known as a public transportation Mecca and, what better time for the bus drivers to go on strike than while I’m here? (Yup.) So, after a few weeks of enjoying the great winter weather in Phoenix, it’s time for me to leave. (I’m like a snowbird, only I drive better.)
Over the past year, I’ve learned many important lessons, one of which is to ask for help. Sure, I’m always willing to lend a hand, but I’m not so great and asking for one. And, to be honest, I’ve also learned that, while many share my attitude of going out of your way to help someone, many think it’s great in theory, but can be a bit wishy-washy in practice. I guess this is what makes it all the more special when someone performs a random act of kindness. Still, I’m trying this asking for help thing out. Luckily, my friend Melissa has come through by offering me a stay in her condo and use of her car. It’s people like Eileen and Melissa (and my wonderful next-door neighbor, Kevin) who are helping me to believe that kindness is still out there, if you search hard enough and ask.
So, now I’m on a plane to Idaho. The airfare cost me only $129 one-way. Not bad when you figure I’m staying free for just over two weeks. I fly out this evening and should arrive at the Sun Valley Airport in Hailey, Idaho (the town that Bruce and Demi bought for a while) just after 11:00pm. While Melissa and I will overlap our dates in the condo for a couple of days, I’ll stay in hotel the first night, as I’ll be arriving late and, like me, Melissa is looking for a little alone time. Her story is long but, also like me, she’s location independent and, while we greatly appreciate people allowing us to stay with them, alone time can be difficult to find under these circumstances. The cheapest accommodation I could find anywhere near the airport is the Bellevue High Country Motel for $67. As there are no hotels with airport shuttles, and this is only four-miles from the airport, the taxi shouldn’t be too costly.
My flight from Phoenix to Salt Lake goes well and, after an on-time landing, I head over to the gate to catch my next flight. While waiting, an announcement is made that, due to the smaller size of this plane, roll-aboard bags must be checked. Not a problem. I step up to the counter to check my bag which, as she hands me a pink claim-check, the gate agent tells me I can pick up at the baggage claim in Sun Valley, along with my one piece of checked baggage. She then says, “So you know the procedure for the alternate airport?”
“Oh, due to weather, we won’t be flying to Sun Valley, but to Twin Falls. From there, we’ll bus you to Sun Valley and you should arrive at about 12:45am.”
“I need to get a taxi to my hotel when I get there. Will there be taxis?” I ask.
“Hmmm, I’m not sure. I’d think there would be.” She replies.
“Oh yes, especially because they’ll know we’re being bused and many people’s rides won’t be able to come that late, they’ll be lined up.” interjects a couple standing nearby.
Before long, I walk out onto the tarmac, up the steps to the plane, and take my seat next to Debra, a Sun Valley local. As I sit down, she’s texting to arrange a taxi-ride home. (As she flies a lot, she’s pretty much over this alternate airport thing too). While in flight, I ask Debra if she thinks I’ll have any trouble finding a taxi. She looks at me with a worried face and says, “Oh yes, you might have a problem there. I was just texting the owner of the cab company I use. When we land in Twin Falls I’ll call him and ask if he can help you.”
An hour later, after an announcement telling those of us who have pink claim checks to wait for our bags outside near the bottom of the stairs (brrrr), we land. As we exit, bags are piled on a cart trailing behind a motorized tractor-thing, and are brought to us. My fellow passengers immediately swarm around it, grab their bags, and quickly move into the warmth of the tiny terminal. I stand in front of the empty cart looking puzzled. Where’s my bag? Sure the lady in the terminal told me I could pick it up at the baggage claim, but the lady on the plane announced it would be outside the plane.
“Excuse me,” I shout to the woman who has just climbed on the tiny tractor with the now empty cart, ready to pull away. “Where’s my bag?” I wave my pink claim ticket as if it’s a winning BINGO card.
As she looks at me puzzled, a man appears from behind me echoing, “Yeh, mine too!”
She looks back towards the plane and yells, “Hey, can you guys check and see if there are any more bags in there?” The guy reaches back inside the luggage hold and more bags appear and are brought over.
After grabbing my bag, I walk into the terminal where the only people present are those from my flight and a lady with a megaphone instructing us to hang-out for twenty-minutes or so while they load the luggage onto the bus. We’re pointed to restrooms and vending machines where I check to be sure there are no tiny bottles of vodka for purchase because, at this moment, it’s the only thing I want. I find Debra who’s on the phone with her taxi company-owning friend. She hangs up and says, “You might have a problem. You should call the other taxi company.”
I dial up A-1 Taxi, the only other taxi company in town, tell them we’re being bussed in (they know the procedure) and ask if they can pick me up and drive me the four miles to my hotel. I’m told they can and a taxi will be waiting.
“Ok, great. Will it be assigned to me or will there just be a line of taxis? Do you need my name?”
“What’s your name?” he says, sounding a bit irritated
I tell him and remind him that I’ll need to be taken to the Bellevue High Country Motel. “Ok, that’ll be $60,” he says.
I quickly calculate it at $15 per mile “What? It’s four miles away?”
“Is that your normal rate for four miles?”
“If you don’t like it, find someone else!” he says curtly before hanging up.
That’s it, I’m so done.
Stunned, I hang up my phone (well, I don’t really have to as he’s already hung up on me) and a tear begins to fall (there may have been more than one).
We’re soon called outside to the bus and, clearly upset, I ask the bus driver if it’s possible for her to drop me at my hotel as it’s on the way. She instructs me to bring my carry-on bag with me on the bus instead of placing it under. I tell her I have a checked bag which they’ve already loaded under the bus, but can pick it up at the airport tomorrow as, I really just need to get to my warm hotel room with a soft bed and forget about the last couple of weeks. She tells me this will be fine and I cry over her kindness.
I take a seat on the bus and call Melissa to let her know we’ll need to stop at the airport to collect my bag after she picks me up from the hotel. As I’m on the phone, both the driver and the lady with the megaphone approach me to let me know that we’ll first stop at the airport and I should just stay on the bus as both me and my luggage will be transferred to the hotel.
During the four-mile drive from the airport to the hotel, the driver tells me her emotional story of her marriage, separation, lack of support from some family members as she’s married to a woman, and thoughts of ending her life earlier in the week. We talk about our mutual search for kindness, and how it seems more elusive these days. I tell her how much I appreciate her kindness on this cold, snowy night and that it certainly meant something to me.
I step off the bus, collect my luggage, as well as the key to my room left for me in the mailbox before thanking her for her kindness, giving her a hug and wishing her well as I trudge through the fresh snow into my warm room.
Next up – Searching for Papa Hemingway.