Curse of the luggage

Me      •         Airports       •         Luggage

Let me start by saying, I love to travel. The idea of exploring new places and cultures excites me to no extent. However, my years of traveling has brought from within me an innate hatred towards the airports treatment of my “check-in” luggage.

Here is how it all began; the very first time, I travelled internationally, my luggage was delayed. I received it after 24 hours. Traveling to a new country and I don’t even have a change of clothes! Words can’t describe my fear and feelings.

From then on, I think I gained the status of “favorite toy” of the primary luggage gods and on some occasions, the airport gods.

The next time I travelled, our pilot declared technical issue just before take-off. As a result, we stayed in the plane for two hours. And on occasion, they had to completely turn off the plane, so no light and fresh air.

Interestingly, the next few years allowed me to travel largely nationally, and in those trips, I remained incident proof. So, I guess my favorite toy status was limited to international flights only.

Once upon a time, travel destination Asia, my check-in and carry-on luggage stars collided and shook my travel mood once again. Of course, as an experienced traveler, I know the weight and size constraints of my carry-on luggage, but also as an experienced traveler I know almost never, it is put to test in terms of size. So, this one time I had gotten carried away, and stuffed a lot of things in my carry-on. And of course, it had to be that time the airline staff made me put my bag in one of those carry-on size measure bins near ticketing. I had two choices; take out stuff to fit the bin or check the bag. I tried my best to get stuff from carry-on to put in my shoulder bag (my larger bags were already checked and submitted), but no dice, so I just spent $140 and checked in my carry-on.

Other small level infractions include, squashing of my luggage, which led to me parting ways with a delicate, perfume bottle and a wooden box with intricate painting of cherry blossoms in a Japanese theme. And here is a fun fact, I had them stick on it the “fragile” sticker and right in front of me, the attended helping the lady on the ticketing counter, tossed it on the conveyer belt! Wheeeee…. went my fragile luggage.

Next destination Europe!

Guess what, I ended up traveling with a bag with no wheels! Come on, me, my family, no one figured this out, even when my brother had to drag the bag from the house to the car. It just didn’t register, a.k.a. the luggage gods had completely shut down that part of our brain. So, imagine my shock, I land in Europe with an approximate 50 lbs of weight, drag yes, carry, hell no! Here is the other cool bit of information; the other bag, its handle was broken. I hope the airport workers had fun tossing my luggage. No more, sliding out the handle to wheel the bag away in peace. I cannot revisit in writing, the amount of pushing, dragging, tossing, turning and at some point, kicking, I had to do to move, slide in, and slide out the bag on & off the trolley and later, on & off the train.  Thank God, people were picking me up at my final destination, so at least they could carry the wheel-less bag between the two of them and I was stuck with awkwardly wheeling the handless-bag.

The next few times, I traveled within Europe, gave me mixed experiences. Maybe the gods were confused, as to travel within Europe should be considered a regional like trip or an international one. The times, I was traveling light, just a carry-on, I had drama free travel. The time, I checked-in my luggage, my favorite hard shell magenta colored bag, that depending on occasion could be used both as a carry-on and with the extra zip as check-in, came back to me, with one wheel ripped off! I swear, it seemed like someone hated that particular wheel and just tore it out.

However, my unlucky stars were back to their original axis the next time I travelled internationally (outside Europe). First, I have lost count of the times I weighted and re-weighted my bags to make sure I know exactly how much each bag overweighs, so that I can estimate the over-weight fee properly. But naturally, the minute I put them on the scale at the ticketing booth, my world went off its axis. Because, the final weight was not even in the same galaxy of my estimate, I ended up paying a fee almost1/3 of the ticket cost, for the additional luggage. As if that was not enough, when I reached North America, my luggage, all three checked-in bags were misplaced! Thank God, they were delivered the next day at my house. In the meantime, the attendant at the lost/misplaced luggage booth, gave me a one night survival kit. A 5 by 4-inch black baggie, the contents were a small tooth brush and paste (the size of my finger), a wet tissue, lotion and a deodorant stick.

After all is said and done, I am not giving up, although, I do hope the luggage and airport gods give up on me. I shall strive to realize a luggage-incident-proof trip for as long as I shall live.

To be continued…

Please, don’t hesitate to leave sympathetic comments or share your luggage abuse story

 

 

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Magic: a step away

Snippets of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts: My journey to Oxford and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The welcome Staircase and the Great Hall at Hogwarts

Welcome to Hogwarts” said Professor McGonagall, when she welcomed the young wizards in HP and The Sorcerer’s Stone from the top of a stairwell. This particular stairwell lies in the Christ Church College (the only college in the world which is also a cathedral) at University of Oxford, Oxford, England (top left). The roof over the stair case is done in Gothic style, showcasing the Christ Church college, coat of arms (top right).

The stairwell leads to the college dining hall; entrance to the dining hall can be seen in the movie, the door behind professor McGonagall, when she is addressing the 1st year students from the top of the stairwell. The idea behind the Great Hall in HP movies was taken from this dining room (bottom). The Great Hall scenes in the movies were filmed in the studio, developed from the inspiration acquired from this dining hall. If this place is on your lists to explore in the future, plan to allot extra time, since there is always a queue; after all, there are a lot of Harry Potter enthusiasts!

HP Great Hall

Let’s go slightly off topic, and explore the surroundings of the Church college. The College has a beautiful meadow attached to it (top left) extensive indoor landscape (top right) and of course the beautiful cathedral (bottom).

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Diary entry: A pure kiss

 

She was going to get her first swimming lesson!

She was so excited and wanted to jump up and down like a two-year-old. Her instructor was her best friend and secret crush, whom she had put in the best friend category for safe keeping. He was a gorgeous five foot eleven inches’ specimen, with arm curls, just shy of a toned chest, muscled legs with not an ounce of fat and a perfect butt. Here’s the kicker, being an introvert-in-denial type, she did not see through the Grand Canyon size hole in her plan of using him as her instructor. Which lead to her belatedly realizing that he was one sneaky puppy and her one-sided lust was so not one sided:)

They were going to drive to the beautiful, family friendly spring, north of the city. She decided on a casual chic outfit, her cutest red crop top, with a sequenced heart on the chest paired with her water resistant black capris. Last minute she decided to wear her brand-spanking-new pink leopard print one piece backless bathing suit, under the said outfit. She bought and wore the bathing suit knowing no-way-in-hell she will be wearing that only! She was five foot five, with curves at all the right places and was never comfortable with showing off too much skin. Her comfort zone would max out at sleeveless top and capris. So, the decision to wear swimming suit under the outfit she was going to swim in was just bizarre at best.

As they made the trip down the spring (a downhill walk from the parking area), she realized it was the perfect day for swimming; a slightly hot day with a light breeze and happy families everywhere.

Although she denied it repeatedly but she always looked forward to these trips and outings with him. He was an easy-going person, always paying attention and managed to make her feel special and exotic with small gestures and looks. She knew he liked her beyond a friend, if his birthday present from her “dress up for me, please” and his plan of her birthday party were any indicators. But her system continued to reject the notion and swept it under the rug as friendly gestures.

They left their phones and shoes in the car and only had a tote with the towels and flip-flops. When they reached the water, he took off his shirt and jumped in first, while she sat on the side with her legs dangling in the water. The water around her feet was crisp yet warm and she was enjoying playing with the water. He was standing near her dangling legs and was explaining her the few steps they will try today. He really looked good without a shirt, scattered hair on his chest, the low hanging swimming trunks. A silent sigh escaped her lips but was immediately forgotten when he took her hand and pulled her in water. She immediately went under the surface but he quickly pulled her out, holding her by her elbows. He helped her float on the water on her stomach, and taught her how to move her arms and legs to move forward. They did this for a while; he was an excellent teacher she thought, patient and caring. This was way better than her earlier attempt with her friends; they took her to the pool, made her stand on the shallow end and nudged her to go forward and told her to swim! She was definitely not going back to that travesty.

swim.png

The next step, was a little hard, holding breath under water. He held out his arms, the man had some seriously sculpted arms. His hands anchored at her waist and told her to dunk herself, hold her breath and come up when she needed to breath. She loved water and under the warmth of the sun with the contrasting coolness of the water and his hand on her waist, she was enjoying this exercise immensely. After a while she decided she needed a break, so once again she deposited herself on the side with legs dangling in the water and told him to go enjoy and do some grownup swimming.

With the most adorable smile he asked her if she was sure, he didn’t want to leave her alone and could stay with her. But she told him to go and enjoy the water. He told her he will be back shortly and with strong powerful strokes started moving towards the opposite end of the water area. He really enjoys swimming, one could tell by the sheer force of his strokes and the megawatt smile he sent her from the other end. He did some fancy dunking and flips that were way off her league but they sure were fun to watch. After a while he came back and taking her hands moved her to the middle of the water. This time he told her to combine the exercises they did and try to move forward with hand and leg strokes. She was immediately excited and petrified but he gently took her arm and assured her he will be with her every second.

Later at night she thought why she believed his words. Yes, he had been a perfect gentleman, a little naughty but respectful. But she realized she trusted him completely and she was not one to trust easily.

He helped her flip on her stomach and she experimented moving her arms and legs first using the butterfly stroke and then in the forward one, while he reassuringly kept an arm on her belly. She was soon moving around on her own and although she could propel herself forward, she was doing it in a completely free style way, with no synchronization what so ever. She would move her arms but realize she forgot to move her legs, she will move her legs but then become conscious because she felt her butt was raised above water and so on.

She kept fumbling around with her own style and not once he made a face or criticized her. He was beaming with every stroke she made and encouraged her consistently. It was the triumph and confidence in his eyes that kept her following the steps repeatedly. After a while she had to stop because her arms started to hurt and they decided to wrap up for the day. Although, she was not happy to leave the water, she was definitely jumping with joy in her head over her first lesson. She got out of the water to dry herself while he went back for one quick swim.

kiss

The look on her face was of pure bliss and excitement. She knew she made the right decision in asking him to teach her swimming. Throughout the time, they were in the water, he was just perfect, handling her with care and showering her with praises and cheers. Afterwards they went to the restrooms to change into dry clothes and decided that they should head home to change before they go for dinner. He picked her up from her apartment and they drove to his apartment because he had to pick a last-minute thing.

He parked in front of his building and asked her to close her eyes. She was very surprised with the request and asked “why?”, but he did not answer and just insisted that she does so. His request and insistence had made her curious so she closed her eyes and impatiently asked “now what?”. A bare second later she felt his lips touch hers, in the softest and sweetest manner ever. Her brain lost all coherent thoughts and next thing she heard was “be right back” and he was out of the car. While she sat frozen in the passenger set her brain yelled, he kissed me! He kissed ME! That was the only mantra revolving in her head, till he came back.


Epilogue 

Days later, they were out for a stroll, he dropped another bombshell. They were walking away from the mall, towards the car and he suddenly said, “you have a beautiful back, it’s very sexy”, shocked, she replied, “when did you see my back?” He asked her if she remembered the day they went to the spring for swimming, she said she did. He told her when she was doing the floating exercise, her top was pushed up because of the water flow and he saw her back. If she was the blushing type she would have turned pink to her roots on that statement. Instead she smiled and told him “you are so bad” and his response was the naughty smile, she had come to adore.

 

My Survival Guide to Seasonal (pollen) Allergy

On and off I have been a victim of seasonal allergies throughout my twenties and in my thirties, I still have not achieved absolution. Although, it is not a happy thought, I have learned to deal with this recurring nightmare. Here are a few vetted tips.

  • Do not be a hero

Seasonal allergens are stubborn like a doggy with a bone, so might as well give in. It’s not going to go away and it will continue to make you miserable. So, take precautions, medicine whatever you need to do to survive the season.

  • Drugs are the solution

Quickly run to your local pharmacy and get over the counter allergy medicine. Be careful to get the “non-drowsy” type, I am sure your boss/teacher will be grateful for not sleeping through the work/class hours. It’s not a miracle cure but it will definitely make a difficult day easier to bear.

  • Clean, clean and then clean some more

Although dust is known to aggravate my condition, my primary concern is the pollen that I bring from outside. It’s in my hair, clothes, shoe bottoms and bed. Some of the preemptive measures I do to deal with pollen are regular washing of my pillow cases, spraying saline around my front and patio door and using face masks just about everywhere. Also, just don’t clean your surroundings, clean your nose as well; that’s where the pollen is having a party. Over the counter saline nasal spray and the old fashioned homemade saline (boiled water with salt) does the trick for me. I clean my nose with saline before going to bed and once during the day.

  • Move those legs

I don’t know why but walk helps me breath easily in the allergy season. I love to walk just after sun down; a power walk just perks up my immune system and during that time I almost manage to breath easily.

  • Boast the immune system

My favorite are the good old fashion bubbly dissolvable vitamin-C pills. Vitamin-C is the best for boasting up your immune system. I drink a glass every day and if tablets are not available, a glass of orange juice will just have to make do.

  • Be smart and stay educated

Tune into local news or preferably keep an eye out on the pollen count in your area. Google and find a website that caters to your region; http://www.worldallergy.org/pollen/index.php?region=all&country=all&infotype=all&language=all. Be smart and get your daily pollen forecast. It is especially useful if you are planning to travel in the peak allergy season.

additionally,

  • Buy lip balm ladies

All the breathing through the mouth, blowing through the nose will leave your lips cracked and in pain. So, plan ahead and have a super-moist lip balm handy.

  • Tissues are your new best friend

Buy tissue boxES, not tissue box. Allergy attack don’t follow a pre-approved schedule, so keep different parts of the house and your office stocked with tissue boxes and please don’t be stingy; get the ones with moisturizer. Once the nose starts running you don’t have the luxury to run from room to room searching for tissues. Been there, done that.

In conclusion, with all the stated precautions, life is still miserable when I start sneezing and my nose is running. However, I continue to do the above because I have learned my lesson, and that was when riding on arrogance I didn’t do any or some of the above; my condition was reduced to about to ‘meet-my-maker!’

So, smarten up people and take all possible measures to survive the allergy season.

In a Limbo

When the oblivion

and darkness

threaten to engulf

disseminate and swallow

the thinking brain

the struggling soul

its hard to hold

the demons at bay

and harder yet

to work my way

to the shores of reality!

When delirium takes

the sense away…

its either dark

or twilight;

its neither day,

nor night!