Wednesday, November 8, 2023

A Goofy Mistake Vermont 2023


It was Spring 2023 and I badly needed to go on a vacation adventure, after the Covid enforced home-time and several visits (as usual) to my sisters, Judy who lives in Baltimore and Sue who lives in Los Angeles.

On the Road Scholar website I found the trip, “Wildlife, Walking & Hiking in the Green Mountain State," scheduled for October. Looking at the photo next to the trip description, I thought October in Vermont, trees changing colors, what a perfect 2023 adventure. Home base, where we adventurers would stay, was the Gray Ghost Inn in West Dover. Vermont. The best way to get there from Chicago (other than driving) was to fly into the Albany New York Airport (ALB), which was 90 miles from Gray Ghost. Road Scholar recommended the Dover Valley Cab company for transportation to and from ALB.  When I called Valley Cab, Chris the driver/owner confirmed that he could pick me at ALB, drive me to West Dover, and take me back at the end of the trip on October 19.

On October 14, the first day of my Green Mountain adventure, I texted Chris to confirm my arrival time. He responded that he would be driving a black “gangster car,” and asked that I text him after I got to ALB. That I did and Chris showed up about ten minutes later, in a large black SUV with tinted windows and his company name tastefully displayed on the passenger side. Off we went to the Gray Ghost Inn. We chatted some and the two-hour travel time went by pleasantly. When we crossed the boundary from New York State into Vermont, most trees had lost their leaves! And the colors on the remaining trees were muted. I was mildly disappointed, but Chris explained that the leaves had turned a few weeks before, due to a very rainy summer and fall.

The Gray Ghost Inn did not disappoint. The sprawling inn with a wide front porch was painted a bright yellow. Inside was a welcoming entrance area, with comfy chairs and a smiling innkeeper, who introduced herself as Cary and greeted me warmly. I looked forward to our 6:30pm Road Scholar get-to-know-you social hour followed by dinner. But when I gave Cary  my name and asked to register for the Road Scholar trip, she said that it wasn’t scheduled to start until October 15, and she didn't have a spare room for me that evening . . . and I wasn’t on the list of Road Scholar attendees for the program starting the next day.

Uh-Oh what was I to do?

Cary found me a room at the Big Bears Lodge, a half mile down the road and called Chris, who came back quickly and drove me the short distance to the Lodge. After I got settled, I looked at the Road Scholar itinerary that I had printed from the computer. It listed activities for Day 1, Day 2, through Day 6, but I couldn’t find the start and end dates listed anywhere. I signed into my Road Scholar online account and under upcoming trips, there it was “Your departure to Vermont is in a year” and as clear as could be the dates for my trip Oct 14 to Oct 19, 2024.

Oy. Not only did I arrive on the wrong day, I arrived in the wrong year!

After some panicky thoughts, I called Cary and told her about my problem. She said she would contact the Road Scholar Coordinator and see if they could get me into the 2023 group starting the next day, Sunday October 15. I called my sisters, each in turn, and wailed away. They listened and that helped a little bit. But what helped even more was Cary's call back when she told me that I could be added to the 2023 group and she would have a room at Gray Ghost for me on the next day, Sunday.

What a relief! and I wrote in my journal:

“A big mix-up on my part – I signed up for 2024 and here I am in Vermont but mostly it’s fixed and I won’t miss any hikes or walks. Just a half day walking around West Dover on Thursday afternoon and a farewell dinner that night (the 19th) and breakfast (the 20th).

Sunday around noon, I got a ride to Gray Ghost from the Road Scholar Coordinator Carina. I registered with Cary, and got settled in my room. I was tired from my previous day’s excitement, took a nap and then went down to the common living room. The rest of the group started trickling in and as we got to know each other, it seemed that I was the only one there for the walking/hiking trip; the other folks I met had come for a week of Bridge. I figured there were two groups and asked Carina how many were signed up for Walking/Hiking.

“Oh no,” she said, “This week is for Bridge-players only. You can stay and join them and we’ll work out a way to have the money you paid for your 2024 trip cover the cost. I’m sorry to tell you that you missed the Walking/Hiking group by a few weeks. They were here earlier in October.”

No no no!. How could this be? I’m not a bridge player and even if I was, I didn’t come to beautiful Vermont to sit inside for six days.

“It’s not an option for me,” I replied. In a kind gentle manner, Carina advised me to make arrangements to fly home the next day. I got on it quickly and fortunately, when I called United Airlines and pressed the number that the automated voice told me to press for transfers and cancellations, I got a real person who assured me that he would stay on the phone with me until my transaction was completed. Twenty minutes later, for the cost of $377, I received an email confirmation for my flight home on October 16 at 5pm. I called Chris and he was available to take me back to ALB in the morning.

What a relief, but not really, as I wrote in my journal:

“I want to be home. I don’t like all these complications but at least I get a little bit of the Road Scholar experience. But what about dinner today and breakfast tomorrow? And what will the Bridge people think of me?”

Cary, bless her heart, invited me to join the Bridge players for dinner that evening and for breakfast the next day. At dinner I sat with a very nice group, and explained my situation. A few suggested I consider staying for the week. I politely declined. After dinner, they went off for their first evening of Bridge and I went off to bed. At breakfast the next morning, when I once again explained why I was there and why I was leaving, Bruce, a Bridge-playing breakfast companion, said, “Betsy you just made a goofy mistake.”

A goofy mistake. Such a nice way of looking at this experience.  And on the plus side (and I always look for the positive in situations), I fell in love with Vermont and the Gray Ghost Inn, and I still have my 2024 Wildlife, Walking /Hiking trip to look forward to. Another positive: though it was too late to see the trees changing colors during my short stay in Vermont, the trees in Chicago started changing colors just as I got back. This year, they were glorious, as was the weather in the days after I got back, and I was able to get in some walking and hiking in Autumn 2023 here at home.

However, positive spin or not, I’m sad and disappointed about my mistake, and there now is one more thing my 79-year-old brain has to watch out for and double and triple check -- dates of upcoming trips. That is of course, in addition to trying to remember where I put my glasses and keys in my small one-bedroom condo, and confirming several times over dates and times of zoom gatherings I sign up for and these days, the many IRL (in real life) activities I am delighted to be able to I enjoy.

Friday, January 20, 2023

The Best Advice: CALM DOWN PATSY

FROM MY MOTHER: Mom had a small 4” x 6” picture frame that contained a colored poster with the words “By the street of by-and-by one arrives at the house of never.” After mom's death, I got the framed poster and for years it had a prominent place among family pictures on a shelf in my house.

 These were words Mom and I took to heart and most times whatever we were thinking of doing, we would “Do it now” and not procrastinate. Good advice for me for many years.

But... now that I'm old and tired more often, I'm OK with putting things off. And sometimes I get to them and other times not. This is true even though I know my days are numbered and I know that if I don't do :whatever" now, it may never get done. I'm OK with that too.

FROM MY FATHER: Dad carried a small silver triangle with the words “This too shall pass” in his pocket for as long as I could remember. I don’t know what happened to the pocket piece but during his life, Dad showed it to me frequently.

These were not words for me to live by. Not at all. Never. I was born in 1944 and all my thinking life I knew about the Holocaust and about the Jews and others who were rounded up by Nazis and Jew-haters and for them the horrors would not pass. Their inevitable end was death.

 So much for Dad’s advice.

 However, I recently heard a Rabbi tell this story that involved Dad’s favorite saying. 

A powerful king asks his assembled wise men to find something that will make a happy person sad and a sad person happy. The wise men traveled the country far and wide. Finally, one came upon a peasant who told him to return to the king with these few words: “This too shall pass,” meaning when you are feeling happy or experiencing happy times, know it won’t last, and conversely when you are feeling sad or experiencing sad times know that also won’t last.

 “This too shall pass” is true under normal circumstances. But under major terrible irreversible circumstances, these words were and still are useless as words to live by.

Curiously Mom and Dad's favorite words to live by are opposite. From Dad, "Just wait it out, whatever bad circumstances happen. Things will change." From Mom, "Get going. Time is passing. Don't wait. If you don't do it now, you may never do it and you'll be sorry." But most curious of all, the best advice for me today came from an unusual source many years ago.



About forty years ago, my partner Cheryl and I were at dinner at the home of friends who had a four-year-old daughter named Margretta. 

The conversation was lively. All four of us were talking about this and that and suddenly Margretta interrupted us saying loudly and as forcefully as an insistent four-year-old can “CALM DOWN PATSY!” We looked at her and looked at each other and didn’t understand what she meant, so we continued talking. Again, Margretta said even more loudly “CALM DOWN PATSY!!” This time we stopped talking and all of a sudden it came to me that she was addressing me, meaning to say to me: “CALM DOWN BETSY!”

 I have been known to talk loudly and insistently and must have been annoying Margretta big time. I shared my insight with Cheryl and Margretta’s parents and we had a good laugh. Over the years I’ve told this story many times.

 But why, you might ask, today would I identify Margretta’s directive from so many years ago as the best advice? Today at age 78, if I do things that take too much energy, if I walk too fast for example, or try to do too many things at once, or maybe get too excited about this or that, I get out of breath and my heart feels like it is beating too hard. When this happens, I say to myself “Calm down Patsy” which amuses me greatly and reminds me that I must slow down and remember to breath. 

If I can, I will stop what I'm doing and sit down for a while and breathe, just breathe until I -- “PATSY” -- am able to calm down and resume what I was doing at a more reasonable pace. And I send thankful thoughts to forty-plus year old Margretta wherever she may be.