Saturday, January 31, 2015

Nagging Coughs and Angora Elbows

Note: The following tropical series is from October. It is now January. No one who knows me will be surprised, since my Christmas letters alone are running more than a decade late. Besides, I thought it would be fun to wait until a frozen, snowy day and then visit Hawaii all over again, at least in my memory.

Very kind family members and friends chipped in so I could go on this lovely trip, since Hawaii is not in my normal operating budget. And, as you'll see, it was a mission trip. Really. 

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We’ve already had our first snowflakes here in Montana, though not enough to stick. It’s been well below freezing almost every night. The trees are almost naked. A few weeks ago, I would’ve told you that it couldn’t be a better time for a tropical trip. That was before the Ebola outbreak.

Our risk of actually catching the disease is very low, but our risk of being mistaken for someone with the disease is somewhat higher. See, it’s harvest time. And not only that, but after our catastrophically late spring, it’s frantic harvest time. Farmers are in their fields day and night unless it’s raining, trying to get their just-ripened crops in before it’s too late.  And since the weather people are predicting an early winter, “too late” is coming down the pike like a greased log in a flume.

Mom and I live on each side of the grain elevator. Usually it blows her direction, but a couple weeks ago the wind shifted and sent all that chaff my way. Suddenly, I also sounded like an escapee from the local tuberculin ward. Hard to breathe, coughing day and night, even once the wind shifted back toward Mom again. And in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last several months, coughing, fever, and aches are some of the earliest signs of Ebola, before it passes on to serious vomiting, diarrhea, hemorrhage, spots, red eyes, and death.

People are terrified of coughing people. Just the other day, a man on a plane sneezed, and jokingly said, “I have Ebola!” He was removed by the Men in Blue Suits, and later found to have nothing worse than a nasal tickle. Bad time to have a cough.

With careful nurturing, I got my cough under control just in the nick of time. Which was extra fortunate, since some of the nurturing involved strenuous exercise which has left me aching in many areas. (Yes, also a sign of Ebola, remember?)

Mom didn’t do quite as well. Despite her own nurturing, and frequent doses of dextromethorphan, she’s been coughing and sneezing like crazy. We’re trying to be thankful she doesn’t have a fever.

The trip to Billings went swimmingly. By that, I mean swimming in fur. It was the furriest Cadillac I’ve ever ridden in, in my whole life. Also the only Cadillac. (I’m more of a pickup-truck-with-no-AC-so-the-windows-are-always-down-except-in-winter kinda gal, though I’d settle for a van if need be.) Tina fared the worst. She wore a dainty traveling outfit, classy flowing black shirt with dark jeans. When I saw flowing, I do mean that it hung in attractive, rippling waves. I also mean it was flowing with border collie hair. Dripping with it. Her elbows wafted in the breeze.

Being a kind sister, I tried to cheer her up by comparing her to famous people in the Bible. People like John the Baptist, and Esau, who was “hairy all over like an garment”. I even offered to braid her elbows, all to no avail.

Mindful of planks in my own eye, I did take a moment to lightly brush off the few hairs that clung to my nether portions, but only shook off enough for several eagles to use in their nests. Tina could have knitted a life-size model of the Ark. Oh well, the youngest child usually gets the largest portions, anyway.

Despite a few white knuckles in our group, the flights to Oakland were uneventful. The shuttle ride to the nearby Motel 6 was more eventful, because there WAS NO SHUTTLE RIDE! Mom had called the place directly about a week before to arrange transportation from the airport, and the man told her not to worry – that the airport had a free shuttle that would bring us to the Motel 6 along their route.

After waiting in the post-midnight chill for over a half hour, Tina finally called them. The lady informed us that there was no shuttle of any sort that went there, and we’d have to take a taxi. After we found out how much the taxi was going to be—each way—we spent the rest of our time calculating how big of a hotel upgrade we could’ve gotten, and still paid less for the night. Turns out it was a pretty big upgrade.

We made the best of it, and the heavily manned guard shack at the entrance kept the Motel 6 from being unsavory. Still, we determined to cancel our return night, and stay somewhere more expensive (yet cheaper), with a REAL SHUTTLE THAT ACTUALLY PICKS YOU UP. Not that I’m bitter. None of us are bitter.

Nothing remained but to make the last leg in the morning, and begin looking for some sunscreen, preferably SPF 3000.

Bon voyage!

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