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Official Fossil takes flight

I wrote last week’s column on the fly – literally.

That column was about traveling to Arkansas to attend a dear friend’s memorial. As I was packing on Thursday, I realized the four-day trek would completely overlap my usual writing schedule. My column is due Tuesdays. Oops. What now?

The answer was to lug my computer along and I’m not much of a lugger anymore. In fact, I replaced my laptop last year because it was so heavy. My new, sleeker one is about half the weight, but still feels like an anvil when toted through an airport.

I usually travel with a smallish suitcase and a carry-on. I am way past hefting that carry-on into the overhead and then sitting with my feet on a tote bag. So, I always check the suitcase and pack a light tote with basic necessities to carry onboard. Last week, I slid my laptop in its padded container right between my medicine and my nightgown. My “light tote” became a humongous burden.

I have learned in the last few years that having truly white hair is an automatic ticket to assistance from at least one strapping young man onboard. Far be it from me to turn down, “May I help you put that overhead?”

“Oh, thank you so much. What a nice thing to do!” I always feign surprise, but it happens every time. And these younger people need the positive reinforcement that helping a great-grandmother lookalike brings. I should travel with little bags of cookies.

After two plane flights, a few hours’ drive, and supper with the family, I finally arrived in my Greenville, Mississippi hotel room. Plum tuckered out – too whooped to write. I began the column the next morning for an hour before the memorial, and managed another hour before bedtime.

Sunday morning, the gathering over, I rode back to Little Rock, arriving four hours before hotel check-in. Yikes. I was desperate for some computer time. The room clerk probably doesn’t witness white-haired laptop anxiety often, and she took pity before hysteria set in. Good call. Thanks to her I was able to pound out a few more paragraphs before dinner.

The next morning, I boarded my morning flight to Charlotte, my first stop. A nice young man said, “May I help you put that in the overhead?” Thanking him profusely, I instantly regretted not snagging some cookies from the hotel freebies.

Charlotte was a three-hour layover before the flight to Buffalo. I was lucky to get a seat at the computer charging desk, and plugged in. Despite all the distractions, I managed another paragraph or two, then realized I had a problem. I needed to find “the Necessary” and some lunch before the next flight.

I didn’t want to pack everything up, haul it to the ladies’ room, and lose my computer seat. I needed to make a trustworthy friend. I chose a businessman plugged in nearby. I waited until he stretched, needing a break from his screen, and engaged him in chitchat. He was originally from Buffalo, on his way to visit family. It only took 10 minutes to be sure he didn’t need my computer, and probably didn’t have much use for my nightgown. “Of course, I’ll watch them. Coffee? Nope, I’m good. Thanks, though.”

Following the bathroom, I headed for the snack shop nearby. I took a pass on the $12.99 chicken sandwich (plus tax). I succumbed to a $3 water bottle and decided to hold out for the airplane snacks.

Back at my well-tended computer, I managed to write one more paragraph before departure.

After we backed off the gate, the captain announced: “Due to a supply chain shortage, no plastic cups were available in the Charlotte airport. There will be no beverage or snack service.” Aaarrgghh!

Finally, my stomach and computer arrived in Buffalo. After baggage claim and a shuttle to my car, I desperately drove to McDonald’s drive-thru across the street. I ordered a quarter-pounder with cheese, and the perky voice asked, “Fries?” I said no. “A drink with that?” Nope. When I reached the window, she said, “That will be $7.39.”

“But I didn’t order fries or a drink…”

“Right, that’s just for your quarter-pounder.” Whoa! Had food prices doubled in the four days I was gone? That burger hit the spot though. I fantasized it was filet mignon.

I finished my writing when I got home Monday night. That column was written in four states, and I realized there really are people who do this everyday for a living. Fuggedaboudit.

I wrote today’s column in my recliner… with great legroom, hot coffee and good food. The only thing missing was the cute young man offering to help. And to think I have a stash of homemade cookies….

Marcy O’Brien lives in Warren, Pa., with her husband Richard and Finian, their sluggard Maine Coon cat. She can be reached at Moby.32@hotmail.com.

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