TRAVEL

Michigan Bound

The Bags Were Packed, But the Business Wouldn’t Let Go

For one of the few times in my life I left the planning to someone else. My nephew, Dr. Megala, had lots of good ideas about what we should do while we visited Michigan, so I left it to him. Meanwhile, I was squaring things away so our business would actually let us leave.

As fate would have it, we had to do five different shoots the day before we left. Thankfully, we had a second photographer, so Bill only had to do three, but while we had a second photographer, I was still the only one handling the post production end of things. This trip would be our first stab at remote operations. Bill had bought a new laptop in recent months, so my primary job was to make sure everything worked.

I had checked and double-checked every link, every app, every email address – anything I would need to do my job while I was gone. There were only a few jobs sprinkled throughout the time we’d be away, but I was still nervous. As a way to test everything, I was going to use my laptop to process the jobs that came in that day.

In order to speed up the process, Bill met me mid-day with a photo card with two of his jobs, so I could start downloading images. When I came home from picking it up, our second photographer had emailed me his first set of pictures, also. I sat down at the laptop and began to process the jobs. The laptop told me it would take about 20 minutes to download the first shoot. Nothing out of the ordinary. We use raw images which are huge.

Not long afterwards, the laptop changed its mind and told me 45 minutes. Soon it was reporting a new time frame – 5 hours. FIVE HOURS!! Assuming it must be something wrong with the laptop, I went to Bill’s computer and tried to download another set of photos. His computer said it would take 2 days. I went upstairs to my computer. It wanted 5 days!!

When Bill got home I had decided our network was broken. Oh, I could get email, social media and all kinds of other things on our wi-fi, but nothing was downloading anywhere. I had pulled out my mobile hotspot and was about to load it with gigabytes. He decided I must be doing something wrong, so he wanted me to explain everything I’d done in the hours since he’d left me the photo card.

Now, as much as I love this guy, I was frantic and he was using his calm, cool tech-support voice. My hair was was on fire and I was on the verge of a total meltdown. I tried to be calm, I really did, but I wasn’t very good at it. Somewhere along the way, as I explained the problem and recounted my steps, the computers decided perhaps they’d only need another half hour or so to finish downloading the first job. We don’t have a clue what changed, but something did.

On a good day, it would take about five hours to download five jobs and send them to the editors. I’ve improved the process in the months since, but I was still figuring things out back then. Having started with two of the jobs in mid-afternoon and the others coming in shortly afterwards, I should have been done by dinner time.

As it turned out, it was bedtime before I got all the images downloaded and sent to the editors. I’d asked for a rush on all of them, so even though I was exhausted and was supposed to wake up at 4, I wanted to get a confirmation the editors had them and to have some kind of idea when they’d be ready.

Up until then, when I asked for a rush, I got an immediate confirmation and the images would be returned within the hour. That’s not what happened this time. Finally, sometime after midnight I got the confirmation they’d received all the jobs, but in spite of all my begging emails, I didn’t get the five jobs back until 3 AM! THREE AM!!

Bleary-eyed from being awake for 22 hours or so, I was totally stressed out and started delivering the jobs via email with tears in my eyes. At 4:05 AM the jobs were all sent and I walked downstairs to get ready to leave the house at 4:30 AM.

Now, I thought I would receive a hero’s welcome when I reported to the bedroom. Instead someone in this household, who will remain nameless, started telling me I had done it all wrong. Some day I will forgive him, but I am still working on it. Come back next week and see what happened next.

TRAVEL

New Year, New Trip

What Have I Done Since the Last Trip?

The pandemic has been tough on this traveling girl. In 2020, I was still blogging about the adventures of of my Anniversary Cruise of 2019 and was glad for the chance to get caught up. When that was over, I shared a trip to Arizona we’d unknowingly squeezed in, right before Covid-19 became a thing. That took the blog through the early part of 2021, but in my real life, I hadn’t been anywhere since February of 2020. So, I recapped a few of the local things I’d done for distraction during what I thought was going to be the end of the pandemic.

Only the pandemic stayed and Bill wasn’t budging. He’d kept me home (as in, in the house) for months on end. Several of my friends had used the break from normal life to travel, but not Bill. For one thing, real estate had been deemed one of those necessary industries and Bill’s a real estate photographer. While many of the other photographers in our industry chose to take off, Bill kept on shooting and because of that we were busier than ever.

For the other thing, he was of the opinion that the closer you stayed to home, the less likely you were to get the virus. We didn’t get the virus, but I nearly went insane tied to the house. I was thrilled when various networking groups started meeting. I’m not that crazy about networking, but it was better than staying home.

During the pandemic, we had a vacation package I was dying to use and I must have planned a dozen different vacations to take advantage of it, but none of them came about for a variety of reasons. Then I planned a holiday road trip, but that didn’t happen either, because the pandemic had an uptick at the end of 2020 and on New Year’s Eve, hen we were going to pop up to Oklahoma, the sky started falling.

In March, as senior citizens, we got both our Pfizer vaccinations, but by then business picked up. Not that it had actually ever slowed down that much. December was a little slow, not dead as it had been in the past, but at least we got to breathe. In January, the phone started to ring again and by March we were in over our heads. We had to outsource our editing, just to keep up.

Let’s Go to Michigan!

About this time we got an invitation we couldn’t resist. For several years we’d been promising our niece and nephew in Michigan we’d come see them. The pandemic kept us from keeping that promise, but now we were vaccinated. When they extended the invitation again, we had to say yes. It’s not that we were in anyway reluctant to see them. It’s just that Bill still had his Covid concerns. However, my mental health was also a concern and if I didn’t go somewhere and soon, then who knew what might happen. So, even though the invitation was for July, the busiest time in our business, it was the right time to visit Michigan, so we started making plans.

Among those plans we started interviewing photographers, found one we liked and started training him to expand our ability to satisfy customer requests and to let us leave town. We still warned our best customers that while we’d have a photographer to handle them, if they wanted Bill, they needed to get the homes shot by a certain date. Come back next week and see how that went.

DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

At the Whim of the Gods, the Final Scene

Act III, Scene 1

Zeus:  Good Morning!  Thank you for tuning into Jagged Journeys on KVOO radio, the voice of Olympus.  I’m your host, Zeus, Greek god of sky and thunder.  On the air with me is Isis, my lovely Egyptian co-host.  Today is the grand finale of the Bill and Jane episode of our game and what a journey it has been!

Isis:  You are absolutely right, Zeus.  There are several gods and goddesses we have to thank for contributing to the success of this episode, but I think we should start with Mercury, because he selected these amazing players.

Zeus:  Yes, Isis, Mercury played an important role, but how did you like the storm I cooked up on their first day of travel?

Isis:  It was certainly something, Zeus.  It’s now almost two weeks later and New York is still trying to sort out the luggage.  It’s no wonder that you are the god of thunder; but you weren’t the only member of your family who made this game exciting – how about your wife, Hera?

Zeus:  She certainly made a difference.  Without her, the travelers might still be lost in Dusseldorf, but that’s ancient history now.  Why don’t we check in and see what’s happening with Bill and Jane.  Are they almost home, Mercury?

Mercury:  Yes, Zeus, our travelers are already in DFW airspace and Jane’s parents are waiting for them at the terminal.  This last leg of the flight has been most uneventful – a real yawner!

Isis:  But that’s been the exception rather than the rule; hasn’t it, Mercury?

Mercury:  Absolutely, Isis.  Even after they escaped from the consequences of Zeus’s storm and joined their friends in Germany, the trip continued to be a roller coaster.

Isis:  I remember when Bill and Jane arrived at the Kettler Hotel in Bad Laer.  They were so exhausted they were barely civil to the wedding party.  Even though they’d been trying to them reach for three days, all they could do was sit staring into space. They would have enjoyed some food from the buffet, but it had all been eaten.  Before too long, they went right up to their room and almost slept through the wedding.

Mercury:  Yes, they certainly would have if the groom had not come and knocked on the door.  Ludgar thought they might actually be sick.

Isis:  But they weren’t – only a bit worse for the wear.  Bill and Jane immediately jumped up and started getting ready, but very quickly found out they hadn’t packed the cufflinks and studs for Bill’s tux.

Mercury:  They lost a lot of points for that, too.  They were very irritable after sleeping so long and lost a lot of points for bickering.  This was a serious mistake after losing so many points for sleeping through the afternoon.  In fact, they lost so many points that they made the bride late for the wedding.  When they hit 498 points, Eris flew down and confused the driver of the bride’s car.  Even though everyone in the bride’s entourage saw the cathedral, they couldn’t figure out how to reach it.

Isis:  The bride saved the day.  They all got out and walked, leaving the cars to sort out the problem.  Things did go more smoothly after that.

Zeus:  You’re right Isis, for the first few days after the wedding it seemed as if the trip had turned into a real bore, but then Bill and Jane locked horns with The Couple from Hell.

Isis:  Actually they were from New York, but our contestants thought The Couple was sent from the devil – even though Lucifer certainly had nothing to do with it.  Remember the first time Bill and Jane noticed them.

Zeus:  Yes –initially, the couple from hell melted into the larger group of wedding guests – but as the days passed, more and more guests headed off with other agendas and the crowd dwindled down to our travelers, the newlyweds and The Couple From Hell.  That’s when they rode the cog wheel rails and cable cars up to the Zugspitze.

Mercury:  What a beautiful site that was!  Then the men decided to climb even higher than the observation deck to a shrine.  The Wife From Hell decided to go along, but she climbed the wrong way and had to be rescued.

Isis:  And it was Bill who rescued her, not her husband!

Mercury:  That’s right; and once again, Bill brought a lot of points to the board.  But that evening as they were looking for their hotel, The Couple From Hell nominated themselves as the official navigators and took everyone on quite a wild goose chase.  Somehow, Jane kept her mouth shut, but you could see how frustrated she was.

Zeus:  Yes, and The Couple from Hell insisted on holding on to their navigational position, but they weren’t exactly a pleasure to travel with.  If they’d been our players, this would’ve been a very different game, wouldn’t it Mercury? 

Mercury:  Absolutely, Zeus.  The husband loved spouting off about how capable he was at navigating, but never did take his turn driving – and that led to a completely different problem.  Didn’t it Isis?

Isis:  It did, Mercury.  Like school children on a bus, The Couple from Hell was jealous because they were stuck with the middle seat and didn’t get to sit in back.  They even complained to Tammy about it.

Mercury:  But, Bill and Jane had only been sitting in the back, to give The Couple from Hell a better seat.  Since The Couple from Hell didn’t appreciate it, our contestants were quick to move to the middle.  Then The Couple from Hell found out how hard it was to see out of the back and how uncomfortable it was.  Bill and Jane not only got points for cooperation, they got a better seat!

Zeus:  But they still had to put up with the hellish couple’s navigating.

Isis:  That is until Vienna, when Jane had finally had enough.  The entire group was on foot en route to a subway station.  Don’t you have that conversation cued up to play for our audience, Zeus?

Zeus:  Yes, I do.  The first man is the Hellish Husband, the second one is Ludgar and our audience should recognize Jane’s voice.

Hellish Husband:  OK, we continue on this street until we get to Ringstrasse Street.

Ludgar:  Simply marvelous.  Isn’t this wonderful weather?  What do we do then?

Hellish Husband:  We’ll turn right and then it should only be a block to the underground station.

Ludgar:  I hope we find a place to eat when we get to the palace.  I’m a bit hungry.

Hellish Husband:  The lady at the hotel said there would be plenty of places to choose from.

Ludgar:  Hey, Jane!  Where are you going?

Jane:  This is Ringstrasse.

Hellish Husband:  No, this street is Joseph Something Street, we’re looking for Ringstrasse Street.

Jane:  No, you’re wrong!  The Ringstrasse is a series of streets – strasse – that make a ring around the city center, hence Ringstrasse.  The street has different names in different parts but it’s all The Ringstrasse.

Ludgar:  Are you sure about this Jane?

Jane:  Yes, I am.  This is not my first trip to Vienna.

Ludgar:  Come on guys, Jane thinks this is the way.

Hellish Husband:  We are supposed to go to Ringstrasse Street.

Ludgar:  Jane, why don’t you come a few more blocks this way with us and if we don’t see Ringstrasse Street, then we can come back.

Jane:  You guys go ahead, I’ll wait right here, because this is Ringstrasse.  I’ve already made too many extra steps on this trip and I’m not going on another wild goose chase.

Ludgar:  Come on, Jane, we should stay together.

Jane:  And we should turn right here.  If you don’t believe me, since you speak German, ask one of the locals.

Isis:  So Ludgar spoke to someone in German and headed off in the direction Jane insisted they should go.  The Couple from Hell followed reluctantly.

Zeus:  Ugly Americans!

Mercury:  Zeus, Isis, the plane has landed.  Bill and Jane are headed towards the terminal.

Zeus:  Then we should hurry up and tell them about my second storm.

Isis:  OK, Zeus.  Up in the Alps after a nice al fresco lunch, the group heard bells ringing and asked the waiter what they signified.  The waiter told them the bells meant a storm was coming.  Since ancient time the people living in the mountains rang the bells for storms, because the mountains hid them.

Zeus:  I always thought that was a nice touch.  Tell everyone what happened then!

Isis:  Well, Zeus, then the group walked down the street a few blocks to a pastry shop for dessert.  A funny noise made them look outside and your storm was pouring down.

Zeus:  Yeah – grape to golfball sized hail filling the street curb to curb!

Isis:  It was very impressive, Zeus, but since you are only allowed to interrupt the trip once in a game, by the time they ate their dessert, you had to move the hail out of the area.

Zeus:  That’s right, but it was something wasn’t it?  So where are they now, Mercury?

Mercury:  They’ve just exited the doors of the terminal and Jane’s parents are waving like crazy.  Jane has gone up to her mother and given her a hug.  They are breaking the embrace now and I’m going to see if I can get close enough for you to hear what they say.

Jane’s mother:  I’m glad you are home.  Did you have a good time?

Jane:  We certainly did, but for a lot of the trip, we felt like we were tossed about at the whim of the gods.   

TRAVEL

A Six-Month Covid Hiatus

Photo by Peggy Anke on Pexels.com

An Apology and a Resumption

Let’s start with the apology. I just ran out of energy. I had too many balls in the air and for the time being, my blog was the one with the least amount of consequences, should I drop it. I’ve turned a page and caught up with myself, to a certain extent – at least to the point that I’ve missed blogging. So, welcome back to my tales.

At the Whim of the Gods

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that I left you guys at the altar. I was sharing a piece I’d written of a landmark travel experience, which took Bill and I to Germany for a wedding. I got as far as the rehearsal dinner and then life happened, as it has before, but it left us wishing the dinner buffet hadn’t been quite so popular with Tammy’s guests, because we were starving.

Part of the reason I stopped there, was because I had to change gears. I originally wrote the story as a play and what I was sharing with you was the re-write in narrative form, but I had never finished the rewrite. I toyed with the idea of completing it for the blog, but there were all those balls I was juggling, so it never happened.

Juggling the Balls

I should have known. I started the series during the early part of the year, which is slow in our real estate photography business and about the time I should have been completing the rewrite, the slow was over.

In fact, it was very over. This was the year we had to outsource our editing and hire extra photographers. I’d also started a little side gig. Something that seemed like a good idea in our slow season, but totally insane as I tried to juggle everything else. So the blog fell through the cracks. Eventually, my side gig also fell through the cracks, but more about that on another day.

Getting Back to It

So, we’ll go back to Germany, but there will be no rewrite. The final act will be in the form of a play. So, sit back and get ready to enjoy the show. I’ll be back next week with Zeus, Isis and the rest of the At the Whim of the Gods gang. And though I forgot to mention it before, I’ve missed you guys.

TRAVEL

At the Whim of the Gods #12

Meanwhile, the celebrity deities were having quite a conversation.   Zeus said, “Well, I’ll be.  The last time Hera took this much interest in anyone, it was Jason and his Argonauts, and that was to pursue her own interests.  I had no idea she was so upset over Europa.”

“Ah, a woman scorned.,” Isis replied.

“I thought I’d bust a gut when Bill started flirting with Hera,” Mercury chuckled.

Zeus exclaimed, “Who did he think he was?”

“Take it easy,” Isis warned. “Don’t throw any thunderbolts.  He was just nervous and couldn’t think of anything else to say.”

“No offense, Zeus, but Hera wasn’t all that appealing. She was about one half step up from a bag lady and smelled twice as bad,” Mercury chuckled.

“Don’t be disrespectful.  She is the queen of Olympus,” Zeus reminded him.

Isis countered, “But she’s got a great sense of humor!”

“Maybe,” Zeus sniffed, “but I think this was beneath her dignity.”

Sitting on Demeter’s couch, Hera snorted, “Beneath my dignity?  I bet he’s not thinking about my dignity when he makes those puppy dog eyes at Isis.”

Demeter said, “Well, it’s after five.  That’s means it’s happy hour and I’ve worked up quite a thirst.”

 After a couple of martini’s the goddesses were glad to see the contestant’s train pull up to Dortmund, but even more relieved when Bill, Jane and all their luggage were standing on the platform.

Bill said, “I’ve got to find a phone. Let’s just hope they’re at the hotel.”

 He picked up one of the bags and Jane said, “What are you doing?”

“I was going to move everything a little closer to the station.”

“But there’s a bench here.  Just leave me be.”

“There’s bench down there too and it’s in the shade.”

“Maybe so, but I can’t carry myself one inch further, much less a piece of luggage.”

“Come on, I’ll carry the luggage.  I’ll even carry you.”

“Well, if you carry the luggage, I might make it.”

“That’s my girl.”  After transporting the luggage to the shaded bench, Bill sat next to his wife with a concerned look on his face.  “Are you going to be OK?”

“I don’t suppose they’d have a Dr. Pepper in the terminal.”

“Probably not, but I’ll see what I can find.”

Bill was gone for awhile, but he came back empty handed.  “I can’t believe this!!  These guys are crazy.  They wouldn’t take American money.”

“Well, this isn’t exactly a gateway city.”

“I could have understood if it were just coins, but I offered one guy a $10 bill for a can of Coke.  He just said, ‘nein.’”

Jane shook her head, “Thank you for trying, but you did get Ludgar didn’t you?” Bill nodded.  “How long will it take for someone to get here?”

“Actually he didn’t say.  There was a lot going on in the background.  You know they’re having the rehearsal dinner.”

 Not much happened after that.  The celebrity deities recapped the highlights of the journey up to that point and Demeter poured some more martinis.

Then a small car careened into the Dortmund parking lot. Two men got out and scanned the platform.  Bill jumped up and waved.  “Are you Ludgar’s friends?” The driver shouted.

Bill nodded and started gathering luggage.  Jane would have picked up a bag, but Bill said, “Just get in the car.  These guys can help me.” It wasn’t that easy.  Only two bags fit in the trunk.  The rest had to be placed around the passengers in the car.  Even the driver had a bag in his lap.

Hera stood. “Well, it’s been a fun day, but I need to get home.  I need to have something ready when Zeus comes home for dinner or I’ll never hear the end of it.”

Demeter saw her friend to the door and watched as Bill and Jane arrived at the 5 star hotel in Bad Laar.  Tammy saw them come through the door and greeted them, introducing the few guests who’d lingered at the rehearsal dinner.  She finished up by saying, “I’m afraid there’s not much left on the buffet.  Should we order you something?”

Bill assured Tammy they weren’t at all hungry and Jane’s eyes bored holes into him.  Jane fell onto a nearby sofa and tried to make small talk, but she was barely coherent.  Bill went off with Ludgar to get his key.  Then he returned with bellhops to carry the luggage. Demeter turned off the scrying bowl.

TRAVEL

At the Whim of the Gods #10

Photo by Trace Hudson on Pexels.com

Mercury faded as the contestants filled the screen. Bill took the phone and put it between his head and shoulder.  He dug into his pocket, pulled out a slip of paper and began dialing.

 “It’s ringing!” He announced, and then said hello, but it was clear he couldn’t understand the answer.  He kept repeating, Ludgar, American and English, each time a little bit louder.  Then he broke out in a smile and a real conversation began. Bill joked as if Ludgar were in the next room.  Jane clapped her hands and did a little jig.

Bill handed the phone to his wife, “You’re better at instructions.”  She grabbed a random sheet out of her bag along with a pen and wrote furiously, tears of relief brimming above her lower lid.  After a warm farewell, she hung up.  Bill immediately grabbed her up into a bear hug.

Zeus said, “I wonder what Hera did.”

“I can’t imagine,” Isis replied, “but whatever it was, it was exactly the right thing.  We’re on our way to a wedding.”

“Should I go ask her,” Mercury wanted to know and Zeus quickly assured him that it wasn’t necessary.

Demeter and Hera watched the contestants wander through the terminal, following the signs to the train station, confidence exuding from every step they took.  The confidence disappeared when the clerk didn’t recognize the German town they named.

Bill asked, “Didn’t Ludgar tell you what train to take?”

“He gave me a list of cities we’d have to go through, but I couldn’t get them all written down and I can’t read most of them.”  She stared at the list as if it could help.  Then she smiled.  “Dusseldorf!  He said we’d have to go through Dusseldorf.”

That made the ticket clerk smile, too.  He stated punching buttons and asked for their credit card.  As he handed the tickets through the window he said, “But you’ll have to hurry.  The train leaves soon and the next one is tomorrow.”

The contestants looked at one another in surprise and then back at the ticket clerk.  He pointed toward an escalator and said, “Down there. You’ve got five minutes.”

Grabbing luggage willy nilly, the pair ran off to the escalator and hopped from one moving step to the other.  Quickly checking a sign above the train tracks, they bolted off towards their train.  They dragged their luggage onto the train and the door closed behind them.  Seconds later the train started moving.

Hera said, “Let’s go get some lunch.  I want to try that new place at the mall.”  Demeter grabbed up her handbag and the goddesses headed out the door.

A couple of hours later, they returned and their shopping bags proved they’d done more than eat lunch.  Hera tossed her purchasses on the sofa and headed to the powder room.  Demeter disappeared into the bedroom. When Demeter returned, Hera already had the scrying bowl tuned to Jagged Journeys.

Hera turned down the volume and said, “You’re not going to believe this!  There’s been a train wreck!”

“Are the contestants hurt?”

“It wasn’t their train, but now their train is sitting idle on the tracks.”

“Did Eris do this?”

“No, and it wasn’t Bacchus either.  I promised him his grape crops would be ruined by rain for the next ten years if he so much as thought about pranking these contestants again.”

“Do you really think Zeus would do that?”

“Probably not, but Bacchus doesn’t know. Besides, their points are way up over one thousand.  They lost a few in Amsterdam, but not many.”

“Should we try to help them?”

“Short of carrying them on our backs I’m not sure what we could do right now.  The wedding isn’t until tomorrow afternoon.  Surely they won’t be stuck there all night.”

“So, should we make the cookies for the bake sale?”

“I guess so, but put you’re thinking cap on, because we may have to rescue them, yet.”

The goddesses made their way to the kitchen and soon flour was flying.  After an hour’s delay the train lurched forward and the contestants were once again on their way to Dusseldorf.  From time to time one goddess or another would stick their head out of the kitchen to check on the contestants’ progress, but the conversation on the train was pretty boring.

Eventually, several paper plates of assorted cookies were wrapped in plastic and set on the dining room table.  The goddesses plopped down on the sofa just in time to hear Mercury say, “Well, Zeus, the train is just out outside of Dusseldorf.  They must disembark, buy tickets for Dortmund and catch another train to get to Tammy and Ludgar.”

“That’s nothing compared to what they’ve been through,” Isis assured him.

“That may be so, but three days into this ordeal, they’re not thinking as clearly and they’re very irritable.  We’re drawing up to the first stop in Dusseldorf…Oh no!  What are they doing?  Bill and Jane are getting off the train with all of their luggage.  This is a commuter stop.  They should stay on the train.”

“This isn’t good.” As they stepped off the train the judges took their points down to seven hundred and twenty nine.

TRAVEL

At the Whim of the Gods #11

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Jane said, “I don’t think we’re supposed to be here.”

“Neither do I,” Bill said.

“What do we do now?”

“I don’t know,” Bill said, setting down his luggage.  Jane put down the pieces she was carrying.  Then they saw a train coming toward them, so they picked up all the pieces again, but the train zipped past them without stopping.    Down went the luggage again.

“The sign says Dusseldorf and then something else after that.  Maybe we were on a commuter train and the one that passed us was an express,” Jane ventured.

“That makes sense.” Bill made a full circle, looking in every direction.  “I don’t see anyone.”

“Do you think we should go find someone?”

“No.  I don’t want to leave you alone when I don’t know where we are and I don’t want tote this luggage all over the place.  Let me think about this.”

Demeter said, “Look Hera, the judges are giving them more points.”

“Well, they made a pretty bad mistake, but they’re recovering well.  Let’s go help them.”

“They’re not up to a thousand yet.”

“They will be by the time we get there,” Hera assured her, “We’re going to need some costumes.”

Standing just out of the contestants’ line of sight close to a nearby building, Hera caught Mercury’s attention.  He shook his head no and held up a finger. “Smiling towards the scrying screens he said, “Oh nothing, I just saw some locals, but I have to agree with you, the contestants have been pretty smart to stay put.  Oh look, the score just reached one thousand.”

The goddesses stepped from behind the building and headed towards the platform, but Demeter was sure no one would recognize them as deities.  Hera outfitted them as stout middle-aged women in non-descript black dresses, black hose and black shoes.  Just for good measure she’d found a pair of dresses rank with sour body odor.

 Hera greeted Bill and Jane in German and the contestants both smiled and nodded.  Jane asked, “English?” The goddesses shrugged.

Bill greeted them in Arabic and both goddesses started chattering away in the same language.  Jane stood by looking more than amazed. Bill said to his wife, “They’re going to help us.”

“Are they Egyptian like you?”

“No and I can’t understand everything they say, but I understand enough to know we’ll be OK.”

 As a train pulled up to the platform the goddesses motioned for the contestants to follow.  They each grabbed a bag as they climbed on the train.  Everyone found a seat and Bill kept up the banter, teasing them and even flirting a bit with Hera.

Arriving at the main train station, weighed down by luggage, the foursome got off the train.  Hera motioned for Jane and Demeter to stay with the luggage as she grabbed Bill’s arm and took him to the ticket window.  With much conversation and arm waving, the tickets were purchased.  Bill and Hera ran back to the other two and started grabbing up luggage.  Demeter and Jane grabbed up the rest and soon all four were running toward some stairs.

With Jane straggling behind, Bill jumped into one of the cars of a train and tossed his luggage away. He turned around quickly to catch the bags the goddesses threw towards him.  As Jane huffed and puffed up to the door, Bill drug her, still weighted down by her load onto the train.   Demeter and Hera gave her a shove from behind.  The automatic doors barely missed her. The contestants stood toe to toe, looking wide eyed at one another, as the train pulled away.

Before either contestant said a word, the goddesses were back in Demeter’s living room cackling like the witches they’d appeared to be in their black German garb.  On the face of the water, Jane said, “Is this the right train?”

Bill said, “I hope so.”  Both contestants melted into hearty laughter.  The other passengers on the train gave them wary looks, but that just made them laugh harder.

Gathering up their luggage and stowing it around a pair of seats Jane asked, “Did you get a whiff of those two?”

“Oh my god, did I ever!  I thought I was going to throw up.  That’s why I stayed ahead of them on the way to the train.”

“And left me to bring up the rear.  I nearly fainted when we reached the stairs.  A strong breeze carried the smell right into my face.  I actually stumbled and didn’t think I could get up.”

“I’m so sorry.  I didn’t dare turn around.”

“If we’d been one millisecond later, you’d have left me.”

“I’m sure those women would have helped you.”

“We didn’t even speak the same language!”

“They were really nice though. They would have figured something out. They wouldn’t have left you stranded.”

“I’m glad you think so.  Are you sure we’re on the right train?  This is the second time today we’ve hopped on a train at the last possible second.  If we do it again, we could end up in Berlin!”

About that time a uniformed railway employee showed up and held out his hand.  Jane said, “Dortmund?” The ticket taker nodded.  Jane smiled and Bill found his tickets.

TRAVEL

At the Whim of the Gods #9

Demeter was miserable as she watched.  It was apparent Jane was carefully pondering her response and Bill was convinced his next flight was back to Dallas.  Jagged Journeys’ celebrities argued the pros and cons of Bill’s point of view, but Demeter turned down the sound and watched Jane’s face.  When Jane put down her fork, wiped her mouth and pushed away her plate, Demeter turned up the volume.

First Jane complimented Bill on the soundness of his logic. Demeter grinned and nodded her head.  “I have to confess,” Jane continued, “if this were my decision, I wouldn’t even have to think about it.  Travel is my favorite thing in the world and I have a free round-trip ticket to Europe.  Even if I couldn’t get to the wedding, I’d spend a few days sightseeing before I came home.”

“Brilliant”, Demeter thought.

Then Jane continued, “But this isn’t just my decision.  It’s us now, not just me, but I do think there are good reasons to consider making the trip.”  Demeter nodded as Jane made a sensible, non-emotional argument for continuing the journey.  Jane concluded by saying, “All that being said, you’re the boss, the head of the household, what you say goes.  I will agree to whatever you say and that will be the end of it.  The state of our marriage is of the utmost importance to me and if you decide we’re not going to go, then we’ll go get a flight home and that’s that.”

Jane folded her hands and put them in her lap.  Demeter shouted at the scrying bowl, “NO! You should have threatened to hound him for the rest of his life if he didn’t take you.”  For a while Bill didn’t say anything and neither did the show’s deities.

Finally, Bill said, “Damn.”  After a pregnant pause he added, “If you’d tried to fight me on this, I would have given you hell and forced you to go back to Dallas.  Now I have to take you to Europe.”

A huge smile spread across Jane’s face and lit up her eyes. She threw her hands into the air and shook them as if her team had just won the game – and in a way Demeter thought, it had.  

The next morning Hera came over to Demeter’s and arrived just about the time Zeus announced, “Good Morning!  Thank you for tuning into Jagged Journeys.  I’m your host, Zeus, Greek god of sky and thunder.  On the air with me is Isis, my lovely Egyptian co-host.  Where in the world are Bill and Jane Sadek today, Isis?”

“In just moments their plane will land in Amsterdam.  The weather is beautiful and it promises to be a great day for our travelers.” Isis was so happy about it that she almost sang her commentary.

Then Zeus asked her about the scoreboard. The look on Hera’s face made Demerter think the queen might start snarling, but she only said, “You might know he’d be interested in scoring.”

Isis continued sweetly, “Well, as you know, it was just about midnight when they boarded, so they got their usual one thousand points, but they didn’t need them.  The food service was delicious and they went right to sleep.  They haven’t lost or gained anything, since.”

“Well, they’ve made it across the Atlantic.  I wonder if they’ll be in time for the wedding.”

“The wedding isn’t until tomorrow, so they should.  With a little luck they could make it in time for the rehearsal.” Isis was clearly rooting for the humans.

“Then let’s see what Bill and Jane are up to,” Zeus said, “Can you hear me Mercury?”

“Yes I can, Zeus.  Bill and Jane have already made their way to the luggage carousel and found their luggage.  In fact, they’ve found their way to an area filled with phones and are trying to figure out how to use them.”

Zeus screwed up his face and asked, “Did you say they are trying to figure out how to use the phones?”

“Yes I did,” Mercury confirmed. “The phones here are not exactly Ma Bell.  The basic phone is fairly straightforward, but Bill and Jane have no Dutch money. They have to figure out how to use a credit card.”

“Come on now.  They should just swipe and dial.,” Zeus complained.

“It’s a little more complicated than that.  There are several slots on different parts of the phone kiosk and none of the instructions are in English.  You might say, ‘it’s Greek to them.’” Then he said, “Hey, I see Hera.”

Demeter glanced over to the sofa where Hera had been sitting and sure enough, Hera was gone, but almost immediately she was back. “What did you do?” Demeter asked, but the queen just smiled and nodded at the scrying bowl.  “Okay fine, be mysterious,” Demeter continued, “but next time, take me with you.” 

When Mercury mentioned Hera, Isis’s face brightened, but Zeus’s wore a thunderstorm.  Before either could comment Mercury confirmed what Demeter already knew, “Uh oh, almost as soon as I saw Hera, she disappeared.”

Behind Mercury, Jane held up a receiver and yelled, “I’ve got a dial tone!”

TRAVEL

At the Whim of the Gods #8

The image of the travelers, on the screen behind Isis, spread out to fill the face of the water.  Demeter watched Bill sign a piece of paper. Then, a uniformed airline employee released the luggage and the contestants located an open space in the terminal to heap the bags. Jane dug out the largest bag, opened the top and pulled out a manila folder.  Spreading the folder open on the floor, she grabbed up a folded card.  A perplexed look crossed her face as she scrutinized it.

There was a moment or two of quiet and then Bill, his impatience showing, asked, “Well, where are we headed?”

 “It looks like you’re going to have to use that phone number. I can’t read this thing,” Jane said, holding the card out to him.

“I can’t call right now. It’s the middle of the night over there. Besides, international calls are expensive.” He snatched the card out of her hand, looked at the front of the card and shook his head in disgust. “What do you mean you can’t read it? It says Tammy and Ludgar plain as day.”

“Open it.”

Bill whipped it open and made a face, “What’s this?  There’s no Mr. and Mrs. Whoever stuff.”

Jane took back the card, “Well it starts out with a poem, but then the print gets smaller.” Jane squinted at the card.  “I can just manage to make out most of it, but I can’t read the name of the city at all.”

Bill grabbed the card back, holding it in several positions, “I can’t even read the poem.  Too many curlicues. And why is the print so light.”

“I think it’s grey ink.”

Zeus and Isis broke in to discuss the problem and decided if Tammy were playing the game, she would have had all kinds of points taken away from her.  Behind them Bill launched off on a tirade about anyone being stupid enough to send out an invitation people can’t read, but Jane turned her attention to the other pages in the file.  She glanced over one page after another as Bill went over to a stranger and asked if they could read the invitation. When the stranger was stumped, Bill returned and continued his rant.

Finally, Bill ran out of steam and Jane said, “I’ve gone through everything she sent us.  There’s nothing in there to tell us where the wedding is or what hotel we’re staying at or where his parents live.”

“Wait, I think his parents live right across the street from the headquarters of Ludgar’s company,” Bill said, obviously proud of himself for remembering.  He continued, “In fact, they sold the land for the original factory to the guy who started it.”

Jane smiled widely, “So, where’s that?”

Bill screwed up his faced trying to remember.  Finally, he admitted, “I don’t know.  I’m sure Ludgar’s mentioned it, but it’s just a small town somewhere.”

“Well, you could call his office back and ask them.”

Bill shook his head, “I’m not calling them again. They’re probably closed by now anyway.”

“It’s just now five.  Someone might pick up.”

“That receptionist wouldn’t give me the time of day and I’m not going to talk to his assistant again.”

“Yeah, but the city where the headquarters is?  Someone else might give it to you. You don’t even have to tell them who you are.”

Bill’s “no” indicated the discussion was over.

Jane sat on the floor next to the luggage and dug through the open bag. After choosing a few items, including a toiletries bag, she said,   “Well, at least I can go change my underwear.”

The deities discussed the couple’s options as Bill dug through another bag.  When Jane returned, Bill stalked off with his toiletries bag.  Jane repacked the erupting luggage and closed the biggest suitcase.  When Bill returned, Jane tucked his items into another bag and shut it.  The folder went into her carry-on this time.  Bill suggested they store the bags while they had some dinner.  Then they could discuss what they would do.

The deities were divided about whether this was a good idea or not.  “They’ve already shot their budget,” Zeus pointed out. “Storing the luggage is just more money down the drain.”

Isis countered, “Well I think it was a smart move. It’s still hours until their flight.  Imagine dragging through the airport with all those bags.  It’s about time they had a decent meal.”

“Their breakfast was decent,” Mercury said.

“And it was how many hours ago?” Isis asked.

 The judges agreed with the male deities and subtracted some pointes, but Demeter saw things the same way as Isis.

As the deities continued to discuss the merits of the contestants’ activities, the screen followed Bill and Jane to the luggage storage area and on to a restaurant.  After ordering their meal, Bill presented a compelling argument for calling it quits and going home.  Jane was mulling over her response when the meal was delivered.  She suggested they eat their meal and let her think about what he’d said.

TRAVEL

At the Whim of the Gods #7

Demeter was worried about the contestants, too, but she had to run some errands.  When she returned several hours later, she checked out the scrying bowl, but it was late afternoon before another update was offered.

Mercury summarized the day’s activity, ““Bill and Jane spent the morning strategizing about luggage.  The only irreplaceable items were the invitation and itinerary, so they brainstormed about how to overcome that obstacle.  Bill ended up calling information and getting the number to Ludgar’s office, but whoever answered the phone wasn’t being at all helpful. “

Isis asked, “So it was a dead-end?”

“It was until Bill remembered the name of an employee he’d met once during a visit to Ludgar’s office.  Turns out the employee is now Ludgar’s assistant and remembered Bill.  She didn’t have much besides a phone number for Ludgar’s parent’s, but it was enough.”

“Enough for what,” Zeus wanted to know.

“Enough to take the score above one thousand.   When Hera learned about it, she called Bacchus and berated him for pulling that dirty trick last night.”

Zeus asked, “How did Hera find out about the points?  We haven’t had any updates and she didn’t ask about it when I was home for lunch.”

“I have to admit; I took advantage of the lull and visited her,” Mercury said with a sheepish look on his face. “I didn’t want to interrupt the program in progress, so I just whipped over and filled her in.” Sounding a bit more confident, he continued, “You know, she did tell us she wanted to help this couple.”

Demeter recognized the set of Zeus’s jaw.  Somewhere in the world, a thunder storm was washing away a village.

“And then she called Bacchus?” Isis prompted.

Mercury nodded, “He was at home suffering from an awful hangover.  At first, he didn’t remember anything, but when Hera got through with him, he was ready to do whatever she suggested.  Good thing, too.  Otherwise, that luggage would have been lost for weeks and the paperwork alone would have been a nightmare.”

Demeter shouted to the scyring bowl, “Brava Hera!”

Zeus was still visibly miffed, so Isis continued, “Really?  Where was the luggage?”

“In another airline’s baggage area.  Bacchus got one of his worshippers to find it.”

That got Zeus’s attention, “He still has worshippers?”

“Not in the traditional sense of course, no temples or sacrifices, but they do drink together,” Mercury explained, “Anyway, Bacchus whispered a suggestion into the baggage handler’s ear and convinced the handler a bottle was hidden near the spot where Bacchus dropped the bags.”

“Good move,” Isis said.

Mercury continued,” When the handler found the bags instead of a drink, he didn’t want to do all the paperwork; so he just threw the bags on a luggage carrier and drove them over to the other airline.”

Zeus said, “Do our contestants know they’ve been found?”

“Bill and Jane have called the airlines from a pay phone every half hour,” Mercury said, “They’re on their way to get their luggage right now.”

“Well then, Bacchus certainly redeemed himself,” Isis said.

Zeus added, “Maybe so, but I think Mercury should be penalized for going to see Hera.”

“I’m not a contestant.  If you can throw storms at them, I can deliver messages.  It’s part of my responsibilities.”

“Well, you could have gone straight to Bacchus.  I mean you’re both Roman gods.  You had no business going to my house and talking to my wife!” Zeus was incensed, but his fury tickled Demeter.

Isis interjected, “OK guys. Let’s see what our contestants do with the luggage now that they have it.”