When I was younger, my family would take at least one long road trip during the summer. We had family reunions every summer and, we would all pile in the car to go. We would also visit my dad’s family on the East Coast. My sister and I would load up in the backseat with a couple pillows and blankets while my parents finished arranging the luggage and supplies. I would immediately put on my headphones and have them on for most of the ride. I grew up during the golden age of the Discman. I can still hear the satisfying click when I would push the center of the CD in the Discman. We kept AA batteries in the car, so I didn’t have to worry about it dying. My only worry was running out of CDs. Selecting a CD was always a dilemma. Which ones would I leave behind? Would I still like this album if I listened to it for a couple hours straight?
The act of putting on my headphones was a mixture of pre-teen angst, wanting the freedom to listen to the same song on repeat, and partly to avoid hearing my parents argue at the beginning of the trip. They were always small tiffs at the beginning of every road trip. They might be about rushing to leave so we wouldn’t be late (but not usually if my mom had anything to do with it), if we were going the right direction, what to eat, or if my dad had remembered to pack appropriate clothing. When I pointed out that they would always argue at the beginning of trips, my dad and I started the tradition of playing “Get Over It” by the Eagles. When each argument had resolved, or didn’t, we would turn up the stereo as loud as possible and blast the song. All of us would sing along. It eased the tension, and it gave me a reason to take off my headphones for a few minutes. As I grew and traveled in the car with many different families and couples, I quickly discovered having an argument at the start of a road trip is a universal trait among families and couples. My wife and I joined in on the fun of arguing and then getting over it on our long trip from Austin to Victoria, packed in her Mazda 3 with our dog Waylon. Worked like a charm.
Traveling by plane has its own fun, too. When I’ve traveled with Deaven’s family, I have been stopped and frisked by security all but one time. I guessed it was because I still haven’t legally changed my last name, so I’m the odd man out in the group. There wasn’t time to change my last name before our honeymoon and move to Canada to get a new passport and all new documents. My last name is Facebook official so that counts for something.
Packing light for me means only having two extra pairs of socks and a weeks’ worth of extra underwear. I’ve gotten better the past few years by doing trial runs. I pack my bag two days before our trip. The day before we’re supposed to leave, I bring in the big guns, Deaven. She ruthlessly throws things out of my bag. I sneak things back in when she’s not looking. I sit on it, and she zips it up.
When we went to Banff for a vacation, I packed all my heavy winter clothes and a hefty supply of hand and foot warmers for us. My mother-in-law, father-in-law, brother-in-law, Deaven and I all headed through airport security. I was last in line. They breezed right through and on to the airport restaurant. I walked through the body scanner. I walked up just in time to see my bag being pulled from the x-ray scanner off to the side by security. It was not out of the ordinary on the past few trips for me and/or my baggage to have extra investigation or a hold up at security. What was weird was when the officer asked if I had a large amount of rocks in my bag. I was puzzled. Deaven is the lover of rocks. The security officer then stuck her hand deep in my bag and pulled out my bag of 20 hand and foot warmers. She carefully inspected each one and informed me that there is a limit to how many of those you can have in your bag. I surprisingly hadn’t surpassed the limit. I smiled and giggled nervously. She didn’t. She did apologize for having to pull out all my clothes. I said, “It’s alright,” as I pulled my bag off, sat on it, and zipped it back up. I wiped the sweat off my brow that had accumulated from the anxiety of being interrogated by another human and made my way to the airport restaurant.
I recently had the awkward experience of crying on three planes over a 12-hour period. On March 5th, I flew back from my hometown of Dallas. I had spent the week with my best friend after her mom suddenly passed away. The week had felt like the best and worst of our high school days together. My best friend had taken off work. We stayed at her mom’s house. We sorted through some papers, went grocery shopping, binged TV, and checked on her own house.
As I boarded my first flight back to Canada, it hit me that her mom was gone, and I had to leave her and fly home alone. I listened to the song “What Sarah Said” by Death Cab for Cutie on repeat for almost the entire 12 hours of the trip. I tried to remember what had happened and come to grips with the reality that we had lost someone we love. My best friend and I had spent the week in shock, alternating between crying and laughing. I sat in my seat and cried. I couldn’t feel the tears building. They streamed down my face in waves. I didn’t try to fight them, only wiped them away when they would pool near the bottom of my chin. I tried my best to quietly cry and not bother or worry the passengers beside me. I would fall asleep for a short time, wake up, and start crying. The passengers beside me exchanged worried looks but didn’t ask. Puffy-eyed and exhausted, I walked off the first flight from DFW to LAX. At LAX, I saw a few young people wearing masks in line in front of me. I sat, staring blankly ahead, for 2 hours waiting on my layover. I boarded the second plane from LAX to YYC. It was a long flight. I closed my eyes and mouthed a silent thank you when they announced they were dimming the cabin lights. My eyes were dry from the constant flood of salty tears. I was tired of crying but needed the release it brings. I brought out my laptop and cried as I wrote down what happened during the week. I recalled the visitation, the funeral, and the days that followed. I wrote my memories of my best friend’s mom. I put up my laptop, closed my eyes, and rested my head against the window. We landed in Calgary at YYC. One more plane ride to go. I hadn’t eaten all day; my stomach was making angry grumbles. I had to go through Customs but, if all went well, I would have time to eat. All did not go well.
At customs, you must enter a date you plan to depart Canada. The date I chose was past when my work permit expired. In my delirious state, my math was off. Alright, that’s not the truth. Odds were in my favor for entering the wrong date. My math is always off. I used my phone to calculate it and still messed it up. They flagged me, and I had to speak with a Customs officer. I walked up to the booth and announced, “I’m bad at math.” He looked at me with a mix of confusion and pity and asked, “What?” I quickly told him what had happened. He said, “Okay.” He marked out the X and directed me to my next line. No time for dinner. I bought a bag of trail mix and ate it on the plane. I continued crying on the last plane, especially as I saw the lights of Saanich. Deaven had a McDonald’s hamburger, chicken nuggets, and fries waiting for me when she picked me up from the airport.
Traveling is the most stressful part. When you arrive at your destination, you start to relax. I felt this way when we arrived in the Galapagos. Before Deaven and I were married, I was invited on a once-in-a-lifetime trip by my in-laws and their friends. One of their close friends was celebrating his 70th birthday by chartering a boat to the Galapagos Islands. It was something I never expected to be able to do. When the opportunity arose, I packed my bags and said yes.
Deaven and I arrived in Quito, Ecuador. Deaven had met most of the people before. They were all new to me except the Wilsons. Our plane landed in Quito late at night. We were greeted by our hosts. We spent the next day exploring Quito. We boarded a bus that took us to a plane in the wee hours of the morning.
When our plane landed in the Galapagos, we took a short ride to our boat. I was nervous to be traveling on a boat. Before we left, Deaven and I went to the doctor to get the necessary vaccinations. Since I mentioned I often get car sick and had never been on a cruise or a vessel in open water, the doctor prescribed scopolamine patches. They are transdermal patches that you stick to the bare skin behind your ear. They help prevent nausea and vomiting associated with sea sickness. The doctor I saw was in a RediClinic in H-E-B, our local grocery store. The pharmacy was inside the H-E-B across from the clinic, so I walked over to have my prescription filled. The pharmacist gave me the patches, instructed me to put them on the skin behind my ear, and said they may cause dry mouth, itching, or dizziness. All good as long as I can tolerate being out to sea for 7 days. I figured as long as I wasn’t puking over the side of the boat in front of strangers, I’d be okay with any side effects.
I stuck a patch behind my ear before we boarded the boat. The instructions said to replace it after 72 hours. Aye, aye, captain. As my wife is my witness, I follow doctor’s orders.
After wearing the patch for three days, I replaced it right before I went to sleep. I stuck the fresh patch in the same spot as the old one. Every morning, we were awoken by our tour guide saying, “Good morning, dear guests,” over the PA system. The wake-up call was a ritual. They would announce that breakfast was being served. Our fourth day at sea was no different. Deaven and I woke up, walked out of our room in our pajamas, ate, and then returned to our room to get dressed and ready for an excursion.
I brushed my teeth and put in my contacts. I nestled back in bed with my book to read while Deaven got ready. I opened the book and waited for my eyes to focus. The pages were a blur. I could not make out one word. I looked around the room and discovered I couldn’t see anything clearly that was less than 2 feet in front of me. I’m used to far-away objects being blurry because of my nearsightedness. This was a new, present, entirely unexpected and inexplicable danger. I PANICKED. I turned the pages as if the book was the problem. I conducted my own vision test. I held the book close to my face with both hands and slowly pulled it away from my face to see if the words became any clearer. My first thought was to call my mom or sister. If you find yourself traveling between the islands in the Galapagos on a boat in the middle of the ocean, you’ll notice cell service is non-existent unless you have a satellite phone.
Before waking up with blurry vision trapped in a boat in the middle of the ocean, the only thing I had done differently was putting on the second patch. I grabbed for the prescription hoping it could give me some answers. I held it up and desperately tried to read the text. Like everything else, it was indecipherable. I outstretched both arms as far as they could go but I couldn’t make out any text. I frantically called for Deaven. “I need you to read me the directions and warnings on this patch,” I said. She said to hold on since she was in the bathroom. Deaven’s no stranger to my weird requests and is patient when I interrupt her in the bathroom to talk. I pleaded again for her to come read aloud what was on the bag. She asked why I couldn’t read it myself. “I CAN’T SEE, baby,” I shouted back. I couldn’t stop my tears. She walked out to find me holding a Ziploc bag with my remaining patches in my hand trying my hardest to focus my eyes. Now tears clouded my vision. I pushed the baggie up to her face. She read the warnings and came across, “May cause blurred vision,” along with instructions to “Alternate the application area with each change.” I was supposed to change the location of the patch to be behind my other ear. I now faced the dilemma of removing the patch to be able to see or spending the next several hours near a toilet or the side of the boat. We went to see if the other passengers had some advice. Turns out, a few in our group had used the patches before. They usually cut them in half and alternated ears. I immediately cut the patch in half and moved it behind my other ear. Naturally, I spent all day adjusting to my new (lack of) sight. I would joke but also worried about how long this would last. The warnings only said, “Blurred vision” with no timeline, especially if you were still using the patches. The blurred vision lasted all day. I accepted my fate, but I was a mess when I went to bed. I woke up to the salty trails of dried tears around my eyes. I immediately grabbed my book and opened the pages. I could see again! Crisis averted. Lesson learned: read all the warnings, twice!