Flights, Trams and Wizard of Oz.

It started off like any other wedding weekend. Full of anticipation to see friends, celebrate and eat and drink too much. At least for that part of the trip, our expectations were far exceeded. With some pieces better left for another post, I had an amazingly fun-filled time.

I had booked a later return flight for my spouse and I, thinking how unrealistic it would be to actually get myself, him or our best friend driving us to the airport, up and out before noon post-wedding. I know when we’re together to expect the unexpected. The last wedding I went to, I woke up with a luggage cart and several bags of wine that weren’t there when I fell asleep. I later discovered one of my text messages ended up on Texts From Last Night.

The next flight time out was 8:00 p.m. What to do until then, with a throbbing head, angry stomach and dazed look as I roamed the streets wearing summer clothes in a winter atmosphere?  “I guess we could see a movie?” My husband propositioned. “Sure,” friend and myself agreed. What else are we going to do in a town where there are more bums than sidewalks and no sign of a descent chain store? After playing in a ghetto arcade and fighting to stay awake during the movie, we figured we’d killed enough and we should head to the airport.

Arriving to the check-in counter nearly three hours before our flight, it was immediately evident that something was off. A representative walked from group to group handing out a white business card. When she got to us, I blinked a few times at the card with a 1-800 number and then at her. “Your flights been canceled,” she said as she shrugged her shoulders. “This number will help you re-book your flight quicker than waiting in line. There’s some sort of maintenance issue with the planes.”

I am not going to lie. My immediate reaction was not a good one. In fact, I felt like throwing up the last rum and coke I had and whatever part of my lunch made it through the movie. However, I tiptoed out of line and whipped out my cell phone. Unexpectedly, I got an answer immediately after I dialed. “There’s no other flights out tonight.”

Awesome. I am a frequent flyer. My father is a pilot so, I’m aware that circumstances happen that are unavoidable. Welcome to traveling. And life. You can’t plan everything. Damn.

After some negotiating with the representative back in line after updating her on the prognosis, she booked a hotel for us for the night, called a shuttle and handed us dinner vouchers. Tired and thankful, we said our good-byes to our kind, patient friend and laughed that this city just hadn’t had its fill of us yet.

At the hotel, we got a nice dinner and tried to re-hydrate as much as possible. What I haven’t mentioned until this point was that my husband got food poisoning on the way up for the wedding. We are pretty certain it was your fault, Atlanta. In any case, it was nice to see that he was feeling better and actually keeping down water and food at the same time. It felt amazing to be lying horizontal for at least a few hours. Less than five hours later, at the bright and early hour of 4:30 a.m., we headed back to the airport with clearer minds and higher hopes of getting back.

Our original airline carrier was booked so they had re-booked us with the only other airline that flies into the airport we were flying into. With confirmation in-hand, I nearly slammed it down on the counter to the woman standing there. She looked at me, my husband, at the ticket. Back at me, my husband and then at the ticket. “You’re not going to like this,” she said. Awesome. That’s what I want to hear while I’ve been in a coma for 24 hours and just want to get home. She explained that while the person who had re-booked us, had managed to get the right day correct – she had failed to get the month  and year correct. Maybe the world is ending on January 12, 2012? How does that even happen? She wasn’t even in the freakin’ right calendar year.

We bounced back and fourth between the dueling airlines trying to correct this woman’s mistake. The woman who had to find us seats, laughed like a hyena in our faces. “I’ve seen some crazy human errors in my time, but GEEEZ!!”  No kidding, Captain Obvious.  Let me smack that smile right off your face. Dare me, please. Lucky for her, two remaining seats were available on a rapidly approaching flight. After demanding for additional food vouchers, we were on our way. The first flight went well.

Then, we had our layover in God-forsaken Atlanta. That airport should just be its own city, seriously. Why do you need an airport that large? I felt like I was in the Wizard of Oz there and couldn’t keep myself from staring at everything in amazement. I mean, they offer massages in the middle of the airport. What I also failed to mention until this point is that I left my brand new kindle on the plane coming up. The plane was coming from Atlanta. I persuaded my husband to come with me to check out lost and found since we had time to kill before our final flight.

I am not joking when I say that we had to take the tram six stops, all the way to baggage claim. As soon as we got off, I asked the first person I could find where lost and found was. She spoke no English. Of course. So, I went up to someone official looking and they gave me explicit directions, basically down to the number of yards it would be before reaching it. And of course, those directions didn’t work and we ended up running circles around baggage carousel number 7. I then went to the information desk. The women working the counters looked at me like I had three heads and I was crazy for even suggesting something like lost and found. I ran up to another non-assuming worker and she was kind enough to guesstimate where she “heard” it was. ‘Seriously,’ I thought. ‘Can this trip BE OVER?!?!?!’

Just like when they finally get to see the “Great Wizard,” I arrived at a door that opens at the top and bottom with a hand-written sign. No wonder no one knew it was there. It’s like an airport myth. I knocked on the door and a man opened just the top part and poked his head out asking what I wanted. After describing my kindle, he gave a concerned look and said, “be right back” and closed the door. I have never bought drugs, but at that moment I felt like I was doing something either really bad or really great.  A few minutes later with a disappointed look, the man told me no one had returned it. I figured.

My husband and I turned around and got back on the tram and rode all the way back. What we didn’t realize when going to baggage claim is that coming back, we would have to go through security again. Joy! We crammed our way through and suddenly, my purse went missing off of the x-ray belt. A tall, dark, angry woman barreling over me demanded to know if it was mine. I swallowed my tongue and admitted that I might have some liquid lip gloss in there I should have taken out. “No! You have soda or something in there!” she exclaimed.

Crap. I forgot I had bought water. Sue me. I got thirsty from walking through this maze you call an airport. I didn’t try to argue or even deny I had water in there. I just let her manhandle my poor purse and strip me of whatever rights I had before I came there and waited until she was done. Just let this be done.

The second flight went smoothly and finally, finally, we were off. The icing on that cake was that we got to sit right next to the bathroom and Billy had too many Wheaties for breakfast or something. That was really special…REALLY. Thanks for that.

But – that didn’t matter anymore. We were home! After nearly running people down to get our bag from baggage claim — we waited. And waited. We looked at each other and half cried, half laughed. My mother had jokingly said, “I wonder where your bag is going to end up!” We watched the same, lonely, remaining bags circle around the carousel. Scanning the airport floor I saw what resembled our bag. When I got close to the unattended bag, I saw it was tagged with our name. A woman came out and explained that during the flight-booking-debacle our bag never even stood a chance. It came on the earlier flight. I wonder how many times it went around before someone figured out that we weren’t going to be coming for a while.

After we were settled at home and I got a long shower, I sat down and wrote the airline a nice, long, explicit letter explaining the situation and how amazing they made our trip home. Not to mention the serious attention to detail they offer their customers. I also explained how when I enlightened another rep of her co-worker’s mistake, she laughed in my face. I am glad someone found humor in the fact my husband and I had to miss work unexpectedly and scramble to be sure our clients were taken care of. They promptly replied with an apologetic, stale, corporate apology and a flight voucher.

I am just glad we got home on a plane that worked and didn’t have “maintenance issues.” My husband can now eat and drink with no long-lasting effects of Atlanta’s chicken wings. As far as we can tell, he will be fine. And I still am holding onto the thought that a sweet, old woman found my kindle and will return it with some homemade cookies.

Fertilize This.

On my morning commute this morning with coffee in hand, I was ready to wake up with my favorite morning radio talk show. I was thoroughly disappointed with the sudden shake and toss out of bed it gave me. Over the radio waves, a lame, loud woman complained about her life and how “the grass is always greener on the other side” adding a super-charged jolt to my a.m. java.

One after another, anonymous callers dialed into the station confessing their personal insecurities, envy of their friends and disappointment in their spouses, children and lives. I know I was alone in my car, but in that moment – I felt embarrassed for those callers. And seriously sad. After toggling through the radio stations, I decided it was too early for honky tonk and whiskey or talk of “shakin’ me all night long” and so, I shut it off.

As I continued on, I thought about the phrase the woman stated so confidently:  The grass is always greener on the other side. And as I often do, I analyzed what the heck that phrase actually means and who thought of it. I mean, why is the grass greener on the other side? Am I not watering properly? Using the right fertilizer? Having my neighbor’s dog secretly mess all over my lawn?

Who are these magical, mystery gardeners on the other side? I want to meet them. I feel bad for my neighbors. When they look at our yard, they get totally jipped out of that aha moment.

It made me think of everything in my life and what it would be like if it was completely opposite and “better” or, at least what I’m told would be better. So…that means I’d have to change the following:

  1. Be Single – No thank you. I have married the male version of myself. Why would I be single again when I can get in double the amount of trouble I did pre-him? I would, however, like to give a shout out to the top crazies I’ve dated including: the man who showed up with a thousand flowers one birthday after we’d been broken up. His mother then proceeded to call me and tell me that I’d ruined her son’s life and he was going to pass up college for me. Awesome. Just what I always wanted. I wonder if he’s living in your basement now. Also, a quick “what’s up” to the guy I dated who would show up “randomly” at every place I was at and conjure up different ways to explain how it was fate. I now hate the movie when Harry Met Sally. I’ll never forgive you for taking that from me.
  2. Be Rich – Why would I give up “ballin’ on a budget” as my husband and I say? The less you have, the less you have to worry about. I mean, bills are bills and need paid. I’m not saying that I don’t worry about money. I do sometimes, but I don’t want material things to change the way I look at the world. Things that are free I love are: the beach, fresh air, running, my animals, family, friends and the smell of saltwater. It’s not how much you have – it’s what you have and how much you can give back.  Also, coupon clipping can be fun. I don’t care how much money I ever make. The day I stop getting excited when I find a deal on food or clothes is the day I will no longer have a change jar that I excited to cash in for “real money” or scream when the grocery has buy one, get one! I don’t ever want to know that person.
  3.  Be Like Someone Else – This is something I think everyone thinks about. Maybe not being an identical twin to someone else, but stealing a few attributes – hair, body type, personality, spouse, friends. The thing is, you have to know you’re awesome because you’re you. What makes anyone unique is simply that they are. They are different in their own viewpoints, behaviors, looks, strengths and weaknesses. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I started concentrating on what version of me I wanted to become. When you can just accept who you are and try to improve the things that aren’t great – a serious sense of peace overtakes your life and you start to see things that you’ve been missing along the way.

If you’re thinking of what you wish you could change in your life, you’re downplaying the things you would never want to. You’re forgetting the things that you are blessed to have. You’re forgetting that the stick-figure girl with the perfect body who only eats the salad bar for lunch each day will never know the simple pleasure found in a single bit of pie (well deserved, of course). And the perfect Stepford wife/mother would kill to have the free hours you get every night. On the other hand, it’s important to always be pushing yourself. If you are unable to look at your life and realize some things within your control can use improving – then you are complacent. There’s nothing wrong with being complacent if you’re 100 percent happy with status quo. If you aren’t, please dear God – do not call my local radio station to tell the nation your indiscretions. Be organic and different. Make your lawn as green as you can with what you have.

Tips for watering found here.

Flipped That Bird.

So, I’m driving home today after work. Ahh. The work day is over and my real life can begin. I can let my eyes come back into focus after staring at a screen all day. I can listen to this song and pass this old guy and be home in 20.

Why isn’t he getting over? What the – ! Did he just do what he think he did?!!

Oh yes, my friend. He did. The middle finger. Do people really do that anymore? Come on! And not a quick: “I’m just going to give you a taste of the aggravation I’m carrying inside my body for you right now,” and then exit finger…but rather: “I blank-ing LOATHE you!!!”

That finger stood proudly – directly in front of his rear view mirror – as if making its debut.  I could feel my eyes widen with such surprise and (to be honest) anger.

Issue #1 – He had an ARMY bumper sticker slapped across the back of his car. He is making a disgrace of that wonderful word. Perhaps it’s the fact my father is serving over in Afghanistan that made me feel so enraged at this. If he only knew – how this old fart of a veteran was “serving” his country now…

Issue #2 – He’s old and definitely retired. What the heck do old, retired people have to worry about here? It’s hot. You can’t be cold. No, 50 degrees in the winter isn’t COLD. I grew up in Ohio where an ice scraper was more than a 711 accessory. We actually used them. A LOT. And you’re retired. Must be nice. Seriously. Not to say you haven’t earned it…but, maybe enjoy it?

Issue # 3 – YOU’RE driving in the passing lane, you crab! That’s for passing…NOT taking a joy ride around town. The only thing I’m at fault for here, is not beeping my horn to counteract your incompetence.

Yeah, I was frustrated. I harbor a little bit of road rage. I know this. I was so perturbed with this guy and yet, I found his deliberately bad attitude – endearing. He’s old and maybe he’s alone. Forget it, that’s not an excuse. I don’t take my bad days out on my mail lady (just as much of a stranger to me as I am to this guy) and throw all my mail in her face. So, what did I do?

I crept up a little closer to his bumper. I wanted to get just close enough so that he could see my pearly whites clearly on that stage, that just moments earlier, his little finger was boldly standing on. HELLLOOOOO Vietnam! (too far?)

I saw a few murmurs escape from his lips, which I can only hope were verbal prayers. He started tapping violently on his brakes. I backed off. I didn’t want this crazy to follow me. He seemed miserable enough to not care whether or not he drove me off the road. But does he move into the right lane? Of course not. All right. I’m going to gain my composure and not let this loon ruin the rest of my night. No, I’m going to start enjoying it right now…

I move over into the right lane. I am now parallel with Grandpa. My windows are tinted so I get really close to them in the hopes that he can at least see my outline. I didn’t throw back a finger or a scream.  I decided to be kind and end this war. So, I waved.

I could tell from the look on his face that he was going to probably have a heart attack. He was annoyed at the fact that I wasn’t going to let him just pee all over my day and then onto his next victim. We stayed parallel for what seemed liked years, eyeing each other. I could tell he was too afraid to go faster than 60 and he was annoyed that he couldn’t get over into another lane.

I felt myself saying aloud, “Now you know how I feel!”

Life’s Short. Eat a Cookie.

I never indulge in sweets. Wine? Sure. Beer? Yep. Cookies? No!

Sound familiar? Please say yes! It’s funny. We’ll drink a few bottles of wine with some  friends on a weekend, munch down on a gallon of butter-soaked popcorn, in a crowded theatre in the dark, and go to dinner parties and put all those insecurities aside.  We act like it’s the last supper and we’ve never seen a piece of food in our lives, grabbing handfuls of popcorn so large the pieces spill out both sides of our month. A few fell on the ground. Screw it. Stay focused. Someone will clean it up.

Are you serious? We have to be either in the dark, with people we don’t know and/or care about in order to let ourselves overindulge from time to time?

I’m curious. Why are we ashamed to let ourselves enjoy a cookie without having to split it with someone? Or just take a nibble because “we really shouldn’t.” That’s such a girl move. My husband can eat an entire package of cookies, smack his lips, sit back and stare proudly at his accomplishment. Is there a crumb of guilt? The only crumb I’ve seen is what’s left along his lap and the floor for our dog to pick up.

Why can’t I be like that? Sure, he has the metabolism of gymnast, but guys don’t think about that kind of stuff. In a way, I admire it. There are bigger things to worry about in life.

Frankly, I’m trying to be over that. Not to say that I am going to start buying stock in Nabisco, but it kinda erks me to know that I bust my butt a few days a week in the gym (after work) even when I don’t feel like so that I can stay healthy. I don’t have children – but dear God, how you women work, raise kiddies and still manage to hit the gym…I commend you. You’re amazing.

I’m healthy, active and very conscious of what I put into my body. I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs. I DO drink. But that doesn’t count. That is medicinal mental liquor. It keeps me balanced.

Guilt. Anger. A vicious cycle. Why? This is exactly what I felt as I happened to stop by a bakery today with a friend for lunch. The place is known for its desserts. You don’t come here for their gourmet salads. When I was checking out, I noticed a large sign, strapped across the smudged window that read: Life’s Short. Eat a Cookie.

And I could feel a smile cover my face, followed by a little hesitation. Then I thought, are you kidding me? This is ridiculous.  Who am I really answering to other than myself? And I happily ordered a gourmet peanut butter buckeye bar. It was heaven in a doily.

So, let’s eat the cookie.  Life’s short, freakin’ eat the cookie.

This Place is not Real Life.

Bike Week. A biker’s dream. A transplant’s worse nightmare. *Sigh *

You’re right, John. It’s not “fun and glamorous.”

John says no!

Serious question, John, have you seen these people? I took 12 pictures of all the half-naked ladies standing next to “hot leather” signs, while shooting whiskey just to be able to deal with the smell of falafel and gasoline.

Now, I am not judging, but if you don’t live here, you can’t comment. I’m not saying they all have mother or father issues. Some will throw their cans of Budlight as close to a trashcan as their lack of soberness permits. Some will even offer you one. Or, dance to ACDC with you while you swear, for a second, you kind of fit in with your clean, untapered jeans and midriff entirely covered. Maybe, in another life, we could have joined forces.

I’m grateful that while I continue to pass actual street signs like “Be safe, ride quietly” and have them be completely ignored, have my windows shake uncontrollably and avoid every corner of town that has a Hooters, I can continue to collect snapshots of this chapter of my life. I swear to everything holy, in a few years, without documentation, I won’t believe the stuff I encounter.