Tuesday to Friday: I Go Abroad
In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been conspicuously AFK this week (“away from keyboard” for those of you who don’t watch The Big Bang Theory). I was in a different country and my laptop wouldn’t work because the hotel wifi was ‘open’ as opposed to ‘secured’. Every time I tried to open Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, or even my own work drives (you can see how I prioritize when I have free wifi, right?), I would get a message saying that someone might be trying to hack into my system. I was like, “Listen, laptop. You’re not the boss of me,” but the laptop didn’t give a sh*t and refused to let me connect with the world like a mean babysitter. Sure, I had my phone, but I HATE trying to read and comment on things via a handheld device. I really need a full keyboard to feel articulate. Also my hands are gigantic, so I make so many typos with my phone that I get frustrated.
That having been said, the conference was very interesting and I was with a couple of really nice guys from work who made sure I didn’t get lost or get on the wrong plane. I’ve never actually travelled out of the country by myself before, and Ken usually arranges everything, and keeps all the pertinent itinerary materials in a file folder in order of date, while I’m all ‘devil-may-care’ and try to throw him off by insisting on unscheduled stops at scenic bars and such. But I was feeling super-confident because I’d gone and booked my own transit to the airport from downtown and I’d made my OWN file folder. Then I got to the airport. I walked inside and immediately had a panic attack. There were kiosks and line-ups and counters and people, and I didn’t know how to even begin. So I did what any normal person would do—I called Ken. But just as the phone was ringing, I saw one of my colleagues, and he was like “Great, you’re here. Have you checked in yet? You do that here—let me show you” and I was SO relieved that I hung up the phone.
Then Ken messaged me to say “Why did you call? Are you OK?” But I’d just exchanged Blackberry PINs with my colleague, and when I sent back a reply to Ken that said, “Yes” with two great big HEARTS, it accidentally went to the guy I work with. I was mortified and didn’t know what to do, because he hadn’t seen it yet. By this time, our other co-worker had arrived, and when I told him what had happened, he said, “Don’t say anything. Later, I’m going to whisper, ‘I think mydangblog has a crush on you—have you checked your messages lately?’ and we’ll see what he says.” I was even more appalled but then I realized 2 things: 1) that both these guys had a good sense of humour and that 2) I should probably stop making fun of Ken with his “file folder system” and his “knowledge of airports”.
We arrived at our destination without incident, and the rest of the trip was excellent. But it occurred to me over and over again, that the main problem with any kind of travel is other people. That is to say, other people who are ahead of you in any kind of line-up and who have seemingly complicated issues that inevitably delay you from doing the things you need to do:
1) The bank
I had to get American money for the trip. I went to a bank. I stood in line for 20 minutes while the tellers were each dealing with people who apparently had never been in a bank before. One girl was asking numerous questions and signing several documents, another guy was just standing there while three bank employees looked at a computer terminal, another woman just looked confused and kept digging in her purse for god-knows-what and handing the teller the same piece of paper back, and so on. When it was finally my turn, I went to the teller with 3 twenty-dollar bills in my hand and said, “Here is 60 dollars Canadian. I would like this turned into as much American money as you can.” I had my 44 bucks and 5 cents in under 2 minutes, and I was like, “The rest of you in line can thank me NOW.”
2) The airport
Both coming and going, the airport was another place where people who don’t know what they’re doing hold up lines. Yes, I was confused and didn’t know where to go when I arrived, but I DIDN’T stand in a line just to ask someone. If my colleague hadn’t appeared and if Ken hadn’t answered the phone, I would have simply Googled “What do you do when you get to the airport?” Either that or called my Mom.
At the self-baggage check, we literally had to wait 5 minutes for a family who was standing there, discussing and debating what to do with their luggage. The sign clearly read, “Place bag on belt.” I don’t know what there was to talk about—it’s four words. And an ARROW.
On the way back, there was literally no one at the airport and there were only two people in line ahead of us at the Air Canada desk, with two service representatives. Guess how long it took to get a boarding pass? You can probably imagine, given the nature of people in line-ups. At one point, the guy ahead of me had 4 clerks staring back and forth between his passport and a computer terminal. Then one of the clerks got on the PHONE. The other person in line ahead of us was busy repacking his suitcase, because it was over the weight limit. You know how I knew my suitcase was UNDER the weight limit? Because I had it weighed at the hotel. Also, he had two sets of golf clubs that were being inspected ONE BY ONE by a security guard. Who the hell travels alone with TWO sets of golf clubs?!
When I DID step up to the counter to check in and get my boarding pass, I had my passport open to the right page to expedite the process. The woman looked at my passport and asked me, “What’s your country of origin?” I really wanted to say, “You’re looking at my passport right now. I believe that information is readily available to you on the page you’re currently staring at, so FIGURE IT OUT.” What I actually did was say “Canada”. But when she asked, “Are you travelling alone?”, I refrained from answering, “Do you see anyone else standing here?!” and I just pretended not to hear the question. Eventually, she DID figure that one out.
3) On the plane
What was I waiting for on the plane, you ask? The bar cart, obviously. And it would have been there in fine time if the old dude in the second row hadn’t wanted to know the ingredients of each and every menu item:
Old Dude (pointing to cart): What’s that?
Flight Attendant: That’s hummus.
Old Dude: What’s hummus?
Flight Attendant: It’s a spread made out of chick peas.
Old Dude (pointing to cart): Oh. What’s that?
Flight Attendant: It’s another type of hummus.
Old Dude: What’s in it?
Me: F*ckity f*ck f*ck can a girl get a damned drink before this plane lands??!!
I didn’t need to know about the hummus, or what was in the ‘Fiesta Snack Pack’, or the ‘Airline Surprise’, because I had read the MENU that Air Canada thoughtfully provides to every passenger.
To paraphrase Jean Paul Sartre, “Hell is other people ahead of you in line”.
Last week, I challenged a fantastic fellow blogger to write on a specific topic. He goes by ‘desertcurmudgeon’ and his blog is Two Voices in One Transmission. His posts are extremely articulate and always thought-provoking and entertaining, so be sure to check him out. When he challenged his readers to give him a topic, I gave him the following prompt: “A daughter’s a daughter all of her life; a son’s a son ‘til he takes a wife.” I’ve heard this saying many times, and while I don’t necessarily believe it’s true, I wanted to see what desertcurmudgeon could do with it. The result is the hilarious Todd.
As funny as it is, when you dig beneath the surface, “Todd” is a pointed example of being so fearful of your child leaving you that you coddle him until he has no coping skills and no independence. I think being a good mother to a son is a very delicate balancing act between supporting him, but also raising him to be good with the world. And while I sometimes struggle with feelings of loss now that my own son has become an adult and doesn’t really ‘need’ me much anymore, I’m still extremely proud of his independence and his resiliency. Also, he has a lovely girlfriend, and when I see how he treats her, I know I raised him well. So thank you, desertcurmudgeon, for “Todd” and for helping me realize that if I’d done what Todd’s mom had done, I’d have nobody to blame but myself when he was travelling and pissed everyone else off on the plane because he hadn’t read the menu and treated the flight attendant like she was his mother.