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Posts tagged ‘Throwback Thursdays’

Throwback Thursday: Fear Factor

TBTI decided to get into the Throw Back Thursday action this week, after a chance conversation revealed I am NOT the only person on the planet with a (completely rational!) fear of ladybugs. Please forgive me for the seasonally-inappropriate Christmas theme.

This piece was originally published as A Ladybug Christmas on The Evening Sun website, evesun.com.

Enjoy!

My coworkers and I trundled into work this morning, bleary eyed from all that Christmas cheer. After deadline we spent some time swapping tales of our all-to-brief holiday.

Theirs were spent either hopping from one house to another, or hosting a slew of friends and family for the Yuletide festivities. Though less hectic, mine was no less enjoyable.

With my siblings spread out across the East Coast (in New Hampshire, Tennessee and the Florida Keys), it was just me and my parents this year. It was the first one I’ve spent at home in entirely too long.

We opened presents in the morning, a process that was interrupted repeatedly by phone calls from other loved ones wishing us a merry holiday.

I love to watch people open gifts I’ve picked out for them. For me, finding that perfect gift is the best part of Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I like getting presents, too. And I think Santa was pretty good to me this year.

At least I thought so until I a gift my mother described as “the funny one.”

She told me this as I was fishing a non-descript white box out of a festive bag piled high with red and green tissue paper. Hmmm… Funny, I thought, what could she mean by that. My confusion grew when I opened the box to find what appeared to be a clear, hand-blown glass ornament. It was only after I turned the globe in my hand that I saw what my mother thought was so amusing.

The glass ball had one adornment: A crimson glass ladybug perched on verdant green leaf.

My mother thought this was hysterical, and was practically rolling on the floor. Me? Not so much. You see, I don’t like lady bugs. In fact, I’ll go one step further and say I’m scared to death of them.

Most people are afraid of things like spiders or snakes, flying maybe, or the color chartreuse. But not me. I can take all of those nasties in stride. But put a tiny little bug most people think of as cute in front of me and I start quaking in my boots.

My phobia dates back about ten years. I was living in Arlington, VA at the time, and had traveled up to visit my parents one weekend. I was exhausted when I arrived, and ended up falling asleep when I brought my bags upstairs. I woke a couple of hours later with a tickle in my ear. A tickle which turned into a buzzing.

When the incessant noise stopped for a moment, my wits returned. And I was able to connect the beastie driving me to the brink of insanity with the number of ladybugs I could now clearly see all over the window sill and bedside lamp.

Then it started buzzing again and all I could think about was the fact that I was at least 20 minutes away from medical attention and that I was going to lose my mind if I had to wait that long to get it out.

Luckily, my mother came to my rescue. Apparently, Stagnaro kids have a long history of getting things stuck in our ears. In the upper recesses of our king-sized medicine cabinet, she located the ear syringe she’d used to extricate a bean from my bother Ken’s aural cavity 20 or 30 years before. With it, she was able to drive the infernal lady bug from my ear and restore my sanity.

The experience basically scarred me forever. But, as evidenced by the ornament, the rest of my family finds it quite humorous.

The rest of the day passed pleasantly enough. We listened to some Christmas music, did some snowmobiling, and yes, finally watched A Christmas Story. (I did enjoy it, but I’m not sure I would classify it as life-changing, not in relation to my ladybug experience anyway.)

Because it was just the three of us, we decided to forgo our usual roast turkey and I roasted a loin of pork instead. It was a delicious ending to the day.

When I went to bed a little earlier than usual, my parents didn’t seem to notice. They thought I was worn out from the snowmobiling, but really I just wanted for a bit of peace and quiet. It may be a full year until Christmas comes around again, but I’ll need every bit of it to properly plot my ladybug revenge.

Like my holiday leftovers, it will be a dish better served cold.

Originally published on December 26, 2008 on evesun.com.

Unexpected Detours: A tale of flight delays, tropical escapes and chance encounters

 

The 5 Gringas: Mumsy, Jules, Kathie, Nona y yo.

Mumsy, Jules, Kathie, Nona and yours truly atop Mount Isabel during our 2014 Dominican adventure. I can assure you, a good time was had by all.

At barely 5 a.m. on the morning of January 9, 2014, I found myself staring bleary eyed at the departures board at Syracuse Airport. I was queued up with my four traveling companions – Mumsy, Jules, Kathie and Nona – and what felt like half of Central New York. We were at the tail end of one of last winter’s (then infamous, now long-forgotten) storms, and were well aware that some 12,000 flights had been canceled in the preceding days. The weather had finally cleared, though, and every flight listed was showing on time.

The five of us were bound for the Dominican Republic, and I for one could already taste the rum cocktails we’d be sipping on the beach by early afternoon.

A murmur moved up the line, intruding on my reverie. My friend Kathie, a little ahead of us, caught my eye and gestured to that same departure board I’d been staring at. Somehow, while I’d been daydreaming of sun and sand, the status of our flight had changed from ‘on time’ to ‘delayed’. I groaned, drawing the attention of my mother.

“We’re going to miss our connection,” I told her, leaving her to watch the bags as I wound my way to Kathie’s side.

The next hour was a blur. The airline’s counter person – no doubt eyeing the lengthy line of groggy would-be passengers behind us – insisted that she couldn’t help rebook us. We’d need to go through the group reservation line, she said. (Despite that there were only 5 of us.)

Too bad the first two numbers she gave us to call weren’t in service. The third was actually a chat line. (I kid you not.) And when, on the fourth try, we succeeded in getting the right number – we learned that the group reservation call center didn’t even open until 8 a.m. It wasn’t yet 6.

You can imagine how pleased we were at that.

Kathie made one more trip to the poor, frazzled woman behind the counter and miracle of miracles we ended up with a number that actually worked AND connected us to a human being. After jumping through the usual electronic hoops ,anyway.

For the next 45 minutes, the woman on the other end of the line was my best friend. Time seemed to stand still as she worked through a thousand different possible flight permutations in an effort to get the 5 of us ladies to our tropical destination. We were a model of flexibility, offering to fly out of another airport or fly into another one in the Dominican Republic. (We were headed to Puerto Plata, but we could make Santiago work if need be.)

We asked about other airlines, but she said wanted to exhaust all of their own possibilities first.

As the minutes ticked by, the options grew progressively worse, not better. And it was starting looking as though any cocktails we had in the foreseeable future would be imbibed in the bar of an airport (or airport hotel) rather than on a beach. Because the way she was talking, it would be DAYS before we made it to the DR.

It all went even further down hill when we were handed off yet again, this time to a supervisor. He was most definitely NOT my best friend. In fact, his first suggestion was that we fly to Newark and then wait THREE DAYS for a flight to Puerto Plata. This was the best option, he explained, unless we were willing to drive to Newark in three days time. The latter was certainly more appealing, because no offense to Neward, but spending the first part of our vacation there wasn’t exactly what we had in mind.

We asked again about options with other airlines, but all we received were a few vague promises that he’d follow up ‘later’. I could tell, though, by the finality in his voice as he signed off that there would be no further follow up on their end.

If we wanted a better option, it would be up to us to make it happen.

Before making our final exit from our home-away-from-home in the airline terminal, Kathie and I took a walk to the Delta counter.

What happened next was, in my opinion, a sure sign that there is a higher power in the universe. Because not only was there a flight to DR leaving that night, but there was space for us on it.

The catch, because there is always a catch, was that it leaving from JFK, not Syracuse, and landing in Santiago, not Puerto Plata. But we could work with that. Because it was definitely better than three days in Newark. Or waiting three days for the long-anticipated getaway for that matter.

As the incredibly helpful Delta representative worked with our original carrier to sort out the flight arrangements, I started working out the other details. Like changing our rental car reservation, reaching out to the Farrell network to find a home for our vehicle that didn’t involve paying $30 a day in a lot at JFK, etc.

Kathie sprung into action as well, since with our new, radically altered itinerary her friend Elena could no longer meet us. Elena, ever helpful, arranged for a taxi to meet us in Santiago. (Because, let’s face it, there wasn’t a chance that the accumulated luggage of five women was going to fit in one rental car. Oh, and there was the small matter of not being one hundred percent sure of the directions…)

The airport terminal was all but deserted by the time we had it all sorted. We were in a bit of a daze as we reboarded the shuttle to take us back to the airport hotel to retrieve our vehicle.

This is "the beach" we were trying to get to: Playa Costambar.

This is “the beach” we were trying to get to: Playa Costambar.

Now that the first – and arguably the biggest – obstacle had been overcome, my adrenaline was kicking in. There were still a host of challenges standing between us and the beach. Like getting a refund on the long-term parking we’d prepaid for at the airport hotel. And re-loading the aforementioned luggage into the car without the help of Jules’ very handy husband Lyndon to oversee the process. Not to mention the four-hour or so drive to JFK; the construction related traffic we’d invariably hit along the way; and coordinating the hand off of our keys to my awesome Uncle Tim.

But failure wasn’t an option. Come hell, high water or further interference from the travel gods, we were getting to that beach.

There was too much adrenaline in my system for me to relax on the plane. In fact, I didn’t start to breathe easy until we received the keys to our rental car in Santiago and the smiling cab driver and the off-duty cop riding shotgun with him started loading our luggage.

It was 2 a.m. at that point. We still had an hour or so drive to reach our final destination  on the North Coast. I might not get to sink my toes into the sand for a few more hours, but I was ok with that. Because my Dominican adventure had begun.

When I woke up the next morning and laid eyes on my surroundings for the first time – the palm trees, tropical foliage, the ocean, just all of it –the trials and tribulations of travel didn’t matter. Because on some level, I think I already knew this was where I was supposed to be.

Yes, Andry is that off-duty cop that met us at the airport. We met again in mid-March, when the Delta agent came to Costambar. See what I mean about unexpected detours?

Yes, Andry is that off-duty cop that met us at the airport. We met again in mid-March, when the Delta agent came to Costambar. See what I mean about unexpected detours?

A year has gone by since that hectic day. It feels like a lifetime ago. So much has changed in the intervening 12 months. I now wake up every morning to that beautiful tropical vista I fell in love with on that very first day. The customer service agent from Syracuse who helped make our dream of a tropical escape come true has since come down and had her own Dominican adventure, and a wonderful friendship has been formed. Elena is now my friend as well as Kathie’s. Kathie and her husband Mike have added an addition to that beautiful house I stayed in during my first stay (and a couple of subsequent visits, as well). They’ll be arriving in a few days to spend a whole month here. I can’t wait. (And yes, they do still rent it out when they’re not here. You can check them out on Facebook at Oceanfront Rental Dominican Republic.) The cab driver, José, has also become a trusted friend. And that off-duty cop? Well… That’s a story for a different day.

Who knows if any of that would have happened if our travel plans hadn’t been turned inside out that day. Sometimes it’s the unexpected detours that makes all the difference. That one point in time sets off a chain reaction, putting us in unexpected places, meeting unexpected people and it can make all the difference in the world.

It certainly has made all the difference in mine.