Sunday, January 23, 2005

So Little Time, So Much To Do

The weekend went by much too quickly, thanks to a combination of ATA moving our return flight to 4:30 p.m. from its usual, much-later departure and the fact that we had so much to do in order to make our house ready for the pets. We didn't get home until midnight on Friday and left for the airport before 2 p.m. on Sunday to have lunch at Macaroni Grill. That left only a bit more than one day to get anything done.

Actually, we would have been even more pressed for time, but the friends we were going to meet on Saturday had to fly home early. They are from PA, which was in the grip of a snowstorm that ravaged several states this weekend. They have a diabetic cat and were concerned that their pet sitter would be unable to get to their house in order to administer an insulin shot. They called us Friday night as we were driving home from the airport; they were busy packing in preparation for heading out at 4 a.m. to ensure that they'd be on the first available flight. I haven't talked to them yet, but according to what my husband could find on the internet, it looks like they probably made it on one of the last planes allowed to land there.

We had been planning to spend Saturday with them at Universal and Islands of Adventute, capping off the evening with dinner at Ohana and a viewing of the "Wishes" fireworks. Then we planned to get up early on Sunday for a trip to Petsmart. Now, we did our shopping on Saturday instead, stocking up on cat food and litter (what goes in must come out).

We have located three likely litter box locations: a small one in our Harry Potter powder room on the first floor, another small one between our gargantuan wardrobe cabinet and the wall at the top of the stairs, and an enormous box in the master bedroom closet. Tooncinator, our "Howard Hughes" cat, spends most of his time hiding in the master bedroom closet of our Chicago condo; no reason to think that he won't transfer his insanity to similar quarters in Florida. He'll have a box nearby, and the other two cats can alternate between the two additional locations. Now, I just hope that I can convince them of the wisdom of this plan.

Their food will be in the area between the dinette and the family room. Ironically, that's also the only good spot for my bird Bradley's cage, so he will be in close proximity. I shudder to think of the mixed messages that this will send to the cats, who view him as a potential appetizer anyway.

Whenever we are home, we usually let Bradley out, and he sits on the top of his cage. He rarely goes anywhere else, except perhaps to do a fly-by or two of the room to annoy the cats. But he hates being in; I guess it's just the principal of the thing. He wants to know that he's free, even though he doesn't care to do much with his freedom.

When we had our old cats, he was much more wicked because he knew they were too elderly and weak to fight back. I'll never forget the time he flew down from his cage to where our 16 year old tortie, Muse, was drinking her water. That nasty little bird pecked at her till he'd driven her away from the bowl and then proceeded to take a bath in it! He wouldn't pull that with the young, agile predators that we have now.

I am still trying to figure out what to do with Gil the betta and Finny the goldfish, my two refugees who I don't have the heart to send packing on the Porcelin Highway. I think they are going to have to go on a shelf in the bedroom, which hopefully will keep them out of feline reach. When I was a kid and won goldfish at the local carnival, they always died within a month. These two fish seem virtually indestructible; I've had them over a year now, and they're still going strong.

Our neighbor's cat, Pearl, stopped by to see us as usual. I wonder what she'll think when she meets her new feline neighbors. I figure I can do a safe introduction if I have them outside in the yard, but confined to their cage. They can do some paw-slapping through the bars in relative safety. I will also be interested to see how they get along with their canine neighbor, Lacy. She's a tiny but feisty dog; I'm hoping that they like her because I'd love to get a little dog of my own (much to my husband's chagrin).

We bought mats to keep under the litter boxes, and I still have to get a Dust Buster to avoid the danger of cutting my feet on the silicone litter. We use the "crystals," which are great for odor control, but boy, they hurt when you step on 'em! With the way our house is laid out, I will have to be judicious in my litter changing duties because I can't stand that icky smell that lets everyone know you're a cat owner the minute they walk in the door.

I also swapped my flag to a new one for Valentine's Day, and we hung lighted hearts on the porch. I love decorating for just about any holiday you can think of; the light-up shamrocks are next.

That's about all we had time for; soon enough it was Sunday, and we had to get ready for our early departure. It's not like I could complain to Lame Duck Air about the time change; since this was one of the last non-stops from Orlando to Chicago, it's not like they'd really give a rat's butt.

When we got to the airport, the security line filled all of the queues. We were a little worried that we would be late if we ate at Macaroni Grill as planned, but we decided to go for it. Good thing we did, as the line was almost non-existent by the time we were done with our meal. The menu is more limited than their regular locations, but the food quality was excellent. The waiter asked us if we were catching a plane so he could adjust the speed of the service accordingly.

When we got to the gate, our plane had just arrived and disgorged its load of passengers. For the very last time we were able to flash our Elite card for the pre-board to Chicago and settle in to watch the show as the other passengers trooped on. It's usually like "Airplane," only much better.

This boarding was relatively uneventful except for the very end, when the flight attendants were ready to shut the door. Only problem was, there was one passenger missing. Suddenly he appeared, strolling rather non-chalantly for someone who was on the verge of being left behind. I guess he thought departure time means the time that you're supposed to show up at the airport. Then he was miffed when told that he might have to check his overstuffed bag if it didn't fit under his seat because there was no more overhead space. Fortunately, the flight attendants got him sorted out, including finding space for his "steamer trunk," and we were on our way.

The wind was against us, making the flight time 20 minutes longer than usual, but thankfully it was relatively turbulence free. The flight attendants bummed change off my husband and I for people buying drinks (for some reason, both of us had change for a twenty), so they rewarded us with my favorite ATA cookies. Mmmmmm! I am really going to miss those. They're really hard to describe, but imagine a graham cracker if it was crossed with shortbread and made by angel chefs in Heaven.

We landed to bitter cold temperatures and a foot of snow burying our car. I kept telling myself, "Five more days, five more days" as a I pictured the "cold" fifty degree temperatures that I had just left. The fifties seem like a heat wave when compared to single digits.

Now comes a week of preparation, culminating in the Cat Caging Rodeo and Car Stuffing Competition on Friday. Should be an interesting time.

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