Saturday, January 31, 2009
I sit down at the conference table in the back of our office. It is lunch time, 12:00 pm, and the official mid-day break. This pause in the workday gives me a chance to clear my head of the endless projects and refocus on the rest of the day. It also gives me the opportunity to shove some wonderful goodies in my mouth. On most days I can be found walking through the front door holding a brown bag of deliciousness. My lunch sack normally contains the customary turkey sandwich, on wheat, topped with; mustard, lettuce (when available), pickles and a slice of cheese. I also have chips, some type of granola bar, a piece of fruit, and the most glorious of all lunch time snacks….the pudding cup.
Most people would consider my lunch to be elementary. In fact, if you walked into any grade school you probably could find a collection of food exactly like mind, but just because I’ve grown older doesn’t mean I’ve lost all my adolescents. My age indicates that the mid-day meal should consist of a salad, or leftovers from last night’s meal, but these options make me feel so mature. I want a meal that reminds me of my youth, of recess, and trading the slightly bruised banana for two cookies and a half drunk bottle of 2% milk. I don’t want to be reminded that I have acquired grown-up responsibilities. The absolute last thing my meal should be shouting at me is: “Yo, Nick, the rent is due, you haven’t called back three clients, and your stomach is quickly expanding.” There is plenty of time for that world, just let me enjoy the next hour with a childlike spirit.
My favorite part of the meal, by far, is the pudding. I am a Snack Pack man. This appetizing end comes in a small plastic container that is shaped like a cup. The top is covered with an aluminum sheet that is tabbed on the side for easy opening. Inside lays the thick creamy substance that melts my heart and tingles my taste buds. My eyes always widen when I am about to dive into my lunch time dessert, and a huge smile comes across my face. It is one of the few things in life that is mood altering. I forget about the last catastrophe at work, or the fifteen light bulbs that need changing in my apartment, and drift into a world consumed of milk, sugar and flavor. Which flavor you ask? There is only one true Snack Pack flavor……Butterscotch.
If I was on death row and had to choose what my last meal would be Butterscotch pudding would have a place on my plate. It is a delectable combination of brown sugar and butter. Contrary to popular belief there is no scotch in Butterscotch, though that does give me an idea on a night that I have kick a few to many back. It is also the flavor of Royalty. In 1851 Queen Victoria was given some of the first scoops of Butterscotch at the opening of St. Leger Stakes horse track. I must have royally good taste buds!
There are many ways to eat a Snack Pack, but if you are a true connoisseur of pudding there is one technique that has to be practiced. It is the official lick of the aluminum top. This tongue swab is unqestionably the best part of the meal. It starts by sticking your tongue out as far as humanly possible. After your tongue is exposed, contact with the covering starts with the tip of your tongue and slowly progresses till a full side is cleaned off. You repeat the tongue swipe on the other side of the top till all ruminates of pudding are cleaned off. If needed, you can go back for a third lick, just to make sure no pudding is wasted. I normally take a break in between licks to savor the flavor. For this brief moment my life is absolutely perfect. There are no material possessions that would make me happier, no amount of money that would put a bigger smile on my face (well, maybe 7 zeros!), and no food that would awaken my senses more. It is a part of my day I look forward too.
Once the top is completely removed, and spotless, most people grab a spoon and throw the lid out. The only problem with this is, “What if you don’t have a spoon?” Fear not my fellow pudding eaters, there is a solution. It may not be the most professional of ways to consume pudding, but, it is as equality productive. If you bend the lid in the middle of the top, like your making a paper airplane, you can create a utensil that is perfect for scooping. The front of the lid comes to a point that is used to slide down into the mixture and once you lift up huge globs of pudding will remain. You can then wrap your lips around the aluminum and glide the goodness into your mouth. It works perfectly fine, and is the ideal solution when the spoon is accidentally left at home.
While I may, by age, be considered an adult with real responsibilities. I know that certain things can keep you young at heart. This is why the Snack Pack continues to find its way into my lunch on a daily basis. I hope that I continue to enjoy licking the top of the pudding lid when I’m 80, just like I did when I was 8. The day I stop eating pudding with the aluminum covering is the day I have lost myself in the huge pool of people that take life way to seriously. We should all take pleasure in these uncomplicated treasures.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
I pick up my toothbrush, starring directly at the bristles, wondering if they have been tampered with. I am about to put this utensil in my mouth with the intention of cleaning my teeth, but I have no proper test showing me that the brush is clean. I am in favor of some simple morning assessment that would determine if your toothbrush is in proper order for cleaning. It can be the breathalyzer of the dental cleaning community. You might come in the form of a indicator that you would put the brush in, and it gives you a green light (Your all set to clean away) or a red light (time to get a new brush). I struggle with this decision on a daily basis. Do I risk introducing germs into my mouth and live with bath breathe, or do I brush away and rub my tongue over my smooth canines? The challenges of life’s little decisions, how do we ever get anything done?
After raking my brain debating the merits of proper dental hygiene I always come to the same conclusion……Brushing is good. I grab the handle of my cleaning instrument and look for the toothpaste. I am a Colgate guy. To be more precise, I use Colgate Total Clean Mint Paste, it helps prevent cavities, gingivitis, and plaque…..only if you actually brush your teeth…..with a toothbrush. There are many methods to the application of toothpaste, but there is one thing that seems to be universally true about the tube. At one point in its life span the toothpaste cylinder there will be a build up at the application point. Some times it is small and doesn’t block access to dispensing your paste. But if you’re like me, you let the material build up, and build up, till finally you cannot see where the actual substance is supposed to come out.
When it gets to the level where you are unable to dole out more toothpaste most people take a few seconds and clean the container. All-n-all it takes about twelve seconds, but when you use your fingers to scrap the matter off the top of the tube you are risking one of the most unsavory feeling your sensory nerves can experience. The feeling of getting toothpaste stuck under your finger nails! UCK! I hate it! I would rather pass out, and it leads to then having to cut the nail the grit is under. Then I am forced to cut the other 9 nails to match that one. I now have used up an additional 2 minutes of time I did not plan for. This causes me to be late for work....and I have to somehow example to my boss that I am late for work because I was picking the toothpaste off the tube. Try having that conversation.
The easy and most efficient way to solve the problem of toothpaste build-up is not to clean it off and risk the horrifying texture of paste under your fingernails, but to blast right through. I recommend a couple easy techniques.
1. Push as hard as you can at the bottom of the tube. If you apply the right amount of force, eventually the pressure will build up and from within the toothpaste will explode out. This is also fun way to teach your kids about internal pressure!
2. Use the end of your toothbrush and stab the hard paste covering. It may take one or two tries, till you break through, but when you do a nice hole will form where you can dispense. My recommendation is to use someone else’s brush, this way your instrument stays nice and clean.
3. Use the cap to smash the substance down. Then try hard to completely shut the top. If you try slam the cap down hard enough you can get the hard substance to break off. Then you are able to flick the rest off without the risk of touching anything.
4. Start fresh, get a new tube. This can be costly especially if you go through a lot of toothpaste, or you live in a humid and dry environment that is conducive to quick drying.
5. Switch to travel size. These small containers are perfect for those that always get build up. They are small enough to avoid the monumental structures from forming at the top of your tube, and they contain enough glop for at least a full week of applications!
I am sure that this has some psychological explanation and clarifies a few things about how I operate my life. It must be an indication that I am a sloppy, unorganized person. It shows that I am lazy and careless, even with the most ordinary of household items. I must not take the proper time to keep things in order. I have to fall under the category of slacker. Your toothpaste can really tell a lot about a personality.
Truth be told, I am not the cleanest person on earth, but I am not a slacker. I just don’t take the proper time to keep my toothpaste in proper functioning order. There are worse personality traits you could have acquired in life. At 5:00 am in the morning I am not thinking about the crust that is forming on my toothpaste tube. I am still in a state of bewilderment over the dream I had the night before, and 9 times out of 10, I still believe I am Superman saving the world from whatever evil villain has infiltrated the world. Maybe, one day, the villain will be Toothpaste Crust……how scary would that be!
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
I rubbed my hands together and got a sharp pain that could only be associated with living in the
When I was a child my mother would place a huge pot filled with tap water on our stove and under very low heat allow it to evaporate into the air adding moisture to the space we were living in. I tried this a couple years ago in my own apartment, but was so scared of having the stove on for a significant period of time that I had to turn it off. I always think I’m going to burn down the place. I can’t leave the toaster plugged in, or the blender sitting on the kitchen table, all because I read some article on the internet that said it “could” result in uncontrollable flames bursting at any moment. The worse appliance is the crock pot, which is designed to cook food over long periods of time. Most people who use the crock pot put the ingredients in before going to work and have a complete meal ready when they return. It seems so simple, but I cannot do this. The absolute fear of driving up to my apartment and seeing firemen fighting the flames out front, hose in hand, has prevented my culinary skills from getting anywhere near the crock pot. I am relegated to using this excellent device on Sundays, when I can supervise while watching sports and drinking beer.
My aching skin was in need of some immediate attention so I hit the bathroom and opened the two cabinets that hold our “collection” of non-frequently used medicines. Mostly, it contains a random assortment of pills and ointments collected through the years. The first thing I noticed was a half used bottle of Tylenol Sinus that I purchased when I got a head cold two years ago. Next to that were two bottles of Nyquil that I use for those times when I really need to sleep. Nyquil is the ultimate night time aid, I really can’t believe it is an over the counter product. The rest of the cabinet contained a combination of Benadryl, sleeping aides, and my personal favorite Dramamine. When I get on a plane sometimes I just want to be knocked out!
In the back of the cabinet next to the triple antibiotic ointment (which, when I’m around seems to be used a lot) is the substance I have been looking for. It is a bottle of medium size, and made of thick plastic. The cap has a push open tab, that when depressed pops up a slot where a liquid is dispensed. It is manufactured by a company with a calming name…..Bath & Body Works. I wonder what they are working on? Do they work all the time? They should give there employees a break, that just seems like way to many hours to work. Inside is a thick lotion that is used for irritated, red skin. Some people use it as a coating agent, trying to hide an undesirable smell. Other people use it in place of taking a shower. Ok, maybe only college students, but they still count. There is a label on the front that has some fruity, unnatural name like Cucumber Mellon or Strawberry Passion. I always wonder how these names are devised. I can imagine a corporate board room filled with a whole bunch of middle aged businessmen sitting around starring at a power point presentation. I think the conversation between the marketing team would go something like this.
Boss: “Alright guys were struggling with sales and need a new fragrance for our body lotion line, any suggestions.”
Employee #1 (old balding man): “Ummm….My wife made a comment last night during dinner she really like the smell of our muskmelon”
Employee #2 (equally as old and balding): “My wife had a cucumber martini last night at dinner and absolutely loved the smell, of course that was after 4 drinks.”
Boss: “Ok, sounds like a winner. Let’s put those together….Should be gold.”
These types of lotions are the ultimate “I-don’t-know-what-to-get-you” gift, because they are relatively inexpensive and you can’t go wrong with any fragrance. Some guys don’t even smell the lotions prior to purchasing and buy strictly off the name on the label. How funny would it be if you bought a lotion, for your wife or girlfriend, with the name of “Peach Paradise.” Prior to giving it to her you rave about the absolute wonderful smell this lotion had, and that you would love it if she wore it for you everyday. Then you gave it to her, and she immediately rubbed it on, but it smelled like a rotting piece of cheese. Hook, line and sinker you’re screwed! I bet some guys would try to convince there significant other that peaches actually smelled like rotting cheese in effort to save some face. This could totally mess with there association between smells and words, and the next time you were in the grocery store walking down the cheese aisle, she would turn to you and say “Sure does smell like peaches in here!”
I grabbed the bottle out of the cabinet and placed it on the counter. I stood there, eyes staring down on the label, which read “Bath & Body Works Pleasures: Dancing Waters Body Lotion.” Could it be any more girly? My choices were clear; I could use this lotion and improve my dry skin. I wouldn’t be itching every second and my mood would increase considerably. This seemed like such a logical solution. Or, I could not use it, shove it back in the cabinet, and declare my manhood! I would walk out of the bathroom with head held up high. I would ooze of pride and saunter around the rest of the day knowing I smelled like a man. My rough, tough exterior would be complete. Sometimes, being a man means doing the irrational, even when you have dry itchy skin.
It was a quick decision. I squirted that stuff out as fast as possible. I applied such a thick coat it took me ten minutes to rub in all the lotion. My skin instantly felt better and the urge to itch evaporated. It is a miracle healing potion. You may be asking,” Did I lose my Man card? “Well, I walked around the rest of the day smelling of a cool fresh rainstorm. I was often asked what type of cologne I was wearing, to which I gently replied that it was a new fragrance by DKNY called “Dancing Waters,” and got many compliments. Sometimes being a man means lying through your teeth!
P.S. I applied it again the next day…..I am becoming a “Dancing Waters Fragrance Guy”…… Just don’t tell anyone.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
I was driving down the road as I passed a bank electronic billboard that read the temperature at -4 degrees. It then flashed to 7:15 pm. It was cold. I often wonder the accuracy of these thermometers. After how most of our banks have handled the recent collapse, I wonder if they invested in the best technology in order to give us the most accurate time and temp readings. Or maybe they did and that’s were all the money went! What I can confirm, without a doubt, is that it was freezing. It was so cold my fingers where ice-covered, in my car, with two pairs of gloves on. Not even the heater could blow out enough air to keep my frigid body from shaking.
I pulled into a parking space leaving just enough room between the cars to get my body out. I always laugh at how people exit there vehicles when there are space constraints. Some people shimmy out sideways, turning there body at multiple angles, just tying to find a comfortable way to exit. This technique is the funniest to watch because the person is in visible pain. It almost looks like they are a contortionist, or Stretch Armstrong. Some people don’t care and just jam there body through banging up against the other car.
Why do we care so much about touching other people’s cars? It’s not like our hip would do permanent damage. If you do happen to pull in next to a BMW or a Mercedes Benz you might want to rethink that last approach. The blaring alarm would be enough for you to avoid contact. I take a totally different approach and stick my butt against my own car and side step till I’m out of the space. This is the “I know I’m small and will do anything to avoid a fist fight” approach. This method is used just in case some huge guy owns the neighbor car and is secretly waiting for someone to brush up against his, thus giving him a reason to beat the living pulp out of you. Sometimes I even take the extra few minutes and clean a little dirt off the next door vehicle, as a sign of my good faith, just in case.
I started walking to the Gym, which was about 3 minutes from the parking lot. I was covered in hats, gloves, coats, socks, extra pants, and ear muffins all for my minimal exposure to the cold. I have yet to grow that extra layer of skin people in the
Standing at the front of the long bus line was a young guy, dressed in a large winter jacket. The hood of his jacket was lined with some type of fake fur, and his baseball hat, which was cocked sideways, was covered with the logos of every NBA team and didn’t cover his ears. He lacked gloves and his hands were firmly hidden inside the sleeves of his huge down coat. He had wrapped around his wrist a white plastic bag with the name of a local grocery store. I took a peek through the see-through material and saw a mountain dew, corn nuts, a Slim Jim, and a dirty magazine.
As I stood there waiting for the walk signal to change the young guy pulled from the bag his Slim Jim. Most people would have just reached in with there hand and sacrificed the few seconds of cold exposure. This was not a normal person and he proceeded to spread the bag open with his two coat covered wrists. Then he dove in face first like an eagle spotting it’s pray. He grabbed the top of the wrapper with his teeth and flipped the foot long piece of Beef Jerky from the bag. For those of you that don’t know what a Slim Jim is, it can best be described as a foot long round slice of beef. It tastes like a processing plant, but is delicious, on a limited basis. The beef jerky is packaged in a plastic wrapper that pulls apart from the top into two sections, exposing the meat in the middle. Our friend, still trying to stay warm, proceeded to put his fingers together inside his coat as a way to somehow grip something. Finally, he was able to get his coat covered fingers on one side of the top of the wrapper, and pulled down with his teeth on the other. After a few seconds of trying the meat popped out and in one bit he devoured the entire section, letting out a loud “Oh My God.” He was obviously pleased with his purchase.
The gentleman behind him was cracking up. He barely could keep the snot in his nose, he was laughing so hard. I was so mesmerized by his actions I had missed my walk signal. I was staring as he proceeded to eat the entire Slim Jim without exposing a single finger to the frosty weather. When he was finished he grabbed the end of the wrapper with his teeth and dropped it back in the bag. By this time the entire bus stop was watching the incredible handless eater. Observing that he had an audience he turned around and shouted out the following sentences, “I picked the Spicy-Side Slim Jim, so I might warm up! My buddy said he burnt his tongue.”
Everyone started laughing and I crossed the street as he gave multiple coat covered high fives to the other people waiting for the bus. He never uncovered a digit. As I preceded the rest of the way to the gym I thought about what we do to keep warm. Some of us bundle up with extra layers and multiple articles of clothing. And others decide the best way is to buy spicy beef jerky and proceed to eat it with there hands securely covered in a coat. I don’t know what way is right, but as long as your body temperature stays above freezing I guess it doesn’t matter. Some ways are just more entertaining then others!
Monday, January 26, 2009
When I finally cleared through security and entered into the main terminal I looked for a space that I could lay my laptop out and review my notes from the last couple days. I walked around for ten or fifteen minutes till I found a small table outside the food court that was covered with cheap Chinese take-out, and some used up ice cream containers. I made quick work of the clean up, and started to review my business remarks from the last few days of meetings. Occasionally, I would look up and get a general feel for my surroundings, which normally would include a few couples in vacation dress with flip-flops and sunbathed T-Shirts, businessman checking there cell phones and yelling at colleagues in unprofessional tones, and families dragging around hoards of kids on leashes with more luggage then is humanly needed.
My thoughts panned in and out of my present situation. I would spend 10 to 15 minutes thinking about something serious in regards to work, make a few notations, and then my focus would swerve back to my surroundings. After about an hour of wondering in thought I poked my head up, and heard the following phrase “Daddy, I’m Sorry.” It was a young boy who was repeating over and over, “Daddy, I’m So Sorry, I know it’s new. Please Daddy don’t be mad, I’m So Sorry.”
Standing across the area was a family of 8 in total disarray. The young boy was holding his Fathers hand and had, dripping from his mouth, the remnants of a meal gone wrong. I stood up to see what the commotion was all about. Sitting on the ground was a perfectly new IBM computer covered in what looked like digested cotton candy, snickers bars, a couple cookies and I could swear 30 gummy bears (those things don’t digest very easily). The computer was 3 inches deep and the Father was starring down in disbelief, while the young child was tugging on this Dad’s pants, tears dripping down his face, sympathetically apologizing for the error of eating to much junk food.
The Father turned to the child, and with the touch only a parent could show, asked if any more was coming. At this point in time, I couldn’t see how that was humanly possible. The floor was flooding and the child was covered. With a simple shake of his head no, the Dad turned his attention back to the computer where without hesitation pick up the dripping piece of electronic and headed, double time, to the bathroom….Child in hand.
The rest of the family stood in quiet disbelief. Three of the kids were huddled together on the side, and I turned my ear to there conversation. They were taking bets on if their brother was going to live. One of them made the following comment, “This is worse then the time I jumped off the bed and cracked my head open, at least it was my head!” The other sister responded, “I don’t think I’m going to get that Kit-Kat.” The third daughter was saying the following pray, “Please God, don’t let Daddy be mad. Its just a silly computer!”
20 minutes after the incident the father emerged from the bathroom with large wet spots on his pants, the child in his underwear, and a cleaned off computer. The boy had a gentle smile on his face and the father looked as though he was laughing. He quickly rejoined the rest of his siblings and made the following comments loud enough for all those in the immediate area to hear, “Daddy says no more candy!”
I sat there thinking about what unfolded in front of me, the care of a Father, the love of a family, the simple interaction of sisters. In many ways it was a crisis avoided. The Dad didn’t blow up, the child didn’t lose it, and the children all contained their emotions. It struck me in an almost comforting way to know families don’t have to collapse when everyday tragedies present themselves. It also made me laugh at the quick judgment of the child to assume his father was going to be mad. We often assume the reaction of other people in these unavoidable situations. Only to be almost surprised when the response is the complete opposite of what we anticipate. In many ways our retort to the situation is an indication of our character.
I loaded the plane 40 minutes after and the children were laughing and playing. The young boy was still pant less, I assume all his clothes were safely packed in the checked baggage, but had the look of a free spirit. His father and forgiven him and this action almost liberated his shaking soul. All had been cleaned, comforted, and forgotten. If only all our problems could be handled in such a tidy way.
Friday, January 23, 2009
I suffer from a monumental case of an aliment that is classified as “Bed Head”. My hair often has its own life. It sticks up in areas and ways that can only be seen and not described. My best moments usually involve horns that form in the back right and left quadrant of my head while my bangs do some sort of curly cue almost giving a Miss Piggy like tail; expect it’s the front of my face. It also has a way of stretching, which to tell you the truth I didn’t think hair could do, but a 1 inch section of my hair seems to cover half my face. It is the most bizarre and unreal thing you could ever see. As I peer at my mug in the mirror prior to jumping into the shower I often mutter the following phrase…”Superman wouldn’t have hair like this.”
With my sense of reality restored I finish my daily morning routine and conduct the business of the moment in a rather normal manner. At about noon I walk into the bathroom, just to make sure my hair is not moving all around, or forming fingers that look as those they are pointing at people. Ultimately you are responsible for your hair and if its making faces at people you have to but a stop to it. Normally a small splash of water can move it into a somewhat reasonable location, but then there are those days when my hair would rather stand straight up and leap off my head. On these days I break out the hair gel and cover my palm with enough fluid to keep my scalp permanently stuck to my skull.
Generally, I use a simple hair gel, something generic and cheap from the grocery store, but I do have the special bottle labeled the #10. #10 is a step below glue. It holds anything together and has the consistency of paste. It smells like seaweed, is green one day and blue the next, and does not pour in any rational way. It also dries and flakes off like coconut. It’s like fertilizer for the small growing tropical field on top of my head. For us suffers it is what I would classify a “Chemical Revelation” for its amazing ability to keep anything still. I actually think they use this stuff to keep the space shuttle together as it orbits around the earth.
#10 has been deemed illegal in 20 states (or at least I have been told), mostly because kids get their hands on it and their fingers get stuck together. #10 comes in a small bottle, with no flashy advertisement, and is individually packaged. It often rotates out of stores, and when you find a bottle, you buy it, because you might not find it again. #10 recently made the decision to start advertising and struck an endorsement deal with the King of uncomfortable Hair Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. I can’t wait for the commercials.
My “Bed Head” hair does not stop with simply getting up in the morning. I also suffer from a drastic case of “Hat Hair.” When I wear any hat (winter, ball cap, or Irish drinking hat) my hair looks like I have been stuck in the washing machine. The odd thing is that the transformation happens instantly. The absolute, immediate, second I put that hat on my hair crumples, twists and generally become misplaced. I can’t wear a winter hat to work on cold days because I remove it and look like a homeless person. It is a tragic event. Even when I wear the ear muffins that extend around your head and cover just your ears mess my hair up. My hair clings to the area covered by the small piece of fabric that connects the ear muffins, and when removed large chucks jumps up, like it wants to leave my head. It is so bad I have my own label for “Hat Hair” it is called “The Nick Lick.” It is my mark on all hairstyles.
Some of us “Bed Head,” “Hat Hair” individuals of the world have something to look forward to…Going Bald. This process doesn’t always sit well with everyone, and I know some people spend their life fortune to re-grow their hair. This is a veiled attempt to hold onto their youth, and us suffering from various forms of uncontrollable hair wouldn’t dream of putting more on top of our heads. We actually look forward to the day its all gone. I am told that the gene for hair loss comes from your Mothers Father. In which case I am destined for a future of Baldness and an end to my dreadful attempts to mange the unmanageable. To which I say “BRING IT ON!
Thursday, January 22, 2009
I walked into Dubai International Airport 4 hours before my scheduled flight. To say I was excited about making it back into America would be an understatement. I searched for 20 minutes for the British Airways ticket counter, till I gave up and went to the information desk. Sitting across from me, manning the information desk, was a middle aged Indian women who looked like she was in no mood for dispensing any of her information. I put on my best smile and handed her my itinerary asking for when I could check into my flight. She looked deep into my eyes and furnished the following sentence “Are you American?” To which I commented that “Well, Yes I am” thinking that this would earn me a merit badge. She then uttered a sentence I will never forget for the rest of my life “I know in America you run on an AM/PM timing system, but the rest of the world operates on military time.”
This should have been enough for the light to go off, but since I am gluten for punishment I looked at her and said, “Yeah, what does that mean?” The minute the sentence came out my heart dropped and I realized I had made the most American of all travel mistakes. My flight wasn’t at 2:45 PM it was at 2:45 AM. If it were in the afternoon it would have been 14:25. I needed no confirmation from her and turned away before she could even mention my glaring mistake. I had now missed my flight back to London by 12 hours. What made the situation worse was it was Friday, which in the Middle East is a weekend. No one was open, and I was stuck in Dubai without a confirmed ticket home. My excitement and energy that surrounded getting home sank, and I stood there looking out onto the tarmac observing people getting onto there planes headed home. It all seemed so surreal.
I allowed my self 10 minutes of self-pity before deciding I needed to find a way home. Yet, in the back of my mind I kept thinking to myself. “Nick, you have been around the world, how the heck did you get this wrong!” But my mood quickly turned into self preservation and I headed to find someone that could help. The only location that was open was a travel agency, and I went in with my paperwork asking them when I could get on the next British Airways flight. Thinking that maybe there was still a chance to re-coop my initial investment. She was gracious enough to help me find out there was another flight tomorrow morning at 2:45, which had seats, and my best beat was to get on that flight. So, I did what any good traveler does and pulled out my computer, fired up my online phone, and made a call to the United Kingdom.
A nice woman, who found no humor in my story, greeted me. She informed me that my ticket was unrefundable, and “no shows” lost all currency. I told her that I had been away from home for a month and there is no way in hell I was going to get stuck in Dubai. She informed me that I was in fact already stuck in Dubai. What a gloomy realization it is when someone presents you the truth. Sometimes, in these types of circumstances, ignorance really is bliss. We discussed my options and I settled for rebooking and paying to get on the flight the next morning, my timing mistake cost me about 500 dollars. Not a cheap way to learn a lesson.
While processing my credit card my friendly British Airways customer service representative asked me a familiar question. “Are you American?” By this time I almost wanted to lie and say, “No, I’m actually Irish, can’t you tell by my accent.” But thought that the time for jokes had pasted and answered truthfully that in fact I am an American. Though, by this time in my trip I was beginning to rethink if I still qualified as a citizen. She then went on a 20-minute lecture about how British Airways does not accept American credit cards and the only way I could confirm my flight, over the phone, was to produce a UK credit card. Without being able to purchase over the phone I asked the most reasonable question. “How then do I pay you for this ticket?” Her return comments were to show up at the airport 4 hours before I was to leave and pay at the ticketing desk. This was beginning to sound like a pyramid scheme.
I had no choice but to have faith in the fact I was going to get on this flight the next morning. So with anxious trepidation I hung up and started the longest wait of my life, 20 hours were left before I “might” get on a flight home, or 20 hours till I “might” go crazy and lose every bit of patients I still had. I decided I was going to wait it out back at the hotel, and took a cab back to my week long place of residence were I check back in, and tried to get a little sleep before heading back to the airport. The staff member’s still remembered who I was and the lobby barkeep had a nice tall beer waiting for me when I grabbed my nightly spot. At this point familiarly felt a little good, and my concern over getting home eased with a cold drink and ten minutes to think about what had happened.
I arrived back at the airport 4 hours before my departure and walked-up to the now open British Airways desk, trying to explain my situation. After 30 minutes of typing on the keyboard the ticketing agent looked at me and about crushed my now gentle state of mind when he said “Sir, I can see you talked with our agents today, but they didn’t mention how much you should pay for the ticket.” To which I replied, “I don’t care, charge me anything you want. I want to go home.” I now officially felt like Steve Martin in Trains, Planes, and Automobiles. 20 minutes of typing later I was given some obscene amount to pay, headed over to where you normally make a deposit for over weight bags, and produced my American credit card. With payment slip in hand I was able to check in and received in return a ticket. I was now on my way home!
I should have seen what happened next coming for miles, but my now renewed since of energy blinded me from reality. If everything went right I was going to be in London, 2 ½ hours prior to my flight time, which would have been just enough time to transfer terminals and get on my flight. But of course, the best-laid plans of Mice and Men…We were delayed 1 hour. My window of transferring was now 1-½ hours and the sweat beads formed on my head. This was going to be a tight transfer and I needed my running shoes. What made it more complicated was I needed to clear immigration, pick up my bag, and switch terminals because I was on a different non-partner airline. The entire flight I was a nervous wreck. If I didn’t get on that flight home I was going to lose it.
We landed in Heathrow exactly 1 hour 30 minutes before my flight. I raced through the terminal to the immigration booth, were I answered needless questions about exotic plants, and food I was bringing into the country. To which I replied to the immigration officer, “Dude, if everything goes right, I’m going to be in your country for less then an hour.” I finally got through, grabbed my bag, and jumped on the terminal transfer bus. When we reached the terminal I had 1 hour and 10 minutes before my flight was to leave. I had made it! Amazingly I was going to get on my flight.... or so I thought. I approached the ticketing counter and presented my flight credentials…. T minus 1 hour 5 minutes before the flight.
The gate was already closed! The ticketing agent informed me that on all flights from England to the US I needed to be checked in 90 minutes before the flight. 5 other people and myself were now starring at the Northwest Airline personnel and a riot was about to break out. I was not going to get home…ever. So, they pointed us in the direction of the ticketing agents, where I fought for 2 hours about my options. I was flying home on miles (A “free” flight) that were classified as the lowest of all seat levels. The agent went on to tell me that there was only one flight a week that offered those “miles” customers. You guessed it, the flight I just missed. If I was going to use miles, I wasn’t getting home till next week! They did suggest I call the NWA World Perks, because I was a loyal customer and they might be able to help me out. I asked the agent to connect me to them, to which they said, “Oh, well that is an international call, and we have strict limited on allowing customers to not use our phones.” Come ON!
I found a Starbucks in the basement on the terminal that allowed me to connect to my computer and phoned NWA. To which the told me, they could switch my ticket to a flight the next day for a simple change fee of hundreds of dollars. I took it, what choice did I have. I checked into a hotel at the airport and fell into my bed rethinking this whole traveling thing. One month away from home and the most trouble I had was getting home.
The next day I got to the airport 4 hours before I was to leave. I was not going to miss this flight. The plane took off…. I was on it, and we landed. I was back in America. Relief swept over my body and I soon realized that whatever problems I had getting here, it is wonderful being home. I had missed my wife, my dog, my family…. and even my TV. It had been a wonderful trip, full of memories, and full of excitement. But I was tired, stressed and needing a little break from planes….and airlines. That night I sat on my couch looking over my schedule when it came to me, I’m leaving for Asia in three short weeks! No rest for the travel weary!