Two gifts. One less than comfortable zone.

Dear Friends,

First, this:

Eight months ago I moved to a new state by myself — with little more than a suitcase, a cell phone and a laptop — and left behind my house, my family and my worldly possessions.  Two months later, my family and my possessions showed up on our new doorstep — but sometime in between those two events, my favorite gold earrings disappeared.

A lot of things disappeared in the move, actually, but most of them I don’t remember. And with the exception of my cupcake tins (which to this day have never been located), the only lost item I sincerely missed was my gold hoop earrings.

They were not expensive. (I’m not an expensive-jewelry type. My favorite watches can best be described as cheap and I have a stash of $5 bracelets I adore.)  Still, they were the perfect size, the perfect style, the perfect tone of gold, and I wore them all the time until they disappeared eight months ago.  Suitable replacements, though valiantly shopped for, never materialized and I despaired that gold hoop earrings would never again grace my wardrobe.

Then Friday morning, while packing for a business trip, I found them in the far reaches of a rarely used overnight bag. Oh my god! I shouted, startling the cat. My earrings!

My perfect earrings were the perfect gift for a cold Friday morning, made even colder by the fact that I was leaving on a jet plane and would be deprived of a weekend wrapped in the warm company of my family.

Second, this:

On this particular trip, I’m traveling with a signed copy of Jonathan Franzen’s memoir, “The Discomfort Zone.” It was a Christmas gift from a friend who had the good fortune of meeting Franzen last year and the generous instinct to buy a copy for me.

I think there might be something wrong with me because I’ve never longed to travel as much as other folks I know. I adore road trips and my family has taken many memorable and enjoyable ones. But ask me to get on a plane or any other form of public transportation that involves crowds and lines and waiting, and suddenly I’m less enthused.

Business trips are even less enticing, as the curiosities, indignities and absurdities of post-911 travel can significantly diminish any enjoyment you might hope to eek out of a trip, even one to southern Florida in January.

In my case, I caught a late evening flight to Fort Meyers with a stopover in Orlando. The flight was full, and exactly half the passengers were noisy and rambunctious children, while the other half were adults exhibiting cold and flu symptoms.

The man on my right had a wet and urgent cough that made me cringe about every two minutes of the two-hour flight.  I’m not sure if it also unnerved the woman on my left or if she had other issues, but as soon as she settled into her seat, she drew her scarf up around her face and tucked it under the rims of her eyeglasses so that every inch of her face underneath her eyelashes was covered. Then she pulled her coat over her head, where it remained until the plane landed.

I could go on . . . about the twitching teenagers in the row in front of me, the ill child two rows behind me, the flight attendant who spilled wine on me, and more; but I imagine you’ve been there, done that too.

Fortunately, my book pulled me into its story and most of the flight’s annoyances receded quickly. He’s a bit of a neurotic pessimist, that Franzen, but even his dark and brooding recollections were an improvement over my immediate surroundings.

So, hey. It wasn’t my greatest day. But I found my favorite earrings and I enjoyed an interesting read on what would have otherwise been a miserable flight. Some days, you take what you can get.

With gratitude {for small favors from the universe and thoughtful gifts from friends},

Joan, whose nightmares involve Contagion-like scenarios and who thinks public transportation could be improved considerably if everyone wore medical face masks and latex gloves


  1. That is exactly why I don’t like to fly….well that and a ridiculous and irrational fear of plane crashes..

  2. I feel you on commercial solo travel. I think it mostly sucks, even with a good book.
    I have a theory the one thing that saves everybody from expiring in the throes of illness in the 2 weeks after flying commercially is the hidden fact they pump most of the oxygen out of the cabin at altitude and then keep the temperatures just above viability zones for humans. This subdues most (adult) passengers but more importantly makes the germs work harder to get around. Theoretically…..

    I’m glad you arrived safely, happy you have a good (enough) book for company, and joyous about your prodigal earrings. I have a favorite pair of hoops I’d be REALLY frustrated to lose. Here’s to more good fortune for you in 2012!

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