May 29, 2021 – Pinball Machine

Wow! Yesterday was a real humdinger! I spent the majority of it haphazardly running from one room in my house to the next, ping-ping-ping, just like one of those metal balls in a Pinball machine, trying to gather up bits of ‘this and that’ to take along on my trip. I think I ended up completing 10,000 steps just running from one end of my house to the other (and back again). If I could turn back time to when I was 19-20 years old (thanks but no thanks), when I could get by on just a change of clothes and maybe a handful of toiletries, it would have been a no-brainer, but that’s no longer the case. I am now 54, and on top of being slightly neurotic, I am also required to take a handful of pills each day in order to live (a consequence of getting an organ transplant, a preferable alternative to dialysis or death). Because of the importance of the pills, I always knock those off my ‘to do’ list first. I made sure I had them properly dispensed and set aside well over a week ago. The rest of the stuff I need to bring? I figure it out as I go.

If you looked in my luggage, as my husband did before I zipped it shut, you’d probably think I was off my rocker. Not only did I bring along my laptop (in order to blog each day while we’re away), I also brought my fancy camera with an extra lens, my Kindle, my mp3 player, and my phone, not to mention all of the chargers required to power up each piece of equipment. Doesn’t seem too unusual does it? Well, we haven’t gotten to the ‘other stuff’ yet. I don’t know about you, but I consider breakfast to be a pretty important part of each day. I am also a creature of habit. Every morning, I eat the exact same thing for breakfast. My meal consists of eggs, bacon, oatmeal with honey, and a banana. Since we won’t arrive at our destination until late in the evening, I know there’s no way I’ll be able to acquire these items before morning (unless we swing by a Denny’s). Knowing how I am, I felt it best to pack what I could to at least get us through Day One. If you checked my luggage, yes, you will find all but one of the items I just mentioned. If I could have brought a jar of honey, I would have, but I was too worried about the jar breaking and covering everything in sticky goo.

Aside from breakfast, there are other meals to consider, or at the very least, snacks. So in addition to my breakfast items, I also brought a bag of apples, a bag of granola, peanuts, mini-muffins (Aussie Bites), Crystal Light packets and green tea packets. Still not convinced I’m not that neurotic? Hang on! I’m not done yet!! I have yet to provide you with the one thing that I doubt any ‘normal person’ would bring on a ten-day vacation, but I could be wrong. Before I indulge you, I should provide an explanation as to why I do as I do. When I was growing up, for my entire childhood, my mother only used (Original Scent) Tide laundry detergent and (April Fresh) Downy fabric softener to launder my clothes. My in-laws (with whom we’ll be staying) use completely different products to launder their clothes and since I’m very particular about smells (and sounds and all kinds of crap), nothing but Tide and Downy will do! As you’ve probably surmised, due to my hoarding tendencies, I’ve got quite a stockpile of it at my house already so I thought it best to just bring some along rather than buying another gargantuan box once we arrived.

Some people might call it smart and some might call it strange. Call it what you will, it’s just what I do. Fortunately, figuring out the clothes, shoes, and toiletries I needed/wanted to bring was much less complicated as far as I was concerned! Anyway, where was I? I had a ‘theme’ I was trying to follow and somehow I managed to lose my way. The theme was ‘Pinball Machine’. Are you at all familiar with Pinball? I am, ‘we’ go way back! When I was around eight years old, immediately after my mom married my stepdad, we moved into a tiny house that was directly across the street from a mall. The mall was typical of most malls at the time, it consisted of a J.C. Penney’s, a Sears, and a Montgomery/Monkey Wards (among other major retailers). It also had a food court. As much as I enjoyed going to the mall in order to purchase a nice fresh box of caramel corn and an Orange Julius (whenever I managed to get my hands on some spare change), the real ‘draw’ was the arcade. This ‘arcade’ is probably different than what you’re envisioning (if you’ve got a filthy mind), this arcade was filled with practically every possible Pinball machine and video game known to man!

Whenever I’d get an opportunity to step through those doors, I was transported to a whole new world! The pings and dings and bleeps and blurps were music to my ears. I still remember what ‘Pac-Man’ sounded like! I usually didn’t have much money (if any) when I went, but if I constantly checked the coin return slots, sometimes I’d get lucky and come across a quarter or two. And on a rare occasion, a generous soul would give me a quarter so I’d have an opportunity to play. Once I slipped a quarter into the coin slot on the machine and hit the bright red or green ‘start’ button, it was ‘game on’. I’d position my hands on either side of the machine, fingers directly over the flipper buttons, with my body engaged to ‘bump’ the machine whenever it was necessary to shift the trajectory of the metal ball. When I first started playing, my games didn’t usually last very long. Either the balls would end up going right down the center and through the space in between the flippers, or I’d tilt the machine and it’d shut off. Over time, needless to say, I became quite skilled and could nearly waste an entire afternoon off a quarter. I loved whenever I achieved ‘multi-ball’. It really racked up the points quickly, and nine-times-out-of-ten I’d earn enough to win a free game.

Fast forward to yesterday. As I said, my ‘packing’ was rather haphazard, but I was able to make real progress, albeit rather inefficiently. I lost count of the total amount of times I returned to my bedroom, or the laundry room, or the kitchen, or the bathroom, in order to get ‘one more thing’ that I couldn’t live without. Ping-ping-ping! Little by little, as I worked toward completing everything on my mental ‘to do’ list, I was able to make significant headway. The ‘score’ was adding up. By evening, I had nearly everything completed. This morning, things continued much like yesterday. After waking at the crack of dawn and promptly taking a hot shower, my husband and I each had breakfast, gathered up the trash and placed it in the outdoor bins, and turned on the timers (to make it appear as though people were still occupying the house). We then loaded our suitcases into the car and off we went! And it couldn’t have been a more perfect day! Not only were we driving the opposite direction of all of the Memorial Day Weekend campers and boaters, we didn’t encounter a single construction zone. As we approached the airport, it couldn’t have gone more smoothly. We pulled right into the airport parking area I had reserved weeks earlier, left our car with the valet, and hopped aboard the shuttle.

While checking in for our flight (once we reached the airport), there was no wait because there were no lines. I mean it, NO LINES! How did we manage this? Oh, my friends, I discovered why so many folks pay the extra money to fly First Class! In fact, there are all kinds of perks for flying First Class. Would you like to know? Let me share. First of all, if you happen to fly out of the airport we flew out of, you get to go through the ‘premier’ security line. Going through ‘premier’ means you get to skip that awful line that weaves back and forth for what seems like miles, and go right to the front! Once you go through security, the next perk is the luxury of using ‘the lounge’. Oh my gosh, where has it been hiding all of my life?! Wait a second, back up. I need to go back to security. As it happens, everything had been going exceptionally well…until it didn’t. In the scheme of things it wasn’t a deal-breaker, but it sure changed our trajectory. It was like one of those times when I was overly enthusiastic playing Pinball and ‘bumped’ the machine slightly too much, resulting in the ’tilt’ light coming on.

What exactly happened? Well, have you ever brought a backpack along on a flight and didn’t thoroughly empty it out before you started loading it up with pills and gum and a book and an emery board and your wallet? That’s what my husband did. He didn’t think much about it before we left the house, he just loaded it up with all of the stuff he had set out on the counter the night prior. And when we reached the security screening area and proceeded through it, he was promptly stopped. The TSA agent who had screened his backpack had noticed something unusual. A search was conducted and to my husband’s surprise and disbelief, he was informed by the agent that a knife was in amongst his belongings. I watched my husband’s face and it made my heart hurt. That wasn’t just any knife that he had mistakenly left in his backpack, it was a specially engraved knife that he received from the Air Force at his retirement ceremony. The TSA agent gave him some options as to what could be done and before I could say anything, my husband gave the agent permission to throw it away. It was a decision he immediately regretted.

My hubby looked so dejected after that. I kept trying to comfort him, but it didn’t seem to do any good. He said a couple of times, “It was just a knife,” but I know better. I know how much he treasured it…and it’s irreplaceable. The day had been going so perfectly, and just like an exhilarating game of Pinball, everything was going as it should. The multi-colored lights were flashing hypnotically, the score was climbing higher and higher, and the ball was staying in play. Well, that was until the proverbial ’tilt’. You know all of those wonderful ‘perks’ I was telling you about in First Class? I will admit, I ‘milked’ the heck out of them. We used the lounge and enjoyed the FREE salad and drinks and chips and vegetables and trail mix and pretzels and Wi-Fi. I even stuffed a few extra snacks in my suitcase for the flight but haven’t yet indulged in any of them because we also got FREE food on the flight. Yes, more food! On top of the protein platter, we were offered more snacks and drinks and even fresh-baked cookies!

The thing is, it’s hard to truly enjoy anything when you look across at your partner and he looks like a kid that woke up on Christmas morning, only to find a lump of coal in his stocking. Nothing looks as good or tastes as sweet when you know someone you love is hurting. I do recognize it’s only ‘stuff’ when you consider the scheme of things and what is and isn’t important, but it meant a lot to him. The good news is, he seems to be doing better now. I’ve actually had to write this blog in three segments because we’ve been constantly on the move since we woke up this morning. The ‘knife incident’ took place nearly 8 hours ago and he doesn’t appear as shaken up as he was earlier. He reiterated that it was ‘just a knife’ as we were driving from the airport to my in-laws’, so I think he’s been able to put it into its proper perspective. Hopefully, there won’t be any more ’tilts’ during our trip and everything goes ‘well’ or at least as well as can be expected. Fingers crossed that we don’t get into a fender-bender (we didn’t buy the optional insurance on the rental car), or catch Covid (I just found out the second vaccine didn’t work). Sigh.

Oh my goodness! I need to go!! The 29th is nearly over and I still need to work on my post for the 30th. Ack!!!! Have a fantastic Memorial Day Weekend and I’ll (hopefully) see you again soon.

*I posted this without giving it a good once over because of so many distractions and once I reread it, wasn’t terribly pleased. As a result, I’ve made a few revisions to try and improve upon the initial post. Hope you like the changes.


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