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What I did on my summer vacation — part 3

August 11, 2022 | Family,Summer,Traveling

Dream vacation, nightmare travel planning

A few days later — less than two weeks after I contacted her — I had my reservations for the train, hotels, and rental car. I was getting excited! She was still working on several things — insurance, rides from airport to hotel, hotel to train station, and train station to airport. She was able to get the Victoria hotel that initially told her they were full. So, we were rolling right along. I asked for info about getting TSA PreCheck, which we got, so I gave her our numbers for the travel reservations.

There was trouble booking one of the cars, and I learned that my card had been deactivated. The company switched it from a MasterCard to a Visa, and I had somehow missed that. So, I called the company, and they sent me a new card, which I got in a couple of days. I asked her if she wanted me to send copies of the new card, and she said, “I don’t think there is anything left to pay for at this time. Do you?” (📌) I sent her a copy of my new card, anyway, for booking some other unrelated travel, which had a whole other set of mistakes, but that’s another story.

🚩🚩🚩Then came time for her to charge my card for the rest of the big trip. And guess what? She hadn’t updated her system with my new card, so the automated system she uses tried to charge the old card, and it was declined. I got an email and a voicemail at 7:21 a.m., telling me, “We have a problem.” She said I needed to call back ASAP because she didn’t know how long it would be before the system would automatically cancel everything. No need for coffee that morning to get my heart pumping. I called her back and asked her why she wasn’t using my new card for this. She didn’t think she had it. I reminded her I had provided her with all the required information and it was up to her to fix this problem. She did.

Then my daughter’s summer schedule changed, and she wanted to join us for a week, so I asked about that. The agent gave me a few options for flights, and I made it clear that I was willing to spend more on plane tickets to get my daughter to the Seattle airport at a decent time of day. One of the options had her arriving at about 3 p.m. So what did she book? The one that had the plane arriving at night. Because of delays, I got to pick up my daughter 📌at the airport in the middle of the night.📌 I think her flight finally got in at 1 a.m.

Before that happened, though, my son and I took off from TLH to LAX. We got there as planned with no delays. We only had to wait a few minutes before our car arrived to pick us up. We got to the hotel before check-in, but she had a room ready for us. I was messed up by the time change, and I didn’t even realize we were early. The hotel and service there was great. In the morning, the bellman got us a car to the train station. Checking in there went smoothly, and we even got free drinks and snacks in the Amtrak lounge. (I didn’t know about that.) Red Cap service took us to the platform where we would board. (I didn’t know about Red Cap service until then.) We got settled on the train, and it took off. Because we had a bedroom, we also had an attendant. (I didn’t know about that either.) The travel was nice. I got a little claustrophobic when I first got on the train, but I was able to work through it. The food was great. Our attendant, Cesar, was superb. I made sure to tell him that (and tip him).

Our train’s arrival at the King Street Station was delayed, so instead of getting there at 7:51 p.m., we got there at 8:25 p.m., the time our ride was scheduled to pick us up to take us to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to get our rental car. We exchanged phone calls, and she said she would be there soon to get us. After getting our luggage (two big checked bags each and two carry-on bags each, as well as a backpack and bag), we loaded all that into the car that picked us up and unloaded it all again at the Delta departures sign where the driver dropped us off. We walked inside, and I kept looking for a car-rental desk. We walked the length of the airport – with all our bags – to get to a shuttle. I was exhausted by this time. I called the driver and asked why she didn’t drop us off at the car-rental area. “We aren’t allowed in there,” she said. Sigh. She also told me to double-check my car bill, because I had been booked and paid for 5 people. At this point, I don’t even know why the agent did that. I haven’t found anything about it in my receipts and emails. Only thing I can figure is she was booking something for 5 people in that other trip and got confused with the numbers. (She messed up several other things numbers-wise, so maybe that’s just her MO).

Back at the airport, we found a place to sit to wait for the next shuttle. When it got there, we loaded all our luggage and then unloaded it all again when we got to the car-rental place. We wheeled all our luggage up to the desk, and I got the contract for the car. Did I already say I was exhausted? We lugged all our luggage to an elevator and into a parking lot. It was not immediately clear where our car was. I asked someone working there how the numbers worked. We eventually found our car and then loaded all our luggage into the car and took off to find the hotel. It was about a 20-minute drive, and we checked in around midnight.

NOTE: The Seattle airport was not user-friendly for us. There was the whole shuttle thing and drivers “not being allowed in there.” And when we left for home, we had a helluva time finding TSA PreCheck, which they tucked away in a corner waaaaaaay at the other end of the building. I might be wrong, but I would think a travel agent might know some of this and be able to mitigate or at least warn clients about it. (I had asked for airport assistance, but she didn’t note that on my reservation, so we didn’t get it.)

We got all our luggage up to our room on the 11th floor in the hotel. Imagine my surprise when I opened the curtains, looked out the window and saw … the King Street train station RIGHT NEXT DOOR. We could have walked about two minutes with all our luggage from the train station to our hotel, checked in, gotten a decent night’s sleep, and worried about the rental car in the morning. This is so egregious that it felt intentional. I mean, nobody can screw up that badly, can they?

Oh-huh-ho. But of course they can.

More later …

Posted by Becky @ 7:19 pm | Comments  

What I did on my summer vacation — part 2

August 10, 2022 | Family,Summer,Traveling

Dream vacation, nightmare travel planning

I went to the agent’s website and filled out her form, telling her what I wanted. I said I’d like to do the Starlight Coast train trip from Los Angeles to Seattle. I wanted to stay in Seattle for several days, and I also wanted to take a short trip to Canada. I said I needed a rental car because I have some health issues and can’t do a lot of walking. I said I’d like the best prices I can get but I was willing to spend more if it meant I didn’t have to be at the airport in the middle of the night. (📌Stick a pin in this.📌)

She replied right away, and we set up a time to talk on the phone. Within a week, she sent me the first of a few itineraries.

Let me interrupt this story by talking about 🚩red flags. I spent most of my life being oblivious to red flags until I search for them in the rear-view mirror. It’s taken lots of practice in the last few years to see them and recognize them for what they are. I mean, I saw that Perkins Restaurant-sized red flag Michelle was waving at me. But alas. Not all the flags are that big or that red. So, I’m still learning. And sometimes I still have to look back to see what happened and how many I missed.

🚩 In that first itinerary, she booked a rental car for only two days, saying, “I highly recommend you not have a car the whole time so I only included one for the days you will need to go to Canada.” In a later email she expressed how expensive it would be to have a car every day, plus I would have to pay for parking at the hotel. Mind you, I did not start out asking for the cheapest vacation ever. I made it clear that I needed a car. So, I explained further that having a car for the whole stay was important. I told her that unless everything actually passes by the hotel we’re staying in (they didn’t), I’d rather program my GPS than try to figure out whatever transportation options there are. I am horrible with directions and get lost every 15 minutes. I told her that when I visited Washington, D.C., several years ago, I got off the train at the wrong stop and ended up walking MILES to get to my hotel. I don’t have the stamina to walk like that anymore if I make a wrong turn and get lost.

We exchanged more emails, she sent me a couple of itineraries, and we kept ironing out the details until we had a final one. Once we had that, she had to start locking everything in. She said the cost of our train ticket almost doubled, did I still want to book it? I said yes, but here’s another thing that’s frustrating about the travel industry. Why does it have to feel like I’m trying to win at a casino where we all know the house always wins? Why are they allowed to change prices with the wind?

When it was all decided, I had to pay half then and would pay the rest a month before my trip. (📌) Part of all the forms I completed for her included my credit-card info, passport, and ID. She was working on lining up cars to pick us up at various places, and she would let me know when she had those. She started booking things with my card, and I got a fraud alert text message, but it wasn’t from my credit-card company. So, before I jumped on that, I asked for dollar amounts of things she’d charged already, so I knew it was a legit fraud alert. I said that it was weird that I didn’t know what bank my credit card was affiliated with — that’s why I thought I’d better double-check. She told me the dollar amounts, and they matched.

🚩🚩 And then she said, as if I were insulting her and stupid because I didn’t know how all this worked (mind you, I’m not the one who books travel stuff every day, so is it that unusual that I don’t understand every little detail?):

“It’s not MY bank. It is the bank of the rental car company. You’re welcome to call me if you have any questions. 

“In the state of FL, I am licensed as a travel agent and have been for more than decade. I follow the laws explicitly and the laws state that I am an intermediary between you and the travel providers. You’re not paying me. You are directly paying the suppliers and I am facilitating that payment. All of this information was in the reservation form that you signed.”

Whoa, Nellie. Well, that was uncalled for. I went back over my email to see if I had implied that she was doing anything wrong or illegal. I hadn’t. She misconstrued what I said and got all pissy about it. But I was this close to having everything scheduled for this vacation. So I ignored the red flag, I apologized to her, and I hoped maybe she was just having a bad day.

More later …

Posted by Becky @ 1:24 pm | Comments  

What I did on my summer vacation — part 1

August 9, 2022 | Bad service,Family,Summer,Traveling

Dream vacation, nightmare travel planning

Several years ago, I dreamed of a family vacation to California because I’d never been there before. Fast forward to a time when I don’t have to ask anyone else’s permission for anything, I started planning that vacation. I knew it would be in July. I’d worked with a national travel company (the one that shows up to jump your car) to plan getaways to Orlando with the kids, so that’s where I called on a Saturday in January. I spent an hour on the phone with someone named Brian. He said he’d get some information to me by Monday. Monday came and went. I know things have been chaotic in offices everywhere, so I tried to be patient. At the end of the week, I sent him an email, saying, “There’s no rush yet to get information, but I thought I’d check in with you since you said you’d have something for me Monday. Is everything OK?” I got back an automated reply:

I am currently out of the office 

Please Note: I have been out of the office for an extended period of time and am following up with member requests as quickly as possible.

Maybe everything was not OK. I checked in again about a week later. Got another automated message. A week after that, I got a real email from Brian:

I am back in the office FINALLY !!!     Trying to dig out on emails and Voicemails …..       Have you given up on me or are you still looking ?     Please let me know and I will get this to you !!!!

Please accept my apologies !!!!

I replied that, yes, I was still looking for help. I gave him travel dates again, and he said he would get to work on it. Almost two months later, I checked in and got the automated message again, this time with more red and all caps. The next day, I called the main number, hoping to speak with him or someone else. Michelle answered the phone.

First, I asked for Brian. He wasn’t in the office. I asked if she had access to his notes so I didn’t have to start all over again. She checked (or she said she checked) and said he had no notes in my file. What?!? How could that be? I had spent at least an hour on the phone with him in January. And now this? I started giving her details of the trip I wanted to take, and she said she would send me an itinerary. Then she said, “And going forward, what I am not gonna do is listen to you complain about anything.”

My head tipped like a dog’s would when trying to make sense of a new sound, and my brain said this to me, “Oh-huh-ho. Going forward, there will be no going forward with this shit.” Out loud, I said, “Thanks, bye.”

She sent her email, and I ignored it. I asked folks I know for travel-agent recommendations. I got three, and I chose the local one.

More later …

Posted by Becky @ 7:20 pm | Comments  

Father’s Day without you

June 19, 2016 | Dad,Family,Father's Day

dad-028

You visited me in a dream last night. That hasn’t happened for a while. As usual, you didn’t talk to me. You were busy doing something for me, though. You were working on my taxes. You wore a checked short-sleeve shirt and dress pants. You also wore fuzzy slippers. “Where did he get THOSE?” I wondered. At some point, I realized this was a dream and I might not see you again for a while. I didn’t want to waste my chance, so I walked up to you and gave you a hug. You wrapped your arms around me and held me tight. Thank you for that. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.

Posted by Becky @ 9:50 am | Comments  

Books: Writing Home

September 30, 2014 | Authors,Books,Family

books-writinghomecindylaferle

Title: Writing Home (Hearth Stone Books, Royal Oak, Michigan, 2005)
Author: Cindy La Ferle‘s essays and columns have appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Reader’s Digest, Country Gardens, Mary Engelbreit’s Home Companion, Writer’s Digest, The Oakland Press, The Royal Oak Daily Tribune and many other publications. She lives with her family in Royal Oak, Michigan.

What a wonderful collection of essays! Cindy La Ferle is a great observer of human nature, and she is a brilliant writer with a calm and assuring voice. Many of her essays brought me to tears, especially the ones she wrote about her son. My children are in between the stages of childhood and teenage-hood. I look into their faces that keep changing yet staying true to who they are — and I try to savor every moment with them. Her words remind me that this motherhood ride is an exciting one with the milestones speeding by in the blink of an eye.

“The sacred is in the ordinary. It is found in one’s daily life — in friends, family, and neighbors; in one’s own backyard.” Thanks, Cindy, for reminding me.

Posted by Becky @ 1:40 pm | Comments  

What’s cooking?

February 25, 2012 | Family,Food

I made sea scallops from an A Food Centric Life recipe that I got from Amy. I also made something with shrimp, because my son really loves shrimp. It’s always fun to try something new!

Posted by Becky @ 3:25 pm | 1 Comment  

Lucy

January 11, 2012 | Family,Home

I love what comes home in backpacks.

The dog’s tail actually does curl up like that. I love that, too.

Posted by Becky @ 5:43 pm | Comments  

Garden

August 28, 2011 | Family,Food,Iowa

Our first cherry tomatoes from the garden.

Posted by Becky @ 6:10 am | Comments  

Apple tree

August 27, 2011 | Family,Food,Iowa

Our apple tree is loaded with apples this year. I’ve got to get into harvest mode soon. I might try making apple jelly this year.

What’s your favorite recipe for apples? Pie? Salad? What’s the craziest apple dish you’ve eaten? Let me know. I love new recipes!

This is one of my new favorites from my aunt. We ate these when we were in Missouri. Yum!

Aunt Carolyn’s Candy Apples
Ingredients
4 apples, peeled and sliced
A little water
Red Hots candy
1/2 cup sugar
Cinnamon

Place sliced apples in a skillet with a little water and heat. Cover with Red Hots. Stir only after juice from apples accumulates. Add sugar and cinnamon. Cook until soft.

Posted by Becky @ 10:30 am | Comments  

Books: States of Mind

August 26, 2011 | Books,Brad Herzog,Family,Missouri

I finished reading States of Mind: A Search for Faith, Hope, Inspiration, Harmony, Unity, Friendship, Love, Pride, Wisdom, Honor, Comfort, Joy, Bliss, Freedom, Justice, Glory, Triumph, and Truth or Consequences in America by Brad Herzog when I was on vacation in Missouri.

While I felt on the same page with him in Turn Left at the Trojan Horse, States of Mind — oddly enough — took me even further into my own “state of mind.”

It made me look at my own life and wonder what I’ve done, where I’ve been and where I’m going. It made me think of regrets, and it brought out a little envy.

I mean, the man wrote this book in his 20s. Did I do that? No. (I started research for one in my early 30s, but I obviously didn’t write that book.) He seemed to have such a clear path for his life. Did I? Never. He admitted that he suffered angst from basically a perfect life. Have I? Oh, I wish.

So, here I am. I’m 46. My mother died in January this year. I am the age my father was when he died 27 years ago today, on Aug. 26, 1984. I was 19, and he was 46. It’s a little weird to be 46 now. I wrote about my dad two years ago on the 25th anniversary of his death.

Think about death much? (It probably doesn’t help that I’m reading Sing them Home and Tinkers, both of which have death as a central issue.) No, actually, I’m thinking about life. My life.

Thanks, Brad.

Coincidence abounds again with States of Mind. And not just within the book.

I’d just started the book as I sat alone in a Mexican restaurant, sipping a margarita. I got there before the lunch rush, and the place was empty. Then the host brought in a couple and seated them right beside me. I looked up and smiled, then turned back to my book. The woman wondered aloud what she should order. She looked over at me, asked if the margarita was good and should she order one? She went on to say they were celebrating their anniversary.

“Oh, which one?” I asked.

“Our 54th.” They were in town from Clarion to get her eyes checked. She’d recently had surgery on them and was happy to be able to read again, she said, pointing at my book.

We had a nice chat.

I remembered that chat when I got to page 104 and learned that Chicken Owen of Pride, Alabama, had been married for 54 years. Not 52. Not 58. Fifty-four.

Coincidence.

One of the topics in his chapter on Hope, Mississippi, was desegregation. That’s what I was researching in my 30s when I decided to find the children my father taught in the first desegregated fifth-grade class in Thomasville, Georgia. I might have even been talking to them when Herzog was interviewing Jerome and Ollie May. We learned something similar.

“We often think of desegregation as an end to a moral struggle, when it was, to many closest to it, the beginning of a practical one. Jerome at the Hope Country Store told me he had quit school for a while when the races were mixed, not out of moral indignation but because of the volatile atmosphere it created. … From an entirely different station in life, Ollie May had developed much the same perspective. ‘I remember that this mother let her daughter to go school, and she got beat up and stuff. That’s when they was tryin’ to mix ’em together then,’ she explained. ‘I said if I ever have any kids, if my kids had trouble, I would just take ’em out. I wouldn’t let them go through that, ’cause I didn’t have to.'” (p. 140)

Coincidence.

In the chapter on Friendship, Maine, he wrote this.

“It was then that I realized what I admired so much about Bill and Caroline Zuber. They were in control of their lives. They had taken it upon themselves to define the moment. It was a concept that became the credo of our cross-country tour and, indeed, a blueprint for our future, so much so that Amy and I turned the journey into a search for a home, setting lofty criteria for the life we wanted to live and looking for an environment that would meet them. … Too many people I know — and these are young people, people with options — seem to settle for entrenched mediocrity, merely tolerating their day-to-day existence. A few even seem to revel in their misery, the late hours or cold winters or tyrannical bosses or shunted dreams. They trudge through fifty weeks of tedium to enjoy two weeks of reprieve — maybe three weeks, if they’re lucky enough to get a promotion. The Zubers decided to make life a vacation.” (p. 277)

That right there? That’s when I wished I could have 25 back and create an organized blueprint for the future, which is where I am now. My “future” is full of late hours and cold winters. I want life to be a vacation. How do I get that? Do I still have options?

Well. Let’s ask Hemingway.

“. . . I thought of Hemingway, of a passage in Death in the Afternoon: ‘There are some things which cannot be learned quickly, and time, which is all we have, must be paid heavily for their acquiring. They are the very simplest things, and because it takes a man’s life to know them, the little new that each man gets from life is very costly and the only heritage he has to leave.'” (p. 296)

Or, you know, a woman.

But I don’t know.

Maybe I was meant to struggle to learn the important things in life. Maybe I would have learned nothing if I’d had a perfect, non-chaotic life. I mean, I’ve lived through some difficult times, but I also have some amazing memories. You can see some of them on my post from last January, A decade: Are you reelin’ in the years? I wouldn’t trade the memories behind any one of those pictures for a less chaotic life. Not even for a second.

So, yeah, there’s still the issue of long hours and cold winters. But I’ll figure that out. I always do.

Anyway. This book isn’t about me. But I want authors to know how their words can affect readers. Oh, heck. They probably know that because they’re readers, too. In any case, someone else will read this and come away with a whole different experience.

And y’all should read this book.

I highly recommend reading Brad Herzog. He’s a wonderful listener and a gifted storyteller.

Oh and P.S.: While I was reading States of Mind in Missouri, I passed a building with HERZOG in big letters. I’d never seen it before, even though I’ve been to St. Joseph to visit my aunt and uncle many times over the years. I’d also never heard of the name until I picked up Turn Left at the Trojan Horse. I wondered if maybe there were a whole mess of Herzogs living there. But, nope. Listed in the telephone book was just Herzog Contracting Corp. and a Wm. R.

Posted by Becky @ 1:36 pm | Comments  


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