I'll soon be flying back to Arizona so I can hang out with my family for Christmas. I'm excited about it, for several reasons: 1) I have all these really cute nieces and nephews that I haven't seen since last Christmas; 2) I'll get to see Wayne, who will also be visiting his family in Arizona; 3) the highs in Tucson are supposed to be around 75 degrees (that's 24 Celsius, for those of you lucky enough to live someplace that doesn't use Fahrenheit, the stupidest of all non-metric measurements), which is a hell of a lot better than 25 F (-4 C).
What I'm not so excited about is the getting there part. I'm not the least bit afraid of being 31,000 feet above the earth in a big metal tube, but I don't like sitting around at the gate, waiting to get on and off that metal tube. I don't like being cramped for several hours in a seat next to a person who as often as not hogs the armrest. I don't like entrusting a suitcase full of my stuff to people I don't know. I don't getting to and from the airport.
I had a hell of a time finding a decent flight this trip--actually, I FAILED to find a decent flight this trip. My plane leaves at 6 a.m., which means I need to be to the airport around 5 a.m. The shuttle service I used to use is in the process of going out of business, and only delivers you to the airport if you want to get there during "convenient" times. 5 a.m. ain't convenient.
So I begged a ride from my friend Tom, who not only said he'd do me this favor, but didn't even seem to think I was being unreasonable in asking it in the first place.
Last night I was thinking about how great it is that he's willing to do this for me, and how I should do something to make it up to him. But that reminded me of an incident long about 1994, when someone I'll call Arianna asked me to give her a ride to and from the airport in Iowa, promising me that in return she'd find some truly fabulous gift to bestow upon me in recognition of my generosity.
I admit I thought Arianna was overstating the situation: she was flying in to the Cedar Rapids airport on a Tuesday afternoon in July. It was pleasant drive and I didn't have anything special to do instead--I mean, it's not like I had to get up at 4:30 a.m. and drive through a bunch of mushy, muddy snow to get to the airport. People need rides to and from the airport: it happens. To borrow a line from Zorro, the Gay Blade (one of my favorite movies--add it to your Netflix queue!), her gratitude would have been thanks enough.
But no. Arianna made this BIG DEAL on the way to the airport about how she was going to GET ME SOMETHING, and it was going to be SPECIAL. And I will admit that on the drive to the airport to pick her up, I couldn't help wondering what she'd brought me: chocolate, maybe? A cool refrigerator magnet?
Turns out it was a fashion magazine she'd bought to read on the plane, and a bottle of shampoo and some hand lotion she'd taken from the hotel she stayed at. Wow, I thought. So that's the kind of person she thinks I am: someone so simple and/or out for what I can get that I'll jubilantly accept someone else's cast-offs.
And maybe I truly was that kind of person. Because a year or so later, Arianna was dumped by a man she loved quite deeply. About fifteen minutes after this guy broke up with her, he asked me out. I felt bad about saying yes, but I admit I said yes--jubilantly, in fact, because I really did like this guy. We dated for a couple of months.
Every so often my conscience bothers me when I think about how I wasn't a very loyal friend to Arianna. But then I think about the fact that this guy who broke her heart ended up being a good friend to me--we're still in touch, and he called me on my birthday. And then I think about the fact that Arianna thought so little of our friendship that she felt she had to bribe me to take her to the airport, and thought so little of me that she figured a complimentary bottle of shampoo and an unwanted magazine would suffice as a bribe. And then I don't feel so bad.
But I still think it's really cool of Tom to drive me to the airport well before dawn in the middle of winter, especially since he's not doing it because I'll get him something; he's just doing it because he's a good friend.