The Trip — 2016: Part 2

The next problem had nothing to do with the government but with American Express.

Charlie made our flight reservations through an American Express ( travel agent. She, very explicitly, wanted to fly British Airways ( and was assured by the travel agent that our flight to the UK was on BA. It turned out, however, that the BA flight, operated by American Airlines, was actually an American Airlines ( flight.

BOOM! The fecal matter met the rapidly spinning rotary impeller.

She proceeded to spend many, many hours on the phone with BA and AA and AMEX trying to find out how they would handle her battery-powered scooter ( and batteries and whether it would be allowed on the flight at all. Phone tag played with customer service representatives shunting her off to the next company’s customer service representative. And round and round we go unable to get definitive answers to just about any substantive question. Phone Tag Hell.

Eventually, it boiled down to: Yes, she could bring her scooter. No, no spare batteries. No, bring the sealed dry-cell battery and not the longer-range lithium-ion battery. Yes, the plane check-in and departure would be from the Tom Bradley International terminal at LAX. Well, sort of . . .

Trip -- Di on Tzora Scooter
Di on Tzora Scooter

Thursday — We arrived at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport — about two and a half hours before our scheduled departure and entered the Tom Bradley International terminal. Looking at the displays, we, to my wife’s great displeasure found that our flight’s check-in was not at TB but at the next terminal in line — Terminal #4.

It was the matter of a three-minute walk, for me with our luggage and Charlie on her scooter, to get to Terminal 4 and then a couple of more minutes to find check-in. Five minutes later we were at the front of the short line and spent the next ten or twenty minutes going through the formalities with boarding passes, luggage and scooter and sorting things out.

Then on to the lift, elevator, and through security — less than ten minutes in line. I went through the regular line while Charlie, seated in her scooter, got some individual attention. Following this was a l – o – n – g hike (especially as I was carrying all of our carry-on bags) across the bridge from Terminal 4 to TB and the very last gate to board our plane.

Less than fifteen minutes later we were pre-boarded and ensconced in our Business Class lay-down seats. The only hassles being removing the twenty-pound battery from Charlie’s scooter and folding it up so the attendant could put it in cargo (while I put the battery in my seat storage area on the plane’s floor). I then returned to the front of the plane and helped Charlie through the aisles to our seats at the very back of Business Class (right in front of the toilet so Charlie would not have to walk any distance when she would need the facilities).

As I also had the battery charger with me (no, it was not packed away in our luggage), I was able to re-charge it during the flight. Clothes can be replaced without too many problems if the carrier loses our luggage. Her scooter charger and her medicines would be difficult, if not impossible, to replace if lost on the way to Europe so they were all a part of our carry-on luggage with our electronics and cameras.

The plane was a Boeing 777-300 ( with comfortable seating and an excellent entertainment suite. Charlie took the window seat, and I got the interior seat with no outside view (dirty word, dirty word, dirty word). But that’s how it is when we travel.

Although Business Class is quite expensive compared with Coach, Di’s medical problems do not allow her to travel comfortably in Coach seating. As we do not travel by plane more than a couple of times each decade, we find the expense tolerable and can juggle our budgets sufficiently to afford the expense. I cringe a bit when looking at the actual financial figures, but . . . .

(to be continued)

The Trip — 2016: Part 1

Two years ago my wife, Diana (Di or Charlie), set out on planning “The Trip”. Where? To Corfu. Corfu? Yes, Corfu. Why? Well, because one of the authors (Gerald Durrell) she enjoys spent time growing up there and wrote about it. She also planned to spend time with her family in England and invited them, and some American friends, to spend time with us at the villa she was renting on the Greek island of Corfu.

Along the way there have been a few bumps in the road. First, her British passport expired and she had to renew it — by mail. Eventually, she got her new passport and then another bump appeared.

Because she is a British citizen she needs a “green card” to live in the United States. She’s had one for some forty years — yes, she is a legal Permanent Resident of the United States. These cards are good for ten years and must then be renewed. The last two renewals were difficult and involved crowds and standing (and/or sitting) in long lines.

Owing to her medical problems of the last few years (and her forced retirement) neither of us realized that her card had passed its expiration date. She was still a legal resident but not having the card would bring about problems traveling out of the country and then trying to re-enter.

We filed for renewal of her card online but had a great deal of difficulty using the government’s site. The customer service phone help people were quite good in helping us navigate its foibles, but we had to use them each time we went to the site as it refused to recognize her username and password.

She paid her renewal fee online without any problem, but we then found out that it would require up to nine months for her to receive her new card — that would be long after we would have returned from our travels. So, we would have to set up an appointment with Immigration to get her passport stamped with an extension.

We arrived at the appointed Immigration facility a few minutes early for her appointment and were pleasantly surprised that there were only three other people in the office. Our appointment with the Immigration clerk (?) went quickly and twenty minutes later we left with my wife’s passport properly stamped and signed with a nine-month extension (to her green card) so she could travel out of the country and re-enter with a minimum of hassle.

The nine-month extension was because replacing her Permanent Resident card could take up to nine months.

A week or two later we received a letter from Immigration informing us that we now had another scheduled appointment at another building for “biometrics” processing. This appointment was for two days before our departure for the UK.

We again arrived a few minutes early and found a couple of dozen people sitting and waiting for their appointments. However, luck and kindness made things a bit easier. After filling out an appointment paper — name, nationality, etc. — the gentleman in charge moved us to the front of the queue as my wife was in her wheel-chair.The Trip

Twenty or so minutes later, her picture and fingerprints taken, we were set to go. Immigration also updated her now-expired Permanent Resident card with the new information and a new nine-month extension. (Although her new card will still require not arrive for about another nine months.)

Legally we were now set to leave and re-enter the United States.

(to be continued)

Thanksgiving Week

Thanksgiving Week – Nine Days

My wife, Diana or Di, to her English family and Charlie to the rest of us is still teaching. This year she had the whole of Thanksgiving Week off. A good week to relax and veg-out.

Saturday – relax, watch college football, and fix spaghetti for dinner.

Sunday – as above, but pro football and took Charlie to have a mani-pedi.

Monday – relax, we went to MNF dinner at Mike and Sandy’s (nice tradition as Mike and I have been doing this for somewhere around thirty years).

Tuesday – took Charlie to her “pain management” doctor and had one of her “heavy” meds dosage reduced—less med in the same number of pills for the same cost.

Wednesday – one of Charlie’s good, retired friends came over to visit for several hours and I then took Charlie to another doctor’s appointment.

Thursday – the two of us had a quiet Thanksgiving dinner together: turkey, mashed potatoes and peas. Her brother called and was quite chuffed that he had prepared a good batch of roast potatoes. I’ve found that a 16-pound turkey has plenty of meat for the two of us for dinner and several days of leftovers—oh, yes, gave the cats a bit of turkey, too.

Friday – quiet day with leftovers and football and Charlie grading English class essays (7th & 8th grade). When I see her doing this I give quiet thanks that I was able to retire when I did.

Saturday – basically a copy of Friday except I started out watching Premier League “football”—Go Arsenal!

Sunday – should be a copy of Saturday except for the angst of Charlie having to go back to work tomorrow and the Grey Cup is on this afternoon.

The above list is not an exhaustive one. There was grocery shopping to do, including the purchase of cat and bird food. Clothes washing, dishes, general cleaning, etc. that needed to be done. The gardener came by yesterday and the front yard and backyard gardens are beautiful, if lacking in summer flowers.

Charlie finished reading the latest Aloysius Pendergast book, Blue Labyrinth, by Preston and Child. She is now on the patio reading Relic and drinking her second cup of tea. We actually have dark clouds overhead so, maybe, we’ll get some of that promised rain this week. (Maybe, even today.)

I’m a half-dozen chapters into Heritage of Cyador by Modesitt and it promises to be a good read.

I’ve written the first eight chapters of my book, two more full chapters and two partial chapters farther on in the story. My goal is a hundred thousand words but I’ve got more story than that in my head and will have to do a “bit” of trimming.

Downloaded Annie Lennox’s new album, Nostalgia, marvelous. I’ve got 18,000+ songs and tunes on iTunes and have music playing in the house most of the time—on Apple TV and playing through our stereo. (Still waiting for Diana Krall’s Wallflower.)

The OC Register is again a no-show today—haven’t had a copy delivered since Thursday a week ago, but I still get their emails. The LA Times hasn’t missed a day or been late. (This really bugs me as the Times does not cover Orange County high school football. It’s playoff season now.)

School Teacher Alert

—and anyone else who has ever had a “pointy-haired” principal or boss: Today’s Dilbert (with apologies to Scott Adams).

Principal: Would you like some feedback on your (teaching) performance?

Teacher: No.

P: You’re supposed to appreciate feedback because it makes you feel valued.

T: How does listening to you belittle me about things you don’t understand make me feel valued?

P: Well, I don’t know. It must be an indirect thing.

P: Maybe we should just try it and see how it feels.

T: Whatever.

P: I don’t actually watch you (teach) work, so I’m mostly guessing about the things you do wrong.

P: I accuse you of being slow and disorganized!

P: Is it working yet?

T: Yes. If that makes you go away.

I don’t know if this accurate for your current situation, but, if you’ve been a teacher long enough, you’ve had at least one, and maybe several “pointy-haired” principals. (I know I have. I, of course, won’t mention any names, but, if you’ve taught with me, you will probably name the same ones.)


Charlie’s sister, Tricia, has confirmed that she’ll be here for Christmas. (She lives in England.)

Sunday Morning Company
Sunday Morning Company

The cats are keeping me company: one on the back of my chair, from which position he sometimes washes my hair, and the other atop her castle.

And, as I look around at all I possess and think on all I am thankful for one thing stands out: Charlie, without whom nothing else seems to matter.

And, one more note, Charlie reports that it is now raining.