Saturday, 28 April 2012

Travels with my grandson

Coming home from kindergarten, two small boys and one howling 10-week-old are squeezed into the back seat of the car. Mummy is driving; Granny Lorna is riding shot-gun which is probably a bad metaphor in the light of subsequent events:
Howling baby’s brother: I just think she doesn’t like to be attached to her car seat.
His friend: She’s really loud.
Granny:  Maybe we should sing to her.
Two boys nod heads and wait.
Granny:  Rock a bye baby in the tree top,
When the wind blows, the baby will rock. [so far so good|
When the bough breaks, the baby will fall
And down will come baby, bough, cradle and all.

I smile; the two boys aren’t smiling.  In fact, they have rather stunned, if not horrified, expressions on their face.  I realize too late that, unlike an infant, they are actually paying attention to the words.

Granny: Yes, well, maybe that’s not the best one to sing. Let’s try this:
Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur
Happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr purr purr.

Mummy: Where did you hear that?
Granny: Penny sings it when she tries to comfort Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory. [I forget the boys’ teacher also uses it to calm the class.]
Mummy (trying to execute a left-hand turn on a crowded street): Oh.

The baby is  still howling.  But the two boys are in some kind of zen state and are blissfully stroking the backs of their hands. 

I decide that seems like a good idea too; you learn lots of useful things in kindergarten.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

I am happy to report that I phoned some references. Not only did I receive glowing reports about the builder, I learned a lot  about the neighbourhood and the people who live there.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Travels with myself (part two)

 I pass security

The big day came. The Detroit airport was not too busy, and the line-up at security not very long. The guards seemed cheery, although a cynic behind me suggested the presence of their supervisor might account for their unexpected joie de vivre.  I looped my cane over my arm, fished my passport and boarding pass out of my purse, replaced my purse strap over my shoulder from where it had fallen and resumed dragging my carry-on bag. I was the only one to use the little framework thing provided to check carry-on bag dimensions. No problem so far.  I realized I might be holding up the line, so I let several people go by. They seemed unaccountably pleased.

After exchanging good morning pleasantries with a female guard, I leaned in just a bit and confided that I had titanium in my big toe and also a breast prosthesis. She said they had just the thing for “people like you” and pointed in the general direction of a large plastic enclosure, towards what I took to be a full-body scanner. “The thing that says video something or other?”  I queried (I dislike indefinite pointing it got me in trouble once before in a similar situation thirty years ago, but that is another story ). “Yes,”  she said.

But first, there were all those bins. Everything had seemed so cut and dried on the web-sites, but here I wasn’t sure where to begin. I told a couple of business travellers to go ahead, as I was not familiar with the routine; they suggested I just follow what they were doing. That was nice. They had their quart-sized plastic bags at the ready.  I took mine out of my purse and lacking that special little dish shown in the video, I just placed it in a bin. They put their cell phones in their bin, and so did I in mine.   They removed their shoes. I removed mine. They took off their belts. I didn’t have to do this, but at this point a security officer came over and asked if he could help. That was nice too.

He suggested I could put my winter coat in a bin. I did that. He suggested adding my scarf. Done. Then he asked if I had anything in my pants pockets and I was pleased to say I had no pockets.  He seemed relieved and said he could take my cane now and would I need his arm. I thought that was pretty gallant but refused and then thought maybe he’ll think I don’t really have arthritis in my hip. Well, too late now.  I hoisted my carry-on bag into another bin, thinking I looked much too able-bodied. 

Then it was off to the scanner. After the bins, it seemed ridiculously easy.  Feet on the yellow foot symbols on the floor and arms in the air. But no, hands had to be like the ones in the picture. Mine were, I thought. Oh thumbs down.  All right then.

I passed security. I was a little put out that no one had shown the slightest interest in my carefully labelled medications, but you can’t have everything always go your way.

I retrieved my cane, my bag of 3-1-1 containers, my phone, my carry-on bag, my shoes, my scarf and my purse and hobbled over to a bench to put myself back together.  I noticed a sign pointing to the “airport non-denominational  quiet room” and almost decided to go there, but thought I should find my flight first. It left in three hours – obviously no time to waste.

Travels with myself (part one)

 The Big Pack

Recently I flew to North Carolina for 12 days’ vacation. I don’t fly often. The previous time was in 2004. But despite some people's apparent amusement, it’s no exaggeration that as a result of my preparations for this trip, I became an exemplary traveller.

I began my quest for travel information on the Delta Airline site and discovered the many rules for happy flying.  Or at least flying that would make the security people happy. This involved a lengthy  detour to the Transport Security Administration (TSA) site. I decided to take just a large purse and one carry-on bag: hence, no checked luggage to worry about.

First of all, the carry-on bag had to be the right size. Mine was fine at least in two of its dimensions. The depth was just centimetres off, but I pressed on anyway.  I paid close attention to the image of the bad messy bag, with electronics packed all higgledy piggledy, and the good tidy one. I resolved that no electric cords of mine would entangle the x-ray process and packed my phone charger carefully.

Then I watched videos. The first featured a “traveller with special needs” (he apparently had prescription drugs). The second showed a “female business traveller,” which I watched even though I was travelling for pleasure (at least in the long run). She was shown carefully removing a small plastic bag of tubes and bottles from her purse and putting it in a dish provided for that very purpose.

Next I learned about these gels and liquids: bottles, not to be over 3.4 ounces in volume, had to be placed in one, clear, quart-sized, zip-lock, plastic bag. Difficult to determine in metric, as numerous web-sites devoted solely to this topic attested.  Greg bought me a box of foot-square bags before I realized they were too big. Finally my neighbour came to the rescue with the right size:  a box of 6.5 by 7.5 inch plastic zip-lock bags from the Dollar Store. She gave me several.  My  toiletries fitted nicely.  

Medications posed another challenge; fortunately, daily dose containers are allowed. I bought two weeks’ worth, filled them with my cranberry, probiotics, calcium, glucosamine, diuretic,  fish oil in a gel cap (!), Gravol,  and  Imodium (on the advice of the pharmacist’s wife “as you could be miles from a drugstore”).  Then I included an extra day in case of an airport delay. I felt I was covered coming and going, as it were, and put them in a second quart-sized plastic bag.  As a special nod to the TSA, I also listed the name of every medication. It felt good.

My passport was fine; I’d be home a week or so before the six-month time limit after which it could not be used unless renewed.  I designated a special pocket in my purse for it where I checked it frequently.

My cane could travel with me; it was not a weapon but an assistive device.

 I was allowed my breast prosthesis, but if I didn’t want to tell security about it out loud, I could pass them a note. This seemed too much like what a bank robber might do, and I wasn’t sure if they would be able to both read and understand  the meaning of “prosthesis” in time.  So I decided to brazen it forth when the time came. I was curious as to why the gel in a breast prosthesis was allowed past the guards but not a 4 oz. bottle of shampoo but decided not to raise that issue at the airport.

Next were shoes: Velcro fasteners were recommended for their easy removal but thankfully I am neither so old nor so young as to have a pair of shoes with Velcro, so I ignored that. I did check to be sure there was nothing which could be construed as gel in the soles of my shoes.  In fact, I changed insoles just in case.

Next, as requested, I emptied all my coat pockets. I found several old wrapped candies, transfers, ticket stubs and Kleenexes as well as my gloves, which I absentmindedly put back.

Finally I decided to wear a pair of pants with no pockets or belt loops so that I would not accidentally have something in my pockets and then also have to take off my belt. It just seemed easier that way.

I am pleased to say that five days before departure, I was all ready to go.