Luggage Matters

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While touring Italy with my sister and a busload of keen tourists one spring, I noticed how small problems have the potential to hamper a trip. Take colds and flus. The moment I heard the first sneeze or hack of an ailing traveler, I became germ phobic, refusing to stand or sit near anyone who looked the slightest bit peaked.

I bathed myself with anti-bacterial hand cleaner at every opportunity.  Who had time to get sick and miss a moment of fabulous countryside,  famous art or delicious Italian cuisine?

As for other small problems, factor in a lost piece of luggage.

I thanked my non-superstitious stars when I saw my suitcase spit from the carousel within minutes of arriving in Rome.

To me, this was a veritable feat of engineering, considering I started my journey in Calgary, changed planes in Toronto, boarded another in Frankfurt and finally arrived at my Italian destination.

Despite the jitneys I rode and the terminals I changed in various airports, there it was – my beautiful suitcase – bumping its way along the conveyor belt. I breathed a sigh of relief. Who am I kidding, it was a gusty “Yoo hoo!” and a fist raised in victory.

On these package tours, guests are allowed to bring only one suitcase. In other words, my underwear, toiletries and comfy pillow were all riding on my bag’s prompt arrival. And since we stayed at six different hotels, it’d be no easy task for missing luggage to catch up to an owner.

I’m quick to steal titles from movies today, so call it The Incredible Journey because my loyal suitcase went the distance and met me on schedule, both of us unscathed.

No-show luggage tormented one passenger on the tour. Her partner’s luggage appeared, but her own suitcase stayed in the US, revolving aimlessly in a mystery carousel for several days. Speaking of mysteries,  it’s strange how her stylish green plaid case – one that matched her partner’s – could be left behind. Maybe the baggage handler didn’t like the color; maybe the bag was too stylish for its own good.

The other question is how it took me 20 hours to journey to Italy, but that green suitcase needed a whopping four days. Poor little luggage – it missed everything from Siena to Florence. It deserves a do-over.

If your luggage defines you, then I’m an inexpensive black number with Hello Kitty pink duct tape holding the works together.

There’s a reason I travel like a pauper with my Club Monde (perhaps a take-off on Club Monaco, to make it sound exotic). I read a warning that the more expensive your case, the greater the chance of having it stolen or pilfered. In other words, your Louis Vuitton bag undoubtedly contains a better haul than my nondescript scuffed and taped clunker.

Who’d waste their time ransacking my cheap case? If any thieves covet a $12 alarm clock or a travel pillow, then I’m their bag. But if they’re looking for pricey electronics or designer fashions, they’d be wise to  move along to the next suitcase, something with a better label.

If I learned anything from my Italian excursion, it’s that European travel separates the women from the girls. After all, multiple plane  changes  and an equal number of time zones is no picnic. Plus, schedules are guaranteed to include a mad dash for your plane in one airport  followed by a six-hour stopover in the next.

That said, the travel rewards are huge and the money well spent. Just leave your expensive luggage at home, where it’ll make a fashionable door stop.

Audio story music “Waterfall”
by
Aakask Ganghi

Milk-Bone in Your Pocket

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Since I welcome any opportunity to tease my partner, Valentine’s Day provides yet another opportunity.

I’ll be gentle. I’ve been with the guy for half my life, which translates into a heaping helping of dog years. For that, he deserves a medal, not a hard time.

Speaking of dogs, if he were a canine he’d be a mixed breed: amorous like a Chihuahua, clever like a Border Collie, and regal as a Beagle. Those are his words, not mine. While reading an online personality profile, I asked Paul what three dogs he considered himself. And for the record, “amorous” isn’t the actual word he used but I’ve done a titch of editing.

I’d throw in a tough breed for Paul, such as a Bull Mastiff or Siberian Husky because my husband is no lap dog. Nor is he easily riled.

A perfect example was when I opened a letter from his doctor’s office, describing a simple test he’s scheduled to undergo. I read it aloud while we ate fajitas in a restaurant.

Although the letter referred to “minimal discomfort,” I changed the wording to “substantial discomfort.” Pause . . . no reaction. I decided to roll up my sleeves.

“If further tests are required,” the letter continued, “you may need a tiny wire placed through the skin, about the size of an immunization needle.” Of course I changed that phrase to “a two-inch incision, requiring several stitches.”

Again, no reaction. I bit my lip to keep from giggling and watched as he casually dipped into his salsa. “Honey, doesn’t that worry you? An incision? Stitches?”

He shook his head and shrugged. “Oh well, whatever.”

Like I said, he’s one tough Husky. I grow faint when tweezing my eyebrows. If I ever show up at your party with a uni-brow, you’ll know why.

People put a lot of pressure on Valentine’s Day, determined to exchange the perfect gift and sentimental card that expresses their love. Same goes for the scrutiny placed on marriage.

Marriage can be overrated, especially when people don’t respect the promises they jointly make. Actions speak louder than signatures on any old marriage certificate, no matter how much dust has built up over the years.
I’m a firm believer that love is demonstrated by how couples share their lives. It’s the day-to-day challenges they conquer and the effort they make to protect each other.

During an occasional trying moment, I hear Paul mutter: “I shoulda taken a wrong turn on the way to the church.”

“No way,” I quickly reply. “Who’d be here to brag about you, you big stud. Now go eat your kibble.”

Either I still love him, or I really need to get a dog. 

Happy Valentine’s Day, honey.

Audio music “Blue Creek Trail”
by
Dan Lebowitz

I Need a Dentist, Not a Survey

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I never forward chain letters or dire warnings that turn out to be hoaxes.  

But when a friend from Ottawa sent me a “Four things about me” email, my interest was piqued. She likes to watch TV crime shows, for example. And I’d forgotten that she’d traveled to Africa.

Not only did I enjoy reading her responses, I started filling in a few of my own.

I don’t suggest you take too much time from your day for questionnaires, especially if you’re the dentist scheduled to fill my tooth this afternoon. Please, I want you to concentrate on my molar, not your catamaran trip to the Galapagos Islands. 

Here goes . . . Four jobs I’ve had:

1. lingerie model
2. product demonstrator
3. realtor
4. bartender

Lingerie modeling was exciting and filled with crazy chaos; it also required too much attention to detail. Every part of me had to be polished and my appearance was always under scrutiny. How tiresome. And I would never be tall enough or attractive enough to make the pages of Vogue, although I had a fun run.

Fortunately I never fell off any dimly lit stages although my catwalk days are long over – I’m currently balancing a bag of frozen peas on my shin after walking into my own coffee table!

My product demonstrator career lasted one week. It’s difficult to sell an expensive manicure kit and it’s disheartening to hear “No thanks” all day. Total sales? Only one. I bought it out of guilt, considering I quit before the promotion ended. Lessons learned? Again, only one. Stay in school.

Working as a licensed real estate agent gave me confidence. Move over, manicure kit, a house was a big ticket item to sell. When purchasers invited me for dinner in their newly constructed homes and everybody was smiling, I loved my career.

But when their homes weren’t ready on time and those once-smiling customers had no place to live for a month, I felt less delighted. My ringing phone began to give me anxiety.

As for bartending, I enjoyed the high energy parties and celebrations but grew tired of dealing with of inebriated people. Drunks can get cranky and unreasonable. Wish I could still remember how to make a flaming Pousse Café.

See? There’s plenty you can discover about people. 

How about  . . . Four places I’ve been:

1. Cap Haitien, Haiti
2. Miami – both Florida and Manitoba
3. Minsk, Belarus
4. Cal-Nev-Ari, which borders California, Nevada and Arizona.

In Haiti, our tour guide had an artificial foot that spun in circles when he walked. Sometimes the foot locked in a backwards position and he’d realign it by a swift kick with his other foot.

In Cal-Nev-Ari, every second resident owned a small place. Their garages were plane hangars and their neighborhood streets were designed as runways. Paul and I explored the area for a month, which included a casino Christmas party with fascinating and off-the-grid locals.

There are more categories to this survey but I have to see a dentist about a tooth. Maybe I should add teeth to the survey under: Four things that need better care!