Getting Through Security With Our Fingers Crossed!

Traveling is a lot of fun; you get to see new places, meet new people, and gain new understandings about how the world works.  Loverboy and I love to travel, and we enjoy pretty much most of the experience.  There is one part of traveling the drives Loverboy a bit crazy and that is the jaunt through airport security.  He rarely makes it through security without some incident and history seems to be on repeat with every trip we take.

Over the years I have adapted my flying routine to better suit what needs to happen when you hit airport security. This includes never wearing pants that require a belt (thank you leggings!), not carrying any fluids at all, even the supposedly acceptable 100 ml size, carrying a really small purse and putting only underwear (ain’t nobody wants to search those), medications and some yummy snacks (have you seen the price of airline snacks?) in my carry-on.  When I get in line, I have everything organized to ensure that I make it through to the other end unscathed.  For some reason, Loverboy treats every foray into a security line like it is a new experience.  It is as if he can’t remember what happened the last time; he has suppressed those memories deep in his subconscious.  And every time, he becomes a marked man with the same scenario played out over and over again.

It begins with the loading of the trays.  Loverboy just dumps everything in to them and hopes for the best.  When it is his time to walk through the metal detector machine, it beeps.  Oops, he forgot to unload the change in his right pocket!  On his second attempt, the machine beeps again.  Oops, he forgot his keys in his left pocket!  Third attempt and he continues to set off the alarm, which now means he has called attention to himself, and the agents gather around to watch another agent run the wand over him.  It beeps loudly when it passes down his left arm.  The agent does a pat down and tries the wand again.  It beeps again as it passes down his left arm.  The agent looks at him puzzled until Loverboy tells him he has titanium elbow.  The agent subtly suggests he tell them that before he goes through the machine the next time, then sends him on his way.

Next, Loverboy goes to pick up his bag but is stopped by another agent.  She asks him if he has an I-Pad in his bag.  He answers in the affirmative (he forgets to take it out even though he has traveled with that I-Pad several times and knows the rules) and the agent, after giving him a withering look, disappears with his bag.  Loverboy is left standing there without any idea where his bag has gone, or if he is going to be arrested.  It is not pretty and by this time he is feeling a little stressed out.  In most situations, you would think his trials and tribulations at security would attract a crowd but everyone else is so busy trying to get through security themselves without attracting the agents’ attention that he is the least of their worries.

Now, although Loverboy is often the purveyor of his own folly, I sometimes wonder if the fact that he is a man causes him more angst.  On our last trip, our hotel prepared each of us a lovely bagged breakfast because we were flying out very early in the morning.  Our breakfasts were identical: yoghurt parfait, a banana, an apple, a breakfast bar and a juice box.  Each of us placed the bags on our trays, not knowing if they would survive the trip through security but, hoping for the best.  Mine went through no problem – nobody blinked an eye.  Loverboy’s was removed from the tray and a security agent went through it and pulled out all the things that couldn’t be saved, namely the yoghurt parfait and the juice box.  When I showed her mine, which was exactly the same, and said it had passed muster, she replied that his didn’t and he couldn’t take it.  Huh?!? I thought she would call security over to grab mine back but she just shook her head and walked away.  Some things you just don’t pursue!

Even with all of his issues with security, Loverboy still likes to travel.  I have been trying to think of ways to help Loverboy avoid these security stresses in the future and I have a few ideas for him including carrying a purse, wearing leggings, and … Okay, those suggestions aren’t going to work.   I guess, he is just going to have to figure it out on his own because he really doesn’t like me reminding him about what to do when we are standing in line.  They say failure leads to success so it has to come at some point.  Fingers crossed!

 

 

 

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Skip to “The Loo”, My Darling

I have a major fascination with restrooms, washrooms, lavoratories, loos, washclosets, toilets – you know those places where you go – well, you know.   I know this seems like a really random thing, but having been stricken with a chronic bladder disorder (it has a medical name but I prefer to call it  “cranky bladder”) I have come to have a love/hate relationship with washrooms, which depending on their condition, add heightened stress to an already  stressful situation. I take a miracle pill three times a day that certainly helps and I am really lucky that it worked for me as 25% of the women afflicted with a “cranky bladder” get no relief whatsoever. And so when my husband (Loverboy) and I planned a trip to Ireland, the idea of traveling around and trying to locate a decent washroom was a definite concern.

The whole washroom-issue-while-traveling has probably been heightened by a trip to China I took a few years ago.  Some of the washrooms in China are quite interesting and can provide plenty of challenges for the uninitiated.  I remember my first foray into what is called a squatter.  I had traveled for 21 hours to reach my destination in Nanjing.  Upon my arrival, my hosts whisked me away to a restaurant where we shared a hot pot and some quarts of beer (therein lies the problem, as my mother would say).  By the time we were ready to leave the restaurant, I really had to use the washroom.  I made my way to one and when I got in and closed the door, I realized it was nothing more than an hole in the floor.  Now, never having had to use a hole in the floor (even the most primitive outhouse I have ever used had a seat of sorts) I was helpless to know how to even begin.  Using a squatter requires agility and skill that I certainly didn’t have, and in most instances where I was forced to use one, the results were sketchy, at best.  I needed at least four hands to deal with everything that was involved however, I was only born with two hands so that was an issue.  I won’t go into details as no one needs to have that picture in their heads but let’s just say I celebrated when I found a washroom with a “Canadian” toilet and my “cranky bladder” was very happy. After a couple of weeks in China, it did get a little easier but it was never something I was really comfortable with – kind of like using chopsticks!

So now Loverboy and I were traveling to another foreign country and I could only imagine the horrifying washrooms we would encounter.  We arrived in Ireland in the early morning hours and so couldn’t check into our hotel.  We were able to check our bags with the front desk and then found the public washrooms in the hotel.  Imagine my delight to find a beautifully clean washroom with stalls that had floor to ceiling doors.  So private and comfortable.  My “cranky bladder” felt a little less cranky with this discovery.  Our hotel was the lovely Grand Hotel in Malahide, located outside Dublin, so I figured this was an anomaly and things would go downhill from there – kind of like how the medieval bathrooms in castles worked.

Traveling across Ireland for two weeks provided me plenty of opportunities to go to washrooms, especially as there is a pub on every corner, in every city, town, village, field (well, you get the picture). Whether I was in hotels, pubs, restaurants, museums, on the bus that we traveled on, in outhouses on a farm (honestly, I could have eaten off the floor of this one!), in castles, or in gaols (jails in Irish and I was only visiting, I swear!), each and every washroom I entered was the same – meticulously clean with private stalls that my “cranky bladder” really appreciated.  Now Ireland probably doesn’t think to advertise their wonderfully clean and private washrooms as a reason to visit their country,  but I really think it is something to celebrate and share with the world. There are a lot of people out there with “cranky bladders” or other “cranky parts” that would appreciate the attention Ireland gives to its washrooms.

One of the coolest washrooms I visited (and yes, I even took a picture) was in Galway.  We had eaten lunch at the Kings Head Pub and I used the washroom before I left.  Well, five minutes later, my “cranky bladder” started to complain again.  I figured I would wait until I got on the bus but as Loverboy and I were walking down the main street, we passed a modern looking steel building (really stood out sitting among the cobble stone sidewalks and limestone cottages) with the international symbol for washroom on the doors, two for women and two for men.  My “cranky bladder” decided this was as good a place as any and so I sidled up to the door.  The cost to use the washroom was twenty cents and when I put my money in the slot, the steel door whooshed open (kind of like in a Get Smart episode) and I stepped inside, the door closing automatically behind me.  In front of me stood a modern steel toilet and on the walls were buttons and little cubby holes.  It was pretty freaky.  A voice began announcing all the features and how to use them.  You pushed a button by the toilet and toilet paper came down into one of the cubbies.  To get soap and wash your hands, you had to push other buttons and put your hands into another cubby.  As in most washroom establishments in Ireland, you used a powerful dryer (not wimpy dryers like the ones in Canada) to thoroughly dry your hands in a matter of seconds.  Very few washrooms had paper towels, obviously an environmentally friendly choice,  which probably helped keep the washrooms cleaner.  (I am always puzzled by the number of people who can’t get their paper towels into the garbage can when I visit washrooms in Canada.) The whole experience made my “cranky bladder” happy; the only worry I had was how to open the door to leave, but I finally located the exit button and with a whoosh I was out.  (I will be using this setting in a future piece of writing. This was the best twenty cent investment I ever made!)

Ireland really was one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.  In any direction I looked, a picture was waiting to be taken.  The scenery was breathtaking; the washrooms were phenomenal!   I know I will return to Ireland one day and it will be with the knowledge that I can skip to “the loo” without having to worry about my “cranky bladder”.  After all, there are so many other things to worry about when you visit Ireland like:

  • Where is the nearest pub?
  • What time does the traditional music start at the pub?
  • What time does the pub close?

A decent washroom needs to be the least of our worries!

Slainte!

 

We Are the Champions (Sort Of) Part I

What do you get when five fifty-plus women, whose nicknames range from The Woman to Peppermint Patty to Cinder to SuperQueen to Mon Shin, travel on a epic journey to see the one, the only Queen, minus Freddie Mercury (RIP), plus Adam Lambert (awesome replacement)?  Well, you get a little bit of rock and roll with some mayhem and madness thrown in for good measure, a lot of laughs and some wonderful memories that will last a lifetime (or at least as long as we remember them).

We had many crazy adventures that began in the small rural community of St. Hilaire, NB where were met up and loaded all of our gear into The Woman’s truck. Now no one can accuse us of traveling lightly (calorie wise or other) as Peppermint Patty, the cook of the bunch, had concocted a cheese cake, maple cones, and ginger cookies and we all had brought along assorted survival foods like M and Ms, jujubes, licorice and chips (assorted flavours) and dip.  Also included were several bottles of wine, some chocolate liquor and a large bottle of Grey Goose – you know, all the necessities needed for a grand adventure! With our suitcase bulging with enough clothes to ensure we were prepared for any wardrobe malfunction or clothing emergency, we hit the road to Quebec and our final destination, Montreal.

It wasn’t long before our decision to pack survival foods seemed like a pretty good one.  Stuck in a long line of traffic between Edmunston and Riviere du Loup due to an accident several miles up the road, we soon found ourselves following some other very smart drivers down a side road believing it would lead us away from what was promising to be a very long wait.  Shortly after, we left a roughly paved country lane and found ourselves traveling on a narrow dirt road, dust swirling around us, visibility limited.  With heavy shrubs and trees lining each side of the road, there was nothing to do but keep moving forward.  Suddenly the cars and transport truck ahead of us stopped and when the dust cleared we realized that we had not made it to the road, but were now stuck on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere with no idea how long we would be there.

No worries for us though because we had our survival food and set about laying out a feast that would have made a lumberjack cry.  I decided to offer some ginger cookies to the people in the car in front of us as they had been nice enough to take a picture of us to memorialize this part of our trip (thank goodness we have cameras on our phones as the pictures will help when our memories get fuzzy as well as provide plenty of jealous moments for our Facebook friends who had to work).  I had just re-zipped up the ziplock bag, when drivers began running to their cars and we heard that the line was moving.  Hurrying back to the truck, we threw the feast back into the bags and ran for our seats.  When Peppermint Patty hopped back into the front seat, she expressed concerned about the dip and questioned whether or not she had put it back into the cooler.  As a food safety advocate, she knows her food safety rules and was very concerned that we would be poisoned because of her carelessness.  We reassured her that if indeed the dip had not been placed in the cooler, we would be able to get new dip, free from salmonella poisoning, when we reached Montreal, so all was good.

The remainder of the trip was rather uneventful – well except for the little stop at the rest area.  We all had to use the bathroom and so pulled into one of Quebec’s best features, a road side rest area.  Of course, it was busy and there was a line up for the women’s bathroom.  This is a world wide problem that I don’t understand.  They can spend millions to put a man on the moon, but they can’t spring a few extra dollars to put some more toilets in women’s washrooms.  Boggles the mind!  Anyway, one of team (whose identity shall be protected) had to really go to the bathroom and so we suggested that she use the separate disabled one that was free.  When she came out a few minutes later, we still had not moved too far and the line up had grown.  A couple of older ladies, seeing our friend come out of the disabled washroom, decided they would use it too.  Unfortunately, when they opened the door, they fell back and exclaimed that it smelled really bad and that they couldn’t use it.  This was all done in French and so our teammate, who also has a limited French vocabulary didn’t understand what they said but our gal Cinder, who is bilingual did understand and she translated for us.  Well of course, we fell into hysterics while our friend who was standing a few feet away and could not hear what was said, stood there with a blank look on her face.  Too funny!

We got back on the highway and texted Mon Shin, who had flown to Montreal from Saskatchewan to assure her we would be in Montreal before nightfall.  With two GPS devices guiding the way, we made it to our hotel with only a few wrong turns and checked in.  The poor concierge loaded up all of our gear onto a cart and holding onto his back for some reason, limped to the elevators.  Since we couldn’t fit into one with him, we took our own and finally met up with Mon Shin.  As you can imagine it was an extremely loud and boisterous reunion and I am surprised we weren’t put out on the street then and there!  Our bags arrived, the concierge wisely giving us enough time to greet each other so that we would then remember to tip him. As he walked back to the elevator, I was pleased to see that the limp had been replaced with a little skip – it is amazing how a good tip can put a spring into your step!

Well, because it was well after seven o’clock and we had eaten virtually nothing except for some licorice because we had thrown all of the the rest of the food into the back of the truck and didn’t want to stop to get it out, we decided we needed to head out for supper.  When you go to Montreal, Reuben’s is kind of an obvious choice and so that is where we went.  With great food, a tall, dark, handsome and very funny waiter named Tolis and an opportunity to catch up, we had a great evening.  Tolis was kind of cool when he first began waiting on our table, but certainly warmed up to the crazy ladies that he had the great opportunity to serve!  He joked with us and teased us and even gave us the good napkins (usually reserved for dining) for the desserts which are usually served with small flimsy napkins.  We were obviously very special customers.  It was an enjoyable evening and I hope Tolis got to keep his job after we left because his manager didn’t really seem to appreciate that Tolis had supplied us with the expensive napkins when the cheap ones would have done the job.  We assured the manager on the way out that Tolis was a gem and he should keep him on staff even though he ignored his other customers because we were so much fun.  If the waiting stint doesn’t work out, Tolis told us that he is also a stand up comedian so with his good looks and acerbic wit, we know he will be successful in that career and we can say we knew him when!  It is safe to say, we also provided him with some new material for his routine!

We made our way back to our hotel for some more reminiscing and a good nights sleep in preparation for what promised would be a big day on Monday!  We had a king sized suite which included a bedroom with a king sized bed, a bedroom with a queen sized bed, a living room with a pull out couch, and a good sized kitchen so there was plenty of room for our survival food and drink and assorted clothing and footwear.  We did have to share one bathroom and The Woman wisely brought some deodorizing spray with her so that we could ensure we left the bathroom smelling lavendery fresh when we used it. By midnight, we were all snoring away, resting our bodies for our next adventure in Montreal.

(To Be Continued)

Flying Comfortably is Not Guaranteed!

The end of a vacation is always kind of bittersweet. You have to travel home and it is often a long and challenging journey.  When heading home from an island, your travel options are limited; you can swim (not really ideal with all that luggage)), take a boat (that would be called a cruise and then your vacation wouldn’t really be ending, now would it) or you can fly (which is what my husband, Donnie, and I did because it is so practical and practicality is our middle name, plus we couldn’t afford the cruise option).

Our trip home from Barbados involved flying on an aircraft carrier whose name I will leave out. I will let you use your imagination because every airline has at one time or another had a bad day, er…bad week, er…bad year, er…bad decade (according to the reviews on this airliner that I checked out online). I am not sure how this airline stays in business because so many people who write reviews swear they will never fly it again.  Now in my opinion, making these kinds of assertions is not very realistic because usually you can’t follow through.  Often it is the only option for some destinations, and never again would mean you are grounded for good, or have to find some alternative form of transportation that does not yet exist.

Our flight home was on a fairly large jumbo something or another. One of the good things about the flight was we had free on-board entertainment at our seats which really is a must for long flights. This was different from our flight to Barbados where there was no on-board entertainment except if you had an IPad or rented one from them for ten dollars. Donnie had his IPad so he figured he was set but I don’t have one so I was screwed because I wasn’t forking out ten bucks for their crappy IPad. Now Donnie could have gallantly lent me his, but that didn’t happen. Chivalry is so dead in our house! Anyway, he downloaded the app and checked out the offerings and then he realized he was screwed, too because all they had were some really old bad movies and tracks from bands that no one has ever heard of, and for very good reason, according to Donnie. It was a long movie-less, music-less flight for both of us, but I digress.

Like I was saying, the plane was large and there were lots of people on it.  There were two rows of three seats each with 29 sections and I am telling you this so you can make a picture in your mind of how crammed in we were. Donnie, of course had the aisle seat, I was in the middle and, thankfully, a slender young thing had the window seat. I knew things were going to get interesting when just after take-off, the slender young thing indicated she needed to get out. We unbuckled our seat belts, took our ear phones out and wriggled out of our seats to let her out. She proceeded down the aisle, stopped at another seat, spoke to someone for two seconds and then came back to the seat wanting back in. We had to unbuckle our seatbelts, take out our earphones… well, you get the picture.

Things were proceeding along quite well until after the food and drink service cart made its first pass.  Suddenly, several passengers rose simultaneously and made their way to the two bathrooms which were located at the back of the plane. Now I have traveled by air a fair amount but I have never seen that many people need to use the bathroom at the same time.  They were lined up fifteen deep but it was so much work to get out of the rows that they must have felt it better just to wait it out in line rather than have to go back and wriggle back into their seats. It was then that I noticed that the average age of the passengers on the flight was around 75. For you young people who don’t yet realize this – age makes your bladder smaller and weaker, able to hold two to three drops of liquid before needing to go to the bathroom! Of course, seeing all these people needing to go to the bathroom made me realize that I had to go, too. Full disclosure – my bladder cannot hold one drop of liquid on a good day!

I decided that I would make a break for the washroom once the crowd died down because at this point there was no getting out of the seat because the aisle was blocked. About an hour later, I got my chance. I gave Donnie the signal, he undid his seatbelt, took out his earphones and wriggled out of the seat with both me and the slender young thing following, wriggling our way to the aisle.  Did I mention that the plane was cramped? I was quite excited to see that I was second in line. Yahoo! Suddenly we hit a bit of turbulence and the seatbelt sign came on.  I was not going to return to my seat at this point because I was next in line. One of the stewardesses then said to me, “Tell people they have to go back to their seat.” She might have actually said, “You and everyone else need to return to your seats” but my hearing was a bit off from the ocean water that had entered my ears while in Barbados.  I turned around and told the people standing behind me that the stewardess said they had to go back to their seats. Well, of course, no one moved because they all had waited for the line to die down, too and this was their big chance and plus, who was I to tell them anything. They were probably thinking I was lucky to even still be on the plane because I was wearing leggings and another airline had not let some girls on a flight the week before because they were wearing leggings. The stewardess then told me again to tell the people behind me that they had to go back to their seats – at least that is what I interpreted her words to mean. I relayed her message again but no one moved, including me. Thankfully, a toilet became available to me and I got in and got the door shut just as the stewardess shouted “Get back to your seats now!” Well one good thing was the aisle was clear when I came out and made my way back to my seat. Phew!

The stewardesses were hard working girls and they made several trips up and down the aisle offering water to passengers.  This was a really nice gesture, however with all those small weak bladders, it made for continued long line-ups at the bathroom.  I just want to say that whoever designed the layout of the plane needs to go back to whatever school they got their degree from and take some lessons in universal design for living because two bathrooms for that many people on a five and one half hour flight is not even reasonable and would rate a failing mark on a class project. That is, unless the point was to design something that would be cost effective and uncomfortable at the same time. Well, then they had a winner.

We made it back to Canada and were happy to get off that plane and make our connection to a plane that was even smaller and more cramped. Opting for first class is beginning to look very appealing and this is how I plan to fly once I win the lotto.  Until my ship comes in, however, I will have to fly econo!