Thursday, June 21, 2007

Race to the Finish

"What's that scratch on your neck?" asked Paula, the student at O2 who has colored my hair for a few years now (she's almost graduated).

I felt the scratch sting as she brushed the hair color on. How had I scratched my neck?

It must have come from sleeping on my bike messenger bag. The same one that John and Rai bought me in the late nineties, the same one that was slashed in Mongolia, ineptly sewn up by me on the Trans-Siberian, then repaired properly in Nairobi. I'd had my laptop and wallet in the bag last night, and I'd wanted to put it where I would notice if someone tried to steal it as I slept. So I'd put it under my head. It hadn't been the most comfortable pillow, but it was as comfortable as the floor I was sleeping on. As comfortable as sleeping in black mourning wear in the children's play area at Pittsburgh International Airport, sleeping to the lullaby of Mr. Rogers.

The JetBlue attendant had given me two blankets and two bottles of water. Without Mr. Rogers and two snorers, the night would have been more tolerable. Two women sleeping nearby also couldn't sleep. They started chatting loudly at 3:30 a.m. Not very neighborly of them. Surely Mr. Rogers would not be impressed.

The plane to Philly left on time, but my jog to the air train did me no good. I missed the train by only a few minutes. Would I reach the Acela Philly-New York train if I rushed downtown in a taxi? I had to try. At ten, I was supposed to be meeting with my accountant. At noon, Paula was fixing up my roots, my last chance before I leave the country. But only if I was actually there.

A taxi took me to 30th Street Station, where I missed the Acela by about 20 seconds. I'd take the SEPTA to NJ Transit then, but I wouldn't get in on time.

I ended up walking through my front door half an hour after I was supposed to be with Ernie, my accountant. I called his office. His wife called me back a minute later and said to get to his Manhattan office as fast as I could. I didn't even change out of the shirt I'd slept in the night before. The black shirt and I raced to see Ernie. And somehow, in spite of missing trains and stinky clothes, my taxes got done along with my hair.

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