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Unexpected travel adventures can give us a reason to laugh — later

Some say of traveling that getting there is half the fun. Yeah, well, maybe. The older I get, the more it seems an ordeal. I am increasingly grateful just to get there, wherever "there" may be. Since 9/11 everyone knows that airports have become a series of inspections and lines. No fun at all. At least on international flights they still give you "food" and the drinks are free. Now there are added charges for checked luggage with some airlines.

And then there's the dreaded discovery that in your row there is a mother with an infant and a toddler. Meanwhile, the woman across the aisle rummages through the overhead bin every half-hour for the entire 11-hour journey. Darling Husband has the gift of being able to sleep blissfully on airplanes. I, on the other hand, am wide awake throughout the flight.

Those are just some of the normal difficulties. Sometimes more exciting things happen, things that an optimist thinks will give us a chuckle in years to come. But not yet. We've had our share of those.

There was the time when DH had just had his pacemaker replaced two weeks before we were traveling to Europe for the summer. We always hope for the possibility that we'll get an upgrade from economy class. On this occasion, I had what seemed like a good idea at the time: I asked the nice lady at the boarding desk to please upgrade us because DH had had heart surgery recently.

Mistake! We didn't get an upgrade, but once we boarded, the head flight attendant came to us and asked if we were the ones with recent heart surgery. We said yes, hoping we were about to move to business class. But no. Our departure time came and went and finally medical personnel appeared and told us that if DH was at risk we wouldn't be able to fly — at all. Did we have a note from the doctor that he was fit to fly? Well no, but pacemaker replacement is not really heart surgery and he was, indeed, fit to fly.

There was much consultation over the phone with medical staff on the ground, and ultimately, two hours later, the plane backed away from the gate. We waited another hour for clearance since our flight had lost its place in the takeoff parade.

Many people had to make connections at our destination and we got a lot of dirty looks from other passengers. When we arrived 11 hours later in London, we learned that our connecting flight had departed an hour before we got there. The same was true for many others. After much standing in line and frustration we learned that though we could fly to Milan it was to a different airport than our original flight. So we got on that flight. Of course our luggage didn't. We didn't get the bags for a week.

Another time, also flying to London, we landed but didn't pull up to a gate. They rolled out one of those rickety, see-through staircases to the tarmac. DH got ahead of me in the exit line. When I arrived at the exit and saw the staircase ahead I decided to wait until those in a hurry passed me. My eyesight was not at all good at that time because of cataracts, and I was nervous about being moved with the crowd down the staircase too fast.

When I finally got to the top of the staircase, I saw DH at the bottom surrounded by army guys with Uzis. What? I cautiously came down the stairs to the place where my husband was apparently being taken into custody. He shouted, "There she is!" when I appeared. There had been a bomb scare that day, so planes were diverted from their gates. At the bottom, people were instructed to get into a bus and be taken to the terminal. DH had been waiting for me. He wouldn't get on the bus without me. (A good thing since he was carrying the tickets and passports!) Finally we got on the last bus to the terminal.

When we got home, DH wrote an irate letter to the airline saying he had been treated like a terrorist and that the whole incident was an outrage. He's very good at "irate." Perhaps he made veiled references to a possible lawsuit. A couple of months later we got a letter from an airline lawyer apologizing for the misunderstanding and offering us free round-trip tickets to anywhere in the western hemisphere. We went to Jamaica. Sweet!

Next week we're traveling again. Wish us an uneventful trip.

Sheila Stoll is happy to hear from readers but cannot respond to individual queries. Write her at PMB No. 309, 7904 E Chaparral Road, No. 110, Scottsdale, AZ 85250.

Unexpected travel adventures can give us a reason to laugh — later 10/26/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 26, 2010 4:30am]
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