Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Hermit goes to Florida © by adrian

A few years ago, Linda, my bride of three years said “Lets go to Florida in February. It will be fun to get away and have a rest in the sun for a few weeks.” I stared at her, dumfounded. She now claims I went to my room, curled up in a fetal position on the floor and would not come out for 3 days, that may be correct. I have no other memory of the event.

I’ve spent most of my life on my own, venturing outside my cave only when I needed to forage for food or other sustaining things, I am a hermit. Not the “Mad Bomber” type of hermit, quite different. I can be social and charming if need be. If you ever get me started (I urge you not to), I will regale you for hours with stories filled with laughter and pathos. You might even be fooled into believing that I am very social. That would be incorrect. I like to be alone.

I don’t mean to give the wrong impression. There have been four spectacular women who at different times in my life have decided to be equal co-pilots with me and we’ve lived together in long and wonderful relationships. There have also been many tourists who have dropped by for visits at other times.

I have loved and embraced the years I've been with each. Those who stayed were intelligent, beautiful, mysterious, and full of themselves. They’ve needed those qualities to share time with me. My life’s work is unusual to say the least. Any women who feels she can find comfort with me must know who she is. She also needs to be capable of whacking me over the head with a newspaper and command our ship by herself during the times I get stupid. I have completely enjoyed sharing my life with them.

I just happen to completely enjoy spending time with myself. I like to be alone.

I do not like to go outside my cave. Almost all my life I’ve created, worked and lived in the same environment. I would prefer to be paid for my services with food and dry goods. You’ll save me a trip to the store. I am a hermit.

Going to Florida involves flying in airplanes. For the Wright brothers, a dream. For me, a nightmare. Not only must I leave my cave, but I will be flying above the clouds in a container that weighs thousands of pounds, full of thousands of pounds of flammable fuel. That’s asking Mother Nature for a lot of co-operation. I will also need to go through U.S. Customs, and spend hours with strangers in airports and airplanes. That's asking me for a lot of co-operation.

The airline limo picked us up on time at 4.30 a.m. Linda and I thought this was a good omen, our trip was starting off great.

After waiting in the wrong line for twenty minutes we are sent two hundred yards away to get in the line for United States flights. We trudge over there, wait another twenty minutes and after booking in are sent to a different line. This new line is huge, consisting of about eight rows of people snaking back and forth like a bank line that slowly moves us to our potential doom. We are now waiting to experience the joy of U.S. Customs.

Half an hour later we arrive at the counter for interrogation This part of the experience isn't too bad. Sharp unfriendly questioning, minor baggage disruption, a little roughhousing, nothing unexpected. As we leave this section, Linda dumps her suitcases, coats, bags etc., on the floor with the sensible intention of repacking so that everything can be carried to the next trough without dragging it along the floor. As she throws her stuff to the floor the guy who just dealt with us starts yelling at us to move along (no one is behind us, so we aren't holding anything up). Linda starts to explain to him she just wants to get a better grip on her belongings when two other guards with hands on their holstered guns descend on us from different directions, running towards us, both screaming that we could NOT stop there AT ALL and have to keep moving, NOW!

Realizing we are outnumbered I help her gather up her strewn belongings and we drag them along the floor to the next section.

The next line is smaller, (perhaps some of the unfortunates in front of us have been killed off) and we place our watches, shoes, belts etc., in an X-Ray machine... all pretty uneventful until we get to the next section.

A gun belted uniformed woman of formidable girth is in charge here, my friendly "Hello" is ignored as she waves a metal wand over our portable computer. It’s an old Macintosh that I resuscitated from some workroom corner so that Linda could get her e-mail (a hermit who never leaves his cave doesn’t have much need for a viable portable). Well, this guard immediately drops the wand. She reaches into a lower drawer, pulls out and puts on a pair of rubber gloves and screams out "We need a supervisor over here." He arrives and they have a very animated conversation while pointing to various dials on their machine, the supervisor says there's a problem, and commands us to "Wait here!" and leaves. I think I hear a drum roll, but I can't be sure.

It’s now about 7.30 a.m., we’ve been in various lines for two and a half hours, the plane will be leaving soon and we're not even close to getting on board yet. We’re old, we’re tired. Even I am beginning to lose my sense of humour (that’s quite a ways down the path for me).

The supervisor returns with a clipboard and explains we have to answer some questions because the computer and case show traces of explosive material on them. The rubber gloves are to protect the agent from getting explosive dust on her hands. Linda had been carrying the portable at the time of our capture, so he asks her if she's used the case lately to carry any bombs, explosives, or makeup. I interrupt and explain the case is mine and I got it from my basement where I don't make bombs and I haven't used the case or computer for a couple of years.

The supervisor now gets agitated about whether anybody else in our basement could have added any bombs to the case or computer. I explain no one has access to our basement, that I am a photographer and just grabbed one of the many camera cases I have in my basement to carry this in, and I want my mommy and were sorry and we promise to never do whatever we did again...

Eventually, after opening and closing the computer repeatedly, the gal with the gloves, holding the opened computer, stares at me and demands "Open it up for me." I meekly mention it is open and she loudly repeats "Open it up for me." We do this a few more times as she gets testier and testier, for a moment I wonder if she means I should take it apart, but finally figure she might mean “Turn it on.” I ask, and she yells "That's what I’ve been telling you to do!"

Macs are turned on by the keyboard. No simple on or off switch for Macs, nothing anywhere that says ON. I'm convinced that if I don't remember what the stupid key is, I will spend the rest of my life in an American prison, being really friendly with a guy named Bubba. I resist the urge to start humming and suck my thumb, I sense this might be very counterproductive. Finally, I notice a key that has a squiggle on it that might be it. I explain this is an old computer and will take some time to start up. I push the key and the supervisor, guard, Linda and I, in a state of transcendent awe stare motionless at the blank screen for at least thirty seconds until a little Mac happy face appears and it slowly starts to come alive... everyone is happy now, and we hold hands and dance around the table in a circle. The supervisor concludes that recharging the old battery probably produced some gasses that the sniffer machine detected.

We are freed from our detention and sent to another holding area. More waiting, and then we're finally allowed to board the plane. We take off and fly above the clouds and eventually the hermit and his bride arrive in Florida.

As the plane is landing, Linda asks, if she is ever able to talk me into leaving the cave again, would I prefer to drive next time? I make a mental note to remember to check what my bride means by the words "next time".

Six months later, my bride has again talked me into venturing from my cave. I'm sitting outside a drug store in St. Sauveur, Quebec waiting for her to come out when some old guy comes up and sits on the bench beside me. He start to chat with me about my tan, his tan, what parts of Florida I went to, and what parts of Florida he goes to.

My life of solitude is ruined. I am no longer a monk. I have become a caricature. I am now the other half of a duo of geezers sitting on a bench in Quebec, calmly talking about their trips to Florida. The only thing that's missing from this scene is a cane to thump on the ground while we cackle. Maybe I'll be able to talk Linda into going to Florida again next year. I remember seeing a fine walking stick in a store when we were there...