I have been known to complain. From time to time.
In certain circles, in fact I am known as P.W.B.: prissy, whiny baby. A label I may have assigned myself in a fit of bewilderment that any mature, emotionally stable male might ever, in his right mind, want to be involved with me.
My reaction to missing the last 7 a.m. Metra to work? Prissy. Whiny. A moment of blubbering until I realize I can get on the bus to placid, quiet Park Ridge and wait at Panera with a nice cup of coffee until the 9 a.m. train comes through.
How. Ever.
My reaction to missing the last flight out of Philadelphia? As the result of an inexplicable two-hour delay in Ithaca, my own personal hell? After dodging propellers and running from the tarmac to the shuttle from terminal F to terminal A, roughly 48 miles apart, and blocked by not one but five departing planes? All calmly en route to their destinations and completely unaware that I had less than 10 minutes to get to my flight? After running, practically dry heaving on the moving walkway, through the international terminal (for a domestic flight) only to see the gate agents playing a celebratory game of Parcheesi at the desk, the door already closed and secured for departure? My reaction? Hysterics. Prissy, whiny babies: Fear me.
By the way, U.S. Airways is the devil. Do not fly with them. Ever.

So now?
It would seem I am simply collecting pens from exotic hotels.
Currently in my purse: Hampton Inn — Columbus, Hilton Garden Inn — Ithaca, random clickie pen of unknown origin. Furtively obtained, to be sure. (I'd say I stole it from the guy who delivered my Thai food last night, but I had to lend him my Garden Inn pen because someone else had stolen his. The nerve.)
Soon to be added to the collection: Quality Inn — Essington, Pa.
Which is where I am now, stripped to my underthings in a plank-stiff, king-size bed. My suitcase is somewhere at the Philadelphia airport with all my clothes in it. It is possibly carrying my dignity and the final shreds of my sanity as well.
I may never get home to write on my little dry-erase kitchen board again. I am doomed to an existence marked by tiny logo notepads and cheap logo Bics.

And yet.
This day could have been so much worse.
It was so much worse for a lot of people. I met a lot of them tonight.
The woman in Ithaca who was dealing with the same travel delays the fact that her husband had just left for Iraq. She was still smiling, somehow.
The man from Oslo who had missed his flight out for the same reason as me, only his was international. He has only a week back home, and he's going to miss one of them stuck in a Philadelphia airport hotel. The next flight out for him wasn't until 5 p.m. Wednesday. His cell phone battery was nearly dead; he just wanted to talk to his wife back in New Mexico. We had been in line for an hour at the point I abandoned him.
The family of seven who had been waiting two hours for a shuttle to the airport hotel where I'm now holed up. Who couldn't pile in because there were so many people who had been waiting just as long but had fewer children in tow. This prissy, whiny baby crammed into the front seat of the Patchouli-Vanilla Express to the Quality Inn with another similarly unfortunate soul: a long-haired rocker whose band is headlining a German music festival that starts tomorrow. He's the lead singer, and they can't go on without him. His guyliner was smudged.

And always: There are people who made my life bearable and then some, without even realizing their gift.
The horde of horticulture nerds I spent the day with, before this whole travel ordeal was on my radar. We joked about begonia freaks and traded plant-related snark for hours. (Who knew?)
Ryan, the Garden Inn front desk guy who: gave me directions to the ice cream parlor, retrieved my bags for me, drove me to the airport and chatted with me for the entire ride. He's just discovering writing, and I nearly assaulted him with my card
The TSA agent who told me the janitor's name (Dan) so I could get into the Ithaca airport's one bathroom quickly, who later brought me pizza from behind the security gate because I…well, I whined.
The aforementioned Norwegian man, whose broken English was so endearing to me: He kept telling me he'd lost his flight. We were friends for at least an hour, until I abandoned him. And yet? I never learned his name.
The woman at the information desk who called me "baby" in that "sweet child of mine" way, hell bent on making sure I was headed in the right direction. Red-rimmed eyelids will get you everywhere.
Two gate agents, just leaving their shifts, who stopped for 20 minutes at the ticketing counter to help me get my hotel voucher and boarding pass. Seeing the human side of an airline is equal parts shocking and comforting. Beyond the polyester uniform, there is a heart. Apparently.
Noah, the marijuana policy lawyer in town from D.C. to reshape American policy on the ganja (did you know that's Sanskrit?), was in front of me in line and wanted to hear my story. Because we live in the smallest of worlds, I found out he'd just stayed the weekend with a friend who lives about three blocks from me in Chicago.
Buffy, the vampire slayer. On DVD. Three times.

It's nearly 12:30, Eastern time. Why am I still awake?
Maybe because tomorrow, when I get home, this day of travel will be nothing more than a nightmare. Prissy, whiny fodder to fuel the infantile fire when I need it.
But a little perspective is nice, and something I tend to lose sight of.
Really? Life could be so much worse; to put all the great things in my life down on paper would take far more tiny paper and cheap ink than these hotels can provide.
So here I am.