On Pittsburgh

I wanted to say, “Thank you for your vigilance” to the TSA woman who went through all of my dirty underwear in my roller bag with some bomb-detecting wand, or whatever, only to discover sunblock and eczema cream. She had me hold the eczema cream in front of her as she tested the vapors with what looked like a popsicle stick — “Don’t squeeze,” she said. Me: “I’m not” — but I think that my initial comment when she was just doing the outer pockets of the Questionable Bag —  “That’s a flash drive.” — is what annoyed her enough to subject me to a more extensive search than otherwise might have been planned. I also wanted to say, “By the way, you guys missed the moisturizer in my carry-on,” but why taunt a federal employee?

*

Bill gave me his card when he dropped me off at my hotel in Pittsburgh. It wasn’t the company card, it was personal. We had enjoyed the normal “Oh my God, I’m exhausted, please talk to me” banter that sometimes accompanies your millionth cab ride from an airport to a hotel. Bill said, “We don’t exactly have a lot of cabs around here.”

I kept the card.

On my last day in Pittsburgh I called Bill and he answered. Gave me a ride to the airport. I saved his number in my phone as “Pittsburgh Bill Cabbie,” because I try to reward good service, and he’s a hell of a cabbie. He gave me a Jehovah’s Witness flyer with my receipt when we got to the airport.

Who knew Jehovah’s Witnesses were such good cabbies? Bill did.

*

I sat at the bar at Hemingway’s and nursed a beer reading my RSS feed on my phone. MLK day. I vaguely listened to the conversation to my left, because it wasn’t interesting enough for me to really invest serious eavesdropping time into.

I ask the three black dudes who are in the bar talking about a march where the march is and when, and they tell me that it’s right over there and that it’s soon. I say, “Cool, I’m gonna go grab my hat,” which I really, really, really am glad I did, “And then I guess I’ll see you there or whatever.”

Of course, the march is pretty big, 1,000 or so people, so I don’t see them again, but it doesn’t really matter. We walk slowly for two and half miles from the big Pitt building in Oakland to the City County Building. Whose streets? Our streets. Even if I don’t live there. Many people speak when we reach the end of the march, and it’s important, and powerful, because they’re people saying shit that needs to be said, shit that has always needed to be said, but rarely ever is.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette put it on the cover of the next day’s paper. According to the story, we outdid Boston. And by we, I mean Pittsburgh. Because for at least that day, I was on Pittsburgh’s team.

*

Pittsburgh Bill Cabbie, of course, was right — there are no cabs in Pittsburgh — and since I didn’t know how public transportation worked in Pittsburgh, instead of catching a cab after the march on MLK day, like you would in any real American city (ahem, New York), I walked back to my hotel.

*

I went to the United counter and asked what the situation was for getting on an earlier flight. The nice gentleman at the counter informed me that there were two people ahead of me on standby. I asked if status would come into play should I register as the third and another person were to come after me and request standby as well. The nice gentleman at the counter informed me that it would. I went to smoke two cigarettes and nap very uncomfortably for two hours.

A friend of mine recently told me that she didn’t understand why I disliked hotels and airports so much. It’s one of those things you can’t really get until you’ve done it. Another friend asked me why I’d opted for an AirBnB instead of a hotel for a conference in Toronto. I said, “I dunno, come be a traveling salesman for a while.”

To most people a roller bag, an airport, a cab to or fro, a hotel — all of those are luxuries. To me, they’re “every other week.”

*

The librarians at both Duquesne and Carnegie Mellon explained hills to me. I don’t mean that in a disparaging way. Just that Pittsburgh is hilly. And the elevators are consequently screwy. And their explanations were actually really helpful. The point of the story is that there are ups, there are downs. I’m going to spell this metaphor out for you. Hills = life. Going up = yay. Going down = oof.

And all you can do, really, is keep breathing. Assuming you can still breathe.

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2 responses to “On Pittsburgh

  1. Great blog!

  2. Cathryn Keefe O'Hare

    Terrific!

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