402: Official “You’re an Idiot” Pass from Delta Airlines

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I qualify. Believe me. I booked in March a flight on Delta from Panama City (Panama, not Florida) to Atlanta, Georgia to attend a conference for my school. Yesterday was our last day at school, and I might have been the last employee out of the building, I had so much to get done before I left. I had this much to do because the final three days were completely and totally taken up with fixing glitches with our end-of-year printed report cards, and I did not, therefore, get any of my closing-out-the-school-year chores accomplished. At least, not in a timely manner. I did finish in a sweat and lather that would make California Chrome proud.

Then, I came home and re-packed my bags. I pack exuberantly the first time, and I do this about a week in advance, usually. Then, I let it sit, and I repack again the night before I am to depart, and ruthlessly cull the initial selections down to a single backpack. I needed some recoup time before this three-week-long business trip, so that also took up part of the evening.

In all the rush and chores to mark off the list, I completely and totally forgot to CHECK IN ONLINE. I had printed my flight info back in March and knew my flight time, and I got up the morning of departure at 4 am and headed out to travel to the airport.

I don’t have a personal vehicle, and I rely on public transportation. This morning, it took an unusually long time to get to the airport, and I was starting to sweat when we got there at 7:15 for my 8:20 flight, but I was still an hour early – Oh, no, I wasn’t. The Delta rep informed me that Delta changed the flight times for those ONCE-a-day fights some months ago, and I was sent an e-mail informing me of this change – really???? The flight closed boarding a half hour earlier, now that it leaves at 7:50, not 8:20 anymore, like my flight information clearly showed.

She then informed me that she could re-book me on a flight the next morning, for this ONCE-a-day flight, for a penalty of 200 bucks and change. I don’t HAVE an extra 200 bucks, and I told her that. She sighed, and gave me a number for the Delta help desk people, and told me I could ask for a one-time (in my lifetime??) waiver of the penalty fee for being an idiot and not checking in online first. I called, and the Delta rep on the phone, obviously used to dealing with Southerners, was gracious enough to give me the “Idiot Pass,” and I am now booked in the morning. Still have to adjust the rental car reservation and the hotel reservation, and now I will be getting off the flight and going directly to the conference, instead of being able to settle into the hotel and figure my way around. Thanks, Delta.

It could be worse. It could ALWAYS be worse.

400: Good Heart Counts For Little

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Having a good heart

Wanting the best for everyone concerned

Looking out for the little guy and

Being fair

To others, not just to myself

Nets me very, very, very little on this old world.

I will be eternally grateful

That this is not my home

And that I have a better place to go

Where the others

there

Think a lot more like I do

And a lot less like nearly everyone else does

here.

399: Waffle House and Children

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Waffle House is an American (mostly, but not completely, Southern) diner. It is plain, simple, and honest. The people who generally go there are two kinds; working people who need a filling, inexpensive meal (blue collar) and people looking for the authentic diner experience (white collar).

Waffle House has the real ambiance of the American diner. There are booths at either end of the small diner, and a bar in the middle which is located in front of the grill. Restrooms and office rooms are at one end or the other of the place. The format of the places is so similar that frequent customers feel instantly at home, even if it is a location they have never been to before. That is part of the charm, if such a word is not totally inappropriate when discussing this restaurant chain.

Plus, the menus still feature a picture of nearly every item they serve…which is so customers who cannot read can still order. Not kidding. No sensitivity training needed here. You can tell that by the variety of the clientele – Waffle House gets all kinds. And they all, for the most part, coexist peacefully. America in action.

I found Waffle House restaurants to be quite helpful when I was raising my small children. I took them there fairly frequently in order to practice going to restaurants. I do not include most fast food places in that category. They have no dinnerware, or cutlery, no glasses….and no wait staff.  You are not training a child to go to a restaurant in one of those places. Waffle House is different from fast food places, while still relaxed enough that you do not (usually) offend every single person in the place when you come in for a meal with two small children.

Waffle House has real people who wait on tables (OK, booths). Points to Waffle House. Waffle House also has real dishes. Plates, bowls, glasses, mugs (with SAUCERS), knives,  forks and spoons. Paper napkins, true, but they are THERE. Points to Waffle House. I can have my children practice being in a restaurant there, as close as I can get to the experience of a fancy place, that is still kid-friendly (and that I can afford).  I owe the fact that I was able to take my children out to eat at fancier restaurants while they were still small – and not be completely and totally embarrassed and asked to leave – to good, old, reliable Waffle House.

398: Do Unto Others……

There is a lot of wisdom in the holy scriptures of a number of religions (and ideologies, which are ‘religions’ that don’t recognize a Supreme Being). After all, it would not have made it into the ranks of a major world religion if it did not have at least SOME truth in it (although some are pushing that boundary pretty darn hard).

One of the ones that is having particular meaning for me lately is the one from the Bible about “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Now, on the surface, and taking what I believe is the underlying meaning of this maxim, humans are being instructed here to treat people as KINDLY, HONESTLY, HUMANELY and POLITELY as they, themselves, would prefer to be treated by other humans. I say, “on the surface.”  What I have discovered with age and experience (not necessarily the same thing, unfortunately) is what lawmakers have discovered about writing laws. When you write a law, it needs to be crystal clear what your intent is in the wording of the law, such that, under no imaginable circumstances, can someone who wants to pervert what you intended do so by interpreting what you have written in such a way that you did not intend them to interpret it, and manage to do the exact opposite of what your intent was in writing the law to begin with. Therein lies the rub with humans.  And laws.

SOME people have taken the Golden Rule and interpreted it to mean, literally, “Screw them before they can screw you.” And they are living that, every day. That is just not how I think that statement was intended to be interpreted. Do you seriously want everybody you see to screw you before you can screw them? This is NOT about sex, by the way – when I say screw you, I mean treat you unkindly, dishonestly, inhumanely and impolitely – not the literal “screw you,” which would be the ultimate bad treatment indeed. I do not see people as prey. It would be nice if other people also did not view me as prey, either.

Plus, I have come to the conclusion lately that I am a toxic person. When I care about someone, I manage, nearly 100% of the time, to turn them from pretty normal people into slobbering, drooling, freakish, selfish and using monsters. It happens so often and so consistently that the fault HAS to be with me. I am a monster-enabler. So much for the Golden Rule.

 

397: Panama versus Morocco

As an international teacher (at least since I sold out and left the USA) I have lived and worked in two lovely countries in different parts of the world: Morocco and Panama. While each country is unique, worth seeing and visiting for its own special reasons, I can’t help but make comparisons between the two as I move through the routine of daily living and working.

Living and working breaks down into several distinct categories for comparison. Housing, transportation, utilities, food/shopping entertainment and income are all important to living, and are different experiences in each country. So, which is “better?” Your answer and my answer might not be the same, depending on a lot of things. Our situations are not the same, nor are our resources. If you are Bill Gates, you are pretty much going to have a darned good time, no matter what country you are in. I am not Bill Gates, so my experience of each country varies significantly, partly in relation to my resources – which vary according to the country and the work I find there, and partly because the countries are just plain different.

Plus, your experience of each country will be affected by what you want and are willing to accept. If you live more like a native to the country, your expenses will plummet. If you live like an American in either country, your expenses will rise considerably. Central heat and air don’t come cheap anywhere – but usually, the natives have figured out how to live comfortably using fewer costly resources. And I like the smell of line-dried laundry, anyway, compared to tumble-dried.

HOUSING: My apartment in Morocco had two bathrooms, two bedrooms, a ginormous family room, a den, a kitchen, a balcony AND a rooftop terrace, for 176 USD a month. My four BR, 2 bath Panama house with a tiny living room and an eat-in kitchen (galley style) with a front porch costs 800 USD a month. Approximately the same size apartments in square feet. Yes, the complex in Panama has a pool, an exercise room (sort of) and it is located on a polluted beach, and the apartment in Morocco adjoined a mosque, so we got the call to prayer five times a day, starting at 4:30 am. In Morocco, I was robbed three times in three years by maids my husband hired, and in Panama I have been robbed twice (once in the house and once on the street) in the first year. Points to Morocco.

TRANSPORTATION: In Morocco, you can travel in a taxi 80 kilometers for about five bucks. In Panama, you can travel in a taxi about five kilometers for five bucks. The bus in Panama is cheaper – and safer. Morocco has trains that are pretty cheap, Panama does not have trains. Both countries have cheap buses. Both countries have good airport services – about the same.

UTILITIES: Moroccan veterinarians are FAR less expensive than Panama ones – and doctors and dentists compare about the same: Panama costs FAR more. Morocco wins HANDS DOWN for cost and quality of medical and dental care. Total utilities in Morocco are also far cheaper than Panama, and they work better, too, with fewer outages in services. The one thing you need in Morocco that you don’t need in Panama is firewood during the winter, which Panama does not have. Points to Panama on that one. Water quality in either place is good, but Morocco water tastes better – at least in the mountains. Overall – Morocco wins.

FOOD/SHOPPING: In Morocco, produce and limited meat for two people for a week costs about 12.50 USD – 20 bucks if you want imported things, or fancy meats. There is no way in the hot place you can buy food in Panama, anywhere, for that kind of money. Food in Panama is three to five times as expensive as Morocco. Restaurants are similar. I could eat at a local restaurant in Morocco for three dollars or less. Only at a street stall (quality and sanitation iffy) can you do that in Panama. Points to Morocco. Shopping is pretty amazing in either country, but then, I am female…….

ENTERTAINMENT: Where we were in Morocco, there was little entertainment you didn’t make yourself, or that was not sponsored by the local University. In Panama City, where this school is located, entertainment abounds – if you can pay for it. I still end up watching movies online, mostly, and popping my own popcorn. It’s a wash.

INCOME: Morocco paid less on paper, but I had more money. Panama pays more, but the costs of living are correspondingly more, so I have less available cash, even with greater income. It is a wash, pretty much.

Final judgement? I don’t like Panama nearly as much as I liked Morocco. I will finish my contract here in Panama, and start looking for another place to go and see. That is why I became an international teacher – to see some of the world!