Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Time is money, right?

Yesterday, when my husband and I were in my car running errands, I reminded him that my car needed gasoline. Within a couple miles, he pulled into the curb lane readying to swing into one of the gasoline stations we often frequent. But as we drew near the entrance, he changed his mind and headed on, saying we’d get it after the next errand on the other end of the next town, about a fifteen minute drive away, depending on traffic and trains.

After hitting all the red lights and enduring a l-o-n-g train wait, fast-forward with me now (don’t you wish ALL travel could happen that way!) to the other end of that next town, and envision us passing by the gas station near the bank, the destination of the aforementioned "next errand."

“I thought we were getting gas,” I said, pointing out the side window as we zinged by the station.

“I’ll go back to the first station,” responded he. “They’re fifteen cents a gallon higher here. That’s ridiculous!”

Now, since one store never seemed to accomplish any one task, we’d already spent several hours spinning our wheels on the errands, and we had so many more errands to go, I just needed to check something off the list. (Gasoline? CHECK!) Besides, who knew when he’d get back to that other place, and I’d already been running low for a spell--both on gasoline and patience. So swiftly and LOUDLY, of course I spoke up. (Surprise-surprise.)

“But you’ll spend lots of time and money to save money, and we’re here!” (TONE OF VOICE: somewhere between whine, despair and BULL HORN.) After all, I had a Traveling Laugh to write!

He sighed, relented, pulled into the station and likely mumbled to himself about the wasted two bucks. I didn’t blame him; what with all our remodeling, we’d already cut the budget to its outer edge.

However, when you spend so much of your life traveling, time is money, right? And even if you don’t spend so much of your life traveling farther away than to the gas station and back, time is still money, right?

But, A-HAH!, Mr. Hubby is retired. So, does that old adage still apply?

Then again, when is the more expensive choice the right option? How much extra time do you want to give to scouting out the cheapest rental car and airline tickets when that time could otherwise be spent preparing for the actual business end of the trip? Or taking a nap? Or playing with the kids? Or reading a good book (subliminal message: like one of mine)? When is it worth an extra twenty minutes to save a few bucks? And at what point do you make that decision? Two bucks? Twenty? Fifty? Five hundred?

What price do we allot to, and for, mental torment and/or health? What weight do we give to exhaustion by our own hand? What keeps a marriage together during the strains of travel and remodeling?


In the grand scheme of things, I’m sure it’s all relative. You’re making tons of bucks, you can spend tons of bucks. (Although I understand wealthy people always buy used cars. Go figure.) You’re living on a tight budget, you spend time keeping it tight.

But seriously, how DO you draw the line on time vs. money, especially as it applies to travel? Please post your comments. My husband needs to hear them.

Then again, maybe on this topic, it’s ME who needs a boot to the behind .

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

When everything goes right

Previous to my last flight home (a 757 from SNA to ORD), I don’t recall ever landing forty minutes early. Forty minutes? Now that is some tailwind, or light plane (maybe 2/3 capacity and no gaggle of elephants in the cargo hold?), or no air traffic, or, perhaps I fell down Alice’s hole straight into Wonderland. Of course we had to park for ten minutes and wait for a gate, but even so, we still deplaned thirty minutes early.

On that outbound trip to SNA, we left on time and arrived on time. Mercy me. And my seatmates were . . . mostly absent! Outbound: I sat in an aisle seat. Nobody sat in the middle or the window. Ahhhh. Flipside: me in the aisle and nobody in the middle. Plenty of room.

Both directions: minimal turbulence. Clean toilets. No commotion or LOUD jabberers aboard, and the captains didn’t chat us to death either.

Security lines weren’t very long; I didn’t leave anything at the checkpoints (miracle); my rides to and from the airports showed up and drove nicely. My checked bag (no option this time) arrived both directions. My hotel room was clean, quiet and “away from the elevator and ice machine,” just like I’d requested.

Even the business portion of my trip ran like clockwork. I was surrounded by obliging people who took excellent care of me and appreciated my contributions to their event. I even sold some books.

BIG perk: Since the gig was in California, I didn’t have to wear pantyhose.

Although everyone apologized for their “terrible weather,” I assured them that their rainy 60 degrees was bathwater compared to the blustery three degrees of freezing everything I left behind in Chicago.

I slept pretty well, ate great food and even enjoyed a social evening out too.

Then the entire trip ended with that WAY early arrival home, and my gallant husband ushered me straight to a delicious Mexican dinner out.

Of course I’ve still managed to find something to complain about: smooth sailing doesn’t make for funny material, and I’m supposed to be writing a Traveling LAUGH. Instead, out flows a Zen-like travelogue filled with the “We’re All Wonderful” stuff that too many boring Christmas letters are made of, not a punch line in sight. Too bad I didn’t imbed a picture of the handsome pilot whose mother perhaps wrote her holiday letter about her handsome pilot son, and/or an MP3 of soothing harp music playing as this page opened, ey?

But seriously, the only REAL thing I’m going to complain about is me having the bad taste to find something to complain about, especially after one of those rare trips when everything went right. Shame on me. Seriously. I herewith withdraw my last two paragraphs.

So, even though this isn’t funny, I shall officially end this missive by encouraging each of us to cultivate a heart of gratitude. May we wandering wanderers work at noticing when even the teensiest things go right, and then take a moment to tuck them into our memory portfolios. That way, they'll be available to us on those days when the wheels fall off our best-greased plans. We can then peruse through them to remind ourselves that not all of life on the road is miserable. We can hold fast a good and true perspective that decency still exists, nice things do happen, kind people often stand beside us, and we’ve lived to tell about it.