Tuesday, July 22, 2008

All for a little souvenir

London, San Francisco, Gulf Shores, Pisa and Paris, Ireland, Chicago and now add Seattle...
These cities are always just an outstretched arm away from my sight thanks to an attempt at forming some sort of collection in my teens.

On my last vacation, that collection almost left a bad taste in the mouth of a really pleasant trip. And it was all because of water.

Seemed like a harmless souvenir until I was going through security to catch my flight home from Seattle.

"I'm going to have to look through your bag," the TSA'er told me.

Fine, I thought, look away.

My travel companion, Amy, was the one getting stopped through all of our flights leading up to that point. She looked at me with a big grin on her face -- "Your turn," she said.

Priding myself on my travel skills, I really wasn't worried. I didn't have any sharp objects, all of my toiletries were under the obligatory three-ounce threshold and I didn't even have them with me.

We had taken only carryons on the trip to avoid the drama of checked baggage but were glad to hand those puppies over at 5:30 that morning to lighten our load. Toiletries were checked and I just had a small tote bag with purse essentials, some fragile souvenirs and a book. Check away, check away, I thought.

Then she pulled out my box. She started opening it.

"What's in here?" she asked.

"A snow globe," I answered as innocently as a 5-year-old receiving her first snow globe from a relative's vacation.

"You're going to have to check this bag," the TSA'er informed me.


The x-ray machine guy looks over and says to the girl checking my bag, asking, "Snow globe?"
"Yeah," she replied without even glancing his direction.

It has liquid in it. It was a pretty big snow globe, so, yeah, it has more than three ounces of water in it. I get that, but...


Do I really look smart enough to put something in the liquid in my obviously commercially made snow globe. Seriously. Trust me, it would not have three ounces of water left in it. It would have none! The massive hole would have assured you of that.

"You can't take on any snow globes," she informed me.

Afterward I looked at the TSA Web site and she was right -- no snow globes. But, you have to go all the way to the bottom of the list of what you can/cannot bring, in the OTHER category. There was no way I was ever going to check that far down the list.

So my innocent little collection just became a major hassle.

We were escorted, ESCORTED, out of security, the TSA'er with my bag and my personal belongings in hand because of the "danger."

I had to go back to the ticket line to check another bag. Luckily, Amy had a duffel bag as her carry-on so I stuffed it in there, once we were out of harms way, of course.

Not only that, my innocent (ahem, expensive) snow globe was about to cost me $15 more. I was flying American, the we-charge-you-to-bring-luggage-on-vacation-how-dare-you-take-anything airline.

Except, gasp!

I was surprised to find that I, yes me, yours truly, was actually allowed two (yes like double the amount of one) checked bags for free.


I guess I was flying far enough cross country (oh, just about 1,500 miles) to warrant two pieces of luggage for such a trip. (Let me clarify by saying I'm not sure why I was allowed two, for free, but it may have been that I booked my flight before the surcharges. Not sure)
Did I mention how much I love to fly on American Airlines. Yeah.

So, it took a few minutes but not so bad with the self check-in kiosks.

However, maybe love was a strong word.

"We don't have fragile tags," the AA lady told me as I asked for one for my expensive souvenir.
Well what are the odds that innocent souvenir makes it home in one piece since you won't let me hold on to it, I thought to myself.

If it shatters, I hope a piece of glass stabs the person who threw it ever-so-gently onto the plane. Now that could be dangerous!

Walk away from the desk I told myself ... don't want to be stopped by security outside of the checkpoint, too.

So, luckily the airport was not horribly busy this morning and we went to a new security line quickly.

The same one in fact, but shift change hindered us from chatting up the lady who so graciously insisted on carrying my luggage earlier.

I walk through with a pleasant face, ready to see the other side of the conveyor belts to reach some breakfast. It was early!

Then, some man grabs my bad. NOT AGAIN!

I had some liquids, he said. I was thinking -- you can have the hand sanitizer! Take it!
He tells me he's going to search it and I literally think I said, "have at it" this time.
He pulls out -- my water bottle.

"Take it," I said before he could even ask me.

I put my shoes back on and grabbed my bag, ready to just find my gate and go home.

We start to walk away and I remember why Amy and I are friends, as she says, "The water bottle of liquid was easier and more dangerous for putting liquids in than the snow globe."
The first TSA'er never even touched the water bottle.

I agreed with Amy, she picked the wrong "opportune" object.

I think she just wanted my beautiful snow globe that played music from "The Wizard of Oz" for herself.

She sure did disappear after escorting me out.

No wonder I couldn't get a fragile tag because after that bag hit the conveyor belt, there was nothing fragile in it.

So after the long cross-country flight, we wait for the bags to come through baggage claim. All of the bags are nicely placed in a row on the belt. But I didn't see the duffel bag.

Then, there it was, laying on its end and all scrunched up. I pulled it off the belt and grabbed my box. Of course it was crumpled up. But, luckily, the story has a happy ending. My snow globe was fine and now sits atop my dresser for me to admire the city that I REALLY enjoyed and to remember the craziness I went through to get it home.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A great morning can turn bad quickly

Today was a first for me: I ran a 5K on a military base. (I guess you could technically say it was a first because I had never lived on this particular day before... that I know of. But I won't get quite that far out there.)

Anyhow, I was really happy with my time in the race and felt good about the camaraderie I saw out at Barksdale. Plus, if I'm not about to pass out from exhaustion, exercise in general makes me feel better. So I thought I would reward myself with a smoothie and roll into the office.

Until I pulled up to where Smoothie King was supposed to be off Youree Drive, and it WASN'T THERE. Man, was I disappointed. I drove around the shopping center thinking maybe they just moved. But I didn't see it. Since I have really made it a goal to be at work on time lately, I didn't want to keep searching. I settled for a strawberry milkshake from McDonald's. I'm sure that had a lot more calories and fat than the strawberry smoothie I was going to get.

Fortunately, I came back to work and did a little investigating. I felt stupid, because Smoothie King had just moved across East 70th Street. But in my panic I hadn't looked behind me. Some reporter, huh?

But isn't it funny how after a great morning, something little like that can really shape your day?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A-Rod... OK?

In case you missed it – because you, of course, need to know everything about celebs’ lives – Alex Rodriguez is getting a divorce. And a whole bunch of people want a piece of it.

His wife, Cynthia Rodriguez, is citing A-Rod’s extramarital affairs. And this week, an ex-stripper took some credit. And some blame Madonna.

Everyone’s talking about it. Comedian Billy D. Washington, in town for a stint at the Funny Bone, joked about it on 94.5 this morning. We bring it up in the newsroom between talking about news that truly affects daily life around here: the price of gas and the Haynesville Shale.

But besides the sordid, so-called details, what makes this so interesting? Should it be?

USAToday writer Paul Daugherty gives some interesting perspective on the obsession. The Yankees third baseman has an amazing career and tons of money. And for right now, at least, that is overshadowed by some apparent misjudgment in his marriage.

But, Daugherty writes, we’re used to that from athletes, politicians and pop stars. This line was particularly poignant: “… it has taken from the joy we feel as fans.”

What do you think? Has this mired your view of A-Rod? Or does it make him that much more appealing? Or do you care?

Friday, July 04, 2008

An appropriate Independence Day tribute

I thought this was a really interesting and cool opinion piece in USA Today. It gives a quick history lesson on an aspect of the Declaration of Independence many of us may rarely think of – its printing.

Antonio Perez makes heroes of John Dunlap and Mary Katherine Goddard, calling them the “Founding Printers” for their roles in making the document available to hundreds. The moniker places them up there with the likes of Thomas Jefferson.

Mass communication has come a long way since then. And the Internet obviously has revolutionized it. But in 1776, printing and distributing was not only a much more rigorous process, it was dangerous. Dunlap and Goddard could have been put to death for being traitors against England.

We journalists, I think, particularly owe a debt of gratitude and remembrance today to these two historical characters. Another interesting note about Goddard: she ran a Baltimore newspaper called the “Maryland Journal.” Thanks to Perez, too, for bringing a history lesson to life.

Happy 4th of July!