Bucking the Universe – Part 3

September 13, 2018 12:40 PM

So far in my story, (read part 1 here and part 2 here)I have survived a claustrophobic flight in a small airplane to Philadelphia and I discovered that the swim spa I was convinced would work, would not. Dennis and I spent a lot of extra time trying out more expensive pools at the sales showroom, which meant we did not get to tour a defunct prison, try a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich or visit a Wa-Wa (a gas station/convenience store recommended to me by a nun I met on the shuttle to the rental car office.)

After a grabbing a hamburger at a drive thru, Dennis and I made our way back to the airport to drop off the rental car. Traffic wasn’t terrible, we breezed through security lines with our TSA PreCheck and our flight was still on time.  The weather was now partly cloudy and warm. Still good weather for flying. The day had been long, and disappointing in many ways, but it was almost over. All I had to do was fly home in a nice large plane, with normal sized aisles and bathrooms. I even had my aisle seat assigned. No extra leg room, which meant a bit more tight quarters than I’m comfortable with, but it’s only a 90 minute flight. I’d be fine.

I was concerned our flight could be delayed, because I know east coast airports are very busy and sometimes have more delays than we see in Milwaukee. I continued to check the status throughout the afternoon and it was not. This was great news. It was crucial that we leave on time, because I had the pet sitter scheduled to pick up the dogs from the kennel about the time we would be taking off.

Officially, I was paying for two nights of boarding at the kennel, because the dogs were being picked up 1/2 hour before they closed, so they charged me for an extra night whether I picked them up that day or the next morning. This was fine with me. It was a bit more expensive, but it also offered a buffer if my flight should be delayed. I could leave the dogs there an extra night and get them in the morning if our flight was late. We were supposed to leave around 5:10 PM, the pet sitter was scheduled to the pick them up around 5:30. Should there be a delay, surely, I’d know it in advance to her picking them up.

We were due to arrive back in Milwaukee around 6:50 PM, which meant we’d be home no later 7:30. The pet sitter was going to bring the dogs home from the kennel and give them dinner. This arrangement meant that the dogs would be alone for about an hour between the time the pet sitter left and we returned home. I knew that Sammy would probably bark the entire time. Not the greatest, but I figured the cats could deal with the barking for an hour, so the dogs didn’t have to spend another night in the kennel.

The time came to board our plane about twenty minutes before it was scheduled to take off. As we settled in, I noticed there were two babies sitting behind us with their parents. One was a toddler age, in the window seat, Mom sat in the middle seat and Dad was on the aisle. Mom and Dad were juggling the infant between them.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-baby by any means.  I understand that families have to fly with babies and I understand babies cry. It was just unfortunate that I happened to be seated in front of babies on the one trip where I didn’t have my noise-canceling head phones. No matter how limited carry on space is, I will never, ever fly without them again.

While we waited to take off, the Mom of the babies realized that the lady across the aisle from her husband was traveling to the same funeral they were. Which she and the lady discussed at great length. Very loudly. Around this time, I also noticed that it was getting a bit cloudier outside. I started to get a little nervous. A storm could mess up my entire plan with the pet sitter, and the short window I had to contact to her to tell her to leave the dogs at the kennel instead of picking them up was rapidly ticking away.

The time to take off came and went. It got cloudier outside. The baby started to cry forcing the mom to talk even louder so the lady across the aisle to could hear her. I kept expecting Mom to change seats with Dad, who was on the aisle, so she could more easily talk to her new-found friend. It never happened.

At 5:20, ten minutes after we were supposed to take off, the captain came on over the intercom saying there was some rain in the area and our take off would be delayed for a short while.

I panicked. My carefully orchestrated schedule did not allow for a delay that I found out ten minutes after we were supposed to take off! Dennis and I quickly discussed our options. I decided that since it was so close to when the dogs would be picked up, I’d call the kennel and tell them they had to stay another night. I’d text the pet sitter once I reached the kennel.

I made the call, cupping my hand over my free ear to block the crying/loud talking behind me. When I reached the kennel, they told me I was too late. The pet sitter had picked up the dogs already. Okay, no problem, I can deal with this. I’ll have to ask the pet sitter to bring them back.  I confirmed with the kennel that the dogs could  have their room back, if I needed it, and I told them I would let them know in five minutes whether the dogs would be back. Then I called the pet sitter to discuss options. Around this time, the toddler started whining and crying which meant Mom needed to talk even louder to her new friend.

The pet sitter was already at our home with the dogs when I called her. We discussed options of her staying the night or bringing them back. Since she had other plans early the morning the next day, I opted to have her bring them back to kennel. At this point it started to rain. Torrents of rain, all at once. It literally went from a couple of rain drops to a deluge.

I called the kennel to confirm the dogs would be returning and they told me they now could not take them. What? I just called. I paid for two nights. What do you mean you can’t take them? I never did get an answer why and I didn’t have time to dig into at that point. I hung up and called the pet sitter again, and told her the dogs had to stay home. I was completely at a loss of what to do. Other than something happening to the people in my life, having my animals not cared for is my worst case scenario when traveling.

I have a really awesome pet sitter. She worked it out that she would spend the night if we needed her to, and would leave very early in the morning. I was so relieved. How wonderful to have someone to rely on like that who isn’t family. I promised her I would text her as soon as I knew anything since we were still hoping to fly home at some point that night. The dogs would be alone, worst case, for three or four hours that night until she returned. As long as we could get home by early morning, all would be fine.

The rain continued. And the winds came up. Hard enough to shake the plane. Afternoon showers don’t last long, right? They move through in twenty minutes or so? Wrong. This afternoon shower hung over Philadelphia for hours. We were watching the radar on our phone. One little storm cell, surrounded by many big storm cells, just sat, swirling around Philadelphia, not moving.

In addition to the rain and the wind, came the thunder and lightning. I wondered what happens if a plane gets struck by lightning? I decided not to ask Dennis. It didn’t really matter because I was stuck on the plane, no matter what. At some point in the storm, they made us taxi to a far part of the runway. I suppose to get out of the way of flights still trying to get in? I’m not sure. But I know we were in no-man’s land, and that’s not a good place to be when you’re stuck on a plane. I tried to count my blessings. At least the plane I was stuck on wasn’t the tiny one from earlier in the day. And the bathrooms were still working. I’ve heard horror stories about passengers being stuck on the tarmac with no bathrooms.

I have to say, after the initial crying for maybe ten minutes, the babies were really good.  They were quiet and seemed happy. Way happier than I was, by far. The Mom, however, continued her across the seat and aisle conversation with her new BFF for most of the three hours were stuck there. It was very unfortunate that the plane was not serving alcohol. We got water. Water does not help to calm nerves or sooth annoyances. I will never, ever, travel without my noise-cancelling head phones again. Did I say that already?

As we sat, with the plane rocking in the wind, Dennis and I began discussing worst-case scenarios. We’ve both been in situations where we’ve waited out a weather delay, only to find out the flight crew has been working too long, and the flight gets cancelled anyway because the crew can’t fly anymore that day. This doesn’t happen that often for early morning flights, but it’s a lot more common for evening ones, like ours.

We started researching driving home (assuming they ever let us off the plane). It’s thirteen hours from Philadelphia to Milwaukee, driving straight through. Assuming we didn’t sleep, and didn’t stop except for gas, that would put us home mid-morning (leaving an hour or so to get the rental car and leave the plane). Except it had already been a long day, we were both up at 4 AM. We’d need to sleep a few hours. This would put us home early afternoon. Not good, but it was the best we could do. We booked a rental car as our back-up plan and waited.

We started to get hungry but we hadn’t pack our usual snacks in our carry on because of the limited space.  Stupid, stupid, stupid. I did find a still wrapped blueberry muffin that was only kind of crushed that I bought in the Milwaukee airport that morning. We considered selling it to the other hungry passengers on the plane to pay for the rental car.

At the 2:25 minute mark, which was well past the time we should have been home, the Captain come on the intercom and said we were taxing back to the gate. We figured that was it. The flight is cancelled and we’re driving home.

Once we reached the gate, the Captain came on the intercom again and said that we still couldn’t deplane because the lightning was too bad to bring the bridges in to get us off. We’d have to wait until it died down. Oh, goody. I resisted the urge to Google what happens if a plane gets struck by lightning.

After another fifteen minutes or so, they finally decided we could deplane. As we got to the gate area, I noticed the Captain was at the check in kiosk talking to a customer service agent for the airlines. We stopped, and Dennis asked him how much longer he had in his shift before he wouldn’t be able to fly. Finally, we caught a break! He and the rest of the flight crew had just come on for this flight. They had thirteen hours left in their shift! Hooray!

We thought it was unlikely the storm would last for ten or eleven hours, which is what it would take before this crew couldn’t fly anymore. We canceled the rental car and I hung out close to the gate and listened for news, while Dennis ran to the closest fast food place and got us hamburgers. Really bad, cold airport hamburgers. They were a very poor substitute for the Philly Cheesesteak I’d been hoping for.

After only about twenty minutes at the gate, the crew said there was a break in the storm and they were going to try get us out. We quickly boarded and the crew did all the safety procedures super quick. No one wanted to lose the window to fly.

I composed a text to the pet sitter telling her we had taken off and she didn’t need to spend the night and I sat, with my finger on the send button, until I felt the wheels leave the ground. Given how the day had gone, I didn’t trust that we were really, and truly leaving Philadelphia until that point. Once I felt the wheels lift, I clicked send and turned my phone off.

Thankfully, the rest of the flight was smooth. If there were bumps flying up and over the storms, I didn’t feel them. I was too happy to be in the air and too anxious to get home to my animals.

We got home that night about 10:30, a little over three hours from when we planned. It seemed longer. Probably due to the stress. Sammy was barking and probably had been for quite some time, based on how the cats were acting. Everyone was back to normal the next morning, though, thankfully.

I debated calling the kennel to find out what the hell happened. Why, when I paid for two nights, did I lose my room because I chose to have my dogs picked up early? However, by Monday, when the kennel was open again, I calmed down and decided to let it go. My kennel is affiliated with my vet, and I like my vet. I also like the manager of the kennel who has gone out of her way help me in the past when my dogs stay there. I will never again tell them I am picking my dogs up in the afternoon, however. If I pay for two nights, I’ll tell them I’m picking them up the morning of the third day, even if I plan to get them earlier. Fool me once, and all that.

So, after all this, am I getting a pool? Maybe. I’m still not sure, and I’m waiting for a few weeks to see if the Universe cares to weigh in on the decision. This time, if it does, I’ll listen.

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I had these exact head phones at home, charged and ready to go. Why, oh why, didn’t I bring them?

1:42 PM

 

Bucking the Universe – Part 2

September 10, 2018 10:44 am

In my last post, Bucking the Universe – Part 1, I talked about the decision Dennis and I made to fly in and out of Philadelphia on the same day, against my better judgement, to try a swim spa that I’ve wanted to buy for our home.

When we last left off in the story, I thought the worst of the trip was over. Claustrophobic me had just completed my first (and last!) flight in a small, 50 seat airplane. Not without challenges, I might add, but I did make it.

Philadelphia weather was perfect when we landed. A little on the warm, muggy side, but sunny and calm, perfect flying weather. On the shuttle ride to the car rental counter, I had a lovely conversation with two nuns, one of which was proclaiming the virtues of Wa-Wa.

What’s a Wa-Wa, you may ask? I know I did. A Wa-Wa, according to the nun, is a convenience store/gas station where you can, and I quote, “Get your entire life there.” Wow. That’s quite a claim. I decided Dennis and I were going to have to fit a Wa-Wa visit in our short time in Philly.

Once we landed, we had about five hours before we needed to be back at the airport for our flight home. The pool showroom is twenty minutes from the airport. I expected the visit to be brief, no more than a half hour or forty-five minutes tops. Just enough time to change, try the pool I was sure would work, change back and be on our way.

I thought we might even have enough to time to check out a defunct prison nearby for forty-five minutes or so. (Some people would make a beeline for the Liberty Bell, but not me. Old defunct prison’s are more my style. Alcatraz is my favorite part of visiting San Francisco.)

I figured we’d grab an authentic Philly Cheesesteak on the way to the prison. On the way back to airport, we could stop at a Wa-Wa and gas up the car before dropping it off. According to the nun, there were many of them in the area. Our schedule was tight, but not impossible.

The car rental place was very busy, and it took a bit longer than we expected, However, they gave us free soft, authentic Philly Pretzels while we waiting, so all was good. Once we got the car, the next stop was the pool showroom. And I use the word “showroom” very loosely.

The entrance of the showroom was very nice and professional with a receptionist who called the salesman we’ve been working with for the past three months. He gave us a tour of the pools they had set up and available to try. I was expecting a normal pool showroom, where each pool is setup next to another pool in a large open area. Not in this case. Not even close.

The “showroom” was, in essence, a working warehouse, where they installed pools in various locations. They had, at most, two pools in the same location. The locations of the pools, while they were in the same general area, were connected with rickety, narrow, wooden construction-site style stairs. In some cases, we had to cross the warehouse floor to get to the next pool.

It wasn’t what I expected, but I didn’t care because I was only trying the one pool. The moderately-priced pool that was advertised to be perfect for the “casual swimmer.” I’m fifty-two, and I haven’t done any serious swimming, or any other kind of exercise for that matter, for six years. I figured I’d be lucky if I could keep up with the swim current at it lowest setting.

After changing in a tiny little bathroom, which seemed huge at that point after the whole Lilliputian bathroom I dealt with on the plane, I donned my swim suit, my flip-flops and headed out to try my pool. Note, that I refer to the pool as “my pool” at this point. I was already sold on it. I almost bought it sight unseen, but Dennis thought I should try it first. So, as far as I was concerned, testing it out was just doing my due diligence for a few minutes before I could go tour my prison.

After changing, Dennis and I followed the salesman up one rickety flight of stairs and down another to get to my pool. Stairs are not great for my bad knee, which is one of the main reasons I want the pool, so I can strengthen it. Stairs in flip-flops are even worse on my bad knee. But it didn’t matter, I reasoned. I’m only using the stairs once. I’ll try the pool out, and be done. Bring on the cheesesteak and the prison.

I make my way up another set of rickety stairs to get into my pool, and once I’m in, I notice that it feels much roomier that the other pools I’ve tried. Good sign. I ask the salesman to turn the pool current to low. (I know from past experiences in testing out swim spa pools that if you start the current too high, it spits you back into the end of the pool.)

I put on my hideous black swim cap, don my swim goggles, and take the plunge, literally, and start swimming. I promptly touch the front of the pool, where the machine that generates the current is located, with my fingertips. I’m out swimming the speed of the current.

Okay, the low setting is too low for me. I ask the salesman to turn up the current a bit (he assured us prior to visiting, that this pool had a fully configurable current, not just a “low or high” setting.) He switches the current to high and informs us any further configuration for current speed needs to be done manually by moving two plastic discs in the pool. Which he can only accomplish by climbing up his own set of rickety stairs, plunging his arm almost to his shoulder into the pool, and spinning the flat plastic discs.

I’m leery of the sales guy at this point. As far as I’m concerned, he blatantly lied to us about the variable swim current. But, okay. I’m here. I’ll try it. If moving these discs changes the resistance, fine. I can move the discs.

I plunge in again and start swimming. And I touch the current generator at the front of the pool again. The current is still too slow. Turn ‘er up again, I say. Which he does. I try it again and still hit the front of the pool. How is this possible? I’m not in shape. I’m no where near in shape. I had to decide whether there was room for me turn around in a micro aisle of the plane a few hours earlier. There is no way I’m going to out swim a current that is meant for a casual swimmer.

But I did. At top speed, with the resistance disc’s fully opened, I swam comfortably in the current. If I pushed myself, which is kind of the point of getting a swim spa, I out swam the current and hit the front of the pool. I’m not sure who the company considers a “casual swimmer” if not an out-of-shape, fifty-two year old woman who considers exercise walking the dog to the corner and back.

Obviously, the pool I was sold on, my pool, the one in my price range, wasn’t going to work. I was disappointed and relieved that Dennis was wise enough to insist I try it before we bought it.

Now what do we do? Give up on the idea all together? Try other pools that cost more than I want to spend? Since we were there, Dennis and I decided to try the other pools they had available.

I tried out a total of six pools. Which meant I did flights of rickety wooden stairs five times that day in slippery, wet flip-flops. (Two pools were in the same area). In addition to the wooden stairs, there were the stairs I navigated up and down into the pools. And the time spent swimming in the pools – a minimum of three or four minutes each to make sure I could stay in the current while I swam.

I should mention at this point, that getting in these pools is a bit tricky. They aren’t like getting into an in-ground pool where you just jump in, or even an above ground pool where there’s a ladder to climb in and out of it. Nope. These swim spa’s resemble really large bathtubs — each one came up to my neck or higher. They require steps to lead up to them and there is one seat, about four feet down in the pool to step on to enter it. Traversing the top step on the outside of the pool to the seat four feet below inside the pool, requires a certain amount of grace and finesse’. Of which I possess neither.

I finally figured out that the safest way for me to get in the pool was to sit and balance myself on the 9″ ledge of the pool and swing my legs into the water, one at a time, until I was sitting with my feet dangling into the pool, at which time, I could drop down into the water. This was not the fluid one-step movement that you might expect it to be. This was a multi-step process for me, with stops at each step to make sure I was still balancing my way-larger-than-9-inch butt on the tiny railing.

At one point in this choreographed sequence, I was sitting, straddling the 9 inch ledge with one leg on the top of the stairs and the other dangling in the pool while in my swimming suit, hideous black swim cap and goggles. It was at this point, when several male warehouse workers passed us, brown bags in hand, while they went to lunch. They glanced over at me, and to their credit they were kind enough not to laugh. But I’m sure they wanted to. I was a sight to see.

Let me point out that three months ago, when I first tested a swim spa, I was self-conscious and I wore a full length cover up the entire time I was in the showroom, right up to the point where I entered the pool. I put it back on immediately after I came back out.

However, after three months of hauling my ass and thighs in and out of all these pools, I’ve become desensitized to the point that I can sit in my swimming suit, straddling the thin ledge of a pool, and not be freaked out by two random warehouse workers looking at me. I actually thought it was kind of funny, in that bizarre, you-can’t-make-shit-like-this-up category. I bet they had a good laugh over lunch.

During another test swim, another warehouse worker approached our salesman and asked if we were done testing one of the pools. Apparently, he wanted to go for a swim on his lunch. Ack! I despise public pools. That’s another reason I want to get a swim spa. Up to that point, I’d been comforting myself with the thought that there aren’t that many people that try out these swim spas so they’re not really public pools. Especially considering one has to  to fly to Philly to try them. I didn’t consider that the workers at the warehouse/showroom used them themselves. Cue the germaphobe paranoia.

I tried one more pool after that, and I called it quits for the day.  At that point, we’d been there for a little over two hours. I was tired, hungry and my knee was sore. The prison idea was shot. Not enough time left to fit that in. I thought my Philly cheesesteak and Wa-Wa were still a go.

I did find a pool I really liked. It’s quite a bit more than the original pool I went there for, but it’s considerably less than the pools I’ve looked at in Wisconsin. So maybe we could still make the swim pool idea work.

After Dennis and I got changed, and were ready to leave, the salesman led us into a room where he insisted on pricing out the exact pool we wanted. Fine, I suppose, although I didn’t intend to buy anything on spot.

The salesman was very focused on colors. What color lining did I want? What color edging? And he talked a lot, without saying anything. And I was getting annoyed with him. Finally, I told him as politely as I could manage, considering I was hungry (didn’t have anything except for 1/2 of the Philly pretzel from the car rental place all day), tired and I really wanted to get out of there, that I wasn’t buying today, so just put in any color combination for the quote and I would figure it out later.

Which he did. And then he offered to take a thousand off, but any more he’d have to talk to his sales manager. Aha! Now I understood. We’re dickering. Apparently, you can dicker on the price of a pool. I didn’t know that. I’m a good dickerer. Dennis and I have the routine down. He’s the “good” guy and wants to do the sale, and I’m the “bad” guy who won’t budge on the dollars.

We dickered for a few minutes, and got another couple thousand off the pool. Am I ready to sign? the salesman asked. No. But I’m ready for my cheesesteak.

We left the warehouse/showroom, with directions to a cheesesteak place the receptionist recommended and a quote on the pool. However, when we got to the car, and googled how long it would take to get to the restaurant, and we noticed how the time to get to the airport was increasing as it grew later in the afternoon, we realized the cheesesteak wasn’t going to happen either. We needed enough time to drop off the car at the rental place and take the shuttle back to the airport, so we opted for a drive through hamburger at a chain restaurant. There were no Wa-Wa’s that we could find in the area, so Dennis topped off the tank at the nearest station near the car rental place.

No moderately priced pool. No prison visit. No Philly cheesesteak. No Wa-wa. At least we were going home and I’d see my animals and sleep in my own bed tonight.  The weather was still warm and mostly clear. Our flight was on time. Things could be worse.

And they would be.

To be continued

12:03 PM

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I never did get my Philly Cheesesteak. That might not be such a bad thing considering I didn’t get my moderately priced pool, either.

 

 

 

 

Bucking the Universe – Part 1

September 8, 2018  4:42 PM

Have you ever had something you want to do, I mean really want to do, but problems keep cropping up that prevent you from doing it? It’s almost as if the Universe doesn’t want you to do whatever it is you want to do, so it throws one obstacle after another in your way?

After a couple of random, out-of-the-blue obstacles showing up and thwarting your plans, smart intuitive people take the hint the Universe is sending them, and make another plan.

Not-so-smart, clueless people say fuck you Universe, I want what I want, and they plod ahead anyway.  This was me yesterday and it wasn’t pretty. It’s kind of a long story, so I am going to break it up into two, possibly three posts.

If you’ve read this blog, you know I’ve been wanting to get a swim spa for my house. I’ve been testing pools in my area, but the one pool I really wanted to test is in Philadelphia. I’ve scheduled, and canceled for various reasons, two different trips to Philadelphia this summer. On Monday this week, my husband found super cheap tickets for us to fly there on Friday, Sept 7th.

I was leery to get the tickets for several reasons. First, the tickets required us to arrive in Philadelphia and leave Philadelphia the same day. We’d leave the house at 4 am and get back home by 8:00 pm. That is one hell of a long day.

The second reason is that Sammy, one of our dogs, is struggling with separation anxiety again. This means he barks non stop from the time we leave until we return back home. Not great for him, really not great for our cats. We’ve tried drugging him with Tramadol, but it makes him sick. This means, to do our day trip, the dogs would have to be kenneled for Thursday night before we leave, and Friday night, because we will get back too late to pick them up.

The third reason I was leery is that the plane we were to fly into Philadelphia on is small, it holds 50 people. One row of one seat on one side and one row of two seats on the other. Maybe this isn’t small to a lot of people, but by my standards it is.

I am claustrophobic. I do not like crowds. I do not like to sit in the middle of a row in a theater or concert. There are a few restaurants I cannot go to because the tables are close together and the ceilings are low. I do not like parking garages, because they back up after large events let out and I’m trapped in them. I’m not big fan of planes in general because once those doors close, you’re stuck at the mercy of whatever the airline wants to do to you. If I do fly, I have to be in an aisle seat, near the front, where I can focus on all the empty space between me and cockpit. Poor Dennis always ends up in the middle seat. I pay extra for the seats with extra leg room, not because I have long legs, but because extra leg room means there’s extra space in between me and the back of the seat in front of me. You get the idea. Traveling with me is not fun.

These super-cheap tickets did not come with extra leg room. They didn’t even come with assigned seats. We’d have to wait until 24 hours before the flight to check-in online and select our seats. There was a possibility I wouldn’t get my aisle seat.

I almost told Dennis no. Don’t buy the tickets. But I really want a swim spa and the one I want is a quarter of the price of the ones I’ve tested here. Even at a quarter of the price, it’s still a lot of money, so I really should try it before I buy it.

Against my better judgement, I agreed that Dennis should buy the tickets and I went about mitigating the problems where I could. I was able to get our pet-sitter to pick the dogs up Friday night for us while we flew home. They’d get home an hour or two before we would, but that would be okay.

Dennis logged into the airlines 24 hours before each flight and reserved us seats. They weren’t extra leg room seats, and they were definitely more in the middle of the plane than up front, but at least I scored an aisle seat each way.

Thursday night came, and I was starting to get nervous about the trip. I was dreading the day. That’s understandable, though, right? It was going to be long, with most of it going through airports and flying.

At least packing for the trip was easy. Since we could only bring bags that fit under our seats (we didn’t have access to overhead bins with our super-cheap seats) I threw in my swimsuit, flip flops and a little make up. That was it. I have audio books downloaded on my cell phone and I took small ipod earbuds instead of my noise cancelling headphones. The flights were short, only about an hour and half, and space was at a premium. I didn’t bother to pack any snacks on the plane for the same reason. This isn’t much different from driving to the casino in the Dells for the day, I told myself.

Holy Crap, was I wrong. So, so, wrong.

Friday morning started out fine. As fine as getting out of bed at 4 am can be. We have TSA pre-check, so we walk past the line at security at Mitchell Airport and get right through. Dennis didn’t get tagged for a TSA search this time, so that was a good omen. (You can read about Dennis’ experiences with TSA here.)

Then we board the plan. I have to bend down to not hit my head on the top of the door when I walk on to it, and I’m 5′ 3″. My chest constricts as soon as I look down the long narrow body of the plane with the low, low ceilings. The entire plane reminds me of being inside an MRI cylinder. I was thinking there is no fucking way can I do this as I look for my seat.

The aisle in between the rows of seats, is roughly the amount of space you get between your knees and the seat in front of you in a movie theater. No one, including the flight attendant, can get down that aisle without their hips slamming into the arms and elbows of the seated passengers trying to fold their own appendages into their allotted seat space, which is roughly the size of a small Amazon box.

There is no way to sit in the seats and not have some part of your body touching the other person next to you. Any hope of retaining any amount of personal space on this plane is gone.  Thankfully, Dennis and I are seated next to each other because otherwise a complete stranger and I would have gotten to know each other a whole better than either of us wanted.

There I sit, belted into my mini seat, trying to look down the micro aisle to quell the claustrophobia that is quickly closing in. If I reach up, I can easily touch the ceiling over me, and the ceiling over the micro aisle isn’t much taller. The windows look like little port holes you’d find on a submarine, which reminds me that this entire plane reminds me a bit of being on a submarine. I toured a submarine once. For about five minutes. And then I hightailed back up top and let the tour go on without out me. Not a helpful memory to conjure up in that moment.

The flight attendant closes the door to the plane and I can’t seem to get my breath. I regret not snagging a couple of the dog’s Tramadol before I got on this flight. I focus on telling myself, it’s fine, there’s plenty of air. I concentrate on listening to the emergency instructions, anything to take my mind off the fact that this plane is getting smaller every minute I sit here. Then I realize I have to go to the bathroom. I look around for the bathroom icon up front but there isn’t one. There is one bathroom on this flight, in the back, which means I will have to make my way down the micro aisle filled with people. Cue heart palpitations.

Back in the “old days”, Pre-9/11, I’d have gotten up before take off, ran to the bathroom and let the flight attendant grumble at me. But I’ve heard of people getting thrown off of planes for doing that now, and although getting thrown off this plane isn’t that terrible of an idea, I really do want to get to Philadelphia. So I wait.

I take out my phone and put on my ear buds and start playing my audio book. I find that closing my eyes, listening to the words helps the claustrophobia abate somewhat. If your eyes are closed, you don’t know that you’re sitting within an arm’s reach of four different strangers.

This works through take off. I find out that you feel the acceleration and the bumps in a small plane far more than you do in a bigger plane. Thank goodness I remembered to take Dramamine before we boarded.

Ten minutes into the flight, I really have to go to the bathroom. I stop the audio book, which isn’t holding my interest anyway, and I stare at the seat belt sign as if I can will it to go off so I can get up out of my seat. The flight attendant is starting the beverage service (how the hell is she going to get herself and a cart down that teeny tiny aisle, I wonder). Suddenly, I see the bathroom icon light up. Someone is using it! The seat belt sign is still lit, but someone behind me got up to use the bathroom anyway. There’s hope!

I secretly unbuckle my seat belt so I’m ready to make a run for it when the bathroom icon light goes dark again and the bathroom is free. The flight attendant is making her way down the aisle with her cart toward my seat. If she passes my seat with the cart, I’ll have to wait until she serves the entire plane before I can get the bathroom. She’s five seats away. Then four. The bathroom sign is still lit up as occupied and the seat belt sign is still lit, too. Flight attendant is at three seats. Then two. While she’s serving the seats in front of us, the bathroom light finally goes dark. The bathroom is free, but seat belt sign is still lit. There’s no time to waste, a decision needs to be made since the cart is almost blocking me in. Do I make a break for it and ignore the seat belt sign or wait until beverage service is through?

Seat belt sign be damned, I’m going for it! They can’t kick me off the plane at this point, right? I jump out of my seat right before the flight attendant can block me in with her cart and I bolt to the back the plane toward the bathroom. When I say bolt, I mean I walk as if I were on a boat, because unbeknownst to me, small planes aren’t as steady as large ones. You feel the sway of the air beneath and you get thrown side to side. I know for a fact my hips and butt banged into several fellow aisle seat passengers who didn’t have the good sense to lean in and clear the way for me to get through.

Finally, I make it to the bathroom. The bathroom, if you can it that, is roughly the size of a very narrow clothes closet with about the same depth. It has accordion doors that slide open, which was fine, until I tried to close them. Closing the door involved contorting my body over the sink and the toilet to make room for the door to shut properly. I’m pretty sure that sitting on the toilet itself would cause one’s knees to bang into the sink. Bumpy, unsteady plane or not, I wasn’t trying it.

The sink was doll-sized, small even by airline standards and the water trickled out. I mean literally trickled. There was no water pressure. Nor was there water pressure when the toilet flushed. It trickled blue water. I really tried to get the full swoosh flush thing going on, but it just never happened. Maybe small planes don’t have enough juice to swoosh? They have to channel all their energy into keeping the rubber band engines running?

All this futzing around with the water pressure in the bathroom took a few minutes, so when I finally emerged (I had to re-contort to break free), the flight attendant and her cart had maneuvered two seats past mine. As I made my way up the micro aisle, which was even harder than going down it because there was still a definite angle up (I guess we were still climbing altitude), the flight attendant glanced at me, gave me a don’t-expect-me-to-move-for-you look, and asked me sit in a vacant seat several rows back until she passed me. Seriously? She was two seats past my seat. Considering each seat gives you about three feet of space, that would have been at most two steps back for her. Maybe three including the cart.

Since I was naughty, and got up when the seat belt sign clearly told me not to, I smiled and told her of course I would do that. Unfortunately, the vacant seat was five rows back and I was faced with a conundrum. Do I try to turn around in the micro aisle and let my ass take out the innocent people sitting on the aisle next to me or do I walk backwards down the swaying, bumpy micro aisle for five rows and only nudge them again with my hips.

I opted for backwards and nudging. I held on to the seat backs for balance because walking backwards down a slope that’s going up when the plane is bouncing and swaying, isn’t all that easy. And I’m not graceful by nature. So it really wasn’t easy for me, but I made it. I resisted the urge to go “beep, beep” as I backed up, although I do think it would been funny in that I-really-need-to-buy-a-swim-spa-and-get-some-exercise kind of way. Eventually, I got there and I flopped down in the free seat (thankfully it was an aisle!) where my thighs made quick acquaintance with the nice lady sitting next to me.

I kid you not, I sat there for about fifteen seconds, when the flight attendant pulled the cart back a few feet and motioned for me to return to my seat. Apparently, she felt that I was sufficiently punished for breaking the rules. I got back up, sashayed my way down the same damn micro aisle, bumping and nudging the same poor people again and made my way back to my seat. I swore off all liquids for the remainder of the flight.

When I got settled back into my seat, and used two wet wipes to sterilize my hands, I checked my phone. Surely an hour must have gone by since this flight started. The whole bathroom fiasco had to take fifteen or twenty minutes at least. Right? Wrong. We’d been in the air for twenty minutes total. Bathroom fiasco included. Fuck.

So I sat. I tried not to think about the small windows, the narrow cabin, the low ceilings and all the people crammed in near me. I tried listening to the audio book but I couldn’t concentrate and the engines were loud and bleeding through into the story. Even with the volume on high, I could still hear the plane noises through the ear buds.

Finally, out of desperation and the very real concern that I was going to freak out completely and have  a panic attack right then and there, I searched for downloaded music on my phone. Normally, I don’t download music to my phone. I stream it. Thankfully, I found a handful of songs I downloaded at some point, probably accidentally. Included in them was a 4:49 second Whitney Houston song, I Have Nothing. I’m not a huge Whitney fan, but I like some of her songs and this is one of them. I started playing it, top volume through the ear buds. And it worked! Whitney can sing, and she’s LOUD. She completely drowned out of the airplane sounds.

I closed my eyes and tried to mentally go somewhere else. I don’t know how to meditate, but I do know how to visualize scenes for my book. So I did that. With Whitney’s I Have Nothing on repeat, I disappeared into Hawksville, North Carolina with the characters in my book. After a few minutes I felt the pressure in my chest abate. Air came easier.  I unclenched muscles I wasn’t aware I was clenching. And finally, I fell asleep.

When I woke up, Whitney was still playing and we were preparing for landing. I made it. I made it through flying in a little tin can of a plane. When we disembarked, I was relieved. The plane we fly home on much larger, a normal sized plane with three seats across on each side. The worst of the trip was over, I thought.

Boy, was I wrong.

To Be Continued

5:50 PM

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This is the type of plane we flew out on. It looks a hell of a lot larger from the outside than it does from the inside!

One Step Closer

July 28, 2018 8:49 AM

I did something earlier this week that I never thought I’d do voluntarily. I booked a trip to New Jersey.

Not that I have anything against New Jersey, per se’; okay, I really hate Newark, but there are parts of New Jersey that are very nice. I used to work for a company who had its headquarters in New Jersey, in the same general area where the Real Housewives of NJ is filmed, and I’ve traveled there plenty of times on business.

Dennis works for the same company, and several times we were on the same business trip. This allowed us to extend our time there to do some sight-seeing when the work was done. We spent a weekend in New York once, and visited the top of the World Trade Center on August 10, 2001.

We’ve been to Ocean City, where I bought a cool hat that Dennis has since procured as his lawn-mowing hat, and we went to Atlantic City twice. Once was a planned trip and the other was impromptu when we found out our flight was delayed for an unknown amount of time. (In my experinece this happens a lot in Newark). Dennis and I had already checked our luggage, so we rented a car with only the clothes on our back and drove to Atlantic City for the night and caught a flight back to Milwaukee late the next night.

It was fun to be spontaneous and see where the road took us so to speak. In this case, however, the road took us to a really seedy, not-so-clean Days Inn in a scary part of town. It was the first (and last) time I slept in a motel with bars on the windows. We saw drug dealers on the corner when we pulled into our motel. I know they were drug dealers because I saw a guy hand off a packet of something and take money in exchange. There were also prostitutes hanging around the exterior of motel, at least I assume they were prostitutes. I didn’t get official confirmation on that one. In spite of the unexpected environment we found ourselves in for the night, it was still a fun experience and one I’m glad we did. As a bonus, our luggage, which traveled to Milwaukee without us, was still there waiting at the airport for us in airline storage.

Some of my favorite memories of New Jersey is the food. They have, hands down, the best Italian food anywhere. And the New York Pizza. Ohmygod. There was a little pizza place that delivered to the hotel I always stayed in. I’m hoping it’s still there (and that I can remember the name.) While it’s tempting to book a trip to New Jersey just for the food, that is not the reason I am going.

Nor am I going to Atlantic City this time, although, it was tempting to tack an extra day on trip and stop there for a night (with a reservation in a nice casino hotel, of course). The reason I am going to New Jersey is the next step on my quest for the swim spa.

Dennis needs to go to New Jersey for a couple of nights in July for his job. The main swim spa manufacturer I’m interested in has its main show room in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is not far from New Jersey. I’m basically, piggy-backing on Dennis’ trip so I can visit the swim spa store.

Instead of flying out the evening before he needs to be there, Dennis and I will fly out the morning before he needs to be there. We will drive to Philadelphia and I will try out all the varieties of Endless Pools that are in our price range. I have the sensible, secure one-piece suit all ready for the test swims. (Click here to read about what happens when you use a swim spa in a tankini).

After we try the pools, I’m hoping we can find a place to get an authentic Philly Cheesesteak sandwich. (Please leave me your recommendations for good places in the comments). Dennis and I are planning to drive to northern New Jersey that afternoon, in time to have an Italian meal that night. And another Italian meal the next night. (Okay, so maybe the trip is a little about food).

During the day, I am planning to enjoy eight plus hours of uninterrupted writing time in the hotel.  That just doesn’t happen here at home very often. And I’m hoping to find that New York pizza place again and have them deliver pizza for lunch at the hotel. (I’m going to need that swim spa to get installed pronto with all the weight I’m going to gain on this trip!)

While we will have a car, and I could drop Dennis off at the office in the morning and keep the car myself during the day, I don’t think I will do that. I drove in New Jersey once, up into the Catskills in NY, to an outlet mall with a girlfriend from work. This was before google maps and GPS’s on our phones and in our cars, and I managed to get us horribly lost on the way home. Instead of ending up in northern New Jersey where our hotel was, we ended up in Newark, circling the George Washington Bridge for an hour. I finally decided to drive away from the George Washington Bridge because I knew I didn’t want to cross into New York. However, I had no idea where I was going, and we didn’t bring a map. All we had were some handwritten instructions to the outlet mall given to us by a co-worker.

Driving west, away from New York, landed us in a super bad part of Newark. We saw a guy running full-bore down the street being chased by another guy. We were afraid they had guns and we’d get caught in the cross-fire. It was 11:00 at night, and we were the only car around so I ignored all speed limits and stop signs in that neighborhood. I was too afraid to stop and I figured if there was a cop around, he had more important things to do than to pull me over for a traffic violation.

Eventually, I got my bearings and we started to go north, toward the hotel. Gradually, the neighborhoods got less scary. When it felt safe enough, we stopped at a convenience store and bought a map which guided us back to the vicinity of the hotel. We ended up having to call the front desk at the hotel to have them talk us in the last few miles.  It took us forty-five minutes to drive to the outlet mall and three and half hours to get back to the hotel.

I suppose with technology, driving in New Jersey this time wouldn’t result in the adventure it did the last time I drove there. But I’m not taking any chances. Dennis can have the car and if I get stir-crazy in the hotel, I’ll Uber to a Starbucks. Or an Italian restaurant for lunch.

I never liked traveling to New Jersey for work, but then again, I never much liked traveling anywhere for work. I’m looking forward to going back to New Jersey, this time as a tourist. I always seem to come back with a story whenever I visit there. Who knows what adventure I’ll find this time around?

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Whenever I drive out of the Newark airport the theme song from The Soprano’s always runs through my head.

9:41 am

 

Fight Like Cats and Dogs? Not in Our House!

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018 9:40 AM

It is a commonly held belief that cats and dogs do not get along. We’ve all heard the cliche’ “fight like cats and dogs”.

Personally, I’ve never thought that is the case. When I grew up we always had a cat and a dog and they never fought. When I was newly married to my first husband we had a cat and dog, too, before we had our son. They never fought either.

Naturally, when I brought in Sammy a year and half ago, and then Charlie nine months later, I had the expectation that the dogs would not fight with the three cats.

And they do not. They actually play together which we need to monitor because the dogs can get a bit loud and overbearing; but they never fight. Maybe I’ve just been lucky.

There are vast differences, though, in cats vs. dogs.

After a vacation where you lock a dog in a 5 X 8 room in a kennel for four days, they will greet you with unbridled love and enthusiasm. Their joy in seeing you will be boundless and there will be much licking, tail wagging and maybe even a little excited piddling. The fact that you were the one who left them for four days in an uncomfortable situation will never occur to them. As soon as they see you, you will be best buds again.

Cats are a bit different. After leaving them at home when you go on vacation, without barking dogs, and a pet sitter who visits and feeds them, pets them and plays with them not once, but twice a day, they will, in fact, ignore you when they see you. They know that you abandoned them and they will  look at you as if you are the lowest, most insignificant, non-entity they have ever seen. Until they decide they forgive you and insist on cuddling up on your head all night.

Nights. That is one thing I didn’t consider when I added dogs to our household. Dogs sleep schedules are much like human’s. They sleep at night and are up during the day. They are diurnal beasts. Cats are nocturnal beasts. The sleep all day and are up at night.

With three cats and two dogs, this combination of animals pretty much guarantees that some animal will want attention from Dennis and/or myself every hour of every day. This causes problems as we would enjoy uninterrupted sleep for at least five hours a night.

And then there’s that magic time of year that we are in right now, when the days grow long and the sun rises earlier. When the sun rises, so do the dogs. When the sun rises in the vicinity of 5 AM there is an overlap between the nocturnal beasts’ nighttime playtime and the diurnal beasts’ daytime playtime.

This is not good news for the humans in the house who now have two species cavorting at the end of the bed instead of just one.

There is now a competition for who gets to wake us up first. Will it be the cuddly cat who knows he only needs to purr to get me to pet him or will it be the dog who thinks licking whatever skin happens to be exposed will bring him attention? It could also be the cat who nibbles my nose to wake me. At least she’s gentle. Usually.

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Lucy, the nose nipper as seen on our web cam from when we were in Las vegas

Lately, it’s been the whining, barking dog who insists he has to go outside because it’s light out who has been getting us up. (This is the same dog who will refuse to go outside in winter until the sun comes up which is a good two hours later than it does now.)

I’ve heard there are people who lock their animals out of the bedroom at night. We’ve tried that and have the shredded carpet outside the bedroom door to prove it. Cats do not like to be locked out of anywhere. Dogs don’t like it either.  That’s one area that they are both the same.

I believe this dichotomy between sleep schedules is the real reason the combining of the species has been discouraged throughout the ages. It has nothing to do with them fighting.

I am probably the only person in the state who is looking forward to the days growing shorter.

10:38 am

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Highlights from Vegas with some help from Jimmy Buffet

Sunday, June 3rd, 2018 2:45 PM

Dennis and I spent four days in Las Vegas this last week. It’s the first time we’ve been away for the that long in two and half years since we last visited Vegas. I will be scoring this blog post with snippets of Jimmy Buffet songs because there is a Jimmy Buffet song appropriate for just about every occasion. (And we spent a lot of time at Margaritaville in Las Vegas).

Vegas has changed in two and half years. The hallways between the hotel rooms and elevators are longer. And the casinos are bigger, too. Everything is farther away and we did much more walking this time which is the reason that I was so stiff on Saturday that I could barely walk. I’m growing older but not up…

I really need to get that swim spa and start getting into better shape.

Seriously, there have been changes in Vegas since we were there last. Uber is now the way to get around. We did have a car, but we found it easier and cheaper to Uber between casinos on the strip. Especially since most hotels are now charging for parking (another change since the last time we were there).

Buying pot is now legal in Las Vegas. We ate pizza in a restaurant across from a very upscale strip mall that had a pot store next to an Einstein’s bagels and a gourmet popcorn shop. Coming from a state where having pot on you will at least get you fined, if not arrested (depending on how much you have), seeing a thriving pot store out in the open was a bit surreal to see. …I’ve run my share of grass/Made enough money to buy Miami …

Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville restaurant now has a casino as part of it. They have actual Jimmy Buffet slot machines (Dennis won on them!) and they have Coppertone suntan lotion scent dispersed into the casino through the air vents. Even the carpet looks like an aerial view of islands in an ocean. For a guy that sings about chilling and living the easy life he sure has an aggressive and amazing marketing presence. Bet he didn’t build that by spending his life sailing, fishing and drinking. Wasting away again in Margaritaville…

Speaking of drinking, I discovered a drink called a Bloody Maria at Margaritaville. I’m sure this isn’t a new drink, but it’s new to me. It’s basically a Bloody Mary made with tequila instead of vodka. I hate vodka but I like tequila! What a happy find that was. Why don’t we get drunk…

We also discovered gourmet cheese burgers and milk shakes at a restaurant in our hotel called the Black Tap. They were the best burgers I’ve ever had. Cheeseburger in paradise…

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The milk shakes were something to see. Dennis had Oreo Cookie and I had Cake Batter. His had a full Oreo Cookie ice cream bar and mine had a large piece of cake on top of the shake. They were humongous and fun. And expensive! Holy cow were they expensive. It was a good experience, but unlike the Bloody Maria, I think this will be a one-time experience for me.

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Our massive shakes. We didn’t even eat half of them they were so big and so rich.

One of the most serious changes were the many security guards with German Shepard dogs in the casinos on the Strip and also walking around Fremont Street downtown. I’m not sure of the exact reason, but I’m assuming they are trained to smell for explosives or gunpowder? One morning,  I saw a security guard in our hotel down on one knee rubbing the belly of her German Shepard who was rolling on his back and clearly enjoying the attention. The guard dogs have an important job to do, but they’re still dogs at heart. I was glad to see there was real affection between the guard and her dog. Somethin’ ’bout your dog sittin’ by your side…

There are some things in Las Vegas that have not changed and probably never will. It is hot. Ninety degrees and above every day.

You will lose. And I did. Every bit of cash I brought to gamble I lost. Dennis didn’t lose all of his so I guess that’s kind of like winning.

There are unusual people. Mainly in downtown, but I have also seen them on The Strip, too. Fruitcakes on the street/Struttin’ naked through the crosswalk in the middle of the week…

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The guy in green was a street performer. I’m not sure about the other guy.

Fifteen years ago, it used to be easy to pick out the “ladies of the evening” but now it’s not. They blend in with the other young women dressed for a night on the town. Apparently, styles for the party crowd have evolved to the point where many of the women dress in short, tight dresses with stilettos. This is not a condemnation nor an approval, merely a fact. And maybe a little awe and envy on my part at how those women can actually walk in stilettos when my feet were hurting in cushy Skechers. I go for younger women/ Lived with several awhile …

It was a good trip. One of the best since we got married in Las Vegas over ten years ago.

It was different, though. In the past I’ve worried about my mom when we were gone. I didn’t have to do that this time. Her 89th birthday would have been last Wednesday on the 30th. I was glad to not be home on that day. I think it was better to be in a different place. Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes…

I always worry about my animals when we’re away but this is the first time I’ve had dogs and been away for that long. Charlie and Sammy both survived kennel life well and Charlie the Survivor actually did better than Sammy. Sammy was very nervous and had to be checked out by the vet on staff to make sure there weren’t any bad issues with him (there weren’t, thank goodness). Charlie, being the survivor that he is, just rolled with it. I think that maybe because he’s old, he’s lived through a lot and nothing much phases him anymore. …some of it’s magic, some of it’s tragic but I’ve had a good life all the way.

Not a bad place to be in life, that’s for sure.

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Both dogs were very happy to see me and insisted on lap time.

So which Jimmy Buffet song are you humming now?

3:47 pm

 

 

My Husband, the TSA Magnet

June 2nd, 2018 11:06 PM

Last Monday,  when we traveled to Las Vegas, I was reminded of how Dennis is a magnate for airport security. It’s been that way for the past 15 years or so.

Dennis’ checked luggage is searched on most flights. Mine has only been searched once during the close to twenty years we’ve been traveling together.

Dennis has been the recipient of countless TSA random searches. I’ve never had one (knock on wood).

When going through customs in Mexico, you press a button to determine if your bag gets searched or not. Red means search. Green means no search. Dennis always gets Red.

I’m convinced all this scrutiny, random or otherwise, is the result of something that Dennis did in an airport during the spring of 2002, before we were married.

This was shortly after the shoe-bombing attempt happened in December of the prior year. Air-travel security was still being redefined after 9/11. Tensions were running high in the airports in general. Many people were still afraid to travel by air, and those who did were often nervous and wary of their fellow passengers. Security was viligant. Very viligiant.

Dennis and I were, once again, traveling to Las Vegas. We had checked in, got our boarding passes and cleared security.  We were early getting to our gate, as we always are.  As we sat there waiting to board, I noticed a lot of security guards milling around. I didn’t think much of it. At first.

Within fifteen minutes, our little gate had at least ten officials — both security guards and police officers. There were a few suited men milling around, as well. They  looked like FBI agents look on TV. People were starting to look nervous, whispering to each other and looking around for something or someone suspicious that would warrant all the security. I was getting nervous, too, as it became clear that whatever or whoever was drawing their interest was in our area.

Little did I know that the culprit was sitting right next to me.

As a group of four sheriff deputies descended upon us, Dennis leaned over and said to me, “I know what I did. Don’t worry, it’ll be okay.”

That was it. The sheriffs politely escorted Dennis away to a closed door room near our gate.

I was astonished. What should I do? Should I call a lawyer? Should I try to follow him inside the room? He couldn’t have done anything that bad, could he?

All these thoughts were going through my head while several gates of waiting passengers were staring at me as if I was part of some evil plot. The older woman and her husband who were sitting next to me changed seats. I tried to be nonchalant as if this sort of thing happened all the time. Nothing to worry about. Nothing at all.

After ten minutes, it was getting close to the time to board, and still no Dennis. What should I do if they start to board the plane? I couldn’t leave without him, could I?

Of course I couldn’t. Not because I am noble, but because I realized that Dennis was holding both our boarding passes.

Another five minutes passed, and I was ready to start hounding the gate agents for information, when I saw Dennis hurrying down the hallway towards me. He was flustered, but he looked unharmed.

Our fellow passengers in gate area didn’t look happy to see him.

What had he done to cause such a ruckus?

He had hid extra cash in his sock and as he was walking to the gate it shifted. While I was in the ladies room, he took off his shoe in the hallway and adjusted his sock. That was it.

Apparently airport security saw him take off his shoe on video and out of an abundance of caution, called for extra security, detained Dennis, checked his shoes and his sock and eventually let him go.

Our flight left a few minutes late that day due to Dennis and we had four very large, very imposing “passengers” that just happened to be seated all around us. I used the quotes because these passengers weren’t waiting for the flight before or during Dennis’ ordeal, nor did they have any carry on luggage. They didn’t read, talk to each other or nap during the flight. They all just sat there, alert. Once we landed in Las Vegas, these passengers didn’t take the tram to the luggage area with the rest of the passengers on the plane. They never did show up at the luggage carousel, either. I am convinced that the airline bumped several passengers to put security on the flight in the seats around us. I have to say, I felt very safe flying on that flight. I don’t think we’ve ever been safer on a plane than we were that day.

I haven’t thought about that story for awhile until we flew out of Milwaukee on Monday. Dennis and I now have TSA precheck, which means we can bypass normal security lines. We don’t have to take out our plastic baggies out to be x-rayed or take off our shoes or belts. It’s almost like traveling pre-9/11 except for getting our bag scanned and walking through a body scanner.

However, two or three times a day, a random bag check is flagged on a precheck TSA passenger. And guess who got flagged? Dennis, of course.

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Here is Dennis waiting for a TSA agent to search his bag. He no longer hides cash in his socks.

Thankfully, this check didn’t require security guards and closed door rooms. Just a quick check of his backpack and we were back on track.

The sock story has become somewhat of a legend in our house and we laugh about it now. But to this day, I still always carry my own boarding pass.

June 2nd, 11:59PM

 

 

Bow-Chicka-Wow-Wow

Thursday, May 24, 2018 11:42 AM (about Wednesday, May 23)

Dennis and I spent the afternoon yesterday in a pay-by-the-hour-motel.

Seriously. Me, germophone extraordinaire, not only went to a pay-by-the-hour-motel, I actually used the hot tub — something I never, ever do in any hotel, no matter how many stars there are in their Michelin rating.

The truth is, I don’t like using public swimming pools at health clubs or hotels, but I love, love, LOVE to swim. I have a bad knee and swimming is the only exercise I can do without pain.

A few years back , I overcame my germophobe ways enough to swim laps for an hour a day, five days a week, at health club. I did it for five months and my knee felt amazing. No pain at all. I’d like to get back to that. But I really, really don’t want to go back to swimming in public pools. It was this conundrum that brought me to the doors of the Sybaris Motel in North Brook, Illinois, yesterday afternoon.

The Sybaris motel is a small chain of motels in Wisconsin and Illinois that are marketed as a lover’s getaway. Brochures show dimly lit rooms with fireplaces, beds encased with lights and full size, private swimming pools.

I’m not a fan of staying in hotels in general. When I do stay in one, I bring my own blanket and I touch the bedspread only enough to pull it off the bed and cram it in the corner for the rest of my stay. I don’t go quite so far as to sleep in my own silk encased sleeping bag like Howie Mandel does when he stays in hotels, but I understand the sentiment behind his doing it.  Staying in the Sybaris, much less using any of the pools where you-know-what has certainly happened in them, has never crossed my mind.

Until I learned about the swim spa room. I discovered swim spas about three years ago. They are essentially a large bathtub with strong jets that propel out from one end. These jets are strong enough to allow you to “swim in place”. It is the perfect answer to my want to swim/hate swimming in public pools problem. They can be put indoors and they cost much less than building a regular swimming pool.

The problem is, and has been for three years, I haven’t been able to find a place to let me try one. This is a significant investment. One I’m not comfortable making unless I can give one a good long test drive.

The various places that sell swim spas offered to let me try their units out in the showroom. How appealing, having to show up in my swimming suit to swim in a showroom full of customers and sales people. Not! And how long could I use it? A minute or two? I certainly couldn’t swim for even fifteen or twenty minutes in there. How would I know if it was really a good workout?

Then last week, Dennis discovered one Sybaris location about two hours from our house that has a swim spa in one of their rooms. The rooms are expensive – well over $200.00 for a night. However, they did have the option of renting the room from 12:30 to 4:30 on a weekday afternoon for a little over a $100.00.

Could I do it? Could I get over the ick-factor of going in the water at one of these sex-motels to try out my swim spa? Now granted, this is a no-name swim spa, so I knew I would have to try out the exact model I want in a pool show room at some point. However, that could be a minute or two swim to try it out if I had already spent significant time swimming in a swim spa and knew I liked it. The Sybaris could be my proof-of-concept test. If I hated it, that would be that.

We booked the room for Wednesday afternoon.

The Sybaris was not what I expected. In spite of the subtly decorated rooms in their brochure, I was expecting to get a tacky, seventies-era room with mirrors everywhere, a fake leopard print bedspread and Bow-Chicka-Wow-Wow porn music piped in. There were no animal skins fabrics, there was an 80’s station playing and the only mirrors were a mirrored headboard. It actually looked like the room in the brochure.

room1

There are strict rules at the Sybaris. Top of the list is no animals, no children and no more than three people to a room, no matter how large the room is. I’m assuming this is to discourage parties in their rooms?

From the time we drove off the congested highway into the parking lot, everything about the Sybaris screamed discreet. There were large hedges and privacy fences that blocked the busy road from seeing the cars in the parking lot. The desk clerk asked “which car” we’d be driving to our room. Only one was allowed. Apparently, there are many people who arrive here with two.

View from the parking lot when checking in

We drove through a privacy gate to our bungalow. It was a small house that was not connected to any of the other bungalows around it. More tall hedges and privacy fences hid the view of our bungalow from any of the others. We had our own parking space right in front of the door. I read that some of the bungalows have their own attached one car garage for those who want complete discretion.

The bungalows looked nice from the outside. They were landscaped nicely with flowers, and they had an architectural style that reminded me of a small tropical bungalow. All the bungalows are made of painted cement blocks. When I got inside the room I realized there were no windows. This place was essentially a bunker; completely sound-proof and the ultimate in privacy. If there’s ever a real threat of nuclear war, I’m renting out one of these places. I’ll get the one with the private one car garage so I can smuggle in my animals.

The room itself was nice looking. There was not a mirror above the bed as I expected, but there was a small lighted panel with the constellations of the zodiac. In the center was a large ring.

ceiling 1hook2

What was the ring for, we wondered? Then we opened the closet. Next to the ironing board and behind the suitcase stand was a sex swing. It was even wrapped up in the paper “sanitized for your safety” label that they normally put on toilets. I’m not sure if it came with instructions or warnings — weight limits or bad heart warnings, perhaps?  Sanitized paper or not, there was no way I was touching it to look.  There is no mention of the complimentary sex swing in their brochure on their website. Everything at the Sybaris is discreet.

swing1

Our room didn’t have a fireplace but it did have two TV’s with eight channels.  Two of them were porn. Bow-Chicka-Wow-Wow.

And then there was the swim spa. It was smaller than the ones I’ve looked it, but certainly large enough to give it a try. I changed into my Tankini (a two piece swimming suit that looks like a one piece) gritted my teeth and went in. It was warm which made me cringe. A cooler pool means less germs in my brain. I was somewhat comforted by the note on the check in slip that said the pools were serviced daily (even if guests were staying for more than one night) to ensure safe ph levels.

spa2swim2

Swimming in the swim spa was a challenge. It didn’t have multiple speeds like the ones I’m considering. This meant that I had to swim fast enough to keep myself in the “swim lane”. If I went too slow, the current would kick me out and I’d bang into the sides. If I went too fast, I banged into the front of the spa where the jets were.

I learned a lot. I learned there is a light in the bottom that allowed me to center myself in the current to sustain the swimming rhythm for longer periods. I learned I need to buy a swim spa that has an under the water current because it’s hard to get a breath of air while there are jets throwing up water around your head. I learned that swim jets will cause the top of a Tankini to gather around your arm pits leaving the thin layer of lining the only thing between you and swimming topless. Learning this last lesson prior to trying out a swim spa in a showroom was worth the cost of the room in and of itself.

There were a lot of stops and starts at first, while I figured out what I was doing. Finally, I was able to swim for longer periods of time before stopping. I was out of breath a few times, which is a good sign it was a good workout, but I still wasn’t sure. So I did one final push to swim for a long time without falling out of my swim lane. I lasted about 2.5 minutes straight. Considering I used to swim for an hour straight, this isn’t much.

I wasn’t convinced that the swim spa gave me a good workout. Until I got out of bed this morning. Every muscle in my body hurts today. Shoulders, arms, even the tops of my feet! They say swimming exercises every muscle group in the body. I believe it.

Overall, the swim spa experiment was a success. I liked it enough to warrant further research and test swims. I will be buying a no-nonsense one piece suit before I swim in any show rooms, however.

When we checked out of the Sybaris, I was amazed at how many other people were checking out, too. Apparently, there’s a lot of people who rent hotel rooms for four hours in the afternoon. I wondered how many of them were actual couples looking for a change of pace and how many of them were there cheating on their significant other? I wondered if they were wondering the same thing about me. Maybe they were all testing out the various pools Sybaris offers. Probably not.

But I came here just to try out the swim spa. Honestly!

All in all, it was a fun afternoon. I got to try my swim spa and I caught a glimpse into a lifestyle I’ve not seen before. I think there could be inspiration for a story there. Finally, and best of all, as of this morning I’m free of any creepy, yucky rash I could have caught from the water.

Proof-of-concept completed.

12:48 PM