Update

African Connection links are now in the sidebar to the right, just below the My Travel section.

Click here to see a La Crosse Tribune article about the mission in Uganda.

Friday, May 29, 2009

A Dream. And A Nightmare.

It was one of those days. The kind that make you glad you live on the outskirts of the frozen tundra. Maybe it's because you do live here and have so few of these days that made it seem so good. It was a dream day. A day for being on the bike.

Warm enough for shorts and a short-sleeve jersey, cool enough to be comfortable, even on the climbs. And while windy, it wasn't much of a factor on the route I'd chosen for the afternoon ride. But what it really was that made the day were the colors. Afternoon light lifted the wooded hills into a luminescent lime green. The sky was a deep, brilliant blue, a hue that might very well be impossible to recreate on even the most talented of artists' palettes. The rocky outcroppings on the bluffs effused a warm orange glow, adding to the impossible beauty of this most pleasant of afternoons.

Leaving at 4 p.m., I headed up Bliss Road and, after a loop past our National Weather Service station, went on to drop down County FO to the intersection with County OA. Climbing OA got me back to the top of the ridge where I stayed only long enough to hydrate and stretch a bit. Then, it was down OA and up FO, back past the weather station and down Bliss. At the bottom of Bliss Road, I turned around and went back to the turnaround past the weather station and back down Bliss. Then, I did it again. After descending Bliss for the third time, I decided it was time to call it a day, so I headed for home.

This was that day you dream about when you are riding in March. In wind-driven sleet. With the cold stinging your cheeks. Where your feet are painfully cold, even with the two foot warmers and shoe covers. Today, the dream came true.

You are probably thinking that the nightmare has something to do with the rigors of the 43 mile ride or the accompanying 3,700 feet of climbing. And if that's what you're thinking, then you are wrong. The dark moment of the day came as I went to take care of dinner.

Just before getting home I pulled into the local Subway, something I do often after a late afternoon ride. It was your worst Subway nightmare. There was only one person ahead of me, but she was on a cell phone, obviously ordering for whoever was on the other end of the line. This is hardly ever a sign that you are going to make it through the line quickly, and so it was tonight.

First, the lady asked about the bread choices, then repeated them to her unseen soon-to-be dinner companion. OK, I had to assume she repeated the bread story as she was speaking in Chinese. After a conversation that was pretty animated for something as basic as bread, she relayed the decision to the sandwich maker behind the counter. Then, it was time to ask about the meat choices, a bit more complicated as you can have a variety on any one sandwich. After describing the choices over the phone (again I am assuming this - you know, the Chinese language thing) she had to get some clarifications which, of course, had to be translated and transmitted. When this was settled, we moved on to cheese, only a little less complicated than the meat. The question, "Do you want this toasted?" must have been difficult to render into Chinese, as the discussion that (finally) led to a decision to say, "yes" took almost as long as the bread, meat and cheese conferences combined.

The partially completed sandwich goes into the oven and I get ready to place my order. But the young lady behind the counter asks, as she always does, "Would you like another sandwich?" "Yes." Uh-oh. And so we started the process again Really. It was as if the first sandwich-ordering exercise had never happened. We go through the bread, meat, cheese, toasted-or-not choices again. Except this time it maybe took a little longer. When eventually asked about another sub, the response was "yes" again. And then AGAIN. Four times. Each time as if it were a brand-new experience. Oh. My. Goodness.

I'm going to assume you get the picture by now, so I won't even mention the effect that asking "Would you like the works on these sandwiches?" had on the process. But it was a LONG effect.

It takes me 10 seconds to order. I always get the same sandwich. Always. I can answer the questions before they are asked. Funny thing is, I know the people that work there know what I am going to order. But in the last two years, only one guy (an Atlanta Braves fan, as am I, by the way) would actually start making the sandwich when I walked in. Go figure.

So there you go. A dream of a day. And I really don't take the Subway "nightmare" all that seriously. In fact, it might prove to be beneficial some day. If I'm ever in a Beijing Subway, I'm pretty sure I can order any one of four sandwiches. And they'll never guess I'm not a native.

It's getting late, so I'll say, 晚安 (wǎn ān)!

2 comments:

Spiffer said...

From the beautiful and sublime to the irritating and surreal...
But anyone who can ride up Bliss Road and FO in the same day can probably tolerate ANYthing.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Spiffer! Maybe this was supposed to be one of those humility things . . . or patience. Think of God smacking his head with us . . . .