Tag Archives: travel

Happy anniversary from my very dear friends at United Airlines

So I’m crammed in my seat, waiting for the plane to load for the Cleveland to Chicago leg of my trip to Italy, when a flight attendant approaches me and asks if I’m Kathleen Mahar. He looks surprised that I am, indeed, that very person, and hands me a little envelope.

I open it to discover that United is congratulating me on 30 years of being a Mileage Plus member.

mileage-plus-rotated.jpg

Imagine that.

Kudos to United for recognizing this particular milestone. But . . . it’s a card. No upgrade to first class, or maybe a pass for a visit to a United club. Not even a free drink ticket. Nada. I’m not exactly feeling the love. It’s just kind of weird, honestly.

I think back to 30 years ago when I signed up for my first frequent flyer card. It was a relatively new program at the time, I think. I was a bright-eyed, 30-something hottie starting a new job with Beverage Industry magazine and would be traveling fairly often. Points for miles? Cool beans.

Cleveland was a hub for Continental Airlines and I’m not sure whether that first card was with United or Continental, since United gobbled up Continental several years ago and dropped the Cleveland hub soon after (despite promises to the contrary).

Over 30 years, I can’t even imagine how much money was spent on Continental and United tickets. Granted, employers and clients paid for most of those flights, but the fact remains that plenty of cash was forked over to send me off to work all over the country.

I was lucky to have employers who allowed staff to keep their miles for personal use. I accumulated enough points on that account, through actual travel and later, by adding a Mileage Plus Visa card, to fund numerous trips. I think I went to Europe at least twice with those points and I used them one or more times to get flights for Chris to and from Australia.

I used the bulk of my points to go to Italy this month but there are still almost enough left to cash in for a domestic ticket. I don’t travel much for business now, so I guess I’ll use the Visa long enough to round up for one last ticket and then, I’m done. Thirty years and out.

It’s not so much that United is any worse than most of the airlines out there. I’ve had equally miserable trips in recent years on any number of American and foreign carriers. Have you noticed that the smaller the plane and the shorter the trip, the more generous the seat and leg room? My flight from Dulles to Cleveland was practically comfy.

Conversely, the flight from Frankfurt to DC was a butt-mashing, knee-jamming, shoulder-to-shoulder, way-too-personal encounter with strange seatmates for nine grueling hours. Ugh.

I have to keep reminding myself that it’s worth it (oh, so worth it) to put up with the discomfort in exchange for adventures in fascinating new places.

Oh, well. I’m done bitching about it. I know how lucky I am. I truly do.

But does anyone else remember when the skies actually were kind of friendly?

Funerals and Friendly Skies

Now, please bear with me here. I have two stories to tell you. One kind of begat the other. And though Gina came first, the email I received from my friend Sue later the same day is what inspired today’s post. Here’s how it started:

The hilarious author and speaker Gina Barreca’s weekly column in the Hartford Courant really tickled my funny bone this week. Click here to read “No Funeral For Me. Nobody Likes Them.”

Okay. Did you read Gina’s story? Good. Now let’s hear from my buddy, Sue Brooks:

On a recent flight returning to her home near San Francisco from a business meeting in Mississippi, Sue sat behind a woman who placed a backpack in the overhead bin . . .

“It was a typical crowded flight,” Sue said. “The smallest flight attendant I have ever seen, stood on the seats and started tugging and moving luggage to squeeze another bag in. She started to pull at the backpack. The woman seemed alarmed and wanted to hold it.

“The flight attendant continued to tug and pull until the woman burst out, ’Be careful, my mother’s in there!’”

I don’t know how (or if) Sue was able to keep a straight face. “You gotta love travel!” she says.

Referring back to Gina’s essay, I’d like to imagine that the woman on Sue’s plane was bringing her mother’s ashes to sprinkle from the Golden Gate Bridge, or something equally exciting.

That makes me wonder:  What odd objects have you seen people bring on planes, or perhaps that you even carried on yourself?

Panda on plane

Now, bringing a panda on board is unexpected! Thanks to the funny site Pleated-Jeans for this pic.

Do you have a funny story to share about funerals or surprising carry-on “luggage?” I can’t think right now of a crazy carry-on story, but I’ll start you off with one about my dad’s funeral.

My father’s last wishes were precise and very traditional. The family greeted people paying their respects during calling hours in the evening, followed by a full Catholic funeral mass the next morning. It was difficult and sorrowful for all who loved this great man. It’s hard to believe it will be eight years this month.

Anyway, Dad wanted to be cremated, but in accordance with the preference of the Catholic Church, his body (in a casket, of course) was present for the funeral mass and the cremation took place afterward.

At one point in the service, the retired parish priest who had known my parents for years stood near the casket flinging drops of holy water from a heavy, ornate metal scepter onto the casket. In the midst of this blessing ritual, the scepter slipped out of his hands and bonked loudly onto the wood above Dad’s forehead. The elderly priest was no doubt abashed by the slip but quickly regaining his composure, quipped, “Well, if that doesn’t wake Bob up, nothing will!”

I’ll never forget the moment of laughter that ensued and how I thought at the time, how much my father would have loved the joke. Laughter is always beautiful, in my book.

And if you’re wondering, Bob’s ashes are all over the place. He’s at his two favorite golf courses in Ohio and Florida. He’s swimming with the fishes in Lake Erie. He’s enjoying lovely Utah with my sister; and the last precious bit is in a little box waiting to keep Mom company at her final resting place one day.

So – do you have a funny or interesting story regarding a funeral or the execution of someone’s last wishes? Crazy things you’ve seen carried onto your flight?

Readers’ choice – would love to hear from you!

Many mugs are called, but few are chosen

When I moved to a smaller home (with a MUCH smaller kitchen) last year, I donated what seemed like a ton of coffee mugs to Goodwill. But when it came time to unpack those I’d kept, I realized I still had far more mugs than I needed, or had space for, in my new house.

My current dilemma is twofold. First, nearly every mug that made the cut from Madison to Willoughby is meaningful to me. I find it all but impossible to get rid of any of them because of the memories associated with each one. However, and this is part two, I only want to drink coffee out of maybe four of those mugs.

I feel like Goldilocks, except just with mugs. No issues with beds or chairs or other bear furniture.

There are two adorable mugs that are simply too large. By the time I’ve finished half a cup, I need to microwave what’s left because the liquid has cooled to an unacceptable temperature. I could, and sometimes do, simply pour less coffee into the mug to begin with, but that goes against the grain. I want to sit down with a nice FULL cup of coffee when I invite the dogs onto my lap to read for a while, which is our habitual morning wake up routine.

coffee mugs

You should see the rest of the mugs in the cupboard.

Most of my mugs, however, are too small. Unfortunately, these are my prettiest mugs and most are souvenirs from foreign travel. The two in the photo are from Florence, Italy and the picturesque town of Delft in The Netherlands. Just looking at each one takes me right back to the days I bought them. After visiting the gift shop, my cousin Carole and I sat in the sunshine at an outdoor cafe on the square in Delft and had coffee and tiny Dutch pancakes, poffertjes, sprinkled with powdered sugar. My foreign mugs are all so cute and evoke such great memories! But … I never use those smaller mugs unless I’m sick and making tea. This is because I don’t really like tea and don’t want much of it. It just seems to be the comforting thing to do when I have a sore throat. Thinking about Europe is comforting, too, I must say.

Finally, there are three mugs in the middle, like Mama Bear’s belongings in the story, that are just right. I poured in water to measure capacity and, as it turns out, my ideal mug holds at least 14 ounces of liquid (one is a mug from my sister with pictures of my son and my dogs; the other is the “You Can Write” mug from the Erma Bombeck Humor Writers Workshop). My bright red “Who Rescued Who” mug holds 16 oz. and is almost too big. I need to fill it not quite to capacity for the perfect cup. A fourth mug that I picked up at the World Market has a cute dachshund on the side and probably holds a very full 13 ounces. It’s just shy of being in the perfect range, but because of the dachshund, it rates in my top four.

Which brings me to the question of what my answer should be when I’m asked how many cups of coffee I drink each day. I think that’s a trick question, and one I rarely answer honestly.

As a meeting planner, I’ve spent many an early morning grabbing coffee from a group’s buffet or break line. FYI, the coffee cups at a hotel or conference center are a standard five ounce pour. It’s no surprise that I gulp down a ridiculous number of cups, circumstances permitting, when I’m working an event. Should my reply be that I drink a good part of ten cups of coffee some days?

On the other hand, if I’m at the airport, say, and only have time to grab the largest coffee available, does that mean I had just one cup that day?

So I normally admit to having two or three cups a day. I don’t mention that those are 14 to 16 ounce mugs. And since at home I only drink half-caff coffee, I think it’s only fair to claim a lesser quantity, anyway.

If you’re being honest, how many cups do you have each day?

And has all this talk about coffee made you want a cup right now? Me, too.