Kage Baker was all too familiar with holding patterns. And she hated them.

Waiting for anything, for any reason, was just not Kage’s forte. Patience, now: she had that, and could bring enormous patience to a task she had initiated herself. She would work her way carefully  through anything to accomplish a task: a story, a convoluted chain of research, a delicate piece of calligraphy. I’ve seen her hunched for hours over her home-made light box (an old window pane balanced on a wooden crate with a lamp in it) limning gold paint onto the curves of Celtic uncials with a sable paintbrush whittled  down to six tiny hairs. She’d shake out her hand every down and then, and gulp down Coke, that usually had a thin scum of gold on it from where she’d gotten absent-minded about where she dipped the brush.

She could be as patient as a stone. She just couldn’t wait for things.

Kage was a gibberer over Christmas and birthday presents; she didn’t peek, but she shook packages and danced around moaning for the moment of revelation. No one could ever drive fast enough to please her on our way to Disneyland. She counted down days obsessively to longed-for album and book releases. Once she knew a thing was coming – and that it was not in her control – she’d start to pace and whine and coax and bargain, trying to get it to somehow arrive sooner.

Airports were a particular hell for her.

For one thing, she hated flying. Having to wait to board a plane and get in the air was just an extra haul on the rack handle. Once on the plane, she could relax into a sort of resigned sight-seeing: but waiting for a flight was almost more than her nerves could stand.  And these days, it’s impossible to fly without waiting: a speedy departure is just not part of the norm anymore. Holding patterns – where one could find oneself circling an unready airport for an hour or more – were terrifying lacunae in space/time for Kage, dizzy non-existance 20,000 feet up in thing air … waiting on the ground was not much better, especially if the delay was post-touchdown and the weather was hot.

For some reason, nearly every trip we ever made had a layover in Phoenix, Arizona’s Sky Harbor. It’s brutally hot in Phoenix. And we never got through that place without a hold: never. Twice, the crew was pulled – once to replace a crew that had vanished from somewhere else, and once when our own crew inexplicably went missing. We never found out where they went, or why. That drove Kage nuts. She at least wanted to know why she was stuck there.

When a plane has to wait on the tarmac at Sky Harbor, they usually turn the A/C off to save power: it’s like a hot box in a bad chain gang movie, except you have far too much company in it. And the waiting areas there have walls of glass, so if you’re on hold inside, it’s like detention in an ant farm under a sun lamp. No one sits within 6 feet of the walls, because of the furnace heat radiating inward. And the place is full of neon cacti, and weirdly painted cayuses, and giant, pointless cowboy hats.

We got trapped in Las Vegas once, overnight – our plane was delayed over and over, an hour at a time, for 24 long weary hours. Kage only survived because a dear friend came and rescued us, letting us sleep in real beds at her house (thank you, Becky!) The next day I gave up and rented a car and drove us home. We were over the California border before sparks stopped flying out of Kage’s hair, and the red glow in her eyes died back.

So, anyway, Kage hated waiting.

I find myself in a definite holding pattern right now. I’m waiting for news from my agent – are newly submitted stories adequate? Is anyone interested? I’m waiting for a sleep study center to contact me, to find out why I stop breathing in my sleep. I’m waiting for the cardiologist to get that answer from the sleep center, to decide how to best regulate my absent-minded heart. I’m waiting for the rain – we are supposed to get some rain here, and God knows we need it. I can see it on the Doppler radar like a fall of gems along the coast, but it’s taking its damned time getting here.

I don’t fizz and spark, like Kage. I just sort of glow with a pale and sullen wrath, like an annoyed mushroom. I wish I were the sort of walking fireworks display she was! It would at least be entertaining.

But in the meanwhile – I wait.



About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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8 Responses to Waiting

  1. johnbrownson says:

    One of my worst- or, at least, most annoying- experiences was the night I got stuck in the Las Vegas airport. I was flying back from Orlando, with a plane change in Vegas, only there WAS no plane in Vegas to change to. It was one o’clock in the morning. I’d been one of the few passengers on a nearly empty plane, and when we got to Vegas, everybody else went away… but me. Just me, sitting in the darkened, deserted waiting area. The last person on duty told me that my plane was late, and she didn’t know when it would arrive, then she went home. All this would have been bad enough, but I was sitting next to the “people mover”- the moving sidewalk that ran all night. What made the experience truly hellish was that, in that ghostly, echoing space, a one minute tape loop kept repeating itself, again and again, with the voice of some mimic, doing the voices of well known celebrities I’d never heard of, telling the non-existent people on the mover to “move to the right”. It was sheer torture, and I sat there for three hours, before a plane arrived to take me away. There was no one to ask for a hotel voucher. The only maintenance man I could find told me the tape could not be stopped. All the restaurants and bars were closed- and besides, I didn’t want to stray too far from the gate, for fear my plane would come and I’d never know it. All I could do was sit there and listen to the tape loop, over and over and over. I haven’t really been the same since.


    • Kate says:

      Oh, Buffalo, you poor man! That is not a very comfortable airport, either – I guess they think people will be too crazed by their Vegas experience to notice. I remember the celebrity voices … Kage had her sweatshirt wrapped around her head, leaning in me and trying to sleep; she was giving this demented little monologue about how her braid (hanging our of the sweatshirt) was actually a sensory tentacle and all the things it could sense and meant to do .. Thank all the gods and goddesses for our Becky! She came and got us, gave us beds, gave us breakfast, and got us on our way via rental car the next morning.


  2. Mark says:

    Waiting in airports *is* the worst. I’m convinced that purgatory is an airport with a tape loop… Hell is such a place with a tape loop in a language you don’t understand and heat and humidity that exceed 95.

    And yes, I’ve been close. Flying from Roanoke, Virginia to a living history conference (ALHFAM) in Houston, TX….and my ever helpful secretary has routed me via Newark, NJ. (I knew I would have to change planes, Roanoke’s a small airport……but 180 degrees opposite the direction I’m heading *and* with an intermediate stop?) Wonderful. So I’m not on the ground 10 minutes, when the airport is plunged into darkness. 1/4 of the city of Newark has had a massive power failure. And it’s a hot stuffy humid June day…..that runs the smoked glass airport w/o air conditioning into a sauna. 3 hours later, the lights finally go on again….and I expect a boarding call. Nope. The ticket agent announces our flight will be further delayed because they forgot to unplug the aircraft from ground power…and the power surge from the restored power has wiped the nav. computer, and they have to reboot and reload the flight data. The flight left 4.5 hours late.

    And we won’t even mention the lost luggage or my pre-booked ride to the conference site or having to spend 3 days wearing my travel clothes….or the t-shirt and gym shorts I bought in the student bookstore of U. of Houston so I could wash the damn clothes.


    • Kate says:

      Conventions, workshops, historical events: it seems there is a cosmic rule that if you sign up to go to one, you surrender all your rights as a traveller. You are fair game for gremlins, exploding airlock doors, proselytizing cultists, alien life forms … especially if you’re carrying huge, heavy, clumsy things like books and costumes. It’s the sort of thing that makes you seriously consider taking up collecting miniatures as a hobby instead of re-enactment.


  3. buggybite says:

    If I can’t walk there, I ain’t goin’….


    • Kate says:

      Kage’s feeling exactly. Though she extended it to driving. If I could get us there in less than 24 hours in a car, she’d go. But after Las Vegas – no more flying.


  4. mizkizzle says:

    The Shreveport, Louisiana, airport is especially horrid. It’s tiny and hot and everything there is either broken or being held tenuously together with duct tape: seats, floors, vending machines are patched with duct tape, with orange extension cords running everywhere from some kind of half-hearted renovation project that is never completed.
    Worst of all, they play the Star Spangled Banner at noon every day, and a harsh male voice comes over the PA system barking at everyone to stand up and honor ‘Merrukur. If. You don’t stand and look suitably patriotic, everyone gives you the stink eye.
    It’s a nightmare, I tell you.


    • Kate says:

      What a shame! Shreveport is such a nice little town! Of course, I never flew directly in – the two times I briefly paused there, I landed at New Orleans and drove, for reasons I know longer recall … it was a nice drive, at least. We liked the New Orleans Airport; it, like the entire city, smells like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland.


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