Sunday, February 7, 2010

open SESAME street!!

When I called my party “open SESAME street” I was thinking much more about Big Bird, Cookie Monster and Princess Jasmine than sunny days. However, it turned out that one of my more prominent tasks was actually to sweep those clouds away.

I have always liked rain. I find it calming (dear know my friends must appreciate this, too), de-stressing and generally quite welcome. I love to run around and play in it. Jump puddles. Climb soggy trees in my bare feet. Jump into freezing cold ponds just as the thunder booms. I love, unlike any other female I’ve ever met, what it does to my hair. Alternatively, I also enjoy sitting inside and watching it, preferably when there’s a thunderstorm. In short, rain has never bothered me.

Switch scenes now to Sydney. Sydney generally has good weather. Sunny, pretty skies, gorgeousness. It often gets a wee bit more humid than I'd really prefer, but I generally don't mention that too loudly. Because of the humidity it frequently showers briefly, especially in the summer evenings, and there are sometimes amazing thunderstorms. But sometimes the skies open (heaven forbid) for nearly a day and Sydneysiders throw themselves immediately up in arms. They do not like rain, they cannot stand rain, it depresses them, rain does. They were happy until it rained and they just can't stand rain. (You should have been here last year when it rained for two weeks straight. The city was about to shoot itself, and everyone in it. They were so distraught that Sydney’d been caught, well, with its metaphorical pants down, quite frankly.)

Sydneysiders, you see, take it as a personal insult when it rains. Their city is not supposed to get rain (that horror belongs primarily in London, eww), it is supposed to be sunny, everyone knows that, Sydney is sunny. It’s even alliterative for goodness sake, have you ever heard of (shudder) “rainy Sydney”? Of course not. It does not go together, it does not sound good, end of story. Thus, rain really brings out, or keeps in, the worst of people. (Oh, go back and reread that sentence. It contains more brilliance than even I realized at first write.) It makes them immediately whiney, crabby and, if you hadn't quite caught it, exceptionally prone to stay home. That's right, Sydney treats a day of rain the same way Cincinnati treats an impending 4 inch "blizzard" -- everyone freaks out, runs to the grocery store, stocks up, cancels all their events and mopes miserably inside until it dries up and their (it does belong to them, you know) sun reappears. No one really thinks to get out there and start sweeping those clouds away.

In the wake of this astounding feat of meteorology, can you believe this impudent American (hold on to your seats) had the gall to schedule a party? Granted, it had been scheduled months in advance before any of the impending doom had been announced, but the fact remained I did not cancel it and actually (the nerve!) presumed Australians might still attend. It is clearly a tribute to their stalwart hearts, true and noble characters and Brave Little Umbrellas that 30 actually managed to drag their bedraggled selves into the warmth of what I’d cunningly themed “open SESAME street!” (Though two of them did promptly shut a window in a rather warm room when a few mists of rain dared to edge their way in. Keep that weather where it belongs! But that’s another story.)

Backing up a bit, I will admit that I, too, had my fair share of trouble getting to my party. I’d been at church a bit later than was really ideal if I wanted to arrive on time, but the sermon was on Not Giving Up Meeting Together, As Some Are in the Habit of Doing, so really, what was I to do? I caught the 7:24 train, which was actually more like a 7:35 train because, well, because trains don’t always recognize the fact that the number they’re called is supposed to match up to the time. I think they think it’s just a cunning little number randomly assigned to them and toot merrily along their way without regard for what it really means.

But in any event, the inaptly named 7:24 did eventually arrive and whisked me away to Central, where it had been downpouring all day. Like I said, I do like rain, but I don’t like it as much as usual when it’s also making me cold and late, as well as potentially ruining not only the bottoms of my jeans but also cell phones, cameras and borrowed books.

The train to Newtown, unfortunately, had been canceled due to track work, which meant I had to get a replacement bus. Thankfully everything was close at hand and well labeled (though not before I’d heaved several great, “I hate Central, I hate Central … and Town Hall if it comes to that … why can’t this be Wynyard, I hate Central” snarls under my breath) and I soon found the makeshift rain shelter they’d kindly put up for us huddled smoking masses. Yes, smoking. The people behind me were smoking, and I was in no mood to be smoked at, much less have the dreadful smell affix itself to my hair for my party. I gave up in disgust, and faced the rain, which, like I said, I wasn’t liking quite as much as usual.

Somehow in that I’d managed to sneak a glance at the time and realized that if the replacement bus didn’t come soon, I was really going to be up a literal and metaphorical creek. After a few false starts (“what do you mean, you don’t go to Newtown!?”), I gave up entirely and hailed a taxi.

Taxis are always my last resort. Sydneysiders don’t bat an eye thinking about taxis, it’s generally their first idea when you have to get somewhere. I, having grown up driving and being driven everywhere I ever needed to go for at least 23 years, never think of them. When I do, it’s generally with a sigh of, “oh dear, what a waste of perfectly good cash!” (Sydneysiders point quickly to the fact that no matter expensive taxis are, you can rack up a mighty large number of cab rides before you equal the cost of one car. They have a point.) Last night, however, I was desperate, so, after a few more false starts (“but I need you so much more than they do!”) I finally hurled myself in the first cab I could and asked for Newtown. The driver shook his head.

“Traffic’s terrible there.”

“Oh dear,” I said. “I see, but I think I’d still like to go.”

He gave me an odd expression along the lines of some-people-are-just-too-willful-for-their-own-good.

“How long does it normally take to get there in good weather?” I asked, desperately clinging to the belief that since I had at least acquired a taxi, the weather would surely be turning any second now.

He sighed. “Twenty minutes.”

“Twenty minutes!” I cried. “In good weather?!”

“Twenty minutes tonight,” he said. It was then that I realized his English was not yet at the level my school would classify as proficient.

“But it’s my birthday party!” I wailed. “I can’t be late to my own birthday party!”

He looked me in profound distress, clearly wishing he’d never picked up this miserable, wailing waif.

“You call your friends,” he said.

Realizing he was right, I whipped out my cell phone and called the bar in a mild panic. They answered on about the tenth ring, and the man was clearly busy.

“Right there, hello, um, Newto – er, Zanzibar, this is Joe,” said a tall-sounding man.

“Hi there, this is Kim, I’ve got a couple tables reserved there for tonight for, um, eight o’clock, but I’m caught in the rain and the train was out and the replacement bus didn’t come and I’m in a taxi and I’ll be there really soon, my guests should be arriving any second now, I’m really sorry, I promise I’m on my way,” I spat out in one breath.

“No dramas, love,” Joe said. “What’d you say your name was?”


“Okay, doll, no worries, we’ve got your tables, they’re not going anywhere. Thanks for calling, see you when you get here.”

“See you,” I said. “Thanks so much.”

The driver gave me a how-bad-was-that-really look. I ignored him. Next I racked my brains for who I deemed the guest Most Likely to Arrive on Time and came up with Melissa. I called her frantically.

“Melissa!” I said, “Are you there yet??”

“No,” she said, “I’m just on a bus going over the Harbour Bridge now. Sorry, did you need me there now?”

“Er, no,” I managed. “It’s just that I’m running late – the rain and the train and the bus and the taxi and the rain, you know – and, the guests and the party and I’m going to be late and it’s my birthday and I don’t know what to do.”

Being an observant sort of friend, she quickly picked up on the urgency bordering on now more-than-mild panic in my voice.

“It’ll be fine,” she assured me. “Look, the weather’s really bad tonight and everybody’s going to be running late. I’ll be there soon, but I reckon you and I will be the first to get there. Transportation’s down all over the place, the rain is making people late, don’t worry at all. If anybody gets there and can’t find you, they’ll just call. It won’t be a big deal.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. “You’re sure?”

“Definitely,” she said. “The worst that can happen is they call you, and no one’s going to be upset about having to have an extra drink before you arrive. I still reckon you’ll be the first one there, though.”

We hung up and the driver gave me another look which was not meant to be entirely sympathetic. I felt I owed him an explanation.

“Sorry, it’s just been a difficult day, I woke up kind of sick and then like all day I’ve got nothing but texts from people canceling on me because of the rain, but then it is still my birthday party and I’ve got to be there on time and –”

At this point I felt I was being rude, so I changed tactics.

“How’s your night been?”

He gave me another look.

“As bad as mine, hey? I’m sorry.”

There was a slight pause. Then I suddenly realized I had a birthday present with me.

“Look!” I squealed. “I have a present to open! That’ll cheer me up!”

“Don’t you wait and open with your friend?” he asked.

“Well, I could, but I’m kind of grumpy right now and this’ll cheer me up so I’m going to go for it anyway.”

He clearly disapproved, but didn’t stop me. In fact, he seemed a bit curious.

“I think it’s a book,” I announced. Judging by its shape, this wasn’t a bad guess.

“Hardback,” I said, pulling off the paper.

“You like read?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said, “I do. Oh, look! It’s a blank book! One to write in!” I showed him joyfully.

Clearly a blank book was not his idea of the perfect present.

“You like write?” he asked.

“Yes!” I said, “I’m a writer! This is fantastic!”

He made an undecipherable noise, and we rode in silence for awhile.

We finally arrived outside Zanzibar just a smidge past eight o’clock.

“Thank you,” I gushed, eager to leave a relatively positive impression.

“You got everything? Nothing on floor?”

“Think I’m okay,” I said, handing him a $20. “Keep the change.”

He glanced up at me. “And now you write about this, eh?”

I looked down, surprised. “Err, yeah, actually, I probably will.”

“Happy birthday,” he said, and drove off.

I shook my hair out while I waited for the lights to change, then darted madly across to Zanzibar where I was promptly card, searched and de-watered.

“You can’t take this in,” the guard declared, pointing to my water bottle.

I was beyond caring. “That’s fine, I don’t care, you can take it,” I said. He did, and let me in.

I dashed upstairs and looked madly, chaotically around. A tall man saw me floundering and asked if I was all right.

“Yeah,” I said, “I’m just, well, it’s my birthday party, I’m not sure where …”

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Kim,” I said, happy to have the right answer to at least one question.

“Oh, cool,” he said. “Over here, I’ve just finished cleaning it off for you.”

He led me into a smaller room where two long tables were clearly marked with signs reserving them for Kim. No one else was in sight.

“Thank you!” I said. “The others should be arriving any second now. I understand if you have to give one of the tables up or something.”

“Nah, no worries, love,” he said. “It’s your birthday, these are your tables. If anyone tries to take them, you just go over and point to the sign and say, ‘I’m Kim. These are my tables, scram.’”

I decided I rather liked this place.

Seeing as there weren’t any other guests yet, I ran to the bathroom to change. I was dressed pretty appropriately for the bar, but not at all for my party. It took a little while to get myself situated and tied up properly, but I finally emerged, elaborately regaled and definitively the only person in the bar in Arabian dress. I’m generally a fairly self-confident person, but it took a deep breath even for me to walk back over to my two large tables.

It was then my friend Joseph arrived. Seeing as he was first guest, I greeted him enthusiastically.

“Er, was this a costume party?” he asked.

“Yes!” I said. “Did I forget to tell you?”

It seemed that I had, but he was a good sport about it and soon others began arriving, some in costume and others not. It was a small crowd for awhile, but soon guests (along with a ream of apologetic texts) began trickling steadily in and soon we were in the midst of a full-blown zanziparty!

There were several Arabian-styled girls, some turbans and even Syrian sweets on the “open Sesame” end of things, and Cookie Monster Adam rounded out the “Sesame Street” contingent, which was brought to us by the letter P.

We took pictures, danced and raved about how fitting the décor was, how fun the music was and, really, what am amazing turnout there was, despite that dastard weather. All in all, there were thirty guests, albeit I didn’t meet two of them until we’d finally packed up and headed out (they’d somehow missed us and hung out by themselves downstairs).

The fun and revelry, interspersed with occasional presents and lots of camera flashes, danced on until Christian o’clock when many of my church friends moseyed on out. A small gang of five of us soldiered on, though, dancing our hearts out for another hour or two until we finally decided to call it a night.

Funny, though, it almost seemed like a sunny day to me.


Rachel Aubrey, formerly Miss Borycz said...

I am so relieved to read that you did make it to your own birthday party, despite the rain, and the train, and the bus, and the taxi (driver). Incidentally, I'm also glad to hear that you received a book - a blank one no less - for your birthday. Hurrah! I can also say that I'm glad that you didn't spend the evening with your metaphorical pants pulled down.
Happy Birthday!
And Happy occasion to post a nice bit of writing!

Oh, of course, I agree. I like what the rain does to my hair too. It gets nice and wet and blown about and then dries with wispy curls everywhere.
I noted the nice bunch of curls you achieved for the evening. :)

KIM said...

Yes, of course, I should have remembered you would like rain in your hair, too!! Thanks so much for posting :)

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you survived the rain, Kim. You would have had a bit more of a struggle here. We've got about a foot of snow in Newark and I'm not sure how munch Susan is digging herself out of. I'm not sure that your Australians would have came to your party in a foot of snow! I would have, if not for the pesky ocean to drive across.
Happy Birthday!

The Sooz said...

I certainly would have made it out to your party! A little thunderstorm wouldn't have stopped me! Although Gina's right, there is the pesky business of the 18+ inches of snow we have right now coupled with another anticipated 10 inches tomorrow! I think I'd prefer the rain at this point...


Laetitia :-) said...

My hair likes rain, or at least it doesn't dislike it.