This weblog is a tribute to the people I have met during my 30 years
of travel. Most are nameless, but all have touched my heart in a special way. Their actions may seem insignificant
to you, but when I was lonely or lost or tired, these small acts meant everything to me. From time to time, I'll share
stories of other people I've met who have also touched my heart. I hope you appreciate their stories as I share my
adventures with you.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Help – Get Me Out of Here!
I have to admit –
I am a bit claustrophobic. My skin crawls and I break out in sweats when strangers invade my space, so you can imagine.how traveling takes its toll on me. I’ve traveled
on crowded trains in New York and Tokyo, but subway trains in Beijing during rush hour take the meaning of the word “crowded”
to a whole new level. When the door of the first train opened and I saw the jammed-packed people, I shook my head and told
my colleague “I can’t do this. Go ahead without me.” He wouldn’t be deterred, however, and came up
with a new plan. “Let’s go to the end of the platform, where it is less crowded.” What could I do? I
have to admit that the end cars were less crowded, but to put that in perspective, it was still sardine-packed crowded. I
took one for the team, though, and bravely boarded.
The ride was short, but
with my stop rapidly approaching, I broke out in a sweat realizing I was trapped, and wouldn’t be able to get to the
door when it opened. A kind lady in a business suit realized my dilemma, and pushed the people out of my way. I barely had
time to thank her as the crowd pushed me towards the exit. So to that kind person, I’d like to say again, “Xiè
Bonus:Happy Chinese New Year. It’s the Year of the Tiger, so if you were born in 1902, 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950,
1962, 1974, 1986 or 1998, you will have good fortune during a Tiger year. You can check out your Chinese sign and see if you
are compatible with your significant other at http://www.chineseart.com/chinese-zodiac.htm
Gung Hay Fat Choy!
As my mind is still under
the sea, I thought I’d take you back to my first diving experience. Yes, I know it’s a departure from writing
about the people who touched my heart during business travel, but this stranger touched my heart as well. He also opened my
senses to a whole new world.
I was newly dive certified (not certifiable!),
and took off to Antigua with my ”c-card” and regulator in hand. Since my open water dives in the Atlantic Ocean
in November were, shall I say, less than enjoyable, I was a little fearful about open water diving. Couple that with an intense
hatred of the sun and a propensity for sea-sickness, and one would wonder why I would even consider the sport of scuba diving.
Explaining my situation to Charles, the dive master on staff, he said “No worries – you can dive with me.”
Not only was he my dive buddy for my entire stay, but he also introduced me to night diving. Since Charles was a marine biologist,
after every dive, he paged through my fish book with me to point out all the things we saw. I learned to appreciate the inhabitants
of the sea during that first diving trip.
The diving community is a very close-knit
and friendly one. Divers love to talk about the fish and critters they encounter. I am proud to have been introduced to that
community so early in my diving experience. Twenty-five years and two hundred dives later, whenever I meet a new diver, I
relate this story of my early diving days.
Check out these videos of an eagle ray and a turtle that I encountered on my latest dive trip.
Watching the news this
morning and seeing all the passengers stranded at airports reminds me of a certain trip from New York to Chicago. I feel their
pain. Anyone who travels through Chicago is prepared for long delays, and I have been stuck overnight more times than I can
remember. But one incident did stay with me. It must have been in the late 70’s, and it was my first business trip.
The flight from LaGuardia to O’Hara was uneventful. The return trip, however, was another story.
It was a Friday evening (big
mistake!!!) and the flight was delayed for many hours. The incoming flight was coming in from Dallas, and when it finally
arrived, the passengers already on board were about to mutiny. They had been traveling for about 10 hours already, and were
anxious for the plane to get on its way to NY. After take-off, I looked out the window and saw the Sears tower looming ever
larger and another plane rather close. The pilot pointed out that it wasn’t a near miss, but we did have other problems.
We were having engine trouble, and would land at the closest airport. We made it as far as Pittsburgh, where we would spend
was new to business travel, but I was no stranger to air travel. Behind me, though, were a woman and her young son from Iowa.
It was their first trip outside the state, and they were in a state of panic. We were “adopted” by more seasoned
travelers. After landing, we all checked in and ate at the local Howard Johnson’s, courtesy of TWA. We shared a table
with our adopted parents, and they suggested we spend the rest of our meal money at the local country western bar.
How appropriate it was when
we walked in and heard the band play “Take this job and shove it”! By the time the song ended, we had learned
the chorus, and all joined it. We drank Steelers beer, and had a great time. We didn’t get a lot of sleep that night,
as our flight out was very early in the morning, but we were in a great frame of mind. Strangers turned a bad experience into
a memorable one.
TWA (aka the worst airline) is long gone, but my memories of that special night in Pittsburgh
will never leave me.
I won a country music radio contest with this story. It was read by Jim Kerr when WYNY was country. The topic – What
event turned you on to country music!
There is only one time
in my life that I needed a bail bondsman, and the circumstances were quite unusual. When I ventured into downtown Minneapolis
one afternoon, getting “bailed out” was the furthest thing from my mind.
Let me explain. After several days of seminars
in Minnesota, two colleagues and I decided to spend our last evening shopping downtown before an early dinner. As with all
big cities, parking spots were at a premium, so we left Agnes off at the shoe store before searching for a parking spot. Success!
Danica and I finally found a small parking lot a little off the beaten path, but certainly within walking distance of the
stores and restaurants. The neighborhood looked a little seedy, but Danica and I had both lived in big cities, so we weren’t
intimidated. And it was still daylight. We set off in the direction of the big buildings, but needed to walk along some smaller
side streets to get there. After walking 2 blocks, we passed a small restaurant, and a man (as in unsavory looking character) lurking
in the doorway “befriended” us. Let’s just say he wasn’t our type, but we were polite. We assumed
he worked in the restaurant until a lady from the bail bond office next store came running out and told us to keep walking.
She explained that nicely dressed women shouldn’t be walking around in this part of town, and escorted us to the safer
part of the city.
After thanking her, we called Agnes with specific instructions not to leave the store until
we could meet her. It was her first week on the job, and we didn’t want any more misadventures.
After our escapade, you might
ask why we didn’t shop at Mall of America. Good question. We never thought of it!
Business trips are
usually hectic, with every minute of the day, and often the night, scheduled. So I was happy when I found myself with a free
afternoon in Taipei. I usually sightsee alone, but this time was different. Linda, my gracious host, a young Taiwanese woman
who was educated in Texas, volunteered to be my tour guide for the afternoon. She suggested a train
ride from the heart of the city to a little seaside town in the north. Since I love traveling by train, I thought this was
an excellent idea – a great way to see more of the country than I could see on my own. And the destination was special,
too. Danshui is a popular place where local Taiwanese go to see the sun set where the Danshui River flows into the Taiwan
Strait. (For those linguists among you, Danshui River means “fresh water"). From my train window, I saw firsthand the crowded conditions in which the people of Taipei live. The buildings
were of medium height, but the alleys and streets were narrow. But they were alive with activity. About halfway into our journey,
Linda pointed out the apartment building where she lived with her parents. Danshui lived up to its reputation. The
sunset was spectacular. As it was now dark, we walked through the night market before eating in a seaside café. We
then boarded the train for “home”.
Linda was going to travel all the way back to the city with me, and
then take the train back to her apartment. Being the savvy traveler that I am, I insisted I could make my way back on my own.
After much discussion and specific instructions, she agreed. After she alit, a young lady sitting perpendicular to me, who
obviously overheard our conversation, told me, in halting English, that she would take me to my train station. She was about
25, and had just learned English. She was exciting to practice her language skills with an American, and our time together
passed too quickly. I assured her that I could find my way to the hotel, and she continued on her journey as I disembarked. Technically, I
did not get lost. Although I got off at the right stop – after all, anyone can recognize a stop that says Hilton
Hotel – I exited by the wrong stairway. No big deal, right. I’d just look at the skyline, and walk in the direction
of the red Hilton sign. Wrong – I was surrounded by big buildings and couldn’t read any identifiable signs. (This
is a recurring theme in my travels – I wasn’t lost in Vienna and Barcelona and Budapest this way, either. Paris
was easier – you really can’t miss the Eiffel Tower from any direction! But those are stories for another time.) Back to Taiwan -
so I walked through a mall but I didn’t find the hotel. And I walked around the block with head pointed to the sky,
and I didn’t find the hotel. I wasn’t quite panicking yet when I decided to walk in the other direction, and I
did find my hotel. Perhaps I should have taken the kind lady up on her offer! Bonus:
Check out http://wikitravel.org/en/Danshui to learn more about Danshui.