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Take It Off!

For those of you who have followed this blog over the years, it will be no surprise that I have another travel story. This one is actually about  my trip home from a very eventful trip up north. I was in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. One of the most surprising things I learned when I got dropped off at the train station in Newark is that their train station is called Penn Station. Seriously, who knew? And I was taking a train from Penn Station to Penn Station. Just sharing a nugget of possibly confusing information to be tucked away if ever needed again.

 

 

 

Anyway, at the end of my visit to New York, I was catching a plane from La Guardia back to South Carolina that was scheduled to leave around 10:30 AM, so I was getting picked up at 8:00 AM to head for the airport. It was raining, but not pouring. But I knew in my bones that this was not going to be an easy morning. I received several texts that morning from the airline to let me know my plane was leaving on time. Until we were halfway to the airport and I got a new text telling me my flight was now leaving at 11:30 AM. Normally, that would stress me out, but traffic had gotten so bad, we were barely moving anyway, so I no longer had to panic we wouldn’t get to the airport on time to catch my plane.

It usually takes about a half hour to get to the airport. This time, it took well over an hour, so I finally got dropped off at around 9:15. My ticket did not indicate that I had TSA precheck, so I waited on the very long, snaky line to get through the regular security screening. A quick question – how is it that I often have the TSA precheck notification on my ticket coming to wherever I’m going, but not on the return? Has something changed about me while on the trip? Just wondering.

So immediately after I gave the agent my ticket and ID and got waved through, there were several screeners literally shouting at us. “Take off your shoes!” “Take any electronics larger than a cell phone out of your bag!” “Put all bags, jackets, and shoes in a bin!” “Put any tablets in a separate bin!” “Do the Hokey Pokey and turn yourself around!” Well, I can’t vouch for the last one, but the rest happened. So as I was taking my shoes off, the TSA lady grabbed my bag that had my tablet in it and I was hopping around while pulling my other shoe off, trying to tell her that I hadn’t had a chance to get my tablet out yet. She was not happy with me which was apparent by her glare, but she shoved my bag back at me so I could get my tablet out before it disappeared into the dark abyss of the X-ray machine.

I was exhausted by the time I emerged from the full-body scan at the other end of the conveyor belt, and was reunited with my belongings. I dragged everything down to my assigned gate, and suddenly heard multiple people shouting my name. I was overtired, stressed, and hungry, and in a very large airport, so the odds were pretty good they weren’t actually calling me. I kept walking, but the voices kept calling. So I looked around, and there was one of my South Carolina friends, her husband, and another couple who I knew all shouting at me, trying to get my attention. So we chatted for a bit, but all too soon their plane was about to start boarding, so they had to leave and I was once again on my own. Sometimes you actually have to pay attention to the voices that you think might be only in your head, because they might end up being friends who very coincidentally are at the same humongous airport at the same time, who really are shouting your name.

Eventually, I got to my gate, only to find that my plane was delayed again. And then a few minutes later, the gate was changed. And, I discovered, there was nowhere to actually sit near the new gate. I realized I either had to sit in one of the eating areas and order some very expensive food, or find a table where a bunch of other people were sitting, and grab the empty seat. Which I did. Then I got another text. The time for my flight was changed again, this time back to 11:30. A few minutes later, I got another text that the gate had changed. Again. This happened two more times with both the time and the gate changing. In the end, we ended up boarding for the 11:30 takeoff time. And the new gate wasn’t that far from any of the old gates, but still, an exercise in being alert and paying attention.

So I finally made it home and wondered about the way we travel these days. I remember when getting to fly from one place to another was kind of magical. And special. And people didn’t yell at you while you were hopping around with one shoe on, trying to comply with all the things that needed to be done to get through security. But that’s the world we live in today, so I’ll just be grateful for making my flight, seeing my friends, and getting to have all of the experiences I had in the first place. And relieved that nobody made me do the Hokey Pokey.

 

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

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Mirror, Mirror

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When you look in the mirror, who do you see? Do you see yourself, or an idealized version or yourself? Are you relieved to see that you don’t have as many wrinkles as you feared? Or that you don’t notice those extra ten pounds that the scale insists have crept up on you? Do you see your 30-year-old self or your 50-year-old self? Your 20-year-old self or your 60-year-old self? If that’s the case, you’re either completely delusional or you need a decent pair of glasses.

 

 

I admit, I’m usually very hard on myself, especially when it comes to my weight. The scale and I have a very fractious relationship – basically, if I  starve myself, my weight stays the same. But if I walk past a bakery, I gain five pounds.

 

 

 

 

I have a similar relationship with mirrors. Mostly, I try to avoid them. Especially in the morning, before there is little semblance to a human being in the reflection dully staring back at me. But as the day progresses, I know I have to face the world without frightening small children and animals. So, in order to not look my actual age, I do several things. First, although I’m not a proponent of heavy makeup, I do understand the importance of concealer and a basic covering of the skin with something more appealing. Sadly, I’m allergic to eye makeup, so my eyes continue to fade into the rest of my face. I do like a pop of color on my lips, which prevents them from disappearing as well. And, on a somewhat regular basis, I visit my hairdresser to wash those greys away. I try to dress in a colorful, but “age-appropriate” manner, meaning I try to avoid having things hang out for the world to see either in the front of the back, and nothing so tight that I’m popping out like a half-open can of Pillsbury biscuits.

I also love to save money. Aside from coupons, I love my discounts. And there are many discounts for seniors these days, although the definition of when that age actually starts seems to range from 50 to 75, depending on where you are spending your money.

 

 

 

My favorite grocery store is Publix, and on Wednesdays they offer a senior discount. A few years ago when I happened to be there on a Wednesday, the cashier looked at me and almost whispered, asking if I was eligible for the senior discount. She was very apologetic, and I smiled and told her that was OK, and yes, I was. That happened more than once over the next few years. And then came last week. I didn’t even realize it was Wednesday. The cashier rang up my groceries, then looked up at me. Without saying a word, she rang up a discount. At first, I had no idea why she had just knocked several dollars off of my bill. I smiled, always happy to have a discount, and turned to walk out with my groceries. And then it hit me. Not only did she give me the senior discount, but she didn’t even question whether I was eligible. She took one look at me and she knew.

So I told myself I was tired that day. I didn’t have a vibrant lipstick on. My clothes weren’t stylish enough. I looked at myself in the mirror when I got home. I didn’t look that old, did I?

Then came this week. I had been sick for a few days for real. Had barely been able to get out of bed to take care of the pups. But on Wednesday, I was finally feeling better and needed to buy some groceries. So I washed my hair. Put on some make up. Put on one of my cutest tops and capris. And went out into the world, feeling pretty good. Went to Publix. Smiled at the cashier – a different lady this time. This would be the true test. I exuded confidence. Happiness. Or so I thought. She rang me up. Looked up at me. And applied the discount.

I wanted to ask her what gave it away. I really did. But I realized I don’t want to know, to tell the truth. At some point, I need to accept that age has caught up with me, no matter how fast I try to run from it – and at this point in my life, it’s more like a hobble.

And in the end, I did get my discount. Which is what really matters, right?

 

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

Can’t We Work It Out?

I recently came back from a long trip. While this isn’t going to be a story that solely focuses on airline travel, I do need to start with a strange occurrence on my return flight before diving into the rest of my story. When I originally booked the last leg of my return flight, I booked an aisle seat, about a month before my trip. I always try to get an aisle seat so that if I have to get up twenty times during the flight, I don’t have to clumsily climb over my seatmate, apologizing each time. 

So the night before my return, I confirmed my flights online. The first part of the trip was in order. But when I got to the next flight, it showed that I hadn’t chosen a seat. Well, I certainly had. But it had disappeared. So I looked at the seating chart that showed the plane configuration and I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was an available aisle seat that did not require extra payment – with just two seats together, while most of the plane had three in each row. So I booked it.

I had a very long first flight plus layover, so I was exhausted, and eager to return home. I boarded the plane and… saw that the seat I had booked didn’t exist. There was no row with only two seats together and there were two women already seated, with one on the aisle and one at the window in my assigned row. Meaning that I had the dreaded middle seat. I said something to the flight attendant about my first seat reservation disappearing and now the seat I had booked the night before didn’t exist as configured online. She said she was sorry, but the plane was fully booked so I just needed to sit down. So I did. But I told my two seatmates a very shortened version of what had happened and they were both extremely sympathetic and extremely kind and it turned out that we all had so much fun chatting that it was one of the most enjoyable flights I’ve ever had, in spite of ending up in the middle seat!

I’ve been back home for several weeks and odd things are going on with various objects in my house. The day after I got home, I decided to investigate why my water bill for the past few months had practically tripled from what it was a year ago. I had contacted the water company which sent a meter guy out to see if anything was wrong with my meter, which of course there wasn’t, because that would have meant they’d have to reimburse me for the high bills and have to fix whatever was wrong. So I walked around the house and realized I heard a faint trickling sound coming from the laundry room commode (as toilets are politely referred to in the South). So I first jiggled the handle, but nothing happened. Then I lifted the top of the tank and jiggled the float rod. It broke off in my hand. And then there was a roaring sound, like a waterfall had  taken over the tank, and water started rushing up the tank. I stood there horrified, imagining that the water was going to overflow the tank and overtake the entire house. But fortunately, as loud as it was, it was contained. I knelt down and frantically tried to turn off the water, but the turn-off valve wouldn’t budge. I tried lifting the float and for a moment it seemed to work, but then it all pretty much disintegrated and the roaring took over again. Luckily, one of my neighbors was home and raced over after I called and explained the situation and he was able to shut the valve for me. Since water was no longer threatening to overtake my house, I was able to wait for my plumber to come several days later and replace the inner workings of the commode.

The next thing isn’t a long story at all, but just bizarre. I was trying to heat something in my microwave that took 90 seconds. Except the ‘9’ wouldn’t work. I pressed and pressed, but it refused to acknowledge my need for the ‘9’. Now, I could have hit ‘1:30’ instead, but I was so focused on getting the ‘9’ to work, that I wasn’t even thinking of other solutions. I finally hit ’88’ and decided that was good enough. Two days later, the ‘9’ returned to full working order without any explanation for the trouble it had caused.

Today, I was walking down the hall toward my kitchen and I heard a frantic beeping sound. The dogs did not like this sound at all. I wasn’t thrilled either, and couldn’t imagine where it was coming from. But when I reached the kitchen, it was coming from the oven. Which wasn’t on, and hadn’t been on for several days. And instead of the time being displayed, there was a mysterious message of F1. F1? This oven is from the pre-computer age and has never had any problems that I know of. And now it was trying to frantically communicate, screeching F1 at me? I hit cancel. Blessed silence. For about five seconds and then it started again. We repeated this dance several times until I finally caved to its insistence and tried to Google the symptoms. I did find out that others had had this same problem, too. But the remedies didn’t seem easy or immediate, so I called the store for help. The guy who answered told me I should turn off the breaker for the oven and then turn it back on. He assured me this would work. I asked what would cause this. He had no idea. I guess everyone looks for the solutions, not the why is this happening questions. So I flipped a bunch of breakers and raced back and forth to the kitchen from the breaker box at the other end of the house until once again, there was blessed silence. The dogs looked at me in relief. The oven looked like it had been killed. And I decided I’d live off my microwave until I find an oven that will hopefully fit into the space carved between cabinets, because, of course, this is a drop-in oven, which costs at least twice as much as a freestanding oven. Of course.

I know things break and never at convenient times, but I feel as if my home might be a little ticked off that I was away and I’m now paying the price. Hopefully things will settle down now, although my microwave seems to be planning something more than just the ‘9’ not working. All the numbers are now garbled on the display. If it revolts, too, I guess it will be takeout for awhile. Which wouldn’t exactly be the worst thing in the world.

 

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

 

It’s All In the Bag

So I went to the grocery store the other day. It’s usually a fairly pleasant experience. Everything was fine until I went to check out. The first problem I had was with the woman at the register. The cashiers always ask if you found everything you needed, but really don’t want to hear anything other than “yes.” But I didn’t find everything I needed, so I told her that my favorite drink these days – please don’t laugh, but it’s carrot juice – was no longer being carried in the 52-ounce size, but only the 32-ounce size. But the smaller size was only 50 cents less than the much larger bottle had been. I considered carrot.juicethis pretty much a ripoff. She could not understand that I was basically just trying to find out if they were still carrying the 52-ounce size but were just out of it, or if they had stopped carrying it completely. And I just got a blank stare until it became pretty uncomfortable and I knew I had to say something. So I told her not to worry, that I’d check at the customer service desk once we were done. Sadly, at the customer service desk, I discovered they are no longer carrying the larger, and much more economical size. So the search is now on for large, money-saving carrot juice!

Next, I asked the young woman bagging my groceries to please pack the paper bags lightly because I have a pinched nerve in my neck and shoulder problems. Wouldn’t you understand that to mean please don’t make them too heavy? I know that’s a subjective thing, but it should mean don’t load all the drinks into one bag and shove as much as you can into it all the way to the top. So when I realized how she had jammed as much as she could into the first bag, I nicely said using different words, but still in English, can you please make sure to pack these bags lightly because I won’t be able to lift them if they’re heavy, due to having a problem with my neck. Andbarbells the second bag got piled up to the top as well, as if I had never said anything at all. Or had spoken in some sort of alien tongue that was unrecognizable to her. Because then she packed the third bag shoving everything left on the conveyor belt into that bag until even a weightlifter might have problems trying to lift it.

grocery.bagSo I very nicely asked for an empty paper bag so I could take a few items out of each bag to lighten the load. She looked at me like I was nuts, but offered to do it herself. I took a deep breath and sweetly told her that due to her youth, there was obviously a discrepancy in what she considered light and what I considered light, so it was best that I do it myself. And I thanked her profusely and went on my way, muttering to myself about why nobody listens anymore. And she probably thought I was a crazy person who talked to myself as my only successful attempt at communication.

eye.roll

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

I Can’t Recall

lettuce So people are getting E.coli from eating lettuce. This is not the first time. It’s very upsetting to many of us, and especially someone who can barely eat anything anymore without getting sick. In fact, it’s my go-to joke when people realize how limited my diet has become and ask me what I eat these days. “Pretty much just lettuce,” I always quip.  I do eat a lot of salad and haven’t checked every leaf to make sure it’s not romaine, but ever since the CDC issued their warning about not eating romaine, I’ve done my best to avoid it. And with more and more people across the country getting sick, I think restaurants and grocery stores need to take this recall seriously.

produce.sectionThe other day I checked my bagged salad and saw it had romaine listed. I went to my favorite grocery store to return it. They usually have the best customer service, but this woman obviously missed that training. When I told her I was returning it because it had romaine, she acted annoyed and told me they hadn’t had any problems with their lettuce. I certainly didn’t want to end up being the first person in my state who does get sick from eating this lettuce! I nicely told her the recall was being expanded to all romaine which was the reason for my concern. She could have told me that the store had checked and none of the romaine was from Arizona, or offered to find out. And all grocery stores should put up signs in the produce section to indicate where their lettuce comes from, which would be a big help. Instead, she practically rolled her eyes at me and sighed as she handed me a gift card as a refund. I thanked her sweetly and bit my tongue.

cheese Why is this happening, anyway? Our food supply should not be this vulnerable. Lettuce just seems so innocuous. This is almost as disconcerting as when cheese was being recalled for salmonella. Lettuce and cheese – 2/3 of my most-eaten foods. If avocados are ever recalled – and please don’t tell me they are – I will crawl into a corner and give up. avocado

For now, with such a large and serious recall, maybe grocery stores should advise their workers of the situation if they don’t already know about it, and what to tell concerned customers. Which I’d imagine doesn’t include sighing and eye rolls.

 

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

 

Hello, Is There Anybody Out There?

So my fairly new iPhone SE has decided I don’t actually need to hear the people I’m trying to talk to.  A few weeks after I first upgraded from the iPhone4 to the SE, people told me they were having trouble hearing me. Not everyone had this issue, but several did, and the only thing that worked was talking to them on the speaker. Or calling them back on my landline – yes, no surprise here that I still have one. But I had no trouble hearing anyone until a few weeks ago. Suddenly, it seemed that no one wanted to talk to me when I called them. Or when they called me. It sometimes takes me awhile to pick up on things, but I finally realized that they were talking, I just couldn’t hear them. And guess what I finally found out? The only way I could hear anyone was to put them on speaker! So I called my phone carrier and they did a diagnosis through an app I was told to download, and there is in fact a defect causing this issue. I was told I had two choices.
First choice: They’ll send me a refurbished phone for free and I have to return the one I currently have so I don’t get charged.
Second choice: I can go to the Apple store and see if they can fix it there. I would love to just pop into the Apple store if it were like a normal store, instead of it always being filled with wall-to-wall (very young) people, and quite  intimidating. So I was leaning toward the first option.
However, I questioned the word refurbished. The rep assured me the phone was new. I told him that was impossible since new and refurbished are mutually exclusive. If it’s new, it can’t be refurbished. Because it’s new. If it’s refurbished, it can’t be new. Because it’s refurbished. It took several tries of me repeating these two points until the rep grudgingly agreed with me. I said that since the phone was defective and under warranty, I should get a new phone and not a used one. He told me refurbished was as good as new. I politely disagreed and told him I’d think about it.
So my question is, do I accept refurbished? Do I attempt repair at the Apple store? Or do I resign myself to contact only by shouting into the speaker? This dilemma has left me unable to make a decision at all. I suppose there is another option – just texting and foregoing the possibility of human contact. That’s the wave of the future anyway, isn’t it?
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

The Times Sure Are A-Changing

I don’t think of myself as ancient. Yes, I am at an age where I either forget, deny, or deduct ten years when mentioning how old I am, but in my head, I’m still clinging to the last remnants of my youth. But when it comes to technology, I admit, I’m often befuddled. As soon as I somewhat master (yes, I’m using that term loosely) one thing, a new version comes out and once again, I’m lost.

One example is updates. I’ve decided not to do them anymore. A few months ago, I started getting daily popups insisting that I update my laptop. I kept hitting the option to delay the update for another 24 hours, and then ignored it for about a month. Finally, I thought, gee, I guess I should do the update already since I didn’t have anything urgent to do on the computer that night – or ever, actually. I figured it would take about an hour. Four hours later, the only thing scrolling across the screen were words saying they were sorry it was taking so long, an unexpected problem had occurred, and I needed to be patient. Within an hour, the screen went completely black and I could no longer see anything on my computer. For the next few days, I tried and tried to revive my computer – I could get the sign-in screen, but then, nothing. So I finally brought my computer to a repair place. They said I’d have it back in two days. I asked them if while they were at it, could they get rid of Windows 10 which I despise, and bring it back to Windows 7, which I liked very much. So I’m sure that was part of the reason it took five days instead of two. While I was thankful they got it up and running, it really wasn’t the same. And within a few weeks, the screen started jumping around and flashing, so I brought it back. The repair guy told me it was probably the screen, but I realized that to fix it was way too expensive for an older computer. He suggested just getting an external monitor, which stopped the problem at the repair shop. So I did, and it didn’t work at home (surprise!), so I ended up deciding to just get a new computer. Of course computers have so many bells and whistles now, I knew I’d never figure them out. I don’t need a touchscreen, I don’t need a stylus, I don’t need anything beyond the basics. Which also brought the price way down. Several weeks in, so far, so good, but I still need to get everything from the old computer onto the new one – I think another trip to the computer repair shop is inevitably in my future.

Next example. I went to a conference out of state recently. It was almost a six-hour drive, and I was so relieved to finally get there – what did we do before Google Maps? I was so exhausted when I finally got to the hotel, I just wanted to collapse in my room – after racing to the restroom, of course! Now, I’ve been to hotels many times that have key cards, so this shouldn’t have been a problem. I found my room, and eagerly swiped my card down. Nothing. Hmm. I swiped my card up. Nothing. I swiped it up and down multiple times. Nothing. I tried pushing the card into a nonexistent slot. Nothing. I repeated everything I had already tried. Nope. There was an arrow facing down on the front of the card, and I kept muttering at the card that I was following directions, but it refused to cooperate. Finally, I caved – I admitted to the Universe that I could not do a simple thing such as open my door. I started heading to the elevator, fighting back tears of frustration, when a fellow hotel guest magically appeared by the elevator.

“Please,” I said pitifully, “can you please tell me how to unlock the door to the room?”

She nodded her head in understanding and sympathy. “I know, right? You’d think the arrow on the room key meant to swipe down on that side. But you have to flip the card around, even though it doesn’t make sense.”

I thanked her profusely as I raced back to my room. Sure enough, after flipping the card, I had entry to my room! Huzzah!

Later that night, I returned to my room, entered without problem, and sat down to watch some TV. I turned the TV on, and it was on a Spanish station. I tried changing the channel. Nothing. I looked at the channel guide and tried again. Nothing. This went on for at least ten minutes and I turned the TV off. Then I tried again. Somehow, magically, the channel finally changed. Eventually, I had it somewhat figured out, meaning I just stuck with the same channel for the rest of the weekend.

The end of the conference was the day we fell back – timewise. And don’t get me started on why we can’t just stay year-round on Daylight Saving Time. Since I had a lengthy drive home, I didn’t want to spend most of my drive in the dark, so I wanted to have my car ready to go after the last seminar. So I grabbed my suitcase and hurried out to my car so I’d be ready to go and beat the mass exodus out of the hotel. I went back up to the room to relax for a few minutes before it was time for the class. I swiped my key card, as I had done so expertly all weekend. Nothing. What the heck? I tried again. Nothing. Then I saw one of the guys who was also attending the seminar, storming down the hall. He said his key card wasn’t working either. As we headed to the elevator, I was relieved it wasn’t just me this time. I mentioned something about the time change and his face lit up – he realized that we were being locked out of our rooms due to the change in time. While we were on the new time, the computers were somehow still set on the old time, meaning we should have checked out already. At the front desk, they supposedly fixed my card so it would let me into my room. It didn’t, but that all eventually got straightened out after more frustration.

Thankfully, Google Maps once again got me home without any major issues. But honestly, when I can’t even open a door or change the channel on the TV without feeling like a hopeless incompetent, maybe time is changing a little too much.

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved