Luggage Matters

Shannon Kernaghan Luggage-Matters-400-e1550426795349 Luggage Matters Adventure Belongings Challenge Family Fun Humor Lifestyle Love Memoir Relationship Risk Travel

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

I Need a Dentist, Not a Survey

Shannon Kernaghan I-Need-Dental-Work I Need a Dentist, Not a Survey Adventure Career Challenge Fashion Fun Humor Lifestyle Memoir Memories Parties Read Along Travel

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!

Your Resting Bitch Face Scares Me!

Shannon Kernaghan resting-bitch-face-400 Your Resting Bitch Face Scares Me! Adventure Career Challenge Challenges Humor Memoir Read Along Risk Teambuilding

Can’t we all just get along? No. At least not at work.

An online poll of 2,000 adults revealed that 22% despise their colleagues. That’s strong language!

Cranky people obviously responded to the poll. Those who enjoy arranging staff birthday parties and NONE OF US IS AS STRONG AS ALL OF US teambuilding events are too busy for polls. Either way you slice the birthday cake, that’s a whole lot of despising.

There’s more: one third of the respondents had quit their jobs to escape undesirable co-workers. The word “obnoxious” was bandied about like helium balloons.

“The office is a lot like a family,” says Franke James with officepolitics.com. “And nobody knows how to push our buttons like a brother or sister.”

My siblings are scattered across several provinces. We all get along just fine. Then again, my sister isn’t stealing my three-hole punch and my brother isn’t dropping cruller crumbs into my computer keyboard.

But there have been a few peeps I’d place in that 22 percentile. Please join me in the Wayback Machine, to when I worked at a sales job.

I watched a male co-worker slam down the phone and cartwheel across the room, ecstatic after closing a deal. I clapped and congratulated Dave as he bounced off walls. (I’m not exaggerating; he did a series of side kicks like the Lucky Charms leprechaun.)

Our boss walked past me and I blurted out, “Dave just made a big sale, isn’t that great?” This was followed by lots of rah-rahing and back patting. The mood was charged.

The minute our boss left the room, Dave strode over to me with a loaded index finger and a florid tinge to his face. Then he started to snort. “Who the hell are you to announce my news?  I’ll make the announcements when I’m good and ready. Got it?” His resting bitch face scared me.

“Oh-kay . . . got it.”

The mood was no longer charged. Dave must have missed the inter-office memo on teamwork. Then again, I shouldn’t have rained on his Lucky Charms parade. Who knew being a cheerleader was so hazardous.

Cold comfort? My over-the-top colleague was soon fired for pulling the same explosive stunt on another supportive co-worker. This time the boss was watching.

Thanks to the dismal statistics and my tramp down memory lane, I’m nervous. When I show up for the next staff meeting I’ll wonder if 22% of the boardroom despises me. I’d better keep the lid clamped down on my cheerleading charm. Better yet, maybe I won’t go.

Nah, I’ll go, and not because I’m brave. There might be birthday cake.

*Note* Backing track in Your Resting Bitch Face audio story  is
“The Rising Cost of Living” by Lyndon Scarfe.

A Wooden Leg Does Not a Pirate Make

Shannon Kernaghan wooden-leg-400 A Wooden Leg Does Not a Pirate Make Challenge Challenges Childhood Family Farming Humor Lifestyle Memoir Pirates

In 1978 President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the first Sunday in September after Labor Day as National Grandparents’ Day. The idea originated from a woman in West Virginia whose motivation was to persuade grandchildren to listen and learn from the wisdom of their grandparents.

This special day reminds me to appreciate my own family tree. Take my grandfather, a hard-working and good-natured farmer. He had a wooden leg, the result of a war injury. As a farmer, dealing with a missing limb must have been a daily challenge although my mother says she never heard him complain.

Today, prosthetics are made of lightweight polymer and flexible titanium capable of increasing agility and mobility. None of that innovation was available for my grandfather’s leg: his was a heavy and unwieldy contraption held in place by a bulky harness and shoulder strap. Although it had a knee hinge, the mechanism didn’t always work unless my grandpa gave it a couple of hard thumps. He told my mom that the knocks were to show it who was boss. Grandpa also swore this leg had a mind of its own.

Correction: Mom said he did complain one day when he started to limp and couldn’t put any weight on the prosthetic. Climbing in and out of his tractor produced a stabbing pain at the place his thigh joined with the artificial leg.

Sitting on the side of his bed at night, he told my grandma that he was glad the day was over, that he’d have to see a doctor about his sore leg . . . until he unstrapped the harness. Lodged in the leg’s socket was a ring of keys.

“Hey, I’ve been looking for these all day!” and he started to laugh. His pain was from several jabbing keys! It never occurred to him to take off his prosthesis and check. “Too busy,” he told Grandma, caught up in his laughter.

One of the advantages of a wooden leg, he bragged, was that it would save his life if he ever fell into deep water. His theory was tested while canoeing with a friend. When the boat capsized, the leg floated but it didn’t help my grandfather – he was trapped below the water’s surface while the leg bobbed above! The true lifesaver was his friend who dragged him to shore. Since that day, the leg became known as “Troublemaker.”

Even after Grandpa passed away, the artificial leg continued to cause trouble. My mom was enlisted to bring it home from the hospital. But what was she supposed to do with it? She decided to phone the Salvation Army and the charity agreed to pick it up. An entire week went by.

While waiting, nobody wanted Troublemaker in their bedroom (I was scared of it!) so Mom propped it inside the front hall closet behind our coats. When Grandma phoned to say she was driving in from the country for a visit, Mom called the Salvation Army again and explained the situation.

“Please,” I overheard her imploring conversation, “I don’t want my mother to see his leg, it’ll be too painful for her!” Still no truck.

An hour before my grandma arrived, a driver picked up the leg and my mom could relax.

Her relief was short-lived, however, when days later someone from The War Amps phoned to inquire about the prosthesis. He wasn’t happy to hear that she’d given it away and informed Mom that it had been “on loan” for all those years.

“You want it back?”

“If it’s not returned by the end of the month,” he said, “you’ll be charged its full price.” That leg might have been low-tech and well-used, but it was still expensive.

With a quavering voice, Mom called the Salvation Army and explained that now she needed the leg back. She had to make more inquiry calls the following week and explain the story each time. Finally, a woman answered and said, “Oh, YOU’RE the leg woman. We got it, we found your leg!”

The same driver returned to our door and plopped the limb, now missing its sock and shoe, onto our WELCOME mat.

“Hey lady,” he said. “Tell the owner to make up his mind about his body parts!” and he turned on his heel.

My grandfather would have laughed if he knew about the commotion caused by his wooden leg. “See? he’d say. “I told you Troublemaker had a mind of its own!”

Audio story backing track
“Papa Hammond”
by Urban Pastiche from Sony Sound Series

Hollywood, Here I DON’T Come!

Shannon Kernaghan Star_Hollywood-Here-I-DONT-Come_Kernaghan Hollywood, Here I DON’T Come! Adventure Career Challenge Fun Humor Lifestyle Memoir

I know why I’m not a Hollywood celebrity – I don’t have “star drive,” that necessary trait for a person to succeed on the stage or screen. I also lack another key factor: talent.

Sure, I’ve made my lukewarm forays into the world of acting. Years ago, I took a few script reading and improv courses. And while living on the west coast, I did extra work in a dozen series and several movies.

When I read about an audition for a local filmmaker, I blew the dust off my skimpy acting resume. Although no pay was involved, the challenge sounded like fun and I scheduled an appointment to read at a nearby hotel.

After memorizing my lines, I skipped to that audition. But reading lines at your mirror doesn’t compare with doing the scene across from a stranger. When it was my turn to read, the script sounded completely foreign in my ears. I stammered and stumbled.

If bungling my lines wasn’t bad enough, my confidence plummeted when the director suggested I try again. “But this time,” he said, “don’t move around so much, and try to be more . . . quiet.”

“More quiet, okay, sure,” I said, wearing an idiot grin. What really went through my mind was, “What did I just do, flail my arms and shout?” At that surreal point, all I could focus on was remembering my lines and staring at the adorable scriptwriter, the one who read the other character’s lines. In the story, I was supposed to be his mother.

“I WISH I had a son as cute as you,” I thought, and then realized I’d spoken aloud as the group started laughing. Laughing is too strong; make that awkward chuckling. Not only was I a bad actor, I felt like Mrs. Robinson, surrounded by a crew young enough to be my children.

Surprise, surprise, I didn’t get the part. I couldn’t even give away my gratis acting services.

While leaving the hotel, I had a flashback: I was doing extra work at a rundown movie set in Vancouver. After pulling off a shapeless dress three sizes too large from wardrobe, I sighed at the end of a long night. The actors and crew were cranky, the bag lunches were stale, and someone yelled at me during a take when my shoes made scrunching noises on the dirty floor. Plus, I wanted to tell the actor playing an FBI agent to stop mumbling and speak up!

The highlight of the shoot was when a camera fell and knocked a man unconscious. I remember thinking, “This two-bit series will NEVER get off the ground. What a dump.”

That two-bit series? The X-Files, listed as one of the longest-running science fiction series at 12 seasons. Turns out the mumbling agent Mulder was played by David Duchovny and I was in the pilot with him.

The truth is out there: I’m a bad actor. Time to shelve my dreams of a Hollywood star and stick to writing, where I can invent my own characters and flail my arms until the cows come home. Or shout until I’m blue in the face. Pick a cliché and I’ll be there. With bells on.

The backing track on the audio version is 
“Three Kinds of Suns” 
by Norma Rockwell 

My Resolution? Avoid Clichés Like the Plague

Shannon Kernaghan Cliches-400-3 My Resolution? Avoid Clichés Like the Plague Culture Drinking Friendship Humor Lifestyle Memoir New Years Parties Relationship

It’s now or never. There’s no better time than the present to make a New Year’s resolution. This will take nerves of steel but for my 2018 pledge, I resolve to cut back on my use of clichés, those tired expressions worn thin through the years.

I don’t know how many clichés I utter because I can’t see the forest for the trees. But it’s a pain in the neck to give up what’s familiar, like throwing out a pair of comfy old shoes. Speaking of footwear, if the shoe fits, I’m talking to you. You’re in the service industry, the ones bringing home the bacon who tell me to “have a nice day.” News flash: your advice falls on deaf ears since I’m determined to have a nice day, even if it kills me.

Don’t get all bent out of shape because I’m equally guilty of using platitudes. “You too, have a good one,” I answer, as if I really give a hoot.

Starting in 2018, let’s all get with the program. Just once I’d like to hear, “Thanks for buying something. Your purchase guarantees my job for another shift.” To that bit of honesty I’ll reply, “You’re a breath of fresh air. That’s why they pay you the big bucks.”

Now I have two resolutions for 2018: avoid clichés like the plague AND be more honest with people. We don’t have to see eye to eye across the board, as long as we’re on the same page. For example, I’ll welcome a serving person who answers, “How am I today? I’m up to my neck in alligators!”

“Then take a load off and fill me in,” I’ll say. “I’m all ears, but make it snappy. I’ve got people to see and places to . . . uh-oh, there I go again.” These New Year’s promises are murder, tougher than teaching old dogs new tricks.

The next time you hand me my purchase and tell me to have a nice day, give me a little wink. That’ll be our secret code, which means you’d rather be home watching HBO. While you’re standing there, give me two winks if anything is about to go on sale. I know, I can’t buy happiness and I should save for a rainy day, but a penny saved is a penny earned, no matter how I slice it.

Happy New Year!

Backing track in the audio story is
“Where Am I?”
by Text Me Records 

Good Intentions, Bad Gifts

Shannon Kernaghan Good-Intentions-bad-gifts-400-2 Good Intentions, Bad Gifts Culture Gifts Lifestyle Memoir Memories Xmas

What’s the worst gift you ever received? Is it hard for everyone to open a bad Christmas gift and pretend to be excited? I’ll never win an Oscar for acting because the moment I unwrap a bad gift, my facial features alter. As I try to smile, a smirk tugs down the corners of my mouth. My pleasant “Oh, how lovely!” sounds hollow and now everyone in the room is watching!

What defines a bad gift? You tell me. When I was in my twenties, my mother-in-law gave me big beige underwear (‘old-lady panties’ according to my husband) three Christmases in a row. Each year it was the same thing; after Xmas I’d trade in the 6-pack for something sexy.

After years of nervous anticipation during tense moments around the tree, I’ve devised a few logical suggestions to sail us through the giving and receiving:

1) Avoid buying the ‘practical’ gift. An ear and nose hair trimmer is the ideal choice for Uncle Louie, but he didn’t know he had a hair issue until you came along;

2) If you’re bold/foolish/uncaring enough to pawn off a previous bad gift, remove all evidence. My friend received a present from her aunt, a glass punch bowl with 12 cups. When she broke down the box for recycling, she discovered a gift tag addressed TO the aunt from someone else. FYI my friend doesn’t have a dozen friends to share punch, so this gift was both recycled and kind of sad;

3) Before the dreaded day, I mean Christmas, do some practicing: “Thank you, how kind, it’s just what I always wanted” in front of the bathroom mirror. Do you look sincere? If you can’t fool yourself, you won’t fool your holiday crowd;

4) Reserve comment UNTIL you’ve unwrapped the inside tissue. Just because there’s a picture of a can opener on the box doesn’t mean there’s a can opener inside. It could be a diamond tennis bracelet and here you’ve already gone and gasped, “How wonderful, I really need a can opener!” Chances are, if you already own two can openers, it’ll be a third;

5) Apply a generous coating of lip balm before the festivities begin. When your mouth dries at the sight of a poorly knit sweater in a shade of orange not found on nature’s palette, the extra lubrication will prevent your lips from sticking to your teeth;

6) At the first sight of a bad gift, visualize a favorite day at the beach. If that doesn’t make you smile when you open the gift certificate for an hour of electrolysis, nothing will. (Now you know how Uncle Louie feels);

7) And finally, suggest that next Christmas be gift-free for adults. Why put ourselves through this stress year after year? Wait a minute . . .  who says I haven’t given MY share of bad gifts? My mother had a suspiciously cheerful voice when she opened my childhood creations of melted crayon-covered jars and Popsicle stick pen holders. So much glitter . . . the horror.

Forget the angst of receiving bad gifts. Now I’m too paranoid to shop. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Audio story backing track
“Clouds”
by Huma Huma.