Wednesday, March 10, 2010

(Mrs) Adventure #1: Planes, Trains and Manual Driving

“I remember when I first met you, I thought you were the most put together, completely capable woman.”

He laughs.


I am trying to balance a large purse and a shoulder bag while standing in the very small, humid Cyril E. King airport in St. Thomas, USVI. We have just passed through customs and are now waiting to board our first flight in a set of three. When the very severe looking agent asked us what we had purchased while on vacation, I held up my right hand and showed her the blue glass ring I decided I needed a few days prior.

‘Anything else?’ she questioned sternly.

We racked our brains, searching, searching. And then I tell her that my husband also purchased a God-awful sleeveless t-shirt that read St. John USVI under a sepia colored picture of a random bay.

‘No, I tossed that out,’ he offers.

I swear, that was a woman’s tank top. "

My husband glared at me but the customs agent laughed. I considered this a small achievement.

“AND?” I demand, pulling myself from the recent memory.

He laughs again. And then I do too as I drop my bags and listen as the plastic of my Mac bounce off the thinly carpeted cement flooring.


My husband has a habit of closing his eyes for slightly longer than necessary. He tenses his jaw line and sighs. I move toward the window.

“OH MERCY,” I gasp as I see the plane that will be carrying us from St. Thomas to Puerto Rico. “I think that’s the exact plane that John Kennedy Jr. crashed. It’s been recovered from the ocean depths. I see duct tape.”

“Do I get a parachute with this flight instead of pretzels? Because I’m not getting into that death trap without a possible ejection method and a parachute.”

“The flight is too short, Kate, to offer pretzels.”

Obviously, my charm and subtle paranoia has worn on my husband, so now he simply chooses selective hearing.

And so the Honeymoon ends as I am dragged out to the tarmac and into a plane that could challenge a Mini Cooper in a parallel parking contest.

“This thing looks like it gets worse mileage than a Pinto,” I toss out to no one in particular, since I my husband has slowly inched away from his hyperventilating wife and is playing the “I have never seen that crazy, blonde woman in my life” game.

When I enter the plane, I see that the pilot is wearing knock off Maui Jims. I can tell this because I am sitting a mere two feet behind him and can easily read the inscribed “Waikiki Rays” on the right side of his plastic frames. Well, I suppose more accurately it actually read “Waikiki Ray,” as the silver paint had all but rubbed off on the final ‘s’. He is also wearing a white shirt with sleeves rolled up, and I can see stains. Food stains. His front window is open and he is dangling his arm out and drumming his fingers against the nose. I can tell you this much, when boarding a plane that appears to have been constructed around the same time that the police were investigating the missing Lindbergh baby case, you don’t want to trust your life to pilot who looks like an extra in a Kenny Chesney music video.

“Kate, I fly in planes like this all the time! We are going to be fine.”

And he was right. We were. That’s the thing about Aviators. Sometimes, they are right.

And so began my real life as a Marine Aviator’s wife. Don’t get me wrong; I am not just a Marine Aviator’s wife. I am also a television producer who can get away with watching shows like, “Intervention,” or “The Jersey Shore,” and call it ‘research.’ I am still the daughter that left the car keys in a topless, door less Jeep Wrangler on the fourth of July, walked two miles home, announced to my parents that the Jeep had been stolen, and then found it ten minutes later after my father drove me back to the fireworks. The car was still there- I just hadn’t walked far enough.

But alas, there is something special about being the wife of an Aviator. Something classic. Something romantic. Something wonderful about walking into a room with twenty men all decked out in flight suits and realizing that, no, they are not self-indulged actors on a set; they are real-life heroes. And none, not a single one is a short, egomaniacal Scientologist leader.

I like to think that Matt thinks the same thing about being married to a television producer, but he may have reconsidered after I excitedly skyped him and announced I was developing a new series…on male escorts.

Of course, the Honeymoon didn’t end as soon as we arrived back to San Diego and started back up at our respective jobs. We indulged ourselves in fancy dinners, we attended weddings, we cooked together, and we bought champagne and ordered film comedy after comedy with a simple click of a remote. We laughed…a lot. And we bought a really awesome couch from IKEA.

Of course, the wife of an Aviator is not, as I quickly found out, all about nights at the ‘O’ Club and winking at your husband whenever you hear a Hornet buzz overhead. Sometimes, he has to work late at night. Or all night. And other times, he gets bogged down with extensive paperwork. He worries about the young Marines and he spends hours waiting, fixing, waiting on the aircraft. And of course there’s that pesky thing called, “deployments;’ long, arduous journeys across endless stretches of ocean into lands that are both far away and occasionally dangerous.

It really isn’t much fun for anyone, but it is necessary. And more than anything, I am filled with such a pride for my husband and his mates and mate’s spouses. They are some of the best people I have ever met.

“I remember when I met you, I thought you were the most put together, capable woman.”

“When I first met you, I thought you were capable enough not to purchase non-refundable airline tickets on the Buddy Holly Express,” I want to tell him. But I don’t. Because I am nice, and because I know I will wait to write it down in a blog entry.

I keep echoing this thought in my head. And laughing, yes, laughing. Because within a week of us dating I had sent him a photograph of my IKEA dresser, the one that leans against the wall and resembles modern art more than it does a working dresser. Obviously a master of all talents I am not.

But I am, of course, determined to prove his new found sarcasm wrong and do the one thing that will help me rise to that powerhouse woman, hear me roar, CEO type woman he assumed I was at 27. And for the record, I’d like to think I’m doing OK. I don’t see how hyperventilating on a runway while a Jamaican woman stares at you in disbelief and shuttles her children as far away from the “eccentric white woman,” should affect my otherwise sterling capabilities in his mind.

So, I wake him up at 5:00 in the morning and insist that he finish teaching me how to drive ‘stick shift’ because I have been running over the process in my head and I’m “pretty sure I got it.”

He rubs the sleep out of his eyes and just stares at me. I don’t know why he looks at me with such disbelief. The night before when he tried to teach me how to drive in the Costco Parking lot, I vehemently stand by the fact that there were quite a few mothers with baby strollers that were completely angling for me. It was like playing Chicken with a bunch of swaddled newborns.


“Kate, just turn in that empty space.”


“Kate, hit the brakes, let out the clutch.”


“Kate, calm down.”

And so on and so forth until I was able to maneuver the car into our parking spot a solid twenty minutes later.

But this morning is different. I’ve worked it out in my head! I am capable! I am going to drive my husband to base, drop him off, and zoom down the 8, wind in my hair, power at my feet, and a cute little silver BMW for an outfit.

And for a while, I did just that. Of course, he was in the car. And no sooner had he kissed me goodbye and jogged over to the hanger, that I realized I had no idea how to switch the car from reverse into first gear. The car stalled. At rush hour. In oncoming traffic. On coming traffic filled with very frustrated Marines trying to get to their post. I turn the key, I press the clutch. The car seems to be laughing at me. I yell at it. It stalls. Someone honks. I’m wearing pajamas.

Finally, a nice young man jumps out of his truck and runs over to me.

“Having trouble?”

“Um, ::nervous laugh:: I have no idea what I’m doing.”

And he smiles, and we switch places. He angles the car into a parking spot and gives me a nod.

“Thank you so much!” I gratefully gush. And then I call my husband.

“I can’t do this.”

“You can’t do what?”

“I can’t drive your car.”

“OK, OK, I’ll be right there.”

And when I finally catch sight of him, I see the panic in his eyes.

“Who helped you?”

“A Marine.”

“What did he look like?”

“He was sort of tall. He had short hair. He was wearing green.”

“Kate. That doesn’t help.”

He moves the car quickly and pulls it into his spot.

“You do realize he pulled you into the Commanding Officers reserved spot, don’t you?”

“Is that bad?” I coyly smile. I don’t think he thinks it’s cute. In the back of my head I can see Desi shaking his fist and screaming, “LUUUCY!”

And so I call a cab. And I walk past the entrance to the Marine base. With the capable looking young men and women who are armed. Very armed. And I am wearing pajamas in the form of a hot pink t-shirt and hot pants. I look like I’ve just decided to turn in for the day after selling myself on the streets. I walk past the rifled Marines and they give me confused looks and I stand outside the base as I wait for my taxi. I am certain this is the image the United States Marine Corps has in mind when anyone approaches the entrance to this very esteemed base.

I pick up the phone and talk to a network executive while I wait. He is interested in a show I’ve pitched. I am so excited I instruct the cab driver to take me to the rental car place and I select a nice, red automatic car.

I email my producer on my iPhone while answering a phone call from a talent agent who has a potential host for my series. In the interim I chat with the rental car agent who is running my card.

“It must be an automatic.”

He looks at me and smiles. “Of course it would be, what kind of a crazy rental agent would I be if I expected people to rent a stick shift car?”

“Yeah. You’d be crazy,” I laugh back.

That day, I learned a valuable lesson about being a Marine Aviator’s wife: just because I can’t fly a jet or ride in a tiny plane without hyperventilating, just because I can’t learn to drive stick shift in five minutes in an exceptionally crowded parking lot with vengeful California shoppers, doesn’t mean I’m not a completely capable, put together woman.

Oh, and I suppose, never leave home in a sparkly t-shirt and stretchy hot pant pajamas. Because Murphy’s Law tells us that the moment we do, we’ll inevitably end up stranded and doing a walk of shame past well-armed, impressionable young Marines.


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