Tag Archives: vacation

Hurricane was a bust, I’m happy to report

Hurricane Irene was on everyone’s mind for days before she arrived. We knew she was coming, we don’t live under a rock, but we had planned to go to Southern Vermont for a long weekend, and the beautiful, sunny weather we were having made it hard to think seriously about changing our plans. We drove north to West Wardsboro where we spent a storybook day and night with our extended family. The kids took full advantage of the pond while the adults took full advantage of the kids taking full advantage of the pond to play tennis, stroll in the woods, or loll on the lawn.

Alas, some of those adults were carrying iPhones, so the specter of Hurricane Irene was always present. When the New York Times reported that a quarter of a million people were being evacuated, and the subway was being shut down, we let anxiety take its natural course. We didn’t want to leave, but we didn’t want to stay. The weather maps indicated that after New York Irene was going to cruise through Boston and after that she was planning her own visit to Vermont. We decided that we should head for home.

The drive home was uneventful, and our favorite pizza joint was still open. After dinner we brought in the deck chairs and took down the hanging plant on the porch. My husband also tried to put new D batteries into our fancy Maglite flashlight. Two pairs of pliers and a lot of elbow grease later, he still couldn’t get it open. It might be useful for clobbering a robber over the head, but its days as a flashlight are over.

As it happens we didn’t need the flashlight. We never lost power; nor did a tree fall on our house; nor did our street flood. Yes, there was some impressive wind now and again, but for the most part, for us, Hurricane Irene was a bust. I was disappointed, and I’ll bet lots of people felt the same way. The build-up is overwhelming; inescapable; constant. If, however, you admit to being disappointed when a much-anticipated disaster passes you by, someone more sensible is bound to say, in a tsk-tsk tone of voice, “You should be grateful that nothing bad happened to you or anyone you love.”

After the hurricane, the same media that had whipped us into a frenzy to match Irene’s started reporting on the results. People were flooded, stranded, lost their homes. Bridges were damaged and washed away. Although the worst damage on our street was relatively benign, huge trees fell elsewhere in town, blocking roads and ripping up sidewalks. Below is a picture of the road we drive to get to the house in West Wardsboro.

Next time a natural disaster passes me by I promise not to whine. Instead I’ll say, “I am so grateful that nothing bad happened to me or my loved ones.”

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Everyone’s a little bit snobby

I’m just back from a vacation in Lake Placid with my husband’s entire family. The weather was wonderful and the hiking was fun. And while I’m sure my mother-in-law is waiting with bated breath to see what I’ll write about the week, I’ve decided that what happens in Lake Placid, stays in Lake Placid. There was, however, one interesting discussion that bears further exploration; the difference between being a snob, and an elitist. We did not reach consensus (or perhaps we did, and I can’t recall it because I was besotted, thanks to a 1983 Chateau d’Yquem Sauterne with which we were toasting our gathering). Strangely, though there were half a dozen iPhones in the group, and as many laptops, at the time, no one thought to look up the meanings of those words.

According to my trusty paperback edition of The Merriam Webster Dictionary (circa 1994) a snob is, “one who seeks association with persons of higher social position and looks down on those considered inferior,” and elite means, “the choice part; a superior group” (and “a typewriter type providing 12 characters to the inch,” which has no bearing on the discussion, but I’ve thrown it in to see if you’re paying attention). It seems clear from those definitions that if one feels no pressing need to associate with those higher up the class food chain, then they may well be the elite, which does not, however, preclude them from looking down on those they consider inferior, hence they are also snobs.

I embrace the philosophy originally espoused by Groucho Marx (though often incorrectly attributed to Woody Allen) that I don’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member. I guess that makes me a snob. But then, I maintain that we are all snobs; we all look down on those we consider inferior to us. If we consider them inferior, then we must, by definition, be looking down on them.

One of my favorite modern musicals, Avenue Q, has a song called, Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist. I encourage you to read the lyrics for yourself, as a quote taken out of context here might cause a flap, but the point I’m making is, it might just as well be called, Everyone’s A Little Bit Snobby.

There’s no doubt that the word snob has horrible connotations. Most people accused of being a snob would probably object strenuously, while glancing around to make sure no one overheard the accusation. Instead, maybe we should just embrace our inner snobs and comfort them with the knowledge that there’s always someone who is snobbier than we are, thereby making us look positively well-adjusted.

Laid low by a volcano

Who would of thunk that a volcano could put the kibosh on hundreds of thousands of travel plans? Terrorists, maybe, but a volcano?

I was diligently wrapping up my obligations prior to a family vacation in Paris that was scheduled to depart the following day, oblivious to what was going on in the outside world, when my husband emailed me a link to a French newspaper. My French doesn’t even qualify as rudimentary but there was no mistaking the headline which, loosely translated, said, ‘you are about to be severely disappointed.’

We watched anxiously as flights were canceled and airports closed. But our Friday afternoon flight to Paris, via Philadelphia, was still showing an on-time departure. We were already packed so when the time came to go to the airport we figured we might as well; maybe we’d be able to fly in spite of the mounting evidence to the contrary. At the check-in counter the less-than-gracious US Airways employee informed us that yes, the flight was still scheduled and no, she couldn’t advise us as to the best course of action; we could check in or not, it was no skin off her nose. We had an hour or so to decide.

“What happens to our luggage if we check in now, and then the flight’s canceled?” we asked.

“You try to get it back,” she said with a shrug of her shoulders.

Since most of my underwear was in my suitcase, and it would be inconvenient to be without it for an unspecified amount of time, I suggested we not check in quite yet, but instead go have lunch and see if anything definitive transpired in the next hour.

Just as we finished ordering, we got an automated message that our flight had been canceled. I waved the waiter back and ordered a drink.

We were, of course, extremely disappointed that our trip had been canceled, but we knew right away that we were luckier than many. From an inconvenience perspective we suffered not one whit. We were grounded, but we were on home turf with all our underwear. One friend from the UK was stuck here while her valiant husband wrangled their two young daughters on his own for an extra week. Another friend was stuck in Germany while his wife tried to hold onto her sanity as a single parent here. Another friend in the UK had a scaled down wedding party because her European friends were unable to travel, and another wedding was canceled altogether. Those are just a few of the stories that I’ve heard from people I know. Imagine how many other plans were ruined, and lives disrupted, by that pesky natural phenomenon.

I’m sorry that my daughter’s school vacation did not work out as planned; that she didn’t get to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, or visit Versailles, or practice her French. But we got to participate in a moment in history that will not soon be forgotten.

C’est la vie.