We landed in San Francisco in typical Philippine Airlines style—steady, sure and smooth. The close to 12-hour flight had a minimum of bumps. Food was good; service, topnotch.
Once we got off the plane, however, all hell broke loose.
We were 21 wheelchair passengers on board. But only five handlers were available. After that long Pacific crossing, one hopes for a fast and efficient process on the ground. But it was not to be.
The attendants (four Pinoys and one hefty Mexican lady) met us at the ramp. They pushed our chairs a few yards at a time, set the brakes so we wouldn’t roll away, and hurried back to the plane to pick up the next batch. We had to beg for a pit stop at the restroom. It was infuriating. But it was not their fault. It was the best they could do.
After several more starts and stops, we finally got to Immigration where, thank God, the officers were in a welcoming mood. They actually smiled.
Our next stop was bedlam. The baggage carousel seemed to choke as it “threw up” countless different sized boxes, odd shaped bags and assorted suitcases. Our fleet of wheelchairs was parked beside this crazy merry go round.
The Pinoy contingent was friendly, thoughtfully solicitous of our inability to “do it ourselves.” A sweet young Filipina passenger even volunteered to help find our bags.
But the American baggage person was not too thrilled with us. He wore a dark scowl and barked orders nonstop. When I informed him that I had spotted my suitcase, he growled, “You wait!”
I suddenly felt like part of a herd of dumb driven cattle under the spurs of a nasty cowhand who was obviously not happy picking up bags, and made no effort to conceal it.
I spoke to my Pinoy attendant, and he said: “ I am working my way through college and I have to send money home to my parents in the Philippines. The others have families. Maybe our ‘boss’ here would rather be behind a desk. That’s why he is cranky. But we are grateful just to have our jobs.”
It got me thinking about a writer’s recent comment about the new administration’s “Hire American” policy. “Americans are choosy about how they make a living. They are definitely not into service-oriented work or any manual labor. Who then do we hire?”
It took us two and a half hours to leave the terminal. That’s way too long. We were beyond exhausted.
San Francisco was gorgeous. The air was crisp, the sky was clear. Temperature was in the middle 60s with a gentle breeze. Perfect San Francisco weather.
And my mind wandered for a moment and lingered on memories of an evening listening to George Shearing at a friend’s condo on Twin Peaks, and watching the fog rolling in from the bay, uninvited, unannounced.
That’s part of the charm of my city by the bay. Once upon a lifetime ago, it stole my heart. And I never got it back. Well, maybe I did, but not all of it.
From the airport, our gracious “meet and greet” team took us to a Chinese restaurant for the best roast duck ever.
It was way past midnight when we checked in at Opera Plaza on Van Ness. The great Placido Domingo once owned our spacious newly refurbished three-bedroom loaner. The next day we were in Chinatown. We shopped during the 30-minute wait for a table at Obama’s favorite eatery. It was worth the wait.
Heaven in Seattle
How am I so blessed? Eight days of loving and being loved by my grand and great grandchildren—this has got to be close to heaven.
My visit here started with me driving a scooter all over Bellevue Square Mall and a lunch of piping hot Beecher’s Mac and Cheese. It ended with a dinner of delicious nilagang manok, which my granddaughter gently spices up with hot chorizo and serves with a garlicky sofrito.
Saturday morning I watched my five-year-old great granddaughter; her future soccer star/brother Mateo (12) and their parents left after breakfast to participate in the Global 6K (walk or run) for Water, for people in Africa who “have to walk three hours, to get water to survive.”
Bella’s eyes were big and sad as she lisped through her story. “Imagine Lola, that’s how long I am in school every day!” She and her Pre K classmates have actually carried heavy water jugs to learn how difficult it is for children their age in rural Africa.
The latest issue of World Vision talks about this tragic situation and how men, women and children agonize every day to dig, if necessary, for water that may not even be safe to drink.
It shames me to think of how oblivious we are of other people. It is indecent how we take it all for granted; how we lap it all up, believing ourselves so entitled, not giving a thought to those who have nothing.
Bella walked for a little girl from a poverty-stricken area in Lesotho, Africa. She wore Seipati’s picture like the breastplate of a proud warrior. For indeed she was off to do battle. Inspiring.
That night, I took a shorter than usual shower and I remembered to turn the faucet off while I brushed my teeth.