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Chasing The American Dream

August 27, 2007


There’s no doubt life was not meant for perfection. I’ve had some good streaks but slowly they’re all coming to an end this year. 30 years without a ticket and now three in the last six months. And now this.

As much as I travel and as many horrible experiences I seem to have every time I do, I’ve never missed a flight because of my own personal lateness. Like getting a ticket, I think luck has a lot to do with it. Maybe your connecting flight is delayed, maybe your gate is close by, maybe the security line was short, or even more of a miracle, it was fast-moving. Unfortunately for me, none was the case today. Mistake #1 was hitting the wrong button on my blackberry alarm. It went off at 4:00 a.m. and instead of hitting snooze, I hit the ‘kill’ switch. I planned on getting out of bed by 4:30 but instead, awoke in a panic state at 4:50. My flight was scheduled to leave at 6:52. I did my best to make up some time and really, everything was going smoothly. I got out of the hotel, drove to the airport, checked out my rent-a-car and got on the shuttle bus in good shape. As I sat on the bus, I realized I picked out the wrong shirt which really didn’t match my pants or socks, but oh well. I was going to make my flight.

I got to the USAir counter and breezed through it. No checked bags for me anymore. Only one more hurdle. Security. As I walked up to the USAir section of security, it looked like I was home free. Lots of open space. But as I turned the corner, I looked in disbelief at what looked like the line for Space Mountain at Disney World. The sign said, “Approximately a 20 minute wait from here.” I knew the only way that for that to be true would be if the line moved quickly. I looked at my watch. 6:03. I still had time. But standing in line for five minutes going nowhere, I realized that the 20 minute sign was either a joke or a dream. I had to negotiate four long lines of up and back. I reached the end of the first one, and it was 6:13. A quick calculation and I realized that I’d get to the front of the line at 6:43 and THEN I’d have to go through all the checkpoints. I needed a miracle. I needed something or someone to speed up. I got none of it. Not to mention the fact that it was hot as hell in that line. Not to mention that somehow, the zipper on my bag got tangled in the security rope and I couldn’t move. Yeah. I was stuck and I couldn’t get the damn thing free. It took three nice passengers to help me finally separate my bag from the damn rope. I could hear the laughs. Great. I was providing free entertainment.

I got to the front of the line at 6:37. I had a choice of three TSA agents. Naturally, I picked the slowest. The lady in front of me had a passport and she was having issues. The agent next to me was passing people through briskly while I just stood there. I finally switched lines and got through. The agent then told me to pick any line, a skill I sucked at. They all looked equally slow. The agents were shouting to remove all electronic devices and power cords and all that suspicious stuff. I threw all that crap in a tray, took off my shoes, and waited at the metal detector. With my luck, I thought for sure a beep would go off and I’d be detained but no. I actually got through. My carry-on came through. My shoes came through. The laptop and all the power cords came through. While I waited for my computer bag, I crammed on my already laced shoes. 6:42. There was still hope.

Aah, but this is me we’re talking about. No luck Charlie. There came the TSA agent holding my computer bag asking folks who it belonged to. At that moment, I realized this streak was for certain, over. I was so frustrated. I didn’t even look at the guy. I kept muttering f-bombs to myself at how ass-backward our security system in this country really is. I’m all about being safe and all that but there truly HAS to be a better way. The guy asked me if I had any sharp objects, weapons, blah blah. He had all my shit out on a table. And then came the reason for my detainment. He held up two objects. Clearly security risks. Afrin nose spray and a spray bottle of eyeglass cleaner. “Sir, these MUST be in a clear plastic bag. In the future please comply…” I stopped listening. And I didn’t bother to argue with the guy about how inconsistent the rules are. I’d traveled all over the place with those items and had never had a problem. Not to mention that my carry on was filled with toiletries, hair gels, shampoos, etc. yet apparently those were not a problem. 6:48.

Gate A-22. All the way across the terminal and all the way down. I wasn’t going to run. I mean, I had no chance anyway unless the plane left late. I thought about how many times I sat on a plane waiting for god-knows-what and seemingly always leaving late. I did walk as fast as my two legs could go. I got to the gate at 6:52. Not a soul in sight. The gate agent was still there and said her apologies to the guys in front of me and to me as well. The doors were closed and we needed to rebook. Streak over. As I rebooked, the USAir agents were really surprised at how many calls they were getting about the long, slow security lines and that they needed to alert the tower to hold up flights. They were at a loss as to why TSA didn’t properly staff up for the always busy Monday morning rush. Me, too.

Yeah, in the end it’s my own fault for being 20 minutes later than I’d hoped, and that 20 minutes would have made the difference in me making that flight and allowing the streak to go on. But streaks are meant to end and luck runs out as it all did this morning. As I walked slowly to my new assigned gate, I couldn’t help but notice how many people were running. Running with panic on their faces knowing that the fate I just accepted was about to become their reality. I looked to my right and shook my head. That security line wasn’t getting any shorter, and it certainly wasn’t moving any faster.

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August 22, 2007


5:00 a.m. Get up
6:00 a.m. Leave for the airport for my week-long Chicago trip.
8:30 a.m. Flight for Chicago departs
11:30 a.m. Flight arrives in Chicago. Change watch to 10:30 a.m.
10:30 a.m. Email Chicago contact letting her know I’ve arrived and that I’ll be in the office around noontime
10:40 a.m. Receive email from Chicago contact saying she and her entourage are going to be in Miami the entire week and didn’t a certain someone notify me of this?
10:45-11:45 a.m. Make calls trying to straighten out an the entire mess. Certain someone goofed.
Noon Book a 2:10 flight back to Miami. Trip canceled.
5:40 p.m. Flight to Miami leaves 3 ½ hours late
9:30 p.m. Flight arrives in Miami
10:30 p.m. Arrive home. Sinus killing me from plane. Laptop broken.
11:00 p.m. Good nite.

The travel curse strikes again.


August 16, 2007


During the past three years, I’ve certainly done my fair share of bitching and moaning about life. I personally believe I haven’t had an easy go of it. Life’s been a struggle for me. An unsolved riddle perhaps. This blog has given me an outlet to free my burdened mind of such struggles. It started out as therapy for me, and I sorely needed it. Nowadays, I bitch about the most inconsequential things. Traffic tickets, express lines, bad service, what-have-you. Sometimes, it takes an event in another person’s life to put your own into perspective.

I’m sure most everyone would agree that as we get older, one of the hardest things we have to come to grips with is the loss of a loved one. Grandparents, parents, and even pets. I’ve had to deal with each of those on multiple occasions. Although extremely difficult to accept when it happens, logically, it makes sense that older people and pets are susceptible to a myriad of life-threatening illnesses that eventually they are unable to overcome. Like I said, it doesn’t make it any easier or make you feel any better when you initially hear about such an illness or the death itself. “He or she lived a good life,” you often hear. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve never lost anyone unexpectedly to an act of god, terrorism, or a natural disaster. These days a lot can be said for that. And I’ve never had to deal with the shock of learning that a close friend has either died or gotten very sick long before they should have. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case.

I met my friend Dave in college at the University of Florida. He’s the smartest person I’ve ever met. We eventually roomed together after graduation. Although my memory is blurred, I think we lived in that apartment for at least four years. We eventually moved on with our lives. We both got married and both had a child shortly before I left town in 1996. As unbelievable as this sounds, we hadn’t spoken to each other since. A mutual friend of ours has kept each of us informed on the other’s life for the past 11 years. It was this mutual friend who informed me recently that my good friend was very sick. He has multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer of the plasma cells of the bone marrow. He’s only 48. The news of reading that email literally sent shockwaves through my system.

The treatments are horrific. Chemo, steroids, stem cell transplants, meds upon meds. The side effects wicked. He even suffered a heart attack. Can you imagine trying to deal with all that? And how about the fact that he’s married and has three kids? Again, I can’t imagine all that burden. I decided to meet him in our old college town of Gainesville, Florida. The hospitals and doctors there are some of the best in the country. I must admit that my expectations were low. I mean, what kind of shape, mentally or physically, can any individual be in after going through and dealing with this on a daily basis?

I met Dave at his hotel around 2 o’clock just after he finished another round of hospital treatments, tests, etc. He looked remarkably well; I was really surprised. He lay on his bed, and I pulled up a chair and we talked and caught up on the last 11 years. He told me how he found out about the illness. I watched him closely and listened intently. His mind was as sharp as ever. He quoted me percentages, recalling specific numbers and intricate details. But what really floored me was his frame of mind and attitude. Again. Remarkable. How does one react to basically a death sentence where your doctor says you have on average 5-6 years to live? And how the odds were about 3 or 4 among 100,000 that you contract this disease? I sensed no ‘why me’ at all. He was so positive about the whole situation. You know what he said to me? “It could be worse.” He told me about the older people and the kids who he saw who had to deal with the same thing and how much harder it was for them. He told me about the positives. Being able to spend time with his kids and family, going on field trips, doing things he wants to do. Heck, he still is thinking about going back to work!

After hearing all that, my issues seemed to pale in comparison. Divorce, depression, dating woes. Heck, that was nothing. Still, he sympathized and even questioned whether he could have made it through all that. He even said to me I was his hero for even trying the whole restaurant business thing. I’m his hero? Huh, I think it’s the other way around.

We reminisced about the fun times we had as roommates. How simple life was as single guys without worries. Sports, TV, movies, trivia, good restaurants, playing basketball. And with that came a lot of good laughs. It felt good. All of it. We talked for seven hours. It went by so fast. I was and am so proud of him. I’ll no doubt visit him again and do whatever, if anything, I can do to make his life happier. Although I don’t even think he needs it. And that folks is indeed, truly remarkable.

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August 13, 2007


Have you ever noticed that there are certain things in life you’re either very lucky at or very unlucky at? If I had to think off the top of my head at this, I’d say in my life I’ve been unlucky at love and relationships, money, golf, and except for my current job, work. I’ve been lucky at very few things but important things nevertheless. I’ve been very lucky with Andy. I’m definitely imperfect, but I can’t complain about my health. Now on a much smaller scale, and the subject matter of this post, I’ve had this amazing run of luck avoiding tickets while driving.

Had. As in past tense.

Before February, I had an amazing streak of 30 years driving without getting a ticket. I think it was a unique combination of conservative driving, driving slow cars, and a good amount of luck. I could have easily gotten 10 speeding tickets in those 30 years but lucked out with warnings or simply someone else going faster than I was. There wasn’t much luck involved when my perfect streak came to an end. I had a senior moment and backed into a car.

Since the back-in, I’ve had a strange feeling that it wouldn’t take me another 30 years to get my next ticket. My driving formula has changed. I have a faster car, I drive faster and more aggressively. When you combine all that and my number one pet peeve, slow drivers in the left lane, it leads to trouble. Six weeks ago (I’ve been meaning to write about this), I was on my way to the airport to pick up my lost bag thanks to American Airlines. A few hours turned into four days so I was not a happy camper. The scene was this. I was in the left lane and the guy ahead of me was going slow. Then, he decided he was going to turn left across oncoming traffic into a shopping center. So he stops. What pissed me off was that there was a middle turn lane he was supposed to be using but for some reason, he ignored it. My blood pressure was rising by the second. I waited seemingly forever to get around him in the right lane. Once I did, I accelerated with a good amount of speed. I wasn’t speeding; heck, I was going zero to twenty. But up ahead, there was a cop standing in the street. There was some construction going on. So I slowed down. When I got close to him, he waved me into a parking lot. I figured it was some kind of checkpoint for alcohol or something.

But no. In his mind, I was going to run him over. He was arrogant and didn’t want to hear anything from me. It probably didn’t help that he was Latino and I wasn’t. Ticket. I was dumbfounded really. He cited me for an improper lane change. Lame change more like it. So there you go, 30 years without a ticket and then only four months for the next one.

Saturday, I had to make a 350-mile road trip (posts upcoming). I originally set my cruise for 79 and then adjusted it to 82 because I was following two cars setting a good pace for me. Once again, those same risk factors came into play. Faster car, faster driving, aggressive driving, and slow drivers in the left lane. This time, I got stuck behind a big line of cars in the left lane. Someone up there was driving slow and backing up highway traffic and making me lose patience. After about 10 minutes of going 65 in the left lane, I’d had it. I made a move to the right lane and accelerated past a bunch of cars and cut in behind a white van. Now if I could just get around the white van I was home free. But the van decides to slam on his breaks in the left lane with no one in front of him. Naturally, I slam on mind and nearly hit him. Right then, I learned why he slammed on his breaks. State trooper hiding in the median. Oh no.

I watched carefully in my rear view mirror for any signs of the trooper car stirring. Sure enough he was making a move. Just in case, I moved over to the right lane and drove slowly behind another van. I kept my eye on the trooper who now had his blue lights on and was coming up fast in the left lane. It looked like he was about to pass me and go after someone else when he swerved and got right in behind me. I knew I was screwed. This guy was no happy camper either. He read me the riot act about aggressive driving being against the law in the State of Florida and somehow clocked me going 98 in the right lane. In his mind (judgment once again), I passed a bunch of cars, pulled behind the white van, and gave him the high-beams to move over. Well yes officer, that’s what I did but I’d hardly call that illegal especially when you consider the van breaking because he was speeding until he saw you. I disputed his 98 reading saying I’d never driven 98 in my life. True, and I don’t know how a radar gun could be that far off because I was NOT going 98. 88 maybe which I could have believed. Like the other ticketing officer, he didn’t want to hear anything from me and while he did his paperwork writing up a $213 ticket, I sat in the car and wondered where all my luck went on the road.

Zero tickets in 30 years and now three tickets in six months. My luck’s gone and I’ve come to realize that tickets are just a cost of driving. I’m not going to argue with cops anymore. It’s fruitless. I’m just gonna accept the ticket and move on. I’m sure I’ll get another one before the year is over. I’m convinced of it. I’m not going to change my driving patterns any because it’s basically luck and officer judgment. I mean, in the blink of an eye, these guys make snap judgments of what they think they see and unlike an NFL football game, there is no replay to change the call. I sat in my car aggravated but when I thought of the reason I had to make this road trip, a ticket seemed very insignificant in the grand scheme of life. More on that soon…

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August 09, 2007


Watch out girls, Andy got a haircut!!!