Monthly Archives: August 2019

Rough Start…

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Rough Start…

I recently returned from a cruise along the Baltic Sea. This is not a trip I ever intended to take, it wasn’t even on my trip radar. When my niece told me in February that she took a job as a vocalist on a ship, the itinerary suddenly became irresistible. Bonus, her longtime boyfriend also got a gig on the ship as a dancer. Oh to be twenty-something with remarkable talents…

My husband could not take two weeks off from work so he planned a shorter trip with our son closer to home in Nova Scotia. So it was just my daughter and me on the cruise. The itinerary was intense – 6 ports in 11 days plus Copenhagen where we got on/off the ship.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Stockholm (Nynashamn), Sweden

Helsinki, Finland

St. Petersburg, Russia (2 days)

Tallinn, Estonia

Berlin (Warnemunde) Germany

Oslo, Norway

The main reason I was on the ship, to the see the production shows that included my niece, Peanut, and her boyfriend…we’ll call him Special K. There were four production shows during the cruise – Sweet Motown, Bravo, Fiera! and Born to Dance.

Peanut and I planned to meet for lunch in Nyhavn. I mapped out the Metro station, printed out walking directions (no international cellular so I knew I would be off the grid upon landing) and planned our arrival to the ship together. Well that didn’t happen :(. Instead my carefully planned lunch date in Copenhagen was replaced with 2 1/2 hours on the tarmac at JFK waiting to take off. This is one of the most first world problems you could ever have so I moved on.

When my daughter and I landed in Copenhagen we were greeted with a YUGE line to get through passport control. I had visions of missing the ship entirely. Yes, cruise addicts I know I should have flown over the day before but the trip was expensive and I felt guilty that the hubs and son weren’t with us so I didn’t want to extend it. Rookie mistake.

Now I don’t often cut in line but when I do, it’s at the Copenhagen airport to avoid missing the ship. My apologies to the 732 people that were ahead of me. In my defense, I didn’t realize I was cutting the line until I got to the front of it and then I was like – I can’t go back there (at least a 1/2 mile to get to the end of the line). While I was standing near the front, getting my bearings and trying to determine the best course of action, the Line Gods smiled upon me and they opened up a new lane. So did I actually cut or did I just have the good fortune to be standing near where a new lane opened? (Makes the sign of the cross, whispers “I’m sorry” towards the heavens)

All of my line cutting assholery was of no use toward getting our luggage that took a solid hour. At this point it’s 2:30pm need to be at port by 5pm, I’m not panicking, plenty of time. We get outside to another line, taxis this time, 20 deep but moving quick, easy peasy. We get into our taxi, a sweet ride – Tesla, Model S possibly 2018, didn’t ask. Steel gray exterior, interior was black leather with red trim, Gaw-Gee-Us! Should be at the ship within an hour, no problemo. Until…

When we get to the center of Copenhagen I notice a lot of people, drinking champagne and whooping it up. Turns out it’s Pride weekend and the place is packed. So packed in fact, that we encountered an unusual amount of closed avenues. As we crawled our way through the crowded streets, fare ticking up, up and away, I tried to enjoy the only glimpse of Copenhagen I would get outside of the airport. There were a lot of good looking men, I mean really good looking. I don’t normally notice men, I’m in married auto-pilot so when I notice a guy, it’s rare. I saw three outrageously handsome dudes in the span of 20 minutes, never happens. Then I remember, Pride, well that makes sense.

This cab ride is supposed to take 40 minutes, it took 90. The cost was double what I had anticipated but we made it to the ship on time! I didn’t take a picture of the outrageously handsome men because I respected their privacy (momentarily stunned and couldn’t get to the phone in time). I did however, take the obligatory bicycle photo from a slow moving vehicle (featured photo).

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Another crappy photo – this one taken from the bus on the way to the airport to go home. The masses really do commute by bicycle.

Cruisin’ Like Cattle

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Cruisin’ Like Cattle

Hello friends seems like ages since we’ve chatted. The blame is solidly on me I just got back from a cruise. My teen daughter and I went on an 11-day Baltic Sea cruise (insert gasps, I know it was amazing) to see incredible ports. The real thing that appealed to me about the trip was seeing my niece and her boyfriend (the one I hope she marries) perform on the ship. My niece is a vocalist and her BF is a dancer…so yes, they are in their twenties traveling the world on a luxury ship, no rent, fed well and getting paid. I won’t get into the dicier bits like the sadistic entertainer that terrorized the other cast members the first three months, the six figure student debt or the fact that they will be homeless when they disembark (move in with me kids).

There are two types of people that cruise, the cruise addicts and the rest of us. I’m not sure how the cruise addicts afford their habit. I met one gentleman who had been on a cruise for over 100 days this year. He was in the front row of every performance so we talked a bit. His brother joined him on this cruise and they were theater enthusiasts. During Born to Dance, he applauded loudly and shouted WOW! after each number.

Most of the cruise addicts (CA) are brand loyal. That makes sense you get perks for being a repeat customer. We were on a Princess cruise and there are different levels of loyalty programs. You get cabin upgrades, better dinning and laundry services as you make your way up the ranks. I don’t anticipate ever falling into this category of cruiser because my husband isn’t onboard (ba dum tss) with the idea. We prefer a more in-depth local experience when traveling.

It was one of those mega ships, with passengers and crew, it has the capacity for 4,906 souls. Yup, that’s a lot of people waiting for bacon at the breakfast buffet. Surprisingly enough it didn’t seem that crowded most days. It wasn’t warm enough for the pool for a  majority of the trip so there were no lounge hogs. Disembarking was the clearest indicator of how many people were there and that was handled efficiently….it all went off the rails at the airport.

My group, Green 7, as we were affectionately known boarded the bus without incident, like cattle unknowingly headed to slaughter. I did notice one woman, known as Texas, act a bit aggressive in the bus line, I tried to ignore her. When the bus arrived at the airport we had to fetch our luggage from a tent and walk across the street to the terminal (note to self, take a taxi next time and avoid this ridiculousness). There were hundreds of us going through this same process. Still organized chaos at this point.

When we got in to the terminal I did the kiosk check in, that was fine. Then I went to find out where to drop off our luggage and things took a turn. After checking the board and asking two different airport reps, I was told a luggage lane wouldn’t be open until 3 hours before the flight. We got there 3 1/2 hours prior to flight so I needed to keep checking the board. Once that opened everyone made a mad dash to the luggage counter and suddenly the bacon line was a distant fond memory.

I think 90% of the people were from the cruise ship. Some were still wearing their cruise medallions on a lanyard or carrying bags with the Princess logo. I recognized purple shirt (she talked about jewelry and $80 lipstick the entire bus ride), Texas was there and a large group of people from San Diego and Hawaii. The flight was to JFK in New York and it was a mixed bag of final destination and connecting flights.

One very aggressive group was from NYC when I told one lady from that group that I was from Jersey she gave a nod like she knew I could drive crazy and get loud. They totally took advantage of the mild mannered large group from the west. At one point two lines merged into the one entrance and people had to take turns. Texas had a few words with me as we approached the entrance from different directions. She acted like we were at a deli counter and her number was ahead of mine, bisch please. She was twenty years older than me so I let her go.  I kept reminding myself that I didn’t know which one of these assholes I would get seated next to on the plane so that kept me in check.

Finally we ditch the luggage and then it’s off to security. At this point we’ve been at the airport for two hours and it’s hot as hell. Copenhagen isn’t real keen on air conditioning. We get to security and my bag gets pulled for my daughter’s aerosol deodorant. After that we start looking for a book at the airport shops. She found out that she needs to read two books before school starts on September 3. We were hoping to find, The Book Thief, at the airport and no we don’t Kindle. Sadly they sell about a dozen books in English and that wasn’t one. Next stop, bad Denmark version of an airport hot dog, then, passport control.

I finally had a chance to use a restroom so one more stop. Things were fine until this –

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I can tell you this much, the toilet paper does NOT dispense from the bottom. That part is locked tighter than Fort Knox. I broke two nails and invented three new curse words trying to pry the bottom open. Nay, nay my friends the paper is supposed to poke out of the center except it didn’t. 

We finally get to our gate and who do I see – Texas, purple shirt, NYC gang and the nice group from the west. My goal was to be the very last person to board, I scoffed at the line and played online Solitaire from a distance. I was very fortunate and got seated next to a sweet couple from Hawaii. We were previously in the luggage line together and we remained civilized despite the chaos around us.

When we got to JFK we realized that the travel nightmare wasn’t quite over…it took 90 minutes to clear Customs. These lines resembled something you would see at an amusement park, turn left, then right and repeat that pattern 78 times. Instead of a fun roller coaster at the end, you get a kiosk which requires your passport and takes the world’s worst photo after 15 travel hours (4 of those hours spent in lines).

I’ll write about the fun stuff in future posts, stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

Venus on the Half Shell

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Venus on the Half Shell

I had a wonderful outing with Rob and Laura today. When I arrived Rob presented me with some spoon bread that he made special just for me. When a 95 year old man puts himself through the effort to cook for you, it’s very humbling. Honestly anytime anyone cooks for me I’m thrilled, this was just extra sweet. Spoon bread tastes like cornbread and I marvel at how someone who eats this stuff on the regular hasn’t succumbed to heart disease. It’s filled with the artery clogging goodness of butter, milk with more butter for good measure, eggs and cornmeal. It’s tasty and lethal to mere mortals like myself. I took a few bites, proclaimed it delicious and took it home to savor later. Seriously this dish should come with a defibrillator.

As we were driving to the grocery store we had our usual carefree chatter. I was discussing travel because I’m leaving for a cruise this weekend. We got on the topic of paintings and I mentioned my all time favorite was Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. Rob mentioned that his mother used to refer to that painting as Venus on the Half Shell and in that moment I felt such regret for having never met the woman. Now whenever the question of which person, living or deceased, would you like most to converse with, my answer will be Rob’s mother. Raise your hand if you agree….that’s a lot of hands in my imagination.

When we got to the grocery store, Laura asked Rob if he wanted his walker. He hesitated a moment and then agreed. I got the shopping cart and gave it to Laura as Rob went on his merry way. Here’s the interesting bit…Rob agreed to that for Laura’s sake. Laura has been struggling more with mobility and refuses to upgrade to a walker from her cane. The grocery cart is basically a socially acceptable walker in Laura’s mind. Rob figured this out in seconds and I pretended not to notice.

As I was getting them tucked back into their home after our outing, Rob took a moment to look me in the eye and tell me how much he appreciates me and that I am like a third daughter to him. I assured him the affection was mutual. Then two minutes later I threatened to brawl with Laura if she didn’t surrender the grocery bag that was half her body weight. She gave me a steely gaze as I took the bag from her.

Me: Let me get that Laura, it’s really heavy.

Laura: Grabs bag with determined look.

Me: Seriously, I will fight you on this.

Laura: Steely gaze.

Me: (Struggles to take bag, maintains eye contact and smile the entire time) Thank you.

 

The Customer Service Merry Go Round

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The Customer Service Merry Go Round

If you were a teen or young adult in North America in the 80s or 90s you may remember a clothing store called Merry Go Round. We used to call it the touchy-feely store because the staff would literally paw at you when you crossed the threshold. Kind of like the scene from Pretty Woman when the Mary’s fall over themselves to dress Julia Robert’s character.

Shopping Scene

To be clear, Merry Go Round wasn’t high end, it was middle of the road filled with trendy clothes. You didn’t go there to get a classic pencil skirt or linen anything, you went for Cavaricci style pants, polka dot dresses, acid washed anything and the occasional shiny strapless dress in electric blue. Once I got drafted by a fellow shopper to try on stuff that he wanted to buy for his girlfriend. You only say yes to that BS when you’re young. For twenty minutes I tried on clothes and sauntered out into the store for a personal fashion show. The sales staff should have split their commission with me that day.

Anyway, I had an experience today that reminded me of the touchy-feely store. I got my oil changed at one of those quick oil change places. I’d mention the name but then the Russian bots might figure out my real identity and I can’t have that.I’ll actually be in Russia this time next week (oops I may have said too much).

Anyhow, you pull into the bay and stay in your car as the service is performed. They were kind of slow so before I could blink I had three dudes surrounding my car. I might have been flattered with all of the attention if they weren’t pulling out filters from every crevice of the car, suggesting I replace a $4. part with their $46. identical part. At one point a guy was removing the glove box to check the cabin filter, it felt weird. I just wanted that 15 minutes to read a book. Um, thanks fellas, that’s a hard pass. Here’s my $25. coupon, skip the extras and let’s move along.

I did have a customer service experience that went better than expected. This morning I got an email from Hollister requesting feedback on an order that hasn’t arrived yet. This was particularly annoying because I just got notice that delivery will be delayed and the clothes won’t get here in time for our trip. I replied explaining my frustration, fulling expecting that email to die a lonely death in cyberspace. Much to my surprise, Tara from Customer Service offered to next day ship the order and said she would waive return shipping costs for the delinquent order. I passed though her willingness to assist shifted my experience from negative to positive. Amazing how simple it can be to make that switch.

 

We On FIRE!

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We On FIRE!

They stood around watching the house burn. It was quite a spectacle, the crowd grew larger with each moment. Massive flames visible, engulfing the structure, smoke could be seen for miles. Onlookers speculated about the cause…

Man: Maybe she left the stove on?

Woman: Possible, that happened to a friend of a friend once….actually, they think the cat started that one, jumped on the stove and hit the nob just right. Insane!

Man: Could have been smoking in bed or in a recliner, fell asleep…wake up with your hair on fire, literally!

The fire continues to burn and spreads to the next house…

Mayor (grabs a megaphone): Y’all need to step back a bit, this fire is getting out of hand!

Woman: Indeed it is, I heard it started with a space heater.

Man: What? That’s nuts it was 60 degrees last night who uses a space heater when it’s 60 degrees!

Woman: My momma that’s who….she has circulation problems, always cold.

The fire has spread to several buildings now with no end in sight…

Kid: Instead of talking about how the fire may have started, why don’t we try to put it out?

And this my friends is how it seems to me when people discuss mass shootings in America. They want to blame mental illness, video games, the avocado shortage, Mercury in Retrograde, shitty parenting, a lack of Jesus, racism, politicians and big pharma. The common denominator in mass shootings is GUNS, 100% of the time. Let’s start there because we on fire.

HaPpY BiRtHdAy Blanche!

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HaPpY BiRtHdAy Blanche!

For those that are new around here…I write under a pen name. A couple of years ago I came up with a character (Super Cringe) for my pen name because sometimes your alter ego needs an alter ego. You still with me? Super Cringe has a real dog who also has a fake name, Blanche. I know it’s all very complicated…it has to be to keep the KGB off my back. There’s no way they could untangle this mess….anyway, here’s a fake conversation with my real dog who may or may not have a birthday today.

Super Cringe: Happy Birthday Blanche!

Blanche: It’s my birthday? That’s wonderful, do I get treats?

Super Cringe: Way to get right to it Blanche. Is it because your older now…you can’t remember the gift we gave you on Monday?

Blanche: What gift?

Super Cringe: The chicken with the squeaker…you seemed pretty excited about it when we gave it to you. Remember we gave it to you a couple of days early because the boy was going on vacation with his friend’s family….

Blanche: Ahhh yes, the chicken, where is that thing?

Super Cringe: Seriously, you lost it already?

Blanche: Oh, wait a minute, I hid it in the laundry room…that’s a relief. When does the boy get home?

Super Cringe: Sunday

Blanche: I don’t like it when a member of the pack leaves, it makes me anxious.

Super Cringe: Is that why you smell funky?

Blanche: Bish please, it’s been 100 degrees and I’m wearing fur, you’d smell funky too.

Super Cringe: Fair point. Happy Birthday Blanche!

 

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Give me that chicken!