Jan 26, 2008

Blogging from my deathbed

At least, that's what it feels like. I've come down with a cold and today, joy of joys, it has settled into my chest. The worst part of living alone is having to get your own glass of OJ when you're sick. Or having to go to the store for OJ, because you've just come home from a long trip and have nothing in the fridge except some pity curry your mother sent along. Which, incidentally, cannot be eaten on toast for breakfast. Mostly because I don't have any bread.**

Still, I solider on. Wrapped in a fleece blanket, surrounded by used tissues, and hacking up a lung, I blog. Not for my own sake, of course not. For yours. I hope you appreciate it. Below you will find a transcript from my little red moleskin journal, which I so dutifully carted around India. Editorial comments can be found in {brackets}, since I never get a chance to use those otherwise. Parentheses pale in comparison.

January 6th, almost 7 AM
Qatar Airways Flight 240 (approaching Trivandrum)

Final descent finds me at the window, pressing my nose to the glass {plastic, whatever}. I don't want to miss the first moment when land, The Motherland, comes into view. I fancy I can see the splashing of dolphins off the coast. {At this point it becomes obvious that twelve hours trapped in a flying metal box have gone to my head - I was seeing the crests of waves. Honestly, I can be so melodramatic.}

When I can see the shoreline, it looks almost impossibly straight. No bays or coves, here {what did I expect, fjords?}. This time of year in Virginia, deciduous trees color the overhead view brown with their naked branches. Here, true "evergreens" - palm trees - dominate {*barf*}. The blanket of treetops is interrupted less frequently and in no regular pattern. You are as likely to see a river or quarry cutting into the landscape as human habitation. What buildings there are are {?!?} nestled among the trees, seeming to have grown from the ground themselves.

It's not until we've almost landed that I can see the pollution, the dinginess, the piles of rubbish in unlikely places. It's enough to make Virginia look antiseptically clean in comparison. It is easier to love India from the sky, from a distance. It's only once I land that the difficulties begin. {*eye roll*}

Pretty depressing, huh? Well, the next post will be more interesting, if only for the fact that it mentions people other than me. Now I shall leave you with my Lost Luggage haiku:

Doha Airport crew,
You said it would be here.
Why did you lie? Jerks.

**Mom, if you are reading this, it is nothing but filthy, attention-seeking lies. I am in the pink of health and certainly not starving to death. Put down your car keys and go back to bed.

Jan 22, 2008

Breaking my "one post per day" rule ... for an important cause

Blog for Choice Day

Discontinuation of pregnancy. Termination. Abortion. It's part of my job to talk about this option, to counsel women and families trying to make one of the most difficult decisions of their lives. One of the many reasons I hear for voting pro-life is, "I don't support abortion as birth control. It's not right." That's fine, that's a valid opinion. But realize that the laws being imposed apply to all women. Including my patients.

I had one family come to me after an abnormal ultrasound finding. Their chances of having a healthy child were ... not good. They had done everything right, and there was nothing in the family history. Understandably, they were extremely upset during our session. And I had to tell them that, due to the gestational age, they may not have a choice about whether to carry their pregnancy to term.

Can any of us comprehend what kind of position this couple is in? That the laws of our society have put them in? Just for a moment ... try. It is a position any of us could easily find ourselves in, someday.

So, vote pro-choice. Support candidates who are pro-choice. Because my patients' pregnancy options should be informed by medical information, careful thought and faith. Not someone else's opinion about what is "right."

Never fly Qatar Airways

Because chronological order is for the weak of will, I'll start by blogging about my flights to and from India. On the way there, I flew from Roanoke to Dulles to Doha (Qatar) to my final destination, Trivandrum (located in the state of Kerala, India). I was told in Roanoke that I could only check my baggage as far as Qatar, and that I would have to address this with the Qatari ground crew. If only I knew ahead of time that the Qatar Airways personnel do nothing but lie.

Surprise, surprise - despite the reassurances of the Qatari ground crew in Doha, my baggage did not make it to India. I took this in stride and made do with what I had packed in my carry-on. Eventually, most of my bag was located. I say 'most' because my jewelry bag, hair dryer and (randomly) skein of yarn were permanently misplaced. On the way back home, I tried to file a complaint. I was told that since I had left the airport with my bag that Qatar Airways was no longer liable. In other words, they didn't give a shit.

But in the end it's just stuff, right? Stuff can be replaced. I forced myself into a zen-like state where I no longer felt the need to hit people. My mother and I settled in to wait for our flight, having dutifully arrived three hours ahead of schedule. We passed the time playing twenty questions.

Mom: Human, vegetable, or mineral?
Me: (thinking of a kangaroo) Um ... none.
Mom: How can it be none?!?
Me: Hoo, boy.

Then, our flight got delayed ... for a day and a half. And hour delay in Trivandrum meant we missed our connection from Doha to Dulles, and couldn't leave until the same time the next day. Qatar Airways put us up in a nice hotel, nobody is faulting them there. But when we got back to the airport the next day, we were told that the flight would be delayed until that evening due to engine trouble, and that we (and 200 other passengers) should go back to the hotel. Instead of arriving in Roanoke on Wednesday evening, we had only made it as far as Dulles by Friday morning.

We were then told Qatar Airways would not be arranging a connection for us, and frankly we were glad. Good riddance to bad rubbish. But when we got to the United desk, we were informed that we were booked on a flight to Roanoke that wouldn't leave until the afternoon. So we had to wait around to tell Qatar Airways thanks, but no thanks - we'll rent a car. We asked them if they would refund the money. They told us to call the airline. We asked them if they would pay for our car rental. They laughed.

I had plenty of time while waiting in line for airport shuttles, baggage searches, security and passport checks to consider why this whole situation pissed me off so very much. It wasn't that there were some hiccups - for international travel, you have to expect that. It wasn't even that I found their rules and policies to be completely asinine - regardless, people have jobs to do. It was that everyone I encountered was bound and determined to do their job ... and nothing else.

This is why Americans are hated abroad (besides our resource-hogging and utter disregard for others' sovereignty). We expect service. Here at home, it's "the customer is always right." Overseas, it's "the customer is always some jerk who wants to waste my time." Needless to say, this particular jerk plans to write an angry letter to Qatar Airways. If I'm very very lucky, maybe someone will even read it.