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Travel Travails

My wife says she loves to travel. And while she does enjoy being other places, she hates the actual act of getting there. Where most people just go online and buy a ticket, then go to the airport and get where they want to go, my wife's version is always immensely complicated, and has, in the past, included driving to the airport at midnight—to rent a car. I know, you've probably never heard of a red-eye car rental, but my wife is inventive that way.

She will want me to tell you of the extenuating circumstances in this case. How she'd planned on being at the airport at 8 pm, but also arranged for us both to get haircuts from a stylist who took two hours—each. This is quite a trick considering I don't have that much hair. He could have placed a rodent on my noggin and it would have nibbled my hair into a neat trim in less time. But that's neither here nor there. We got the rental car home around 2 am and planned to leave the next morning around 10... which became 4 pm. The less said the better because, like I said, it's complicated.

The act of packing further complicates matters. The last time we drove to Los Angeles for 7 days, my wife brought 12 pairs of shoes. I'm not sure how she thought she could wear that many shoes in that few days (especially since our invitation to the Academy Awards seemed to have been lost in the mail), but she lugged them along, or, actually, I lugged them for her. I think she wore two pairs while we were there, but she had the other 10 just in case, which is all that matters.

She brought four bags (maybe more, I lost count), and her toiletry and accessory bag alone was bigger than my one single bag of clothes, shoes, and everything I needed.

Just to make things simple (or, with my wife in tow, simpler), even when I'm driving, I just take a single bag that the manufacturer claims can be an a airline carry-on. I figure if I can carry it on an airplane I can carry it upstairs. And on a recent trip to Colorado for my niece Ocea's wedding, I brought enough winter clothes for a week, plus a tuxedo, and three pairs of shoes, all in this one small bag (my wife did help me pack it all in—she's good at doing that for other people).

And I carried it on. It was just a little too big to fit in the overhead on one smaller plane, and I was a little too late to find overhead space in another, so in both cases it ended up being tossed out the door to baggage handlers below, where it was "safely" stowed in the luggage compartment and it then only took me an hour find it in a sea of baggage carousels. Of course, that's normal and doesn't count as complicated.

But that does lead me to the final travel complication with my wife—she refuses to fly. She considers it totally unsafe (as compared to driving for 22 hours, which is, in her mind, safety itself). Unless the trip is to Europe, in which case flying is OK. She has never adequately explained how flying 12 hours is safer than flying for 90 minutes, but she says it involves the ocean in some way, but only the Atlantic Ocean, as flying over the Pacific simply isn't an option.

She says, "There's no other way to get to Europe," and I stupidly counter with, "We could take a train to New York, then take the QEII to London, then the train to the continent." And it would only take about two weeks each way, which means we would just have time to go there, turn right around and come back.

As a side note, this is the same woman who said she would never, ever go on the Eurostar train that goes through the Chunnel between the UK and France. She was sure that was an invitation to drowning. Yet on our last trip we breezed through the chunnel in 20 minutes (because it was too choppy for the hovercraft and some ferry had sunk somewhere which instantly made the idea of ferries less safe), and arrived in the center of London. It was a wonderful trip and she says she'd do it again anytime.

Anytime we can get there, she means, which, even though flying over the Atlantic is involved, still requires 1) packing, 2) getting to the airport, and 3) sitting on the plane without getting phlebitis.


Planes are just fraught with danger. First there are the technical problems inherent with forcing tens of tons of metal, people and pretzels to stay several miles off the ground. Then there are even worse problems, like breathing re-circulated air, other people sneezing, or worse, using her armrest. There are seats designed by sadists, and food created culinary college dropouts. And let's not forget the terrorists, because she doesn't. Or the lack of security in American airports and attendant lack of funding for real security while 10 billion dollars are month are pumped into Iraq. I have to agree with her there, but I also know anyone could be hit by a bus at any time, so when it's your time it's your time, so just get on the friggin' plane already.

After many years of consideration on my part, I have finally figured out her preferred method of travel: 1) go into suspended animation, 2) have her hyperbolic chamber carried by Nubians onto a train, then carried on their backs to the final destination where, 3) a board certified anesthesiologist awakens her while I lean over her and pretend to have done it with a kiss (her nickname really is "Snow White, but that's another story"). To return home—simply reverse the process!

I do understand how she feels, as my preferred method of travel is to fall asleep in my bed and wake up in bed at my destination, but since this could require large doses of drugs or alcohol (neither of which I like), I have deemed this solution impractical, especially given the size of today's airports.

So, since my first choice in travel isn't going to happen, I have managed the amazing ability to go online, buy tickets, get to the airport (a step often involving a car and a bus!), remove most of my clothing and all my accessories to get through security, find the airplane, go to my seat, sit for a while, stand up and wait to get off the plane, find my luggage, run to the next airplane (always just in the nick of time) and finally arrive to my destination, almost fully conscious. I'm not sure where I got this miraculous ability but I am not alone, millions manage it every day.

My wife, perhaps having been Cleopatra in a previous life, just expects her own barge. And when you think about it, wouldn't you?


Read about my latest movie role (you read that right), here!

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The best graphics program. Period.

I've tried countless graphics programs, including the big ones from Adobe (and they're great), but by far the best graphics program I've ever seen, and the one I use daily is XaraXtreme www.xara.com

It's the fastest, more efficient graphics program (and I think the easiest, too) and what you see is exactly what you'll get in your final graphics. I use it for all my work, including these web sites: http://www.will-harris.com/web-dez.htm

Xara invented real-time anti-aliasing so what you see on-screen is exactly what you get in your GIFs and JPGs, live transparency that lets you blend and see through any object, great bitmap handling (easy color correction), and has web-specific features like image slicing and rollover buttons. The realistic shadow tool is amazing. You can export to all major file formats, including Flash .SWF format.

Xara costs as little as $79, a new open source Linux version is free, and a Mac version is coming soon. You can download a trial version for free at http://www.xara.com/downloads/xtreme/

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http://www.heifer.org/ You can change lives and bring hope and possibility to the people who need it most by giving the gift of an animal to a needy family. Heifer has helped more than five million families become self-reliant. Gifts start at $20 for chicks. It's a great gift for the person who has everything, for the person who doesn't. http://www.heifer.org/ or call them at 1-800-422-0474.

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One Final Word

Tip: If you can get yourself to an airport here's a tip for getting through security with less hassle. While in line for the airport security screening, remove your wallet, jewelry, rings, watches, belt, cell phone, and accessible piercings and put them in a zip lock bag or your briefcase or handbag or backpack or whatever you're carrying on that will go through the x-ray scanner.

Then you can breeze through the metal detector (unless you have a titanium hip or pierced privates), with all your stuff safely in your bag instead of exposed in the filthy plastic tray they send through the scanner (in case you were hiding something nefarious in your wedding ring). Then you can sit down, get dressed, put on your shoes and re-accessorize in an organized way.




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The SchoomozeLetter is ©1998-2006, Daniel Will-Harris, all rights reserved. If you'd like to use any article on the web or in print, please ask for permission. If you're an agent or publisher looking to publish these pieces, just drop me a note.