A fine example

It’s Wednesday morning as I write this, and there have already been multiple strong reminders this week that I can be a much better person than I am.

Not surprisingly, the first of those reminders came during Sunday’s First Lutheran Church sermon. Our pastor, the Rev. Richard Ricker, talked about taking a look at where we are placing God and Jesus in our lives. Sure enough, there are multiple things that usually rush to the forefront in this chief’s busy life, almost always at the expense of either faith or — perhaps even more tellingly — prioritizing things I need to accomplish in my life ahead of what I could be doing for others instead.

Then, at our Noon Kiwanis meeting on Tuesday, our group heard an Easter message from Worthington Christian Church Pastor Doug White. One of the things he spoke of was simply treating others better — a simple concept, yes, but one I feel sometimes that I struggle with. Just a couple of days before, I had been quick to react to a situation with which I was unhappy. Rather than try to be patient and express something akin to understanding, I was almost certainly rude. Even though I still strongly feel my point of view on the matter was the right one, I could — and should — have taken the proverbial deep breath before acting in a regrettable manner.

Of course, none of us is perfect; we hear this over and over again. Yet, we continue to make mistakes — often times the same ones we’ve made before. If you are a Christian, you are ever-thankful to Jesus for forgiving our sinful nature. That’s perhaps the most powerful message of Holy Week — Jesus loved us so much, He died for our sins. The least a person can try to do — whether a person of faith or not — is to try to treat others with a respectful and loving nature, yet even the most avid churchgoer (myself included) often fails this task.

One hears nowadays of such adages as “pay it forward” and “random acts of kindness.” Both are rooted in showing that type of love and compassion for others — even strangers. It’s by all means a Christian notion, and an area school is getting into that act today.

Students at Southwest Christian, located in Edgerton, are scheduled to perform acts of kindness today in the community. A promotional item for the activity that showed up here at the newspaper said: “Do you need help with your spring work? Senior citizens and those in need — we’ll rake, mow, wash windows and cars, clean gutters and garages, or whatever you need help with!” The heading at the top: “Acts of Kindness.”

There’s a contact number — (507) 442-4471 — included on the promotion, and I hope the school’s students have a busy and enjoyable day lending helping hands in their community. I may call that number, too — not to get help from the students, but to thank them for setting such a wonderful example.

Happy Easter, everyone.

License to drive

Getting in the car and driving from point A to point B ­— and often, points C, D and E in succession — is something I do so regularly that I often don’t give it much thought. Driving is something I do so often that it’s almost mind-boggling to think of a time in my adult life when I didn’t own a car and have access to get behind the wheel whenever I wanted.

I was talking about this Saturday morning over coffee at The Lantern in Sibley, a roughly 18-mile drive from my place in Worthington. We were chatting about the joys — for some, anyway — of driving a stick shift. I subsequently confessed that, to this day, I still am unable to operate a manual transmission vehicle. That’s likely because the last time I tried to do so, it didn’t go so well.

It was March 1996 — and a completely different stage of my life. A few months before, I’d made the bold decision to leave my stable job as an editor at a Manhattan publishing company and my ever-cozy yet ideally located studio apartment in favor of an uncertain yet exciting future with my-then girlfriend in Erie, Pa. To make a long story short, the move (in retrospect) was almost deemed to fail from the start. I knew no one in Erie except for my girlfriend, who I’d only known for about four months. I had no employment in place. And …. I didn’t even have a driver’s license, never mind my own car.

So many people in the Midwest react with astonishment when I tell them that I still didn’t have a driver’s license at 28. I suppose it is sort of bizarre, but I guess it was never a must. I remember not wanting the expense of a car in high school — I instead rode my bike everywhere, and I had friends give me rides to group outings — and in college there were all kinds of campus buses. Then, I lived in New York City, where owning a car as a single person is completely unnecessary. Even in the early 1990s, one could pay more in monthly fees for parking in Manhattan than a current southwest Minnesota mortgage payment.

In my quest to leave Erie, though, the need to have a license and a car quickly became obvious. Before long, I had an interview for a reporter position at a daily newspaper in Dunkirk, N.Y., about 90 minutes or so from my northwest Pennsylvania residence. A woman I’d been in a community theater production with was kind enough to get me to Dunkirk, and even kinder in letting a total novice drive her car there. I had obtained a learner’s permit, yes, but her judgment in letting me drive has to be considered questionable at best — especially since she had a stick shift.

We made it successfully to Dunkirk, but not without a few fits and starts along the way. Exiting the tollbooth just across the Pa./NY state line certainly was interesting, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if a bill for clutch repairs arrived in my mailbox a few short days afterward. I remember thinking if I got the job, I would have no choice but to buy an automatic.

Well, I did get the job, and I did buy an automatic — a 1986 Chevy Nova, which turned out to be an absolutely ideal first car — but I still needed the license. I failed my first road test thanks to an utter inability to parallel park, so in desperation turned to another theater cast mate for help. After spending the better part of a morning practicing (over and over) an art I’ve rarely employed since, I passed the test and was a licensed driver. Less than a week later, I started the reporter job, and my newspaper career was officially under way.

Nowadays, I don’t need a car so much for work as I do the errands that get run during the day and on weekends. Most of those errands involve the kids, so I suppose I should hope they don’t wait until age 28 to start driving. The first time they get behind the wheel, though, may age me another 28 in rapid fashion — especially if they’re as rough around the edges as their dad was.

Seeing clearly

It was September 2011 when I got a call from my wife telling me we had to take Grace to what’s popularly referred to as The Castle — Sanford Children’s Hospital in Sioux Falls — because she had broken a bone near her elbow. That was quite a memorable night for all of us; Bec got to spend the night with Grace in the hospital, and I got to share a hotel room with Zachary.

Looking back, that mini-extravaganza should have been an omen of things to come. Grace is turning out to be an expensive child — though, of course, we wouldn’t have her any other way.

The broken bone was just the beginning. Last summer, in the culmination of what had long been inevitable, Grace got braces. I never knew braces could happen at age 8, but one almost literally learns something new every day when it comes to parenting. Hopefully they’ll come off sometime next year, but it could very well be longer.

Then, a few weeks ago, our beloved daughter started telling us that her vision was starting to get a little blurry. At first, Bec and I were in a bit of denial; it is not uncommon, after all, for Grace to manufacture some type of ailment in an apparent effort to attract sympathy/attention. But then a note came home from school that recommended a trip to an eye doctor, and the result was the purchase of a pair of prescription eyeglasses.

This should not have been a shocking development. I got my first pair of glasses at age 9; so did my wife. Maybe it’s still hard to admit that Grace has gotten old enough for these types of things. Wasn’t she born just the other day?

The nicest thing about these big changes in Grace’s life — the braces, then the glasses — is that she has continually faced such new hurdles with enthusiasm and excitement. She couldn’t wait to pick out new frames, and spent (no surprise) a fairly decent amount of time doing it. Grace is definitely a selective shopper when it comes to nearly everything, and I often struggle to remain patient while final decisions repeatedly remain elusive. Zach doesn’t need glasses — not yet, anyway — but he’d picked out a pair of cool Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles frames in comparative milliseconds. (He was Leonardo, naturally).

Zach looked a little bit older with specs on, and so did Grace when the new glasses showed up Tuesday night. I must admit they’re pretty stylish, too, though “style” is not something I always have a good sense of. Nevertheless, there is a 9-year-old who can’t wait to go to school and show everyone the newest important part of her life — and I suppose that’s a great thing, price tag and all.

Fun through service

For years, members of Kiwanis International have been ­— to borrow from the organization’s mission statement — “dedicated to changing the world, one child and one community at a time.”

That seemed like a good enough reason to join Worthington’s Noon Kiwanis Club several years back, and I’ve never regretted that decision. When I was initially recruited by then-WREDC Manager (and now Bioverse head) Glenn Thuringer, I had a small fear that Kiwanians sat around tables in funny hats, sang funny songs, chanted odd sayings and raised money for charity. Well, it turns out I was maybe half-right; we do sing some funny songs (and some of them are sung funny) and we raise money, but the hats and chants are non-existent (though I suppose, to some degree, optional).

Through the years, I’ve had the fortune of serving on the Noon Kiwanis board and even at its president. (Surprisingly, our good club survived my tenure). And, during that time, we’ve been able to add some great new members along the way who have energy, ideas and the commitment to make a difference. Though “changing the world” may be a stretch, most Noon Kiwanians would probably like to believe that we do make some small degree of difference in our community, and that our goal should be to continue fulfilling that goal as much as possible.

Just the other day, many of us had fun and hopefully did something positive and impactful at the same time. We usually meet at noon Tuesday at Pizza Ranch, but instead of dining headed over to Prairie Elementary to read with kindergarteners. I won’t speak for all of us, but I know I had a blast.

Rotating between three different kindergarten classrooms, I was consistently reminded of two main things — how pleased a young child can be when he or she reads something correctly and is praised for it, and how happy kids can be when an adult they don’t know takes the time to spend merely a few minutes with them. In two of the classrooms, kids took turns reading to me; in the third, I got to do the reading.

Now, when I read stories to my kids, I sometimes feel the overwhelming urge to turn it into some kind of performance, depending on energy level and how close it is to bedtime. So on Tuesday, when presented with the opportunity to read the Dr. Seuss classics “Hop on Pop” and “Green Eggs and Ham” to a small audience (one that, happily, included my son), I attempted to have fun with it. I got a few laughs as well as a few stares of complete bafflement — those “you’re weird!” sort of expressions — but all in all I think the audience I enjoyed themselves.

That afternoon, Noon Kiwanis President Jessica Noble sent an email to club members thanking them for their participation, adding that she’d heard that many had already expressed appreciation for us coming. I guess I’d like to think that if teachers and students alike were pleased our club made such an effort, that they, too, would be moved to do something similar at some point and — in that way — make a difference.

Anyone can join Kiwanis — and anyone can help change the world, one child and one community at a time. They can also have no shortage of fun while doing it.

Hope springs eternal

I usually don’t need any help getting excited about the start of baseball season. Not only has baseball been easily my favorite sport since I was my daughter’s age (9) and started rooting like mad (perish the thought now) for the Yankees, but it also means one thing — with baseball comes the official arrival of spring.

Yes, I realize there’s such a thing as spring training, and shortly before I began writing this noticed my now-beloved Twins were scheduled to face the Red Sox Friday afternoon in their first outing of their 2014 Grapefruit League schedule. But, as much as I enjoy action on the diamond, I typically don’t get terribly excited about it until the games actually count in the standings — or, for a few fleeting hours — on the night of my fantasy baseball draft.

This year, though, I might actually watch or listen to a few spring training games. It will be interesting to hear how new and returning players — not to mention guys like Jason Kubel and Jason Bartlett, ex-Twins who have been brought back this year for another shot at glory with the team — shape up. Plus, simply knowing the games are being contested under sunny Florida skies just might warm me up a bit.

I don’t mean to be yet another Daily Globe blogger to talk about the weather — Erin Trester and Julie Buntjer have already done so recently — and I have attempted to not complain too much about consistently chilling temperatures that, after all, I can do absolutely nothing about. That doesn’t mean, however, I won’t be tempted to turn on a meaningless ballgame sometime in the next few days and daydream a little bit about being in the stands, watching the action unfold under a bright blue sky while Worthington outdoor temps struggle to overtake the zero-degree mark.

I know everyone in our house is eager for spring to arrive, though each likely for varying reasons. My wife, Becca, is simply ready for winter to be over, and seeing we have a new home this year is likely enthusiastic to get a new garden going. Grace is truly an outdoors girl, but even this winter hasn’t been outside nearly as much as cold seasons past (this may be a result of a combination of repeated sub-zero wind chill factors and her possession of a school-issued iPad). And Zachary, even though Joe Mauer is still probably the only Twin he can name, is eager to get on the field to play catch and hit.

Something tells me that as soon as it’s reasonably warm out and there isn’t too much snow left in the back yard, the Z-man and I will be having our own spring-training game. There will be tee-ball this summer, too, which he has occasionally discussed even through the winter, and I know for a fact he’s hoping for another season with both his dad and Nicholas Raymo (a much more qualified baseball coach than I) leading him and his teammates onto the Centennial Park fields.

Grace, for her part, will almost surely be craving bike rides around the lake again, which is more than all right by me. She always asks about camping, too, and it would be nice to make that happen more this year. Both her and Zachary have also talked about tennis, as well — one of many other warm-weather recreational options in store.

Now, we just need spring to arrive, and it can come any day. After all, with warm weather comes new opportunities — whether you’re talking about a professional baseball team, or a family with eager youngsters.

#yuck

It’s mid-February, and that means it’s that time of year again for many red-blooded heterosexual American men — the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue is hitting the newsstands. And given the bitterly cold weather we’ve experienced here, I’m sure this special SI is going to be, um, well read.

It’s been a long time since I’ve actually picked up my own copy of this yearly extravaganza — in fact, I think it’s safe to say that my swimsuit-issue purchasing ended right around the time I got involved with Becca. I feel it important to emphasize that I was never once told I couldn’t buy it; I simply thought it immeasurably wise not to. Plus, I’ve got to admit that my attitude toward what once was a must-have February publication has changed as I’ve gotten older.

Being a parent, unsurprisingly, brings an ever-shifting perspective, as my attitudes on moral issues have evolved into being a little more conservative than I’d ever imagined. Having kids today in a society in which, for instance, oversexualized entertainment personalities are seen as idol-worthy is one major challenge. There are “what does this mean?” (“did they really say that?”) song lyrics. There are Disney Channel TV shows geared toward tweens that constantly bring up boyfriends and girlfriends — people that shouldn’t be critical in the lives of 9- and 6-year-olds, but are at least suggestively promoted to be so.

And now, Sports Illustrated has Barbie on the cover of its swimsuit issue. At the risk of sounding like an old fuddy duddy … fiddlesticks.

Thanks to a partnership between Mattel and SI, Barbie will feature on a promotional cover-wrap that will appear on 1,000 copies. (So, she’s not really the cover girl this year. She’s a cover girl for collectors — is that better or worse?) She’ll also star in a four-page advertising feature in the issue, along with video outtakes posted online. Additionally, there’s a brand-new Barbie out for this occasion, available at Target. (But can you imagine what Barbie would do with all those credit-card numbers? Talk about a shopping spree!)

To all this I say, “Bah, humbug.” Actually, that’s not sufficient. There’s an excellent online article I read Monday under CNN Living that does an A-plus job at detailing the exceptions I take. The piece mentions a “Mommyish” blog, “The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Will Feature Barbie, So Your Daughter Can Feel Bad Too,” and explains that posts like this “underscore criticism of the partnership for using a children’s toy to promote sexualized images for adults.”

States Alia Salem, a “nonprofit executive,” in the CNN piece: “People who say it (Barbie) is just a doll obviously don’t realize how it shapes thinking while playing house. If the image of what (you’re) imagining yourself as is never attainable and is billed as what to strive for, you’ll always be disappointed.” This is true ­— as if air-brushed photos of scantily clad women in bikinis weren’t enough, we’ve now got Barbie herself to contribute to a self-esteem crisis.

On top of Barbie’s appearance itself, the entire promotion is being centered upon a single-world slogan, “#unapologetic.” (For those who reside far outside the world of Twitterverse, the hashtag is a Twitter character that allows folks to share tweets on the same subject with one another). Said a Mattel spokeswoman to CNN: “Barbie, for the first time, has an active voice … with her #unapologetic stance. The goal of the campaign is to empower fans to engage and celebrate all that makes them who they are.”

Sure. Say what you will about Barbie’s idealized form of beauty, but at least the dolls have promoted all kinds of different career choices and interests over the years, potentially stimulating similar interests in young girls. Barbie in a swimsuit doesn’t do any of this, as far as I can tell.

Wrote another woman on Twitter, as quoted by CNN: “I am #unapologetic for being grossed out by Mattel’s desperation. Pairing up with Sports Illustrated to put Barbie on a cover mag? #yuck.”

Those comments, to me, are right on. As are these, as shared by a grandmother on Twitter and also cited in the CNN article: “Parents need to remember THEY should be the positive role in their child’s life, not toys or Hollywood or athletes.”

As Charlie Sheen would say, “#winning.”

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Off to see … you know who

My younger brother, Ian, once fashioned himself as a future film director, and he seemed well on the way to fulfilling such a career as a kid. Starting at age 7 and going almost all the way through high school, he made dozens of Super-8 movies, with subjects as varied as a baseball player who can’t stop hitting home runs, a grocery store robbery and (as an older teen) a slasher-type horror show.

Through the simple fact I was his brother — and absolutely not as a result of any talent — I was the star of many of these cinematic extravaganzas.

If Ian still was shooting movies with the old Super-8 today, my guess is Grace would get repeated top billing. My daughter simply loves performing — whether it’s dancing on the auditorium, singing at high volume around the house, playing piano or acting, as she will be tonight, Friday and Sunday in the Worthington High School production of “The Wizard of Oz.”

For the past few weeks, Grace has taken part in rehearsals along with other “Munchkins” in preparation for what will be her second theatrical production on the Memorial Auditorium stage. After having a role in “Shrek” this past summer, she was set on being in “Oz” almost right away and has shown an unwavering enthusiasm for the play. While some part of her joy of performing is almost certainly a product of the resulting attention she receives — both of Becca’s parents are already here for the show, and my dad arrives today — I do think Grace has a genuine love for being in the spotlight.

That love for the spotlight, of course, is shared by plenty of those who will “follow the yellow brick road” over the next few days. After last year’s scintillating production of “Hairspray,” I’m really looking forward to seeing what the talented WHS crew can pull off this time around.

After learning “The Wizard of Oz,” was going to be this year’s musical, I immediately pictured Jessica Arnt — who shined in the supporting role of Penny in “Hairspray” — as Dorothy. Sure enough, she got the part, and from the dress rehearsal photos I saw on Facebook the other night, she embodies the part in many ways.

I’m also eager to see Annie Lesnar, who had the “Hairspray” lead and was so fun to work with in “Shrek” (she was very supportive of a certain 40-something clod with two left feet), play Glinda the Good Witch. Orissa Nitibhon, one of the hilarious three little pigs in “Shrek,” gets to be the Cowardly Lion. And Alex Purdy, who I’ve watched grow up over the past few years and now count as a part-time Daily Globe employee, gets to be the Tin Man.

There are many, many others involved in this play — close to 100 in all, from what I read in Jane Turpin Moore’s recent article — and given all the work that’s gone into all facets of the production, not to mention the familiarity of “Oz” to many of us, I would think it would be more than worthy of very strong community support.

I could easily tell everyone to see it because of my talented 9-year-old daughter, but that wouldn’t do everyone else justice. Naturally, though, my eyes will certainly go right to Grace while she’s on the stage. Perhaps this will be the latest step in a gradual rise to acting stardom … or perhaps she’ll simply be the eventual star of her younger brother’s home movies. Either way, it’s all fun for this dad to behold.

UnbeBieberable

A few years back, some guy drove down from Murray County (if I remember correctly) on a tractor into the Worthington McDonald’s parking lot — at the time, in front of Northland Mall. If that wasn’t unusual enough, he was ultimately arrested for DWI. We simply had to run an account of this escapade in the paper, especially once we got our eyes on his mug shot taken at Prairie Justice Center. I don’t think I’d ever seen a person so apparently happy to pose for a booking photo.

That man — who I’ve affectionately referred to as “tractor boy” over the years — now just might have a rival in the jovial mugshot department. Justin Bieber got arrested the other night, and he looked downright pleased about it.

Bieber, for the pop-culturally ignorant, is a still-teenaged singer whose days as the heartthrob of tween girls are more or less over. After a small collection of hits about more-or-less innocent romance (“Baby, Baby,” “Boyfriend”), he attempted to grow up musically by pairing up with overtly sexual and frequently vulgar Nicki Minaj on “Beauty and a Beat.” Now, he’s grown up in far worse ways, with rampant drug rumors and other trouble preceding his arrest last week.

Seems as if Beebs, in a display of infinite un-wisdom, decided to have a few alcoholic beverages, do drugs and take some prescription medication before getting behind the wheel of a rented Lamborghini and drag racing down a residential street with a far-lesser-known musical artist. Justin wasn’t alone in his car, at least — he had the fortune to be accompanied by a model who was all over the Internet (with numerous images of her — scantily clad, naturally) the following morning. (Gentlemen, her name is Chantel Jeffries.)
Bieber, after getting busted for his lawbreaking, resisted arrest and reportedly used all kinds of nasty language with police. Still, he beamed for his mugshot … though he did look considerably more chagrined upon making his initial court appearance. Maybe he simply needed to sober up to begin to realize the multiple errors of his ways.

As much as it pains me to admit it, I almost feel sorry for the guy. After all, life as a young massive celebrity can’t be a walk in the park. (Thus, the need for the Lamborghini.) The story of a young idol’s fall from grace is nothing new, but these sorts of tales now tend to reach toward stratospheric heights thanks in large part to the proliferation of social media.
A few months back, many were talking about how the former Disney Channel heroine Hannah Montana was behaving as a grown-up Miley Cyrus. (Bec and I have told our kids, “She has been making bad choices.”) Another lesser-known Disney starlet, Demi Lovato, has been open about her struggles with addictions. And then there’s Lindsay Lohan, a cute child actress back in the day who has been reduced to little more than tabloid fodder thanks to repeated over-the-top exploits.

It’s easy to point at each of those folks and reduce them to someone who is merely making “bad choices,” but at the same time it’s difficult to comprehend what life in such an intense spotlight can be for someone so young. That’s not to say Justin Bieber should be pitied and excused for his behavior — obviously, he put his own life and others at risk with his recent antics — but as humorous as it may be for some to see a frequently ridiculed star get in trouble, it’s no laughing matter.

Grace, who at 9 would make an excellent reporter thanks to her accelerated eavesdropping skills, caught wind of Bec and I talking about Bieber’s arrest. “JUSTIN BIEBER WAS ARRESTED?!?!” she asked, stunned. Later, when she asked me why, I tried to explain to her the best I could, without saying too much for a 9-year-old. Grace’s take on this? “Well, Dad, if he keeps on doing stupid things like that, I guess I won’t like him any more.”

Who knows if Justin Bieber will indeed keep doing stupid things? I guess, if anything, it’s good that we have a daughter who realizes they are stupid, even though someone supposedly cool is doing them. If that outlook remains, we will have done at least one thing right.

Play the game

One of the kids’ favorite things to do with us is relax with us and watch a movie. We enjoy it, too, though, there are more than a handful we’ve now watched far more than necessary. (I think it’s high time we ordered a permanent blackout on both big-screen “Smurfs” adaptations.) But there are plenty of other things to do, of course, instead of stare at the tube, and thankfully Grace and Zachary are starting to see that a little bit.

Over Christmas break from school, Bec — probably to get the kids away from the TV, as well as find an additional activity that didn’t involve setting out into the dreaded polar vortex — sat down with G and Z and played some good-old fashioned board games. And, lo and behold, rather than complain about being taken away from the 15th-or-so viewing of “Despicable Me 2,” they actually had fun (mostly).

Now, we had played games with the kids before, to be sure. “Candyland” and “Chutes and Ladders” have long been favorites, but those are getting outgrown nowadays. Many hands of “Uno” have been played over the years, Grace in particular enjoys a good “Connect 4” challenge and both she and her brother get a kick out of catching the wanted “Mousetrap” prey. Game-playing, though, is starting to advance to a whole new level.

A couple of classics have moved to the “game-on” forefront. “Life” has gotten some action lately, as the kids seem to like the whole idea of driving across a board while going to college, getting married, getting jobs and buying houses, having babies (many giggles seem to consistently ensue at this stage) and so on. The game is not perfect, though — “job cards” and “salary cards” in real life aren’t necessarily picked at random, and when Zachary beat us all despite being the only one to skip college, Bec and I felt compelled to offer a brief explanation that this route would not be the preferred one in our home. Still, there was plenty of fun had, and that was the bottom line.

And then, there is “Monopoly.” After just one or two games, Grace began to display a fiercely competitive streak that results in her announcing her desire to “kick our butts” each time. She enjoys taking money from her other family members, unsurprisingly, and is even intrigued by the “art of the deal” — proposing property trades and even forging alliances. Perhaps if her longed-for careers as elementary teacher, dancer or (let’s not forget) princess don’t pan out, she’ll be some sort of power broker.

Zach, for his part, likes to roll the dice and, like his sister, consistently longs to land on Free Parking. He doesn’t want Park Place and Boardwalk because they’re the game’s high-rent district; blue is simply his favorite color. He has a somewhat fitting propensity to wind up in jail, and his favorite part of the game is re-arranging the Chance cards so that other players get their own sentences in the slammer.

With this enhanced interest in board games taking place, our long tradition of Saturday Movie Night may just become Saturday Game Night. And I’m not “Sorry” to say that at all.

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A not-so-fine flight

It seems like almost every time my mom flies from Albany, N.Y., to visit us, something in the travel experience goes badly awry.

This past spring, a mechanical problem threatened to derail her getting here for an entire day — that’s what United Airlines folks announced originally — before she eventually arrived about eight hours or so later than expected. A trip or two before that, Mom and a few of her fellow passengers, rather than wait seemingly forever to get to a connecting flight in Chicago, teamed up to rent a car and drove in the middle of the night to get there. Of course, there has been a battle or two with missing luggage, too, but she’s been fortunate to have those eventually work out in her favor.

This past Dec. 19, Mom was supposed to fly out of Albany at roughly 6 a.m., change planes at O’Hare Airport and get into Sioux Falls, S.D., at approximately 9:50 a.m. Surprise — she didn’t make it on time. Or over the course of the remainder of the day, for that matter. She almost didn’t get here at all.

After getting up at around 3 a.m. to get ready to go, she was on the Northway (I-87), traveling south from Saratoga Springs to the Albany Airport, when her cell phone rang. She stopped to pull over a few moments later and listen to her voicemail and, lo and behold, it was a recorded message from United. Her flight had been overbooked, she would not be able to board her plane, and it was extremely unlikely she would be able to fly to Sioux Falls until the next day.

Mom proceeded to drive to the airport, and was told there that weather problems were making traveling connections difficult that morning. She spoke with a few airline employees, and ultimately traveled home without making any new arrangements. Calls to United later that day, while handled by what I was told was consistently friendly staff, were unfortunately not so accommodating. She was told that she would have to fly from Albany to Chicago to Denver to Sioux Falls, I believe; why she’d have to fly to Denver is beyond me. That’s especially after Bec and I looked online Thursday night — after we had spoken a few minutes earlier and she’d said she was giving up, and would try to come in the spring when perhaps the traveling season wasn’t so crazy and stressful — and we found with no difficulty a flight from Albany to Chicago to Minneapolis, where I had told her I’d be more than happy to pick her up. And pick her up I did, at about 3 p.m. the following afternoon.

I totally understand weather can wreak havoc on flying, but I guess I’ve never understood the whole overbooking thing. Perhaps a travel agent or someone in the airlines industry can explain this one to me, but it’s not like the number of seats on a plane can suddenly vary, right? And it seems like giving more than one reason for an unexpected delay is a common occurrence for many.

Now, with extra fees being seemingly added all the time, it appears fair to ask the question, “Why fly at all?” Well, struggling with getting somewhere over the course of one unpredictable and long day still beats driving over, say, three or four days for most people. And, when everything happens to somehow run smoothly, there’s simply no reason not to travel by air.

Mom did make it, and we all had a wonderful holiday with her. We’re pleased she braved the occasional inconveniences — as annoying and stressful as they were — to come out here and be with us. We’re also happy she made it back home without any negative incident, while also getting to enjoy a male flight attendant who she said spoke just like the Martin Short character in “Father in the Bride.”

That alone probably made taking the plane worthwhile.