The Weird Christmas Year Part 2

Continued from Part 1...

Pat's CornerFast Forward to the week Dec. 17th: My poor wife is coughing like Marge Schott’s chain smoking Christmas goose. She tests positive for COVID, I test negative. My wife is known in our neighborhood as the “crazy walking lady”: she gets in her 5 to 10 miles almost every day - winter included. As the week rolls on she is not taking her walks which means she really feels bad. She even TOOK SICK DAYS off from work!!? My wife NEVER takes sick days. I still did not test positive and she is still coughing. 

Dec. 23rd: When I booked the flight back in August (CVG to LAX direct), leaving on Christmas Eve; first class was very pricey (Delta? Out of CVG? Pricey? What a shock!), “Comfort Plus” was sold out, and I think I snagged the last two “economy comfort” seats with one of us in the middle seat. 

Then on the 23rd, I got one of those Delta “we apologize but there’s been a change to your flight” emails. Expecting the worst, I carefully peeked into the email and after some initial disbelief, a feeling washed over me much like that feeling that Ralphie gets in A Christmas Story when he realizes that he is not about to be destroyed because he got into a fight at school: We had been upgraded to first class seats! 

When I told my wife, I immediately saw the look in her eyes that something was wrong because there was no first class upgrade twinkle (those of you who have been flying for years know what I mean when I say “first class upgrade twinkle in your eye”). She said there was no way she was going to fly anywhere with her cough (still goose honking) and overall feeling bad. She said “You have to go. There is no way our daughter is going to spend Christmas alone” 

I said “You are still going to try and come out there aren’t you?” She reluctantly agreed to come out leaving on Dec. 26th taking a gamble that she should be feeling better by then. With a phone call to Delta (not too much wait and a very helpful support person on the other end) and a few hundred dollars later, she got booked for Dec 26th still in first class and our return on Dec. 30th (still in first class) was unchanged. 

Dec. 24th: The daily CVG to LAX flight leaves at 6:30 am or so. Expecting a madhouse at CVG, my wife (still goose honking) takes me early (before 5 am). The Delta Sky Priority line has nobody in it and no one being waited on at the counter. I walked right up and checked my bag. I went to the TSA Pre-Check line. I am not one of those who likes to use the word “literally” in conversation or prose, but in this case there was literally no one in line in the true meaning of “literally”. There was no one putting anything in a tote to go through the x-ray. The officers seemed excited to have someone in line. 

I was instructed by my daughter that upon arriving at LAX to get on the Enterprise Rental Car bus and go to their off-site office instead of waiting to be picked up at the terminal. She informed me that this would take 45 minutes off of her drive time - apparently the road that goes in front of all of the terminals at LAX is in a perpetual 24 hour traffic jam. Oh well, I figured she is more or less a So. Cal native now and knows what to do. 

Dec 25th: I think the real reason my daughter wanted me to visit was so I could cook for her. That is the one thing she is homesick for. We had already pre-arranged what she wanted me to cook prior to coming out and I produced a hefty shopping list so she could have everything on hand for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day so we would not have to go out. 

I knew she had a small one bedroom apartment with a small kitchen. I did not realize that the square footage of our conference table at Pulseroller USA was larger than the square footage of her kitchen and dining area combined. I had to make do. 

I don’t know if it's a generation thing or just a quirk of my daughter, but she did not have a television. She never saw the need for one. She said if there is anything she wants to watch, she does so on her iPad. Well, I for one was not going to stand for not being able to watch A Christmas Story and It’s a Wonderful Life over and over and over this holiday season, so the week before I left, I ordered her a TV from Amazon (BTW - I cannot believe how cheap TVs have become). 

Anyway, we got this working and via antenna and/or wi-fi, there were dozens of free channels to choose from. We found an all Star Trek channel. We were in veg heaven. 

In the morning we got on Face Time with mom very much like Ted Lasso did with his son on his first weird Christmas in London. My wife watched my daughter open some presents that we had been sending to her in the previous weeks (a big shout out to the Pulseroller shipping department for their assistance!). Before leaving to go to LA I was given some presents for my daughter from her aunt (my older sister). If you recall from A Christmas Story that Ralphie’s aunt was under the perpetual illusion that he was in fact a girl and that poor Ralphie had to endure the humiliation of modeling the Pink Nightmare Bunny Suit. Well my older sister is under a similar delusion that my daughter has pierced ears. She does not. Every year my sister gives my daughter earrings for pierced ears. Every year my sister is reminded that she cannot wear such earrings. Yet one or two pairs of earrings show up every year and this year was no exception. At least this was a comforting tradition preserved during The Weird Christmas Year.

At about 2:00 pm, I decided that we should do something other than TV veg on Christmas day, so we decided on making a trip to Venice Beach. The outside temperature was in the mid 60’s F and very sunny: i.e. shorts and T-shirt weather for me. 

At the beach, you could tell who the natives were because they were the ones in their winter coats. I remember passing one guy on the sidewalk who had on a knit hat and a muffler around his neck stuffed into his tightly buttoned winter coat. I mean the guy looked like he thought he was in Chicago in the winter. My daughter works with a lot of native So. Cal. folks and she has described the incredulous looks in their eyes when she tells them about real cold weather and rain that is not drizzle. According to my daughter, people in So. Cal. generally freak out when they have to drive in the rain. 

The one thing that struck me at the time was the almost complete lack of visual indications of Christmas. At Venice Beach on Christmas Day, all of the touristy T-shirt shops and taco stands were open like it was any other day. I don’t remember even seeing anyone with a Santa cap. It was disconcerting and kind of sad. 

(Stay tuned for the final chapter tomorrow!)

Don't shoot your eye out,