A way to ditch a date and other lessons learned on vacation
As I write this our plane just departed for the airport in Orlando. We had a minor delay due to people finding a way around what had referred to in my last Retrospective regarding the airline’s policy of charging you for suitcases. Instead of paying $15 per suitcase, people now opt to carry more items onboard with them – creating a nightmare for other passengers. By the time we boarded, there was nowhere to put our few personal effects, nor those of the other 10-15 passengers that came on after us. That was not only annoying to us, but also to the flight crew who had to wait while people’s items were…reorganized.
I think the airline really ought to rethink their idea to charge you additionally for your bags. Shouldn’t everyone be allowed to bring on ONE suitcase? I mean, shouldn’t that be considered part of what you paid for with your ticket? Otherwise, they’re going to need to draft up some rules about exactly how much you can carry on the plane with you. I am still slightly boggled by why I couldn’t bring my hair care products on the plane when the folks who boarded ahead of me could bring their wheelie carryon, a laptop case, three or four shopping bags, a winter coat, snacks, beverages and a small department store with them.
So, the purpose of this was to tell you all the interesting things I learned on my trip. I’ll start with what I learned in the airport before we left Chicago: unhappy people lead unhappy lives and to be grateful for small miracles. There was a woman who for at least 20 minutes bemoaned every possible thing about her life to another woman waiting nearby. She wasn’t happy with her significant other, her children, her pets, basically anything at all and guess what – she seemed like a miserable person. As I listened to her go on and on, and then later voice her disgust about everything related to the airline industry, I quietly prayed that I would not have to sit next to her on the plan. Well, by some small miracle, it turned out that she was only there to help someone else get onto the flight…bringing me to the second thing I learned: flying with oxygen is inconvenient for everyone if you don’t know the FAA’s rules.
Lucky for the family whose child needed the oxygen, they packed enough of whatever was within the FAA guidelines that they didn’t pull the whole family off the flight. They, like their cohort out in the loading area, was also lacking in the happiness department – further tying things up. Here’s the other thing, instead of arguing with the nice flight attendants and airline personnel who are just trying to enforce rules handed down to them, accept what they say and move on with your day. Don’t argue with them. They didn’t make the rules and they’re not going to bend them for you. You are no different than the hundreds of other folks they’ve dealt with today -- particularly if that means bending FAA rules. Folks, those rules just aren't pliable.
Just before boarding the plane tonight, I learned a dating escape mechanism that would have come in handy years ago before I was married. All you single readers, take note – maybe you can use this yourself sometime! Look at is as a way of getting out of a bad date and getting a free meal in the process – all without the awkward, “Yeah, this just isn’t going to work out.”
At a steakhouse where we had dinner before leaving Orlando, we were seated next to an attractive young woman. As we arrived at our seats, I could tell from her body language something wasn’t right. Seemingly, she was having dinner with her date. He’d eaten most of his meal (as was apparent by the mostly empty plate) and she was still eating her salad. What happened next could be up for some speculation. He apparently looked at her and said, “I’m going to be sick,” and ran toward the bathrooms. She ends up waiting for a very, very long time. She eats a bit more of her dinner, she orders some rolls, she looks around. Still no sign of her date. She balances her checkbook, reorganizes her wallet and still not date. The waiter offers to look for her date in the bathroom, but comes back with no news. He’s gone. So, she asks for the bill, pays and leaves.
Maybe he really did get sick though. So, that’s the neat bonus part of this if you are brazen enough to do it. Say the next day he actually feels bad about it. At that point, he can say, “Look, I got sick all over myself and I thought it would be rude to come back to the table, so I just went home to clean up.” That way, he can save face instead of looking like a total jerk. Or he just saved himself the cost of dinner and a couple of wasted hours of pointless conversation with a woman he had no interest in pursuing. Either way, interesting, and might give some of you on the dating scene an option to get out of the worst date of your entire life.
Some of the rest of this is probably less interesting and useful, but I did learn a few other interesting factoids on my trip. Did you know that cypress trees are both deciduous and coniferous – in fact, they’re the only trees that are both. I also learned that those little bumps that protrude out of the water around them are called “knees” and their true purpose isn’t really known.
I learned that the neat grey moss that hangs from trees in Florida used to be used to fill mattresses and other furniture – and made for some itchy seats (pun intended). Apparently, they didn’t realize that the Spanish moss was also a great place to find annoying little bugs called chiggers, resulting in red bumps all over bums and bodies.
I learned that it is easier to keep an alligator’s mouth closed than it is to open it up. I learned that while watching a guy wrestle an alligator. That was cool, by the way. At the same time, I also learned you can put an alligator to sleep by flipping him over and rubbing his belly. If I'm close enough to rub his belly, I'm probably already missing a limb. Not good. Not going to try this one at home.
I learned that if I think I’m about to be pooped on – I probably will be shortly. I managed to spoil my going home outfit as I walked through this wilderness area at one of Central Florida’s oldest amusements, Gatorland. In addition to a plethora of gators, there were also birds of many varieties including my favorite flamingos and my now least favorite -- egrets. (Interesting that egret rhymes with regret....) I was thinking to myself as I walked, “Gee, with all these birds, it is possible I could find myself with droppings on my shirt and how would I handle that?” If you’ve ever read “The Secret,” you’ll understand this, but it was as though I was asking for it to happen to me because within a few paces, I found myself with a big white splat of egret excrement on my shirt. I quickly learned how I would handle it. I tried to wash it off and while that worked somewhat, I knew I’d be thinking about whether it was still on there in a less visible but still gross form during my flight home. So, in a very smooth, secret agent move – I changed my shirt in the parking lot. I guess I'm still thinking about it, but only to tell you about it.
I learned that all the Christmas music, decorations and lights in the world still don’t make it feel like Christmas without the cold and the snow. The children and I had a roaring good time “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” in the swimming pool by the light of palm trees. It was hilarious and fun, but it wasn’t the same as singing that song while wrapping presents or making Christmas cookies. I also learned that Christmas shopping in flip flops and Capri pants without a coat is fun, but it just feels like shopping…not Christmas shopping.
I learned why it was that my grandparents used to eagerly pack up their belongings and just as the fall was setting in, they’d head to Florida and not return until spring was well-established. For years, I could not understand (given my limited experience with Florida) why you would want to miss Halloween through most of April in Indiana in exchange for humid weather, bugs, sweat, sand and crowds. I still don’t understand why they’d want to miss the family element of the holidays at home. Oh how many Christmas celebrations they missed over the years! But, I finally got it the first afternoon we arrived – Florida in the winter isn’t the muggy, overpopulated, stagnant air place I’d previously experienced. Instead, winter in Florida feels like the most perfect late spring day when you’re comfortable in short sleeves and in the evening, you might wear a jacket if you really want to. It’s balmy when the sun’s not shining, but not too hot. I was seriously thinking that one day, in the far, far future when I hand this business over to my children (who are already fighting over who will be ultimately ‘in charge’ of it – they’re each pleading their case about why they are better suited to run Talk of the Town than the other one), then I can retire to some nice villa in Florida and spend my days writing on a laptop on a wicker lounge chair poolside. In the evening, I can have barbecue chicken on an outdoor grill. For breakfast, grapefruit. I’ll drink margaritas, wear long floral gowns and flip flops and listen to “Classic Vinyl” on satellite radio. Tony will wear the middle age man's casual uniform of a button down Hawaiian shirt with khaki shorts. While I’m at it, I’ll also have a convertible and I won’t care if my hair gets messed up. I’ll wear my sunglasses even at night. Yep, those are my plans. I will, however, be home for Christmas…and Thanksgiving…and New Years.