Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Writing Conference, Inmates & the Asylum by Rebecca Forster


I spoke at a conference in Hyannis, Cape Cod this past weekend. I was inside a hotel for 48 hours (outside was rainy and muggy). I did my thing, a friend picked me up Monday (gloriously sunny), showed me around and got me to the airport to catch my flight home. Sounds uneventful, right? Wrong. 

I arrived at LAX Friday and found Boston weather had delayed my flight. The good thing was they told us this before we boarded so we didn’t have to sit on the tarmac. We finally took off. I arrived in Boston and bolted for my connecting flight on Cape Air that will deposit me in Hyannis in 25 minutes. I would be in my hotel room with a cup of soup going over my presentation before seven-thirty. 

Didn't work out that way.

There were tornado warnings (who knew there were tornadoes on Cape Cod?) and the flight (in the teeny-tiny plane) was cancelled. Good call, except how was I going to get to Hyannis?

Answer: An old lady whose son has ordered a Town Car wants me to share with her because the car is sooooo expensive.

 "Fine," I say.

We are joined by a very large man who has just come in from London. He and the older lady need to make the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard.

Our merry band becomes less merry as the driver battles rain and traffic. We inch along. The large man threatens no tip if the driver doesn’t get him to the ferry on time. Two hours later, we are almost there. The large man convinces the driver that the light we are sitting at is not red but green. My heart goes out to the driver. I object, the man continues to insist. The driver runs the red light (this is not the same as running a red light in a big city so no worries).

WE MAKE IT!

The ferry is loading as we drive up. The big man bolts through the rain, leaving the old lady behind. I WILL HELP! I get out of the car but the driver has somehow engaged the child lock. The lady is inside screaming LET ME OUT! LET ME OUT! She pounds on the car windows. We scramble and finally get the door open I have her bag. I see the large man settling himself on the ferry. He does not even wave. He has forgotten us.

I get back in the car. The gas warning light is on. The driver is confident. Forty minutes later he is still out of gas and cannot find the hotel/conference center. Finally, we arrive. The hotel was less than half a mile from the ferry.

Sigh.

Conference happens.

48 HOURS LATER:  

 My friend and I stop for lunch during our tour. I have a margarita. My husband calls.

Husband: “You’re at the airport, right?”

OOPS.  I have read the itinerary wrong (blame the margarita). At the Hyannis airport, I strip off belt, shoes, jacket, pass through security, put everything back on, pack up my iPad, and rush around the corner only to find the Hyannis airport is so small I could have crawled on one knee and still made the flight. I also could have had another margarita.

So, I’m waiting with my seven fellow Cape Air passengers (this is a very small plane) when the ticket agent appears. She did not get everyone’s weight.

My turn came. I felt like I was making my first confession all over again. Will she give me absolution or tell me I can't get on that teeny-tiny little plane because I weigh so much it will tip the whole thing over and we'll all end up in the drink?  I get absolved.

The teeny-tiny little plane ride was actually rather pleasant. That means a lot coming from someone who isn’t crazy about flying in the first place. The lady pilot must have known what she was doing because she didn’t spend much time flying. She adjusted her sunshade, filled out paperwork, even whipped out her lipstick until it was time to land.

In Boston, I am an hour and a half early. I have a bag of Checks Mix, a limp rod of string cheese and an apple to get me through the 5 hours to L.A.

Boarding: I find I have the first seat on the bulkhead. I am first in and I will be first out. Life is good. I am blessed.  With that thought, everything goes to hell in a hand basket. 

I will try to be brief if for no other reason than that I fear the ramifications of reliving the lunacy of this flight.

I am seated along with the business class passengers. One hundred and seventy-two people are lined up to stow their bags. A very tall woman carting a toddler enters with her shorter husband who carries a baby carrier (baby inside).

Woman (frantically):  "My family got separated! We're not sitting together!"

Stewardess (calmly): "I can't leave here, but you can see if anyone will switch with you.”

 Woman (frantic building to crazed): "Two babies! I have two babies! You have to switch 'cause I have two babies! Who wouldn't do that for two babies!?"

ANSWER: The group of Chinese people she's yelling at who do not speak English. 

SIMULTANEOUSLY:  The lady behind me pops up  (tall, lovely, and reminiscent of a young spinster in an English novel).

Young Woman:  "I have a cat!"

What? Is that like I have a gun? The cat is in a carrier under her seat but the man next to her is allergic to cats. She must now find someone to switch seats with on the sold out flight. The cat is passed over my head and everyone cooes and clucks at the darn thing while the baby woman screams. The cat woman climbs over the bulkhead seats because it's easier than trying to get across the allergic man and his wife.

I have always preferred dogs and I do not like the idea of animals on the plane at all.

LOGISTICS: These two things happening in the first five rows and that is backing everyone up.

Stewardess (on intercom): “Please move out of the aisle so everyone can be seated, or we will not leave on time.”

Someone has listened because now there is a tsunami of bodies pouring through the doorway. All these people carry luggage (don’t anyone try and tell me these things are carryon items). As people twist and turn and maneuver said carry on items whack me in the head because I was lucky enough to get the first seat.

Whack! Wham! Smash! I get up. I stand near the galley. The man seated next to me reads a literary novel. He is safe.

Now, one of the Chinese travelers swims upstream toward the door as people try to board.

Chinese man: “Broken leg! Broken leg!”

It seems to be the only word he knows other than Los Angeles. It is determined he is concerned that there will not be a wheelchair for his wife once we land. He is swept back by the wave of humanity with large backpacks.

Take Off. Two Baby Lady is up and down, looking frazzled. I believe she is hard of hearing. She does not seem to notice her children screaming and when she addresses anyone about her frazzledness it is done in decibels that defy description.

To keep the toddler quiet (about an hour into a 5 hour flight), the father walks him to the front of our section (in front of my seat which is in front of the galley where they keep the giant drink carts).

The toddler (a darling toe headed child) jumps and dances and hollers AND plays with the red levers that act as safety devices to keep the giant carts from crushing someone should the plane take a wrong turn.

I look at the father; he looks at me. I look at the kid; I look at the father; he looks at me. The kid whirls like a dervish. I look at the father. Finally, dad gets it.

Father (daring to touch child):  "You shouldn't do that" (what an impressive bit of parenting).

Damien becomes a little ball of curly-headed devil-possessed fury and throws himself into my tray. I grab my drink. I look at the dad who manages to get the kid back to their seat. Damien continues screaming a few rows behind me.

CONTINUING ON: One Chinese tourist tries to hijack the galley microwave for his HUGE bowl of noodles. The stewardess sends him away with a look akin to the one I offered Damien’s dad. Another gentleman from the Chinese contingent decides he likes bouncing on his toes while he puts his hand and his nose on the door of the aircraft. You know, the one with all the red marks indicating DANGER if it is opened at 30,000 ft.  He will be sucked out if he opens the door and so will I. Lucky me for scoring the seat in front of the door.

The stewardess has to make him move back so often that he is finally banned from the front of our section. She won’t even let him go to the bathroom ‘cause it’s near the door.

At which point, I decide it’s time to take a powder. I go to the bathroom. It is quiet. I wonder how long I can stay in there before someone reports me. Just as I get my pants around my knees someone THROWS themselves against the door. Again and again and again the door shakes, heaves and strains. OH GOD! What was happening?

Pants up, I flung open the door expecting the worst only to find a Chinese boy who did not understand the concept of a locked door.

The nice thing was that the look on my face transcended verbal communication. He ran.

Finally, there was our pilot.  Three times he announced that we must fasten our seat belts in anticipation of bad weather. Once, he directed the stewards to take their jump seats. HURRY! HURRY! NOW! NOW!

We braced.

Nothing.

The flight was as smooth as silk which led me to wonder if the pilot had a wing nut loose if he panicked that easily.

If you’re still with me, God bless. I won’t bore you with Damien, Two Baby Mom, the Chinese Tourists or what happened to my little, wheeled carry-on bag once we landed. Just know that if you happened to be driving by LAX last night around ten o'clock and noticed the silhouette of a woman kneeling down, that was me kissing the ground.

Author bio:
I marketed a world-class spa when it was still called a gym and did business in China before there were western toilettes at the Great Wall. Then I wrote a book on a crazy dare and found my passion.
Now, I am a USA Today and Amazon best selling author with more than 26 books to my name - and if you ask me where all those words came from I'd be hard pressed to tell you. All I know is that I wake up with a story in my head and go to bed the same way.

I write thrillers with an eye toward the very human element of my characters. The Witness Series follows the lives of attorney Josie Bates, her ward, Hannah, and Josie's lover, Archer. The series was voted #1 in PRG Reviewers Choice for series and Eyewitness was voted #1 in the mystery/thriller genre. I try to push creative boundaries with my non-series books. Before Her Eyes garnered a B&P Readers Choice Award for best mystery.

I have taught at the UCLA Writers Program, UC Irvine and Cal State Long Beach and lecture at writers groups, women's conferences and philanthropic events. I am most proud of the work I do with The Young Writers Conference, a program that helps motivate middle school children to explore the power of words. I am particularly drawn to kids who want to write because both my sons have always had a passion for it. Eric is a playwright and novelist (see Eric Czuleger) and Alex is in film.

When I'm not writing I'm traveling, on a tennis court, working a sewing machine or reading. Thank you so much for taking a look at my author page. You can find out more about me - and leave me a note - at www.rebeccaforster.com