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More Adventures In Travel

If you’re a fairly regular reader of this irregular blog, you know that things never go smoothly for me when I travel. Usually, the issues pop up either at the airport or once on the plane. While both of these happened during my most recent trip, there was a new wrinkle that brought home the fact that people’s jobs shouldn’t be taken over by non-humans. I’ve always believed that, but keep reading for the fun details.

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So, I recently traveled to Texas from SC. I made sure to book a nonstop both ways to avoid all the frustrations that come with hoping your plane leaves on time, hoping that the gate for your connecting flight is in the same zip code as the gate you arrived at, hoping your luggage makes it to your connecting flight (if you have to spring for checking your luggage which I rarely do unless I’m gone for a month – which I haven’t been), hoping the connecting flight leaves on time, and, well, you get the picture. luggage

 

 

When I made my reservation, the only seat available on the flying tin can was a seat in the very last row in front of the restroom. Since I had no desire to pay $40 for a seat a few rows up, I reserved that seat. So imagine my surprise when I finally made my way to the back of the plane and found a rather large, older man firmly planted in the seat. The flight attendant was standing right behind him in the aisle, watching everyone trying to shove their overstuffed backpacks into the teeny-weeny overhead bins. The rest of us who had carry-ons had to gate-check them since the bins on these bus-sized planes aren’t large enough to hold a cell phone, let alone a small suitcase.

 

airplane-seatsAnyway, I very politely asked the flight attendant if I was indeed at the right seat (I knew I was, but didn’t want to rile anyone up – there was no room for riling on this plane). The man said he thought my seat was across from his, indicating two empty seats. The flight attendant asked to see my boarding pass which was on my phone. It took forever to get my phone to access my boarding pass, but once I did, she made a hmmph sound and told me to sit in the empty seat across from the man until she figured things out. She was starting to stress about a couple who didn’t speak English and somehow had managed to board with a huge, quilted duffel bag which was half the size of the plane, which they were trying to cram into the minuscule overhead bin.

Wouldn’t you know it, but the moment I sat in the empty seat, a man made his way to the back of the plane and stood in front of me expectantly. “Your seat?” I asked, resignedly. He nodded and I squeezed into the area next to the restroom in the back of the plane, waiting to see what happened next. The flight attendant made her way back and told me as soon as everyone was on board, she would get me a seat in the front of the plane. I said that was fine since I didn’t really care where I sat, I just wanted to get a seat already. A few more minutes passed when suddenly, the man in what I knew was my seat literally jumped up, popped the overhead bin open and grabbed his cane, and excited announced, “This isn’t 5C!” He then barreled down the aisle to the front of the plane. I stood in shock for a moment, and then calmly reclaimed my seat.

texas-mapI had a great visit in Texas, doing lots of Texas-type things with friends and family. Then came the flight home. First, the line to get through security at the airport was long and snaky. Anticipating this, we had gotten to the airport with plenty of time to spare. I finally got to go through the X-ray machine with my hands in the air, and went to reclaim my carry-on, purse and shoes, when I saw that my carry-on was being held hostage next to the screening person. Fortunately, the TSA guy who was checking things out was young and cute and funny, so I wasn’t too stressed out. After he checked out the shopping bags of the girls in front of me who somehow didn’t realize they weren’t supposed to shove a nearly full bottle of water in their shopping bag to go through security, it was my turn. I asked what they thought they saw. He asked if I had a candle. Why, yes I did. I was very proud of having gotten a great deal at a store at the mall that had everything half price. He opened my suitcase, started undoing the great folding job I had done as he rummaged through my things, trying to find the candle, and finally found it. I toldcandle him it was Vanilla Cupcake which he thought sounded great and I told him which store I had bought it at, asking him not to confiscate it since he could go find one for himself there. Lucky for me, he laughed.

 

 

My plane boarded on time, which was a thrill, and I discovered that this plane was even smaller than the previous one – more like a flying minibus where you had to kneel to board if you were taller than 5’6″. I busied myself looking out the window. After awhile, I realized I had been looking out the window for an awfully long time. Finally, the pilot announced that we were waiting for the first officer. We all looked at each other – I’m sure I wasn’t the only one wondering if this guy had partied too hard the night before and had slept through his alarm. About ten minutes later, the pilot finally announced that the first officer had arrived at the airport – on another flight that had obviously come in late. Great scheduling on the airline’s part. About a half hour later, we finally left.

 

airport-parkingSo we got back to SC about 45 minutes late. I had parked in the economy lot which is a bit of a hike from the airport, but it was a lovely day and I was just happy to be back. I got to my car, pulled out my ticket to get out of the lot, and drove up to the machine to pay. I inserted the ticket in the slot. It shot right back at me. A mechanical voice told me the ticket was invalid. What??? I checked the ticket. It was the right one. It wasn’t bent, it wasn’t damaged. I made sure it was perfectly straight and inserted it again. Same thing. Third time. Same thing. No people in sight, although there are still booths. So I pressed the help button. I heard a ringing sound and then a recording came on telling me I should leave a message. Believe me, they wouldn’t have wanted to hear my message. There is a second lane for credit cards only. Fortunately no one was behind me in either lane, so I backed up and tried the next machine. It spit out my ticket and told me it was invalid just as heartlessly as the first one. So I resigned myself to the fact that I might never be able to leave the parking lot. I backed up, turned around, and parked once again, muttering to myself as I stormed back towards the airport. But then I looked up to see two older ladies in uniform, smoking and yakking in front of the booths on the other side of the street. I had never seen a more welcome sight. I was so busy ranting and raving, I don’t think I said anything intelligible other than the fact I needed help getting my car out of the parking lot. I proceeded to add that the airport had no right to take people’s jobs away by automating things when people still need other real-live people to help them. They thanked me for my concern about their jobs and finally, I was able to leave. The woman did tell me my ticket was damaged when she also tried to insert it. The damage must have been internal.

And that was my trip in a nutshell. I await the day we can get beamed to our location without need of airports or airplanes. Although with my luck, my molecules would end up scrambled and I’d have no way to complain to anyone.

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Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

 

Fly the Friendly Skies

I have had many ups and downs when it comes to flying – both literally and figuratively. I recently had a few experiences with the airlines that were somewhat unusual, and I’d like to share them with you.

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It seems there are no longer direct flights to New York from my little corner of the South. Lately, I’ve been taking the early-morning flight on an airborne sardine can to Charlotte, where I then transfer to a somewhat larger tin can to get to New York. This time, I flew a little later in the morning, so I went through Washington DC instead. This meant boarding a plane that actually had more seats than a bus. It was a nice change of pace.

We boarded on time, and since I had a little over an hour between flights, I was hopeful I might actually make the connecting flight, since that’s always a crap shoot. We waited on the tarmac for awhile after boarding, without any sign of motion on the part of the plane. And we waited. Finally, one of the flight attendants got on the PA. She announced that one of the seats was broken. She informed us that this was a full flight. She then morphed from friendly flight attendant to angry schoolmarm (I think she might have even wagged her finger at us), and warned us that if someone didn’t volunteer to get off the plane, we would just sit on the ground until someone did volunteer. I felt like I was back in 2nd grade. Of course, whoever did offer to get off the plane would be compensated and rewarded, and receive the eternal gratitude of everyone else on the plane. I considered it, and if I didn’t have to make a connecting flight, I might have done so. But taking non-direct flights are very tricky, and I needed to get to New York.broken.chair

Everyone just sat, looking hopefully around the plane, praying that someone who had nothing else to do would volunteer and let us leave already. Finally, a hero arose. He was sitting toward the front of the plane and, in what could have been slow motion, stood up, talked to the flight attendants for a few minutes, and then jauntily exited the plane. We all  heartily applauded our thanks, then breathed a collective sigh of relief when the doors finally closed and we rolled down the runway. The flight attendant glared at us as if we were all a bunch of naughty children.

mean_teacher_w_ruler_LargeWideMy question is, why was this our problem? Aren’t we the ones paying them hundreds of dollars to get us from one place to another in the least uncomfortable way possible, which would include intact seats? Why were we scolded and intimidated by a flight attendant for something that was clearly the airline’s problem? But that’s just one more thing being par for the course when it comes to making flying as not-fun as possible these days.

I did have one actual fun experience, however, while waiting to board the flight schumerfrom DC to New York. As I was waiting for my zone to be called, I turned and there was Senator Chuck Schumer standing next to me! At first, I didn’t want to bother him, but after one of the airport workers tried to usher him to First Class, and Senator Schumer told him he was flying Coach, I smiled and began chatting with him. What do you say to a Senator whom you greatly admire without sounding like a blithering idiot? I don’t remember everything I said, but I am fairly certain I was speaking English. And Senator Schumer smiled at me, asked me questions, and didn’t have me escorted from the airport, so all in all, I think I did OK.

No such excitement for the trip home. While I was in the airport waiting for the flight from DC back to South Carolina, I found a seat where I could relax away from all the hubbub. A man sat down two seats away from me. To my left, were about 20 empty seats. Within minutes, the rest of his very energetic, young family came bounding over. They all crowded around him and the one empty seat to his left. They kept glancing at me like I should get the hint and get up and not intrude on their family fun. Finally, his young son who was very cute and very active, started jumping up and down, and his foot landed right on top of my foot. None of the adults seemed to notice, even when I grimaced and said, “Ouch.”

water.bottledSo I caved, and got up, semi-certain that the foot contact incident had been carefully orchestrated in order to get me to move. I was hungry anyway, so I made my way over to the vendors who can legally sell you a bottle of water for $4 and a small bag of popcorn for $6. And then I found another seat. Where I could sit quietly and pray that my next flight would leave on time and wouldn’t have any broken seats.

 

 

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

 

That’s OK, We’re In No Rush

I know I have been writing a great deal about air travel, but there’s a reason for that. After all, there always seems to have been some sort of misadventure involved every time I’ve traveled recently. In fact, one of my friends had a travel mishap the other day and told me that she and her husband said they had a “Nancy” story now. So I’ve now become an adjective for any time something goes wrong with any form of travel.

thanksgiving.drawingSo let me fill you in on my Thanksgiving adventure. I had opted to travel on the two supposedly not-horrible days of Thanksgiving week – the Tuesday before and the Friday after. And since the originating flight left in the wee hours of the morning, I was hopeful that we might actually get to New York before nightfall – that was my first mistake.

It was only me and my daughter traveling this time, and we woke up Tuesday morningrain (or late Monday night, depending on your perspective), to a cold, icy rain. I wasn’t too worried, however, since our connecting flight was through Reagan Airport which I knew pretty much had flights every hour on the hour to New York. Even though bad weather was predicted up and down the East Coast, I guess I was still in a fog from the 3 hours of sleep I had managed to sneak in and I had this not-so-logical sense of confidence that all would go well.

We made our way through security without issue, sat at our gate and waited. And waited. Several announcements advised us that they were de-icing the plane, which I agreed was a good thing, so I had no issue with waiting for a plane to have de-iced wings before taking off. We were also told that this wasn’t considered a delay, and we shouldn’t worry about making our connecting flights. I have no idea what the logic is behind that statement, since we certainly were delayed if we weren’t leaving on time, but I am not fluent in airline-speak. But after approximately a half hour, we were told we were now allowed to board the plane. We were also told that since we were in a flying tin can, that all carry-ons were to be left on the jetway since there would barely be enough room for the humans on the plane, let alone anything inanimate.

luggageSince I refuse to pay for a seat in advance, assuming they will not make me stand during the flight, we ended up being seated in the first row of the plane. That was kind of cool and we had a lovely view of our luggage waiting to be stowed under the plane. We sat on the plane for about another half hour and were advised that they were still de-icing. OK, still no problem there. But I was puzzled as to why no one had picked up our luggage yet. I finally asked the flight attendant if she knew what was going on. She told me that since 3 planes were supposed to leave about the same time, they didn’t have enough people to load the luggage. I indicated my surprise at this and asked why in the world they wouldn’t have scheduled a sufficient number of people to do so, considering it was the day before the WORST TRAVEL DAY OF THE YEAR. She looked around and conspiratorially whispered that she was pretty sure that when some of these workers had taken a look at the weather, they might have suddenly come down with some sort of airline illness that would preclude them from working that day.

plane.flyingFinally, after about another half hour, we saw luggage movement, then disappearance, and we finally took off. At about the time we were originally due to arrive in DC. An announcement was made that since we were now officially leaving late, no worries, the airline had already re-booked all of us on later connecting flights.  So I agreed I shouldn’t worry. (Please control your laughter.)

We arrived in DC, went to customer service, and we were told that the next flight after the one we had just missed was full, so we’d be on the noon flight. That didn’t sound too bad – that would still get us to New York by early afternoon, with plenty of time to relax – or pass out from exhaustion – and still have an enjoyable day visiting with family. Reagan is a lovely airport, and we grabbed some sustenance so neither of us would passcoffee out, having not eaten anything up to that point, and parked ourselves by the gate to wait.

At 11:30, an unwelcome, nagging thought popped into my brain – Shouldn’t we be getting ready to board already? But the screen behind the gate agent still said our flight was scheduled to leave on time, so I attempted to kick that pesky thought out of my head. Until I looked at the screen again and it said our flight was cancelled. Instinct propelled me to fly out of my seat and race up to the gate – the same thing happened to several other people and we swarmed the agent, asking what happened. At first, the agent denied that our flight had been cancelled, because of course, why notify her? And the display had magically changed to another flight leaving from that gate which was on time. Then she got the call and subsequently made the announcement that I had been dreading – yes, the flight was cancelled (due to a broken plane) and we should all go to customer service and get rescheduled.  Which we all did like a bunch of lemmings.  Or more accurately, a herd of runningcattle in a stampede. While on line, all of our cell phones began ringing and buzzing simultaneously to advise us that our flight had been cancelled. The poor souls who hadn’t seen the display and had to discover the news by phone ended up at the tail end of what appeared to be an endless sea of humanity. And only one person was working the desk, in spite of the fact that there was a second seat awaiting an eager co-worker – I guess no one volunteered.

I was 4th in line and the customer service rep was obviously in no mood for chitchat. I was brusquely informed that all flights were sold out until 4 o’clock and that was the earliest flight she could get us on – this was in spite of my desperate begging and pleading to get us out of there earlier.

Looking out the window, the possibility loomed that we might not be leaving at all that day, as the air had pretty much turned to pea soup. I knew we’d be lucky to get out of there by Thanksgiving since the next day was the WORST TRAVEL DAY OF THE YEAR, awful weather was being predicted, and most likely every seat on every plane was full.  I had a vision of myself as Tom Hanks in “The Terminal,” begging for help, but never being able to leave. As I mentioned earlier, I was trying to remain lucid after 3 hours of sleep, but I was quickly losing that battle.

Anyway, after 6 hours in the airport, it was finally announced that they were boarding clockour flight. And I discovered from a fellow passenger that he and his family had been scheduled for the 3 o’clock flight but that flight had also been cancelled due to a broken plane. What was with the broken planes, anyway – don’t they ever check these things? But, I ended up realizing that I should be grateful we hadn’t been booked on that earlier flight, since at that point, one more incident might have caused me to crack. I had put up a good facade, but seriously, one more glitch might have caused the whole thing to crumble.

trafficSo I did find something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Even in the bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic we had to deal with once we landed in New York.  Bringing our door-to-door travel time to 13 hours. And yet, still grateful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

Nickels and Dimes

S&HstampOnce upon a time, if you bought a product or service, you often got rewarded for your loyalty. Grocery stores gave out trading stamps where you could save little blocks of gummed stamps in little books until you had enough for whatever prize you had been coveting in their catalogue. Banks thanked you for your business with toasters and blenders. Gas stations rewarded you with glassware while they washed your windows and filled up your gas tanks so you never had to get out of your car. Service with a smile was the order of the day. It was apparent that merchants actually appreciated having you as a customer.

1144215-Clipart-Of-A-Retro-Gas-Station-Pump-2-Royalty-Free-Vector-IllustrationFast forward to modern times. You rarely see a human at the gas station since you can pay at the pump, and your reward for doing everything yourself is that maybe gas prices haven’t gone sky-high since your last fill-up.  Grocery stores offer reward cards, but do you actually save anything other than possibly receiving one or two coupons for items you have absolutely no use for? No, those loyalty cards are basically ways for stores to track everything you buy and sell that information to their suppliers so you can fight off the barrage of telemarketers now clogging up your email and phone lines.

And the bank? Do I need to remind you of the fact that not only are there no longer money_us_dollar_line_artrewards for banking, but you’re lucky to make five cents a year in interest on your accounts, and they will charge you for every transaction you attempt to make if you’re not a millionaire? One personal example occurred recently when I had about $30 left in an account I had to open because I had a car loan through that particular bank. Once the car had been sold and I no longer had the loan, I no longer thought about that account. And then one day a few months later I realized I had a few dollars I had forgotten about that would come in quite handy, and went down to the bank to get my money and close out the account. “You have a zero balance,” the teller cheerily informed me. “How is that possible?” I asked in all my ignorance. “I should still have $30,”  I insisted. “Oh no,” the teller smiled. “You let the money sit there so we had to charge you a monthly fee for not using that money, so it’s all gone now.” I won’t tell you the details of the downhill slide of that conversation.

And, there’s the airlines. Aside from the fact that it is such an unpleasant experience to even go near a plane anymore, we now have to pay for talking to a human, choosing a seat that’s not in the restroom, needing luggage that holds items we might need when we get to our destination, ice, water, a bag of months-old pretzels — you all know the drill.

breadAnd let’s not forget restaurants. I don’t eat meat and I can no longer have anything approaching delicious food, namely food that has gluten in it. So, going to restaurants is almost as fun as getting teeth pulled these days, having to search for something that resembles food I used to love, anywhere on the menu. So when the server bring the ubiquitous basket of bread to the table, I sadly turn my head away while others eagerly consume both their share and mine. When I order an omelet at one of my favorite restaurants, it comes with bread as well. So, I’ve asked if they could substitute something else for the bread – such as sliced tomatoes, which I usually choose as my side. I’ve been briskly informed that they cannot give me that substitution because bread can only be substituted for bread. But what if I can’t eat bread, I plead. They are very sorry. Maybe I’ll have extra cheese on my omelet. That’s an extra dollar. Or maybe I’ll have egg whites instead of eggs since they are supposedly healthier – that’s an extra dollar as well. Sigh.

So what set me off today, after years of eroding concern for the mental well-being of thenewspaper_bw lowly consumer? Our local newspaper. Of all things, why would I be upset that I’m paying more for a smaller paper delivered fewer days a week than before? I’ve adjusted to that reality. But the Emmys are on tonight and I thought I’d take a look at the TV magazine insert to see which channel and what time the show is on. I can’t miss Neil Patrick Harris, after all! I checked the paper multiple times, shook it, flipped pages, went back out to the mailbox in case it had fallen on the ground. No TV magazine. And then I noticed the little blurb in the corner of the front page, informing the readers that  there will no longer be a TV magazine included in our subscriptions – we can pay extra for a new, improved TV magazine with complete listings, “significantly more channels,” and more extraneous nonsense that I couldn’t care less about. No, thank you. I don’t know who will be willing to pay more for a TV magazine, but with all that information available online, I’d like to know what these people were thinking.

There’s got to be a small corner of our society left where we are valued and cherished. Someone who cares about the little guy. If you have any ideas, please let me know. Because lately, service with a smile is about as rare as service without added fees. Or bread for sliced tomatoes.

 

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

Fly Away Home

Fly Away Home

Do you remember the days when you actually looked forward to traveling? The sense of adventure, the excitement about the new experiences awaiting you? Traveling by car or train might not have been all that thrilling, but traveling on an airplane was the height of wonder. You were greeted by stewardesses in classy uniforms, sometimes even by the pilot. You couldn’t get over the wonder of soaring above the clouds in a vehicle that seemed much too big and heavy to stay airborne, but there was so much to keep you occupied, that question stayed way back in your mind. There were movies to watch, music to listen to, food (albeit, usually pretty awful food) to consume.

I know I’m writing this through fairly strong rose-colored glasses, but I remember roomy seats, being able to stroll up and down the aisles with little problem, and civilized behavior by both passengers and crew.

Civility and amenities started eroding slowly enough that their loss wasn’t immediately noticed. Seat sizes began to shrink as well as the availability of snacks, entertainment, and services that were still free. Aside from the now-expected checked-baggage fees, there are also fees for seat location, even advance seat selection, talking to a human being when making reservations, and on my most recent flight, fees for even that little bag of pretzels or cookies! Depending on the length of the flight, the menu (!) indicated which snack options would be available, with that little bag of cookies or pretzels starting at approximately $4! Seriously!

And, of course, I understand the need for security, but I was somewhat puzzled when, on the first leg of my flight, after going through the full-body scan  – “wave your hands in the air like you don’t care” – I was asked to show the agent my right arm. I got no explanation what he was looking for, but I was relieved not to get the full body pat-down that my husband received! On the way home, I was told I was going to get a full-body pat-down (random selection), but there was no female agent available, so instead my hands were swabbed with some unknown substance, I got the all-clear, and I was allowed to proceed with the next leg of my flight. My husband did not have any problem this time, and I realized I will no longer go ahead of him after this.

tango-weather-storm-outline-mdOK,  now comes the fun part. Due to insanely high ticket prices for direct flights, we had to make connecting flights in the midst of major thunderstorms up and down the East Coast. Thunderstorms that have formed on pretty much a daily basis since spring ended and that are causing very serious consideration of taking an ark-building course. So, while we had high hopes of our flight actually leaving on time since we boarded and left the gate right on schedule, the captain then announced that he had thought we’d make it out on time, but just got the word that the Charlotte airport was closed and we’d have to wait on the ground – on the plane – until further notice. Luckily, all systems were on, including the air-conditioning. Not so luckily, but certainly predictably, I was sitting next to the only shrieking baby on the plane. Believe me, I have tons of sympathy for the parents of shrieking babies – I lived through this phase of parental torture myself, many times. It’s just that it didn’t help my quickly-developing migraine, or my blood-pressure level, that’s all. Surprisingly, we were only on the ground for an hour and then we took off for Charlotte. Since we were originally scheduled to have a 2-hour layover, we expected to make our connecting flight home.

So, we arrived in Charlotte, made our way to our gate which is in a corner of the airport where several gates usually are reserved for quick hops to various destinations in South Carolina, therefore you’re put on a vehicle the size of a can of peas. No room for carry-on luggage, or even food on these planes. So there were people for all different flights sitting around us in this little corner of South Carolina. Even though there was an LCD display at the check-in area that our flight was leaving on time, when it was 5 minutes before our flight and we still hadn’t boarded, we started getting a bit concerned. Finally, an announcement was made. You might think we were told that due to the weather our plane was delayed coming in from somewhere else. That’s what I expected. But that wasn’t it. No, we were told that our flight wouldn’t be leaving on time because… they couldn’t find the crew! WHAT? Yes, that’s what they told us. For pretty much the next 45 minutes. And they got very annoyed when any of us dared to question them about how this was possible! So we all began speculating that perhaps the crew had to get bailed out, as the day before had been a holiday. Or maybe they overslept. You get the picture. We all got very chummy, sitting there at the gate.

sodapop02But then things got even better. Because one gate to our left was a plane heading to Virginia. And  then there was an announcement. I guess the young lady making the announcement was trying to lighten the mood. So when she announced that this particular flight had a broken “lav,” she didn’t leave it at that. She then advised people that if they needed to go “Number One or Number Two” they should plan to do that “now” since they would be unable to do so on the plane, due to the nonfunctioning “lav.” The man next to us was on that flight. He looked at us in disbelief. My husband advised him to hold onto the soda bottle he had been drinking from, in case of emergency. What could we do but laugh? We were still waiting for the ghost crew; he was wondering if things might actually come down to him needing that soda bottle for something he hadn’t even dreamed of when purchasing his drink.

Eventually, we all took off, our pilot, flight attendant, and I presume there was a co-pilot (my husband insisted there had to be one, but I honestly never saw this person), showed up and we did make it home. Just before the next deluge.

 

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

WATCH OUT FOR FALLING SHOES (RE-POST)

I believe people can be divided into two groups. I’m sure you have your own ideas of which two groups we all fit into. But it’s become clear to me lately that there is a conspicuous difference in the way people think. It all comes down to how you answer the following question: When something good happens to you, what is your first thought?

OK, those of you in Group #1 think something like, “How great! Life is good and I’m happy.” As you might have guessed, I am not in Group #1. Those of you who stand by my side in Group #2 already know that your thought process goes something like this: Oh no, something good just happened, when is the *@#% going to hit the fan? We are only too familiar with the principle that for every good thing that happens to us, the universe can only remain in balance by showering at least double or triple that amount of bad things back upon us. Only then can we relax. I’m not saying that we will be met with actual disasters. Usually, the balance comes in the form of annoying and frustrating events that sap away at any joy that might have come our way.

Recently, I had several good things happen to me. I rejoiced momentarily. I shared the good news with friends and family. And then I waited. Retribution was swift and unyielding. First, came in the form of our annual trek up North, thankfully scheduled before the most recent restrictions on liquids and gels carried onto planes, as my family usually travels with enough water and Propel to create our own swimming pool. Anyway, we were leaving mid-afternoon and arrived at the airport about an hour and a half before our flight. We waited patiently for our time to board. As it became obvious that we were not going to board the plane on time, people started looking around, waiting for an announcement which finally came in the form of an announcement that the plane wouldn’t be leaving on time due to a “ground situation” on the other end, but we would receive an update in half an hour. We all looked at each other, wondering if anyone understood airlinespeak. When the customer service agent noticed a horde of confused passengers approaching, she quickly translated that there were thunderstorms at our destination and we’d have to wait to take off. Each half hour, we received the news that we would get another update in another half hour. After two hours, we were assured that the plane was waiting for us right outside the gate, and that we should please remain where we were as we would definitely be taking off soon. As this sounded reasonable, everyone obediently complied. Three hours after we were due to take off came the following announcement: Ladies and gentlemen, your flight has been cancelled. Please go downstairs to find a ticket agent and re-book your flight.

Everyone was immobilized for a second, then the race to find someone who could help us began. It turned out that there were no more flights that day to our destination so I re-booked for the wee hours of the morning. The next morning, as we blearily approached security, the woman looked at our tickets and informed us that we were tagged for extra security. We wondered why. We were informed that it was because we had just booked the flight. But, we protested, our flight was cancelled last night and the airline re-booked us on this flight. No matter, we were informed. We’d have to go through the super duper screening. Now, I’d rather the airlines be safe than sorry. Honestly. But having our fellow passengers stare curiously at us as we were patted down in front of everyone and to have every inch of our carry-on luggage searched was just a tad embarrassing. And we continued receiving curious stares by everyone in our general vicinity while we once again waited to board our plane.

Once at our destination, I won’t even go into what happened on Day #3, but take my word for it, the debt to good news continued getting repaid.

Several weeks later, we took a quick trip to the beach before school started. It is normally about a 4 ½ hour drive to the beach. It took us close to 7 hours, thanks to the geniuses who decided there doesn’t need to be an actual highway once you approach the beach, but instead, travelers are required to sit at every traffic light at every corner for a 20 mile stretch which adds 2 hours to their trip, so that by the time they do arrive at the beach, they won’t even care what their accommodations look like or how far they end up from the water.

On our second night there, we decided to run up our charge card even further and go to one of the big extravaganzas that also include a dinner. Since I don’t eat meat, I asked for the vegetarian meal, a request, I’m sure, they don’t get too often. But my dinner tasted fine, we all had a great time, and headed back to the hotel. Within two hours, I was so sick, that I basically had to get mopped off of the bathroom floor. Yes, I had food poisoning. For hours. The next day, my son was stung by a jellyfish.

We are home once again. Maybe I should just stop traveling. But I don’t think that’s it. As a member of Group #2, I know why all of these things happened. But I feel as if I’ve paid my debt for the good news I received earlier this summer. Actually, I think I’ve overpaid the debt. So maybe the next time I have something good happen, I won’t have to worry quite as much about the other shoe falling. Right.

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved