Saturday, December 17, 2011

“A Doggone Disaster: Diary of a Good Trip Gone Bad”


Here is an early Christmas gift.  This is a true story of one of my more "memorable" trips.  It is a humor piece (I wrote many years ago) because if I didn't laugh, I would cry.  Please excuse the spacing as I copied and pasted and it didn't behave.  There are many tidbits of advice for those of you traveling about this holiday season.  Please be careful, but have a great time!   Enjoy!

It snowed and snowed some more.  According to the news networks, it was the worst storm in 27 years.  It was February 1994.  I was on my way to New York City for the famous Westminster Dog show weekend from Columbus, Ohio.  The airline attendant said my friend Barb and I were “lucky” to arrive at Newark airport as it closed minutes later.  That was, in my opinion, the last of the good “luck.” 

After a hair-raising, smelly $52 cab ride with our now vomiting Yorkshire Terrier, we arrived at the hotel.  (I applaud New Yorkers for cleaning up the cab service!  Now, there is no smoking or incense allowed.  The cabs are reasonably clean, the drivers fairly polite and along with a map there is a “Rider’s Bill of Rights” posted.  Bravo!)  I invited Barb out to lunch at the now defunct Russian Tea Room.  I decided my regular handbag was too much of a bother, so I stuck about $300, credit cards, my driver’s license and designer sunglasses into a waist pouch.  Since I thought it made me “look fat” to wear the pouch, I decided to carry it.  Seemed like a good idea at the time…

The Russian Tea Room was just a few long blocks from our hotel, but it was so nasty out after a few 


steps we decided to try for a cab.  After finally getting one, we were quickly thrown out for asking why 


the meter wasn’t on.  So, we trudged on in the wind and snow.  Lunch was lovely, though few Russians 


could have afforded it.  We ordered two Caesar salads, one coffee, one hot tea and two pieces of cake 


for $48 plus tip.  I treated, deciding to charge it to save my cash for later...





Next we hiked to Bloomingdale’s because all the cabs were full.  Even a New Yorker will pay when it’s 

eight degrees and windy!  I bought around $90 in trinkets for my family.  The clerk talked me into 

opening a charge account to help her win a contest.  Oh well, I really didn’t want to part with that cash 


anyway….


But part I did!  It was now rush hour and the cabs were all heading to the garage.  Barb (then a smoking senior citizen) was near exhaustion and threatening to rent another room just to rest.  After all but throwing myself in the street, I got an off-duty cab to stop.  He seemed nice enough, but couldn’t take us all the way because he wanted to get home.  He stopped in the middle of a busy intersection, cars coming, snow piled high on the curb and dumped us out.  After jumping out and rushing to pay, I helped my friend up over the snow bank and we walked up to the hotel.  Just then I realized I only had my Bloomie’s bag.  

There is no way to adequately describe my horror.  I didn’t know a cab number and my partial name was a joke (Mohammed something.)  The hotel security manager was sympathetic but assured me it was hopeless.  My pouch would never be turned into the Cab Authority.  I cancelled the credit cards, including the 15-minute-old Bloomie’s one. I wonder why the emergency number you need to call is on the back of the card? How is that helpful?   I called the Cab Authority out of desperation and got a canned message.  I don’t think anybody ever answers that phone.  I tried other avenues winding up frustrated and mad.  Who do I get to beam the bat signal?  Here I was on the first hours of a trip without any money or ID.  

Barb loaned me all the money I needed and I was smart enough not to take all my credit cards.  (Although a smart person doesn’t get in this situation.)  Later, I would be getting all the lovely bills for what I had already charged in an effort to save my cash.  She also gave me a choice:  I could either let this ruin my trip or I could get over it and enjoy the next few days.  I really had to think about that! 

After dinner, her treat this time, the next 13” of snow fell and crippled the city.  Cabs were hiding in parking garages because the streets were awful.  We went to bed early, very tired and weary.  Barb had the TV on watching “Matlock,” but turned it off in a few minutes.  I was almost asleep when I heard bang, bang, bang, bang, bang!  I asked her if she heard that and she said no.  (She’s a bit hard of hearing though.)  Oh, well, it was probably nothing.  All became quiet and we finally fell asleep.

The next morning a couple guys in the elevator were talking about a shooting:  Five shots, point blank, in the room right below ours.  I stupidly asked if the person died.  You bet.  Apparently he was there with someone’s wife, but she must have not been in the room when hubby showed up or she would have screamed.  I think I would’ve heard that.  What if a bullet would have come through the floor?

Since I now knew the security guy (he was snowed in along with the rest of the staff) I asked him if I really heard shots.  He drew me aside and asked what I knew.  He said a police detective would be contacting me.  Hey, I’m an ear-witness to a murder!  Of course, before I told the detective anything, I brought up my problem.  He said he’d look into it.  I never heard from him again.

Well, we didn’t win anything at the dog show, so it was time to go out into the city again.  The next cabbie lectured us on the importance of getting a number and a receipt.  I don’t see what good that does if nobody answers the phone.  (Also worth mentioning is I didn’t get my new American Express card until two day after I got home.  So much for instant service.)

We enjoyed the “Phantom of the Opera” (because I had left the tickets in my regular purse.)  We had a drink at Sardi’s and a pleasant time.  We even easily got a cab home.  Back then if you got a cab in NYC you had to be sure to know your route because sometimes you got an expensive, impromptu tour.  I’ve caught cabbies and deducted it from their tip!  They seem to be better about that now too.  Bravo again!

The final evening of our trip I was to receive an award from the Dog Writers of America.  I was one of three finalists in the newspaper article category.  The presentation went on longer than the Oscars…Best Article While Holding Your Breath Underwater…you get the idea.  A runner was supposed to bring the losers (who had to stand up) their certificates while the winner accepted their prize.  My runner left me standing and I was ready to leave without my certificate when she realized what she’d done (she was busy hugging her friend the winner.)
By the next day we couldn’t wait to get home.  Even that was delayed more than three hours.  They kept de-icing the plane, but it would just freeze up again while we were sitting on the runway.  So when we got back to Columbus in the wee hours we were tired, but happy. 

We’ve been back to the “Big Apple” many times since this (and even won sometimes.)  We love it.  Winter isn’t the same without our Westminster trip.  I highly recommend visiting there, but be prepared for an adventure!  You never know what’s going to happen.  Please try to pick better weather and for goodness sake, hang onto your money!

Until next time!
Gale



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