After a wonderful week of wedding planning, APL, RK, and I got up at 5:00am to drive the two-ish hours from Groveland to Sacramento and catch out fight back to Colorado. Needless to say, getting up so early after so little sleep and such a busy week was not good for me. I was a wreck before we even got in the car.
I piled into the back seat and tried not to think about my achy joints. I especially tried to ignore my knees, which were super achy from trying on wedding dresses and getting up and down off the floor with APL's parents' new puppy all week (I just couldn't resist - she is so cute!!) With me half-conscious in the back seat, we made it to the airport, returned the rental car, went through security, and got on the plane.
Two hours (and two very stiff and sore knees) later, we were descending into Denver. Our plane had to take a big detour around the Fourmile Canyon Fire, which had started only a few hours earlier. We could see the pillar of smoke rising up from the Rockies and sailing out over eastern Colorado into Kansas when it hit the inversion layer - it was pretty intense. However, we didn't get to look out the window that much. Between the smoke and the high winds, we experienced the worst turbulence I have ever witnessed. Several times I gasped aloud because it felt like the plane was going to fall out of the sky. All three of us had to concentrate on keeping our breakfasts in our stomachs.
By the time the plane landed and we got off and rode the tram to the baggage claim, I thought I was going to collapse. APL and RK insisted on carrying all the luggage, leaving me concentrating on making my feet move. We had to wait for the shuttle to the parking lot for about ten minutes and there was no bench. By the time the shuttle finally arrived, a crowd of people had gathered. They started pushing on to the shuttle the moment the doors opened. We were able to get on too, but not in time to grab me a seat.
I knew how exhausted I was and I was in a lot of pain. But I just stood there, sort of stupidly, staring at the sign that read "please reserve these seats for the elderly and disabled." The seats were all filled with people. None of them were elderly. None of them looked visibly disabled. They all just looked like tired travelers, happy to get on quick enough to get a seat for the ten minute ride to the parking lot.
I knew I was really close to my crashing point. I knew I should ask for a seat. But I just didn't know how. What was I supposed to say? "Excuse me. I know I'm young and I look perfectly healthy, but can I have your seat?" or "I swear my legs hurt more than yours do?" I couldn't stand the thought of the incredulous looks they would almost certainly give me. And I'm pretty sure if someone had responded that I didn't look disabled, I probably would have broken down on the spot. I knew I should have found my courage and asked for a seat, but I just didn't know how.
So I grabbed the support rail next to APL and steeled myself for the inevitable pain of keeping myself upright in a moving bus. And it came. Halfway to the parking lot, I could not longer grasp my hands around the pole. I draped my arms over APL's shoulders, shifted as much of my weight on to him as I could, and buried my face in his neck, crying slightly while I tried to hold myself upright.
I didn't care where our car was parked. I was in so much pain that I shuffled off the bus as soon as it made it's first stop in the parking lot. There was no bench at the bus stop. I collapsed on to the concrete and started crying in pain, exhaustion, and frustration. APL and RK followed me off the shuttle. RK sat with me while APL went to get the car. I had mostly stopped crying by the time he got back, but he carried me to the front seat just the same.
I know the last part of that pain and exhaustion could have been avoided if I had only been brave enough to ask for a seat. But I still don't know how.
Guess that's something I'll need to figure out.
(NOTE ABOUT THE FIRE: Monday night we could see the flames from our upstairs window. The Fourmile Canyon Fire is still only 30% contained today and 169 houses have already been lost. The Red Cross is accepting donations to help for those who have lost their homes, and the Boulder Humane Society is providing shelter for pets of those families. Please send good thoughts to the firefighters who are working to safely contain the fire and to all of the people who have lost their homes.)