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December 16, 2002

(written February 8, 2003)

Dear Family and Friends,

No sooner had Gabby's graduation been properly celebrated then I was off to Longmont, Colorado to meet our new grandson, Richard Patrick Trotter.

Marianne and her mom drove to San Francisco airport early Sunday. They were driving up to Fresno so it was convenient to drop me off with lots of time to spare. Or so I thought.

At the United Airlines counter, I waited patiently for the half-dozen travelers ahead of me. When it was my turn, everything was pretty normal until the agent said something like "Uh, oh. Five X's" and I was introduced to the consequences of increased airport security and random sampling.

It turns out that the computer randomly picks out folks for additional security measures. I had won this particular lottery. The first step was to get out of line and go across to the huge white machine that would scan my bag for whatever it is that huge white machines scan bags for. After my suitcase was spit out of the machine, human handlers quickly grabbed it and warned me to stay away. OK, I was sent to another check-in line, only a bit longer than my original one and the screened-luggage handlers moved my bag into the vision of a new pair of bag guards.

At the new check-in, I was asked a number of questions about why I was traveling, where have I been, where was I going, etc. I must have passed the test because the bag guards released my bag and it was put on the conveyor belt.

I was released too, but only to the line going into the rest of the airport concourse. At this line, the XXXXX on the top of my ticket earned my portable computer a thorough wipe down and examination for whatever it is that people wipe down computers. I also had to remove my shoes and the unlucky checker examined my shoes, for whatever......

Now I was free to hurry to my gate, thinking I was past all the extra security for the day. Not quite. At the gate, my XXXXX earned me yet another search. "Empty all your pockets. sir. Put your carry-on over there, sir. Sit here and wait, sir." I did as told and was thoroughly scanned by that wand that searches for whatever.... I have to admit that I do appreciate all the necessary security but at 7:30 on a Sunday morning, it sets a somber tone.

Less than two hours later, I was in Denver, picking up my rental car. I threw my bags in, got settled in the drivers seat and set off. Going out of the Hertz lot, I stopped to show my driver's license (no X's thank goodness) and discovered the driver's window was broken. No problem, I swung back into the lot, explained my problem, got a nearly identical replacement, and transferred all my junk over. Well, almost all of it.

Brian, Jen and young Richard Patrick live in Longmont, just North of Boulder, about an hour's drive from the airport. I'd gotten instructions from Jen, but the new car also had one of those turn-here-dummy GPS navigators. For a techno-geek, it was fun. I typed in "Richard Patrick" and it gave me instructions. Just kidding. I did have to put in an address but from then on, all I had to do was listen and turn as directed. I tried putting in things like "Empire State Building" and found out that, sure enough, it gave me instructions down to the last few turns in New York City. I'm not sure I'd pay for a gadget like this, but for free, it's worth it.

Up in Longmont, I pulled into Brian and Jen's recently purchased home and reached for my camera. That is, after all, what a new grandpa is supposed to do, take all kinds of pictures to bore family and friends. Unfortunately, this was when I discovered that my camera was gone.

After hugs with everyone, I called back to Hertz and told them the problem. The manager went to my first rental, found the camera, and told me it would be waiting for me. Brian joined me and we pointed the turn-here-dummy machine back on a reverse course. It worked almost as well as on the trip up. However, there was one freeway on-ramp where it said, in an agitated voice I swear: "U-turn as soon as you can." I looked at Brian and he looked and me and we agreed that would be a very bad idea. I guess even gadgets make mistakes. Anyway, two hours later I had my camera back and had had a nice conversation Brian. OK deal.

As for the prime attraction, I must say that MY grandson is great. Not too talkative but he was only about 6 weeks old. And I did get a few pictures. There was napping, eating, bathing and almost sleeping. In case you want more, I have them. Lots of them.

My favorite was a series I took while Richard just sat on my lap. I took 30, but here's just one(PC70019) and another.

The new parents seemed to be doing well too. Brian had survived a major lay-off the Friday before, so he was a (temporarily) relieved technology worker. Jen still has her hands full with Richard yet, so she hasn't had a chance to rush off to a chemistry lab to do whatever PhDs do in chemistry labs.

I had to leave after just a couple days visit. I had business in Virginia and North Carolina and, of course, more relatives in Maryland to visit this holiday season. But that's another story.

Take care. Hug your kids, grandkids, puppies, and teddy bears. They all grow old too soon.

John and Marianne






















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