Saturday, May 19, 2012

Dueling Jujus

I'm comforted by things that do not change: the phases of the moon, the pandering of politicians. Even the bi-monthly why-the-hell-not five-dollar bump in the cable bill is reassuring in its predictability. Good or bad, each is evidence that the stars are still in their marching cadence. And so I am pleased to report that my friend Linda and I have demonstrated our core qualities yet again during our recent trip to the New River Birding And Nature Festival. There's no need to recalibrate: everything is as it should be.

Linda summons miracles. I attract travel disasters.

Linda is the one who arranged a murmuration of starlings for us at Cape Cod. It is Linda who was told by a Florida park ranger that although they had panthers, he had never seen one in his sixteen years on the job--whereupon she produced one for him. Somewhere, a unicorn is testing his horn on the fabric of reality and when he finally punches through, Linda will be there on the other side with a lump of sugar.

I, on the other hand, am the one who missed a connection at the airport in spite of having a five-hour layover. I am the one who sat alone and clueless in the rear car of a train in Munich while it was being decoupled from the rest of the train to be left at the station. If I were an astronaut, I would somehow be overlooked on the last shuttle back from the Space Station.

So at the birding festival, our cabin-mate Nina went on a field trip hoping to see, among other things, a bear. Sure enough, they were excited to find bear evidence steaming away at the head of the trail. Meanwhile, back at the cabin, LInda and I were working on a nap when she heard crunching outside the window and looked out. And there, of course, was a bear, snuffle-nose up and eyes yearning in her direction. The field-trippers were skunked, of course. There was no point in looking for a bear miles away from Linda.

Nina reacts to missing our bear
I had been plagued by ticks all week. Linda had already pulled two out of my head but had found none on herself--not until our evening speaker mentioned that she was collecting ticks for research. That was the precise moment Linda's tick took a stroll across her arm. It meant her no harm; it was just checking in to wave a couple of its little legs at her and go home to tell its little tick friends who it saw.

Oh, it was a grand week. As we approached the airport to return home I remarked that my own travel curse must have been overcome by her superior juju. We were booked on the same flight for our first leg. Ten minutes later the existence of the plane was revealed to be a cruel hoax and we were sent back to Charleston to try again the next morning at 4:30. This time we were booked on different flights. Linda's was delayed. I sat in my gate as the minutes ticked past our departure time. There was no agent in sight and the assembly was getting more and more irritable. Fortunately an employee finally showed up and took me and the most irate passengers and stored us on the tarmac for a couple hours.

That was no doubt a relief for the people remaining in the terminal, but, sadly, our plane did not come with a pilot, and we had to be released back to the terminal for rebooking. The man sitting next to me was loaded for bear. Literally: he was headed for his dream vacation in Alaska that (as everyone in the airport was loudly informed) cost him $25,000. He hoped to murder a large brown bear, and his whole life (not the bear's) was now ruined, ruined. The future dead bear was to be stripped of meat that would be donated to "the natives" (grateful and picturesque Eskimos could be seen squatting in an igloo in his thought balloon). And the hide and head of the bear would be stuffed and join his collection at home, photos of which he shared with fellow passengers between outbursts of rage: a world-record elk with a rack that could cradle a propane tank. A Rocky Mountain ewe in a come-hither pose, head turned back. And his prize, the last known Frumious Bandersnatch, erect and waving goodbye. He snugged his passenger-pigeon down vest tighter and stormed off to sue the airline.

Fellow traveler Sharon, Day Two, Operation Go Home
About twenty of us returned to the ticket counter to rebook, and two hours later I was next up. The gentleman in front of me had been abandoned by the blonde agent, who walked out from behind the counter and headed away, saying she'd be right back. Forty minutes later she came back as a brunette. In just under three hours, I was rebooked for the next morning at 4:30.

Linda's flight, meanwhile, was so late that her connection was in doubt. Two concourses had to be traversed by jetpack and five people had to drop dead for her to board, but by then she was far enough away from my sphere of influence that she was able to get the last seat and make it home.

I went back to Charleston for the night. The next morning we had a plane, a flight crew, and a fog bank you could bounce a quarter off of. I expect to come home with a drawl. Linda is planning a trip to Australia. I expect her to come back with a dodo.

49 comments:

  1. I do so hope that the hunting gentleman never gets either his bear or his frumious bandersnatch. I grew up with the frumious bandersnatch and my world would be diminished if it became a decoration in a testosterone laden study.
    Surely if you ask Linda to say a word or two one of them will see him first and take appropriate action. The sort of action which involves chewing.

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  2. It's the name. It carries blessings with it. You notice how nobody names their children "Linda" anymore? It's a big part of what's wrong with everything.

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    1. There's even a League of Lindas

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  3. Well, you could pick worse places to be stranded.

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    1. I'd joke, but you're absolutely right, Mr. Charleston.

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  4. Wow..that girls got travel Mojo... Still, she had not much to write about and you did.

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    1. That's what I was thinking about in that comfy chair on the tarmac.

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  5. I think Linda is one of those fabled creatures I've read about before. Maybe my own travel juju is so bad that I overcome any like her. Guess you made it home eventually; you don't write with a drawl...

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  6. Is Linda planning to come to Australia via Mauritius? If not, she is welcome to search for Dodos in my backyard, everything in it is stuffed anyway, she is sure to find one.

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    1. She might be a little late; we're sending her out for the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker first.

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  7. It's too darn bad you don't knit. You could have finished two pairs of socks and a baby sweater in the time spent waiting. And it would have given you a conversation-starter, too. On the other hand, you might attract the pompous know-it-alls who need to tell you that, "you're doing it wrong,"and they know because they used to watchAunty Belinda forty years ago and she never used al those sticks to do her sewing. But that would certainly give you more grist for the mill.

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    1. Roxie is right - if your travel plans tend to go awry, you MUST take up knitting. It passes the time splendidly without killing it.

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    2. I knit essays. And all the publishers in the world think I'm doing it wrong.

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  8. a delightful story. I am pretty much the one who gets this kind of thing. It's somehow soothing to know I'm not alone.

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    1. If you and I get together, we could stop the world.

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  9. Disastrous! Fortunately, it doesn't always happen to me. Just when there's a pressing reason for me to be home on time.

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    1. And there wasn't. I was pretty calm about it all. I'm not due to kill a bear until--wait, that was probably my last life.

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  10. Oh, my dear... This is why I don't fly -- or travel at all for that matter. Why bother when I can read about your misfortunes and feel like I was there?! Seriously, this piece is perfect for any number of travel magazines. You should really submit it. Someone should be paying you for your wit and skill at sharing it, my friend.

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    1. Now there's a novel concept! Pay up, people.

      I keep thinking someone should publish my stuff, but I only have about ten magazines I try for, and I guess they're pretty high-end or something. New Yorker is my favorite, because they reject me really quickly and politely.

      I really should figure out other places to send stuff.

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  11. So did you get into any interesting conversations with Mr. Bear/Elk/Ewe/Frumious Bandersnatch Murderer, whilst sitting next to him?

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    1. When he said he was going to sue the airline for $25,000 plus pain and suffering, I said "good luck with that," but it's possible I didn't sound all that sincere.

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    2. It's just too bad that bears/elks/ewes/etc can't sue for pain and suffering.

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  12. Oh dear, reading this brings back the entire experience...and just when I thought I had finally recovered. But at least your take on it made me laugh, something I was NOT feeling like doing in the throes of waiting...and waiting...and waiting...to get out of Charleston. But sue the airline? Never occurred to me that they could control the weather, which Mr Hunter apparently assumes they can do.

    Am left to wonder though: how come TSA allows knitting needles through security but my wee nail scissors are prohibited?

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    1. It allows knitting needles? That doesn't seem right. I've avoided knitting all these years because I know I'd impale something important of myself on them.

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    2. Yep. Knitting needles allowed here but not in all countries. And why do we have to put our things under the seat in front of us but people (like those next to me on Thursday) are allowed to have a 10-month old on board as a free range passenger?

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  13. Just when I think you've written the best blog ever, you outdo yourself!

    Brightened my day!

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  14. I am so glad that gentleman (said with snicker) did not get to shoot the bear.
    Wow! Maybe you could have been half finished with a novel sitting there!

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    1. I just wrote the first 600 words of my next novel. Now I'm stuck. Back to the tarmac.

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  15. OMG! You had me chocking on my coffee several times! I'm glad the guy didn't get to shoot his bear and I'm glad the both of you made it home finally. Thanks for the chuckle. Glad the trip went well. :)

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    1. Sorry about choking on your coffee. The first time is my bad, but after that it's kind of your fault...

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  16. "five people had to drop dead" truth! I really liked the tick part the best,we have a wonderful crop this year in SE PA,I Lurrve your writing,I might even pay for it!

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    1. Please note: the person who might even pay for it is going as "anonymous." Har!

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  17. Enjoyed our time together at New River fest. What a followup referred by Sharon who no doubt enjoyed the delay with y'all. !! Especially like the image of you in the last train car in Munich !!

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    1. Hi Bobbie! Great to meet you, too. Add to the Munich image the sight of dozens of people on the platform waving at me and yelling while I thumb through my German dictionary for "absteigen."

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  18. Even your outings turn into adventures. On the one hand it seems like a curse, on the other a blessing, but you seem to have a third hand. What's with that?

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    1. Aw, sweetie. There's no point in having a third hand if you have to tell everyone what you're doing with it.

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  19. Anyone who can work frumious bandersnatch into a blog is always worthy of my attention. That and the tale of the big game hunter who was hoist by his own petard. May he someday be eaten by a bear.

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  20. 'Long about the second hour on the tarmac, I had that scene good and visualized, myself.

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  21. Oh my word. What a nightmare! Ugh. Yet another reason I hate to travel.

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    1. Could be woise. I mean, after all, once I was airborne, it was only a few hours to cover the country. That's pretty cool.

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  22. Well I am going to take the side of the unfortunate airlines here; the poor things often find themselves having to inconvenience themselves by allowing passengers onto their craft, most of whom are ungrateful when offered $5 sandwiches (credit/debit card only, NO CASH, PLEEZE!). Then these horrid passengers (some of whom take on air of thinking themselves in lofty terms such as 'customers'). Add to that the poor airlines have to refigure their fares to allow for increased fuel charges - clearly it is far too much to expect them to them to shoulder the unreasonable expectation of lowering those fares when fuel prices decrease!

    Really, it is a privilege to be allowed to fly on an airplane today. Think of all the poor people in China who have to make do with bicycles! Frankly, Murr... you should be ashamed.

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    1. You've forgotten the bonus of the free groping by TSA. Just went through that yesterday. What a treat for us old folks!

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    2. Robert, I'll try, but "ashamed" is not my default status. For the record, I wasn't irritated. Have you seen Louis C.K.'s take on "everything's amazing and nobody's happy?" Genius. I don't like traveling much, but it's hard for me to whine about being able to pull a Lewis & Clark in six hours.

      Knitter, lucky you! No matter what I do or say, I can't get a grope out of any of them.

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  23. Anything under a two hour flight is faster to drive. In your case even ox-cart might have been faster. Love the bear picture and story. Some people attract miracles as you say.
    Munich seems to be a place to miss flights. You are not alone.

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  24. My best adventures occur after I'm lost or stalled in an unknown place. You are SOO lucky.

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