Friday, February 12, 2016

Passenger of the Day: Shaken and Stirred

Sunset clouds

Every now and then you'll get a great pilot who likes to come out of his and actually interact with passengers. They do have a lot to do up there before a flight; check lists, write ups, fuel sheets, weights and balance figures, the walk around, a quick call to the wife and or girlfriend. This flight had the type of captain who came into the cabin at the end of the boarding process with information on the weather at our destination and in flight. He mentioned an area of storms that we'd be passing on our way to the East Coast. I could see 3E's face tighten. Another example of the captain meaning well and having to make me come in afterwards and smooth ruffed up feathers.

When he was done with his presentation, he returned to the switches and knobs of the cockpit and I began to pick up pre-departure cups from my passengers in first class. When I got the 3rd row, Nervous Flyer stopped me.

The woman in 3E was sharply dressed and very pleasant. She wore a tan outfit with sparkly jewelry, including a corded necklace ending with an elaborate-looking tassel. She smiled often and used pleasantries any time we spoke.

“The captain said it might be a bit bumpy in flight?” she asked sheepishly.
“There is a chance we may have a few bumps. I'm sure it won't be bad. Do you not like bumps?” I asked.
“No, I'm what they call a nervous flyer.”
“My mother was a nervous flyer when I started this job. She's great with flying now. I told her how much safer she was in the air than on the ground. The most dangerous part of the trip was the drive home!”
“I've heard that,” she said.
I continued, “I actually love turbulence.” She made a face. “I know, I'm one of those...” She laughed, but still appeared a bit nervous.

I went on to explain a little about turbulence and what causes it. I told her to imagine a pot of boiling water. The air can be much like that pot of boiling water, with bubbles of air rising and falling in the atmosphere. When the plane encounters these rising bubbles of air you get turbulence.

She greatly appreciated the visual and said she felt much better, but she'd be keeping an eye on me.

“Don't tell me,” I interrupted, “you keep an eye on the flight attendant knowing that if they are calm, everything is OK, but if they look concerned, you should be as well.”
“Yeah,” she said.
There is nothing to fear.
“My mom told me that when I first started flying!” It's something I've always remembered. To this day, if I hear a noise from the plane that is out of the ordinary, or I get a call on the interphone from the pilots about weather ahead, I act nonchalant and calm; smile on my face. Even if they're only
calling for a lavatory break, people in the cabin don't know why I'm on the phone. For all they know, there's a fire in the cargo hold, a wheel just fell off, or we are serving only fruit cake.

As if often the case, the pilot's reports were not entirely accurate and the flight ensued with very few bumps at all. It's almost disappointing when we get notified of reports of turbulence coming up and then nothing happens. Passengers get up and we advise them, “Please take a seat, the captain has told us that we are expecting turbulence and we want you to be safe.” Then nothing happens and the seat belt sign gets turned off and I look like a liar. Happens all the time. I call the flight deck, “Hey, can't you make it bounce for just a bit?”

Night flying
Yeah, I like turbulence. I like to feel the plane fly. But, I have hurt my knee when a jolt threw me to the floor. One of the most fun episodes was when I was trapped in the rear of a 747 coming home from Sydney. Fortunately, there were a lot of open seats, so when the plane began to dance through the air during our meal service, I was able to park the dinner cart and take a seat. The plane bounced so much that meals began to fall out the other end of the cart and onto the floor. All I could do was sit there and listen to the clatter.

People have died in turbulence, shooting out of their seats and hitting their head on the ceiling. It can be very dangerous and sudden. So when you are asked to do so, for your safety, and the safety of those around you, please, return to your seat and fasten your seat belt. And keep the over head bins closed. Thank you.

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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Adventures in Flight: Lima Layovers

Gato on the street in Lima

A friend was reading my short stories and noticed that I go to Lima a lot. I like long layovers and the 25 hours we get to spend there is fun, and I enjoy the 6 hour trip from Houston. He asked if I could write some helpful tips, and I was only happy to do so.

First, there is the hotel. I stay in a lot of Marriott hotels with my job, which is interesting, because in the 90s, I worked hotel security at a Marriott in Dallas. But the JW Marriott in Lima's Miraflores district is one of the finer hotels in the system. It offers commanding views of the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The lobby is above street level and has nice marble floors and walls, a modern water fountain and grand chandelier. The staff are all smiles and very accommodating. When checking in, there is often either flavored water or teas sitting out. Be careful of the coca tea, I hear it will show positive in certain drug tests!

Dessert in the Marriott Rewards Lounge
The room levels are secured with a keyed entry in the elevators. If you're lucky enough to be a Marriott Rewards member with access, the lounge on the 24th floor is quite deluxe. They serve fantastic food; an elaborate breakfast with waffles, hot cakes, meats, breads, cereals, eggs...I could keep going. Lunch is often easy foods, such as quesadillas, pizza and salads. In the evening you can find ribs, burger bites, and local chicken dishes with rice and usually a tasty soup. For dessert, don't miss several of the small dishes, enjoy a cookie or some South American chocolates.

The rooms all have ocean views and are generous in size. The bathrooms have a stand up shower with a separate tub. You'll find all the amenities; nail file, sewing kit, cotton balls and swabs, nice-smelling shampoos and lotion and even bath salts. Each room has a small refrigerator, with ample room for storing a few of your own items. The coffee maker is a bit confusing to use, but I don't drink coffee; follow the instructions and you should be fine.

They offer a great dry cleaning service and they also have complimentary shoe shining. Don't forget, even though it's complimentary, tips are greatly appreciated in Peru.

An old car seen on my exploration

If you know me, you know I occasionally enjoy an adult beverage...or two. One of my favorite bars the world over is located in the casino that adjoins the JW Marriott- Casino Majestic. I mention this all the time and people always ask why I say it's my favorite bar. For one, the bartender now knows me and for the first time in my life I can walk in, say hi, and ask for my usual. He knows I drink pisco sours and that I will ask for the complimentary snacks, including tasty sandwiches. Also of note, the casino is a great place to exchange US cash for Peruvian pesos.

If shopping is your thing, you can never go wrong in asking a flight attendant where to do so! Since Lima was new to me this year, I have followed a few flight attendants around in hopes of a good deal. Of course, right across the street from the hotel is a very interesting shopping mall, Larcomar. Why interesting? From the street, one would never know there was a shopping mall, as it's built into the cliff, below street level. Just a few yards across the park from the JW, towards the ocean, down some stairs and you will be confronted with many the up scale shops you'd find in any North American city. 

Colorful Peru

On the north end of the mall, on the lower level, is even a grocery store. You won't find all the nitty gritty, but it's a decent sized store with liquor, staples and even fresh food and a few seats to enjoy dining while looking out over the ocean. The larger store's a little further away, so if you're in a bind for time, this one will do the trick.

Other dining choices in the mall range from standards, such as TGI Friday's, Pardo's Chicken and Tony Roma's, to fast bites, such as KFC, Pizza hut and local burger fast food, all in a small food court. Other than Pardo's, who has great chicken, I usually skip the mall and find a nice quiet restaurant a few blocks away. Make sure you have time, Peruvians are not known for fast lunch service. Plan on a slow, leisurely meal and let them know when you're ready for the bill.

An Inka Market in Lima
The JW is at the end of Avenue Jose Larco in Mira Flores. Walk up this street to find all you could want on a Lima stay over within about a mile or so. For shopping, you will want to explore the various Inca and Indian Markets, which are located just north of Ave Jose Pardo on Ave Pettit Thouars. From the hotel, it's a 1.1 mile walk, or an inexpensive cab ride. The markets are full of local wares, including scarves, sweaters, gloves, hats and more made from Alpaca wool, which is very soft. Many of the women I have shopped with enjoy looking at jewelry. The markets are a great source for holiday gifts, as well.

Many crew members love going to the grocery store. There is a great store with fresh food, a liquor department and any necessary staples just west of the intersection of Ave Jose Larco and Calle Schell, which is an easy .7 mile walk. Some of my more interesting finds in the Metro Supermarket, which I've written about previously, is the chocolate milk in plastic bags, and chocolate Besos de Mosa, in yellow boxes...marshmallow covered in chocolate on a thin cookie. If you like churros, on the corner of Jose Larco and Schell is a nice cafe with local desserts.

I love walking the streets of Lima

For another culinary find, walk down Calle Schell to Diagonal and head north. Across from Parque Kenedy is Calle de las Pizzas. You can't miss it, it's an alleyway lined with restaurant after restaurant. Each one seems to have the same basic menu: pizza, pasta and seafood. Outside each you'll most likely find friendly but almost pushy hawkers trying to convince you to dine with them. We found one that promised a free pisco sour, so ask around!

Seafood lunch on Calle de las Pizzas

And finally, I give to you a find that I happened upon by chance after dining on seafood on Calle de las Pizzas...The Chocolate Museum! ChocoMuseo is located at Calle Berlin 375. It's an out of the way, lazy little street, just 2 blocks from pizza row. Here you'll find everything chocolate, from soap, to teas, to candy bars. There are displays on how chocolate is grown and produced. Buy a tee shirt and chocolate liquor to take home or have a seat in the outdoor area and sample fruit-dipped chocolate fondue! 

Lining up for fondue at the chocolate museum

Lima has so much to offer and no matter how you travel, whether on the cheap or going it first class, you will be happy. The people, mostly Incan descendants, are friendly, short in stature and colorful. It's a fun city to explore. It's easy to walk, but do be careful of crossing the street, pedestrians don't necessarily have the right of way. In the 6 or 7 trips I've had there in the past year, I've been able to explore a lot of Mira Flores. My next few trips, I hope to explore more the culture and history of what is the third largest city in the Americas. I can't wait! 

Sunset behind an island in the Atlantic

Monday, February 1, 2016

Adventures in Flight: Rainy Days and Mondays (I Always get Around)

Exploring a very wet Rhode Island town
The wettest layover I ever had was in Providence, RI. That is, it used to be. As is the case for Pasadena, CA, I'd never been to Providence and I wasn't going to let a little rain spoil the chance for me to get out and see it.

The good traveler that I am, I have my handy compact umbrella in my bag. It's a magical umbrella...if it looks like rain and I take it, the dark clouds will mock me and hold their juice. If it looks like rain and I leave it in my hotel room, the skies open overhead. The only time it isn't magic, is when it already raining; the perfect test of whether or not I'll actually venture out.

A rainy day in Hong Kong
Wet tracks in Frankfurt, Germany

When I was in Brussels for the first time, I spent my first morning exploring in a light drizzle. I was recently caught without my umbrella in a wondrous thunderstorm while exploring Ft. Lauderdale, taking refuge under the carport of an apartment complex. Chicago, London, Denver, Narita, Frankfurt; rain, quite damp, gully washer, ame, regen mit donner!

A storm hits Ft. Lauderdale
In the case of Providence, it was sprinkling out, so the umbrella came with me, of course. This was near the start of my artistic photography experiments, so I enjoyed exploring new places, taking photos that interested me. I like textures and angles, and found some great things to shoot.

Textures on a wet street in Rhode Island
It was when I got about as far away as I had hoped to venture and started heading back towards my hotel that the skies truly opened up. Never mind, I was not going to let it spoil my adventure. I wandered through a neighborhood under a small umbrella with camera in hand. When I got back to my room, my pants were soaked up to the knees. My shoes were as submarines just surfacing from a long sea voyage. My socks were literally to be wrung out and laid to dry.

US flags in the rain

And here is a tip for helping speed the drying process on clothes...bring out the ironing board and run the iron over them. The shoes you just have to pack in the plastic bag that normally hangs in the closet. Or, if there is an air conditioner under the drapes (and if they don't stink) you can use the hangers with the clips to hang the pants on the drapes and have the air blow on them for a while.
Using a hangar to dry out pants.

And then there was my time in historic Pasadena, California, home to the famous Rose Parade on New Year's Day. How many times I've seen the wondrous floats clad with beauties waving from among legumes, flowers and seeds adorning elaborate parade floats. There I was, just a few days into the new year, with the bleachers and stands still in place waiting to be disassembled, admiring the architecture and quaint shops. In the rain I ventured out, with umbrella in hand. I'd never been to Pasadena, and who knows if or when I'll find myself back again. After all, I've yet to return to Providence.

Wet street in Pasadena

In Rhode Island
I don't care what day it is or how wet it may be. I got this job to see the world and that's why I travel with my umbrella. I want to get out and explore. Doesn't matter if it's a rainy day or a Monday, I won't let it get it me down. Out and about I must go!

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Adventures in Life: The Apartment

Apartment #1 on bottom left, this was the front door.

I love going back in time. It's not so hard to do when you live in your home town. Every few years I enjoy driving back through my old neighborhood and seeing how things have changed. The U-Totem convenience store is gone, along with the old washateria next to it. It's now a bright, shiny new home store. The old GM dealership on the corner is a beauty supply mega-store. The old House of Pies is still there, and then there is the apartment.

The old House of Pies on Kirby Dr., a Houston institution

The apartment I have the most memories of- some of the first and most impressionable memories of my childhood- is on the borders of the artsy Montrose and the affluent River Oaks section of Houston. This is the apartment were I went to kindergarten; I still remember Mom taking pictures of me and my friend, Dallas, on the day I started first grade. Wow, I had a friend named Dallas! In the alley behind the apartment is where I learned to ride a first bike, a Christmas gift, as was my first Lego set.
This is where I learned to ride a bike and I played in that very puddle of water!

This was the apartment where I lost my first pet dog in a battle with a car on nearby Kirby Dr. This is the apartment of my first pet cats, who had kittens in the living room. This is the apartment where I first noticed airplanes in the sky, where I played with Yvette in the bushes under my window, where I admired all the Halloween candy from the mansions a few blocks away, where I played in puddles after a rain and where, one day, I got in trouble for throwing rocks at passing cars. I was four...I had no idea that was bad. But I learned!

Mom was young and struggling after her divorce to a man who turned out to be a selfish, egotistical piece of work. When her struggle became too much, she would walk me onto an airplane and send me to my grandparents. This is the reason I'm so close to my family, and Mom's independence and ability to overcome her struggles was passed on to me.

For years I've driven by this apartment and watched as it got new paint jobs, new flowers in the yard, new curtains in the windows. Eventually, some of the neighboring apartments were torn down and up went shopping strips of furniture and children's toy stores. Then today, some 44 years after I lived there, as I drove back in time, my old apartment itself has been turned into a store! It's now an annex of the very store that overtook the neighboring buildings.

These door used to the our covered parking space.

I had planned to park and take some photos, afraid that one day soon, I'd drive by and it would be gone. But I guess that apartment had good bones, for there it was, just as I remembered it, except that the front yard was now paved for cars to park and people shopped for home goods in the place where all my oldest memories were formed. If they only knew! I went inside; something I'd longed to do for oh, so many years.

I walked into what used to be my living room. I could still see the Christmas tree and remember asking Mom how Santa was going to enter without our having a chimney. She told me he had magic keys and would walk in the front door, which was now blocked by a table showing off fancy plates and glassware. This was the room where I discovered Batman on TV, would first watch The Wizard of Oz and laugh at the antics of The Three Stooges before leaving for school (the Montessori school I attended is still there). This was the room my father got into an argument with a man my mother was dating. It made me cry, as it was the first time I realized that my father was flawed.

It was in this corner Mom had our Christmas tree.

As I walked to where my bedroom used to be, I could see where the window was, now blocked by a shelf full of stemware. The space between our apartment and the building next to it has been connected, so instead of the large bushes just outside are now candles and fancy candle holders. That window was home to the air conditioner, that beautiful machine. I loved the sound it made, lulling me to sleep and the cold breeze it provided on sultry Texas nights.

The window of my bedroom used to have a large bush.

Suddenly, I realized that I was standing in the place where, each night, I would lie my head and fall into dream land. The glasses on the shelves blurred through the tears forming in my eyes. I could still see the walls that were now gone, and the posters I had hanging over my bed; see the hole in the ceiling of the bathroom that fell in after the upstairs flooded. (I was able see the upstairs neighbor's tub when that happened!)

You can see where the walls were. Upper right was the corner of my bedroom; left was the kitchen.

To my right was where my Mom's room was. I could still see her teasing her hair in front of the mirror in the corner. Beyond her room was the small 1-car covered parking space. And behind me was where our kitchen used to be, the same kitchen Mom worked so hard on to paint...yellow and orange, if I remember correctly. She was such an artistic rebel!

Standing in Mom's bedroom, the kitchen was on the left and my room was behind that column.

From the living room looking to the back of the apartment.

Now, it was all a huge showroom for Kuhl-Linscomb, a top-end design and lifestyle store. The hardwood floors were now stained concrete, but one can still see where the walls used to be. So many memories from 44 years ago came flooding back as I looked around. This is where I learned to tie my shoes. This is where I watched Carol Burnett. This is where Mom cut her wrist on broken glass and I remembered how badly I felt for her while she cried as we drove to the hospital. This is where I lived when I first went to Astroworld (gone), first went ice skating at the Galleria, first ate wonderful greasy burgers at the Purple Cow down the street from Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips (both gone). 

Where the bathroom used to be. You can see the hole in front of the column where the toilet was.

The thrill I had in riding my bike up the parking garage of the building around the block, the top from which I could see the Astrodome, was still with me. I loved that damned building with it's magical light-up scoreboard with fireworks displays, eventually removed for more seats; yet another sad change from my childhood. Some of the quirky apartment homes in the neighborhood that I loved remain, but many have been torn down and converted to townhomes. How times have many 4 and 5 year-olds ride their bikes without supervision in the busy streets of Houston today? 

Of the quirky apartment buildings still stands a block away.

So if you find yourself in building 3 of K-L looking at wine glasses, this is where a very young Penguin would attempt to make himself appear hot at night so Mom would turn on my air conditioner, allowing me to sleep better. (To this day, I still sleep with a fan at night.) Take care of my apartment Kuhl-Linscomb. I want to come back and visit again. The old apartment has changed. But so have I...and Mom, too. Just like that home to a single mother struggling to make ends meet and raise her son, now a quaint shop of high-end home d├ęcor, we've come a long way and are doing much better for ourselves. And don't worry about Santa, he's gotten in just fine before!

Where this pickup is parked used to be a large bush under which I would play with Yvette and Dallas.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Passenger of the Day: Emotional Baggage

Penguin in Denver
At the airport in Denver, I was waiting at the gate for my next flight when I saw a woman approach the counter. Under her arm was an over-sized, cute, stuffed kitty. It was white with pink ears and paws and it seemed to be smiling at me from the across the gate room, even though the kitty was upside down under her arms.

When I first started flying, pets were allowed in the aircraft cabin only if in carriers. When I was hired, Adelie and Kipper, my two fur babies, lived in Houston with my father while I was in training. After getting settled in California, I flew to Texas to retrieve them, flying them to their new home in 2 small carriers. The flight was not full and the captain, upon seeing my boys, saved space in the first class closet for them. During the flight, he even came back to my seat in coach to let me know he just looked in on them and that they were doing fine.

Today, humans are full of emotional baggage, and needy, selfish Hollywood socialites have glamorized traveling with small dogs wherever they go. With the
Air Carrier Access Act bringing fines of up to $150,000 for refusing someone with a legitimate emotional need, people now search for unscrupulous doctors for fake emotional pet notes. Some then purchase fake animal assist collars and vests just so they can bring Fido on board and avoid paying the airline fees for pet carriers. What's worse, some passengers are now allowed to bring Fido out of the carrier and sit them right on their lap during flight. Fido isn't always well behaved.

Supposed service animals have pooped, bitten others, gotten loose, and humped people's legs while on aircraft. More and more people take advantage of the system and it upsets those who have serious reasons for needing a support animal, not to mention that it can be stressful for pets. Today, there are groups trying to reel in the abusers, but everyone is afraid of stepping on the exposed nerves of someone who really has issues.

I startled a dog half to death once. She was settled between the owner's leg and the side of the seat in first class. I had no idea the dog was there, hidden under a thin blanket! I reached down with a ramekin of nuts, pulling out the small tray to set them down. I'm not sure who jumped more, the pooch or me!

Flying during the holidays, I sat next to a woman who had Jesus at her feet. Jesus was a little Chihuahua they had taken in from a neighbor. The woman was explaining to her daughter on the phone how it cost over $100 for Jesus to fly with us today, but she was going to contact a doctor when they got home to get a note so Jesus could fly for free.

I love seeing pets on my flights, especially the kitties. I'm seeing more and more animals (actual animals, not just people acting like them) and usually the animals stay in the carriers during the entire flight. For the most part, no one ever knows they are there. Only a few times have I had issues with other passengers who have allergies, but we usually accommodate them easily enough by moving the affected person away from Whiskers or Fido. So far, I've not seen the more exotic passenger pets, but I've heard tale of turkeys, pigs, miniature horses and even penguins gracing the aisles of aircraft.

As I sat in my window seat watching the goings on outside my aircraft window, the woman with the kitty walked down the aisle and began eying the empty seat next to me. As she sat down, I commented on how cute the cat was. She hugged it tight and smiled. No hissing, no allergies, no mess. Just a woman and her stuffed animal. I miss the simple days when people traveled with stuffed animals.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Passenger of the Day: David Bowie

As we climbed from the runway leading to the north, departing Denver's airport, there he was, seated next to me. The Thin White Duke. Actually, he looked more to me like the Glass Spider, the David Bowie I saw in concert and came to love in the 80s. He sat silently, looking forward, unnoticed by the others on board.

Ziggy Stardust
I never cared for David Bowie when I was younger. Having grown up in Texas, he was a bit too far from center for the conservative ways I was surrounded by. I didn't understand him. He was odd, probably gay, and I didn't find his music appealing. But when I graduated and started college, my mind began to open up as I began to reach out with it to better understand my world. Bands I avoided in high school were now of great interest. Rush, Jethro Tull and Bowie were now some of my favorites. I do admit, I actually started liking David Bowie when “Let's Dance” was released in 1983. But it wasn't until college that I really appreciated his influence and his older work; Space Oddity, Changes, Suffragette City, Heroes.

And there was the actor side of Bowie. The strange alien who fell to Earth from a dying planet, the Goblin King and the dark twist on Vampires showed to me a man who had no fear in playing parts not of the mainstream. His sporadic work and interesting parts was always a thrill. I was a Bowie fan, but not a super fan. 

Bowie is "The Man Who Fell to Earth"

That's why the news of his sudden passing was such a shock. I had just come home from a trip and was on line catching up on things. I saw a friend had posted just few minutes prior about his death. I didn't believe it. He'd just released an album and celebrated a birthday, for crying out loud. He was too young to die, at 69! When his album, “The Next Day” was released in 2013, I thought it was one of his best and I couldn't wait to hear “Black Star”. I spent the next 18 minutes searching the Internet for confirmation, thinking surely this was just some cruel joke. When I saw that it was confirmed on multiple reputable news outlets, I still didn't believe it. So many of my friends were posting on social media. He had affected many, many lives around the world. Sadly, it must be true, and I struggled with how I felt about that.

Glass Spider Bowie
To have David Bowie pass away was like living in a magical house and finding out that the architect had died; the one who had created some of the most interesting spaces, the most unique lines and rich textures. In the world of music, he was one of the more inspired, most interesting and genius architects of sound. In the world of acting, he was nearly as prolific as his status as a musician.

So there I was, taking off from Denver. The news of his death was still settling in with me. I've not fully accepted the fact that he has passed away. I keep expecting to hear that it was a publicity stunt and that he's living in Berlin or South America or an island in the Pacific. Silly Bowie! I sat there and read an article about his life and times and tried to keep tears at bay. He had kept his fight with cancer a secret, and maybe knowing cancer got him and not me, six years ago, made the pain of his death more personal.

In the empty seat next to me was David Bowie; a polite British man, with those distinct eyes; his left one remaining fully dilated after being punched in a school-age quarrel over a girl. His hair fell comfortably onto his forehead. He smelled nice and looked dapper. I was listening to a compilation of my favorite Bowie songs on my MP3. He looked over and smiled. I nodded back and he disappeared in the haze of my tears. I looked out the window and could see the snow-covered ground glowing under a half-moon below. 

Bowie's dilated left pupil

Am I really living in a world without David Bowie? No. His work will long outlive me. But I will miss, terribly, his influence going forward. In his last album, in the song Black Star, he mentions someone taking his place. I don't think so, Mr. Bowie. No one could ever take your place. Planet Earth is blue and there's nothing I can do. Welcome back to outer space.

*(No photos in this story are my property)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Passenger of the Day: Do Fries Come with that Shake?

A snowy day in Chicago
Nothing like flying over the holidays. Most people are in good spirits. They are on vacation off to visit loved ones they've not seen in some time. It's such a joy to be around those we love and miss, enjoying great meals together, exchanging gifts, playing games, singing songs, full of good cheer.

There are, however, holiday travelers who are the complete opposite. The holidays are stressful. They have to visit family, those miserable judgmental miscreants responsible for years of therapy and perhaps the biggest reason, besides a fear of flying, for now traveling with a service animal yapping at crew instead of flying with a more silent stress relieving stuffed bunny, which just looks ridiculous with that ensemble they are wearing to show up Aunt Bealle and that horrid pleather outfit she wears in an attempt to look 20 years younger. And if that's not one of the longest sentences I've ever written, it must be true!

One of the best parts of the holidays for people on a budget is shopping the post holiday sales. After just landing in Denver, I found myself in line at a store offering up big discounts. It's rare to find big discounts in an airport, but who wants to buy Santa scarves and snowman socks in May? I found myself looking at tired ornaments, frayed garland and stale cards with enough glitter to make a fairy puke. Maybe it was the bustle of the other shoppers, but I found a reason to be standing in line to make a purchase.

The woman in front of me had an armload of finds. She was a pleasant woman who offered a smile as I took my place behind her. The woman at the register wore a sweatshirt, which, surely was once as white as snow, but now looked like it had missed the weekly laundry for about 4 months. Her hair was a most unnatural color, something between a blonde and red; a look achieved after a few too many hair colorings.

A plane and ugly snow
She had been at the register for some time when the woman in front of me asked somewhat to herself, but out loud, if Miss Sweatshirt was changing her mind. It seemed as if she was buying items and returning them. Miss Sweatshirt turned to look at the woman in front of me, with a blank stare. She turned back to the cashier and said, “Don't shake your head at me.” For a split second I thought they might have known one another. The woman in front of me seemed nice enough, and her comment didn't at all sound rude. But Miss Sweatshirt turned again and with a face as ugly as that damned sweatshirt, she said, “You just keep shaking your head until if falls off your ugly body.”

It must have been the sudden shock at such hostility that had inside voice revolt its role and suddenly I found myself saying out loud, “Now, there's no need to get rude.” Others in line were just as appalled and the woman just behind me said, “I'm shaking my head...look, I'm shaking my head!”

Taking a look at the other line, I decided to move over to give it a try. No drama was to be found here. The cashier was cheery and very quickly I was on my way out. Having to walk past the other cashier with the old grump, Miss Sweatshirt was still in line doing whatever it was that she had been doing. The pleasant woman in front of me had also left that line. I have to admit, I found myself shaking my head; and no, it did not fall off my ugly body!

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