Saturday, March 31, 2007

Travel Travails

One of the things I was looking forward to as an empty nester was the opportunity to travel with my husband. Over our years of marriage, he has flown to far away places extensively. Often, he would call me upon his arrival and say, "I wish you were here with me. They put me in this fancy suite with terry cloth robes and the food I had in the restaurant was to die for". Naturally, he would be telling me this while I was trying to referee sibling conflicts or trying to get our two children to two different activities while eating peanut butter sandwiches or mac n' cheese.

This past week I have been in Charlotte, North Carolina with my husband to attend a conference of over 6000 scientists. How should I say this? The trip was good and bad and this morning I am trying to decide if the positive outweighed the negative. So here goes:

1. Bad. I am in charge of the Easter advertising for our church. At the last minute, I was running around signing contracts with newspapers and sending out e-mails to make sure members of our congregation distributed flyers and door hangers. Evidently, without me here to supervise, nothing happened. Terrible to come back to that with Easter only a week away.

2. Bad. We left last Saturday morning and of course had to be up at 4:30 AM. Our flight took us to Minneapolis where we learned that due to fog, our connecting flight to Charlotte had been canceled. We had no luggage for the night. I check my carry-on because of my liquid shampoos, hair products, and pointy things so I had nothing. The airline provided us with a little kit that had deodorant (good), a worthless razor and shave cream (bad), and a toothbrush (good). I refuse to wear the same underwear two days in a row or go to bed without flossing.

3. Good. The hotel the airline put us in was ok with a nice restaurant. And it was not far from Mall of America which is supposedly the largest shopping mall in the United States.

4. Bad. The Mall of America has no drugstore; drugstores are now located near residential neighborhoods. So here we are in the biggest crowded shopping mall in the country and I cannot find make up for less than $100, floss, or mouthwash. True, I did find some underwear and something to sleep in and the hotel had some basic items for purchase---including adequate make up for $4.95 after I spent--cringe--Kaley will love this--cringe--$80 at Sephora.

5. Good. When we arrived in Charlotte, we stayed in the relatively new swanky Westin downtown or as they say in Charlotte--uptown. Really it was quite a beautiful place and they even had white terry cloth robes.

6. Good. Charlotte has some terrific restaurants and lunch spots. The South knows how to fry things without a smidgen of grease leftover. And they know how to cook pork. As an appetizer at this one place, we ordered their famous salt and pepper fried chicken wings. At another place we had hush puppies stuffed with crayfish. I had never had anything fried that was so good.

At a fancy place, I ordered slow cooked pork shank in an apple glaze. It melted in my mouth--so yummy. Finally, I tried grits. Frankly, I am not quite sure what to say except that I was glad I tried them. The only downside is that my stomach was not quite accustomed to the amount of fat. The pork shank eaten on the same evening with the hush puppies and a to die for salad with fried camembert cheese required pepto bismol in the middle of the night.

7. Good. The weather was spectacular--80 degrees and sunshine. I enjoyed it a lot.

8. Bad. Though uptown Charlotte is quite lovely with interesting places to eat, I had pretty much covered it all by foot in two days. Dave was busy in meetings from 6 AM to 6 PM. By Tuesday, I had read two books and was ready to return home.

9. Bad. The 6000 scientists are probably one of the most geeky, nerdy, awkward group of conventioneers ever. I could not tell my husband apart from thousands of other men in a crowd. Seriously! A convention with Bill Gates and his computer people wouldn't even match up to these folks. Next year, the group comes to Seattle. Please, please---I am going to see if there is some way a "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" booth can be set up along with all of the other exhibits. The women scientists need a little help, too. Kaley, Kaley--help me??

10. Bad. I was ready to come home Tuesday but we were scheduled to leave Thursday which we did. Unfortunately, as our flight took off from Charlotte and was half way to Detroit, the pilot came on the intercom in a weak voice and announced a problem with the landing gear. He informed us we would be returning to Charlotte. Dave is pissed that we will miss our connection in Detroit. Me---I am scared to death knowing they do not tell you how serious an airplane problem is.

The pilot comes on again and tells us that he is flying slowly to keep things as "normal" as possible. He didn't know if the landing gear door was loose or hanging or gone. SH%&! I knew I should have revised our wills. They are completely outdated now that the children are legal adults. As we approached Charlotte, the pilot comes on with a very happy strong voice and announces the landing gear came down normally and was locked so not to worry. Even so, we were greeted with fire trucks.

11. Bad. The airline put us up in a not so nice place next to a not so nice restaurant. The same motel outside of Helena, Montana would be a perfectly wonderful place to stay. Not so near the Charlotte airport. I checked for bed bugs before I would even sit on the bed.

12. Good. Next year, this particular scientific meeting will be held right here in Seattle. As a result, I can sleep in my own bed; I do not have to worry about living without my "things" for even one night and I do not have to fly on an airplane or stand in line at an airport.

I will still have the problem of picking my husband out of a crowd, however---unless we get our booth in the exhibits.