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Boston Leaves

Fri, 24 Nov 2023, 07:51 PM (-06:00) Creative Commons License

A Friends House and Two Libraries

Thu, 23 Nov 2023, 05:50 AM (-06:00) Creative Commons License

Ben took us to Beacon Hill today. We walked beside red brick row houses along gaslit streets staring into the windows where we could, making sure not to trip on the bricks and paving stones.  We gazed at the dome of the state house in the distance. “That’s real gold,” Ben told us the tour guides say. He had a mischievous grin on his face, but in spite of that, Wikipedia backs up the stories (guilded first in 1874, then again in 1969, and most recently in 1997). 

Our destination was Beacon Hill Friends House, where he is the facility manager. He showed us the courtyards with fall color strewn about even though the real color of the season by east coast standards has long since passed.

red fallen leaves on a chair

He showed us the boiler and woodworking room in the basement and other dark corners. He showed us the ancient elevator. We climbed narrow stairs and walked out onto a roof deck above the kitchen where Vickie was preparing a Thanksgiving turkey and filling the room with delicious smells. He showed us the library, lined with old books.

And then on our walk home home, Ben took us to the Boston Central Library and into the reading room where we sat at oak tables under green reading lights in the quiet. And my eyes grew teary.

His grandparents would have been very proud.

Flying to Boston

Tue, 21 Nov 2023, 02:56 PM (-06:00) Creative Commons License

1. The Security Line

It was a holiday weekend. The line of cars to drop off passengers was long — red brake lights descending down the ramp and around a corner to the departure drop off. It was at least a 20 minute line, and we were already getting nervous. But it was 5:20am, and of course no one was arriving, so our Lyft driver dropped us off at the arrival doors where there were no cars, and we were able to proceed to … to a very, very long security line. Trudy later said that the flight attendants said that it was the longest line they had ever seen.

Now, Trudy has TSA-Pre for work, so I got in the security line (which was quickly growing and snaking out the door to the sidewalk). After breezing through her non-existent security line, Trudy checked our bags and made her way to our gate. 

“We have plenty of time,” she texted me. “I’m getting us coffee.” 

2. Going Dark

The security line didn’t move. “I’ll wait for you at Gate 23,” Trudy said. Still the line didn’t move.

After an hour, people around me were panicking. Some were trying (and failing) to skip the line. Some were trying to rebook the connecting flights they were certain to miss. Everyone was agitated, although they were also all well behaved, which is remarkable if you stop to think about it.

When I advanced into the next hallway, the line twisted, revealing hundreds of queued passengers still ahead of me. Trudy texted me to let me know that she was on the plane and that the gate doors had shut. “Going dark,” she texted as she put her phone into airplane mode. She knew our luggage had already been checked on that flight, and she (rightly) figured it would be easiest to rebook one person — her lagging husband.

It hadn’t even been close.

3. Patricia

“Come on through,” the TSA agent said, waving me on with her hands. “No, go back,” another said, blocking my way and directing me back to the scanner for a second try, which I evidently passed. 

Of course when I got to Gate 23, the door had long been shut. There was no one there. Except for a lone American Airlines gate agent who was typing at a keyboard and staring at her monitor. I walked up to her and waited.

Patricia looked up and smiled. “May I help you?” I asked her where I needed to go to rebook a missed flight. 

She started typing on her keyboard and asked for my boarding pass. I handed it to her smiling, relieved that I didn’t need to stand in another line. She apologized that she couldn’t book me on a direct flight. I said I’d gladly take whatever she could find, and we chatted as she waited for the computer which eventually spit out two boarding passes.

“I’m sorry about the line,” she said. “And I’m sorry I couldn’t book you direct. And that you’re on standby to Dallas, but at least I got you confirmed from Dallas to Boston. Oh, and I’m sorry that you need to go down to Gate 4.” 

I smiled. Told her I was happy. I had all day.

We both smiled. 

4. At Gate 4

When I got to Gate 4, there was a Delta flight boarding. Several people were seated nearby patiently waiting for the next flight. I sat down, too.

But nothing happened, the wall monitor showed no indication of an American flight to Dallas. “Just wait for the American agent,” the Delta agent said without looking up. So I went to Medici to get some coffee.

The coffee was really good, and I sat patiently for a while, but still nothing happened. I asked a couple if they were waiting for the American flight to Dallas, and they said no. Neither was a woman sitting nearby.

I walked over to the big board and looked for my flight. There it was — “Boarding Now” at Gate 24. Not Gate 4. I looked at my boarding pass. The first column of characters was clipped off. One line read “merican Airlines”. The line below that listed the gate number said “4 — standby”.

I turned and began walking quickly back.

5. At Gate 24

The Dallas flight was still boarding when I got there. Group 8 out of 9. And my name showed up on the standby list in green with a seat assigned. I’d made it.

“Do I wait for you to call me if I’m green on standby?” I asked the agent.

“Yes,” she said. “Wait until we call you.” 

I stepped back and waited, chatting with some other standby passengers. 

“You should board if you’re green,” they told me. So I asked again.

“Wait until we call you,” the agent told me again and then called two names. Two people walked up, went down the gangway, and then they shut the door.

I walked up to the agent a third time. “I guess I need to rebook again,” I said as I gave her my standby boarding pass.

She looked at it. “Oh, Mr. Hasan,” she said. “we called your name three times.” Of course they had. And I had been down at Gate 4.

I smiled and asked, “So do I need to rebook?” 

It was Patricia who had booked my previous standby flight. “Yes,” she said. She felt bad about the Gate 4 thing, and began immediately pulling together an alternative.

“Gate 26,” she said, smiling. “Just down there.” She pointed to the gate two doors down.

“Thank you,” Patricia. “You’re awesome.” 

6. Standby #2

This time I double checked the gate. Although this ticket was trying to clip the leading characters, two digits were visible (a ‘2’ less so than the ‘6’: Gate 26). As an added  bonus, the big board agreed, and the flight was boarding in 30 minutes. 

I and several other people stood near the Gate 26 counter waiting to hear our names. All things considered, I was not worried. It was still early in the day, I had a standby ticket to Dallas and a confirmed flight from there to Boston. And it was the beginning of a week-long holiday.

Standby people share an affinity, so we began to talk. We commiserated about the long security line and our missed flights. We lamented our distant friends and family. The woman next to me talked about trying to reach her sister who was arriving in Cancun soon and would be getting their rental car. I shared my Gate 4 fiasco and thought of the fair and industrious Trudy.

And then an American employee walked up to me. She pointed back to the counter. Patricia was standing there making faces at me and rolling her eyes. She had evidently come over from Gate 24 and was making sure I made my flight. I walked over to her.

“Mr. Hasan,” she said in mock derision. “While you were busy chatting, we called your name.” She handed me a confirmed boarding pass.

7. At Gate 26

But it would not be that easy. 

The crew for that flight had arrived late at another gate. Once they had got here and checked out the plane, an agent announced, we would push back. They began the boarding shortly after that.

But the boarding process stalled at boarding group number 4. The passengers stood queued in the gangway. And eventually they all started spilling back out into the terminal. It seems the late-arriving crew had been greeted with some cockpit warnings, and there was a maintenance issue that had to be resolved. The flight was delayed 30 minutes.

Those 30 minutes came and went. The maintenance issue was not resolvable, and we were now waiting on a replacement plane which would arrive soon.

But the “broken” plane remained at the gate. Another 30 minutes passed. The agents advised that people with connecting flights in Dallas should go down to Gate 28 and rebook for the next flight, since this flight would arrive late. Fortunately, my flight out of Dallas was leaving later than the cutoff, so I continued to wait for the replacement plane to arrive at Gate 26. 

But a new plane was not forthcoming, and after another 30 minutes has passed, I wandered down to Gate 28 just in case, because the line there was quite long and growing quickly. While I waited for the new Gate 26 plane, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to get in that line in case it never arrived. 

The Gate 28 line moved very, very slowly.

I explained all this to the fair and industrious Trudy as she shared with me that she had arrived in Boston, had picked up our checked suitcases, and was in the car with Josh heading to their house. 

“I’m fine,” I told her. “It’s just a vacation adventure.”

She hearted me back. I guess that attitude earned me points.

8. The Flight I Took

In the event, when I finally got to the Gate 28 counter, the agent looked at her monitor and at the agent next to her who said, “Gate 26 is go” and my agent handed back my passes. 

“You’re good on your flight out of Gate 26.” 

I smiled and made my way back, where I was still on the confirmed list of standby passengers. 

They loaded group 1 and 2 and eventually called out group 8. I made my way down the packed airplane to my seat, sat down, texted the fair and industrious Trudy. The plane pushed back. It taxied to the runway. The engines spun up. They let off the brakes. And we took off. 

In Dallas, I snarfed down a lousy Quarter Pounder and eventually caught my connecting flight. I slept. Read a book. Read a couple articles on my laptop. Watched as we descended through clear skies to Boston and finally landed and taxied remarkably quickly to a gate where the plane came to a stop. 

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the pilot announced, “Welcome to Boston … three minutes early.”

You Helped Me

Fri, 10 Nov 2023, 04:53 PM (-06:00) Creative Commons License

School was over. A familiar face from last year’s class appeared in the doorway. He had AirPods in his ears and was rocking back and forth smiling.

“Mr. Hasan!” he called out.


“You helped me on the test, Mr. Hasan.”

Ok, so this made me nervous. Earlier in the day I had proctored a standardized test. The last thing you want a student to say is that you helped them on a standardized test. We start them. We stop them. We monitor them. But we certainly don’t help them.

“I did … what?” I asked as I walked to the door.

“The math questions, Mr. Hasan. There were a bunch, and I just breezed through them!”

Yep. That’s why they pay us the big bucks.

Closing with Physics

Wed, 8 Nov 2023, 09:10 PM (-06:00) Creative Commons License

I have been bringing these students together weekly for surreptitious introductions to the complex plane, vectors, and rotations, although if you asked them, they’d deny discussing such things, since I don’t really tell them that’s what they’re learning, I just let them learn it.

This afternoon after we finished the mini-lesson, I closed by drawing a diagram on the whiteboard. There was a mass. There was a plane inclined at an angle, theta. There was a force pulling the mass up the plane. I told them they’d see all this again when they took Mr. Conn’s physics class.

Eva looked up.

“Mr. Hasan,” she said, holding up a sheet of paper. “Do you know physics?”

“I know some physics.”

“Can you help me with this?” She was evidently holding a homework assignment.

I could. I did.

“I get it,” Eva said afterwards.

Good closure, I suppose, but who knows how much damage I inflicted on Mr. Conn’s lesson.

No Joke

Sun, 5 Nov 2023, 09:31 PM (-06:00) Creative Commons License

I sat on the floor with Hagan and Miles. We rolled balls. We played with puzzles. Hagan did the talking. There was much of it. Miles did the staring, unsure of this stranger but intrigued perhaps by the faces and sounds I made. 

When it was time to go, I leaned over to stand up and groaned with the unfolding and straightening that came with slowly realigning vertically. Stiff muscles. Sore back. Old man complaints. 

Rachel laughed. I think she thought the groans were a joke.


Sun, 5 Nov 2023, 09:17 PM (-06:00) Creative Commons License

It started innocently enough. A typical distant-family-shows-up visit with the young kids staring at the loud intruders warily. But sitting on the floor helped, as did playing with the puppets and rolling the green ball, which Miles enjoyed immensely. And there was the talking globe where Hagan pointed out India to me. (A fascinating random choice of country to point out, methinks.)

So there we are sitting on the carpet putting the last of the puzzle pieces together and reminding each other that Richmond is the capital of Virginia, when Hagan walks up and plants himself in front of me. He looks me in the eyes and begins to recite … he begins to call out … he names the major moons of Jupiter: Io, Europa, Ganymede…, one in rapid succession after the other. Then having evidently caught himself, he returns to the inner solar system and calls out Phoebe and Deimos. “Mars,” his dad points out. “Of course, Mars!” I say. Then Hagan continues. Without catching a breath, Hagan flys quickly by Saturn, calling out Enceladus, and on to Uranus’ Oberon, Titania, Ariel. And then to Triton. “Of course, Neptune!” I say. “Ah yes, Neptune,” his dad says. 

An astronomer in the making.

Relative Chills

Sun, 1 Oct 2023, 04:30 PM (-06:00) Creative Commons License

Southern Chill.

The 100+ weather seems to have finally passed. This weekend we sat on the bench in the morning and drank our coffee and enjoyed the chill. And a chill it was when I jumped into the outdoor pool at the YMCA this afternoon. It had, after all, only climbed into the low 90s. 

Northern Chill.

But then there was the Montreal morning commute weather report on Friday. My French listening skills are getting better. I can mostly follow what Veronique is saying, and what she said clearly mentioned it getting down to zero (Celsius) overnight. Ok, so I guess that is a chill.

The Toad’s Still Here

Sun, 24 Sep 2023, 10:51 AM (-06:00) Creative Commons License

Every morning when we go outside, we check the birdbath that’s on the ground under the Lantana to see if the toad is there. Usually it isn’t. Today it was.

I almost didn’t notice it. The water had nearly evaporated. There were soggy leaves and a couple stones in the bottom, and a very shallow puddle of water. And there in the water was the head of a toad. 

A say “head” because at first I saw nothing but its head a soggy wrinkled leaf. But the leaf was no leaf. The toad had flattened itself so that it could lie submerged in that meager puddle.

I slowly walked to the water barrels and got some rainwater to raise the water level slightly, standing as far back as I could and then retreating to the bench. The toad’s eyes glistened. It puffed up and moved around. It wiped its face and wiggled, as I sat still to watch what happened.

Here is what happened.

What They Were Up To

Thu, 21 Sep 2023, 11:55 AM (-06:00) Creative Commons License

Class was over. It had been a weird day with the students mostly taking a standardized test on their laptops. Many finished early at which point it was free time. Now that the bell was about to ring, many of them were lined up at the door, something I don’t usually allow, but then today had been a weird day.

K stood at the far end of the whiteboard with a friend. Over the past weeks, they have been adding characters to a menagerie that I’ve left alone. There were 14 of them, and they were adding a 15th.

One glance, and I suspected what they were up to. They saw me watching them, and they giggled before returned to their task.

So what do you think they were up to?

a drawing of a man with glasses

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