Sunday, 10 December 2017

Winter Vacations !

Wanta Winter Vacation Eh??

We’re thinking about our winter vacation again.  We had an interesting and enjoyable vacation last year but it doesn't always work out quite as one expects.  Only a few years ago we had a somewhat different story.   We like to drive   No worries about what you can take and what you have to leave at home.  I remember taking my entire painting kit on a vacation which was to establish me as a great artist.  (I never actually opened it but still, I might have.)  The removal of the necessity to deny to one’s spouse the space to take along those items that cannot possibly fit in to a single suitcase, most of which seem vital, notwithstanding the fact that they may never be actually worn, almost guarantees a successful holiday.  I should add that taking along my own electronic toys totally allays the boredom of shopping as I scan the areas around ladies apparel vendors my better half is exploring for free wi-fi internet connections.  I am no longer the miserable curmudgeon that I once was when I had to wait too long. 
So we started rounding up the paraphernalia that the luxury of traveling by car allows.  I placed my extra-large Eddie Bauer hold - all in the middle of the basement floor, about two months ahead of departure time and threw everything I could possibly need into it long in advance so that I couldn’t forget anything.   The credit cards were packed and the traveler’s cheques were purchased. I was feeling confident that I had taken care of everything.  Now I could relax and just wait until it was time to load up the car.
        It was the Saturday prior to our departure, all our bills were prepaid, the appropriate credit cards were sitting on my desk with my Health Care Card, auto insurance and every other document I could possibly need.  Time, I thought, to pack all these vital papers in the special Samsonite organizer I had bought in the days before I was fully organized.  It even had a special compartment for holding our passports.  As I packed our various documents into it, on that cold Saturday at the end of January, I contemplated the delightful, warm, sunny February we would find in Naples, Florida.  For some reason I flipped our passports out of the wallet to take a quick look at them.   Ohmigod!  Horror of horrors.  The expiry date was the middle of February and we weren’t getting back until the beginning of March.
“Irene, get ready, we have to go and have passport photos taken.  Our passports expire on Valentines Day.  I don’t know if we’ll be able to go as planned, but if we get our photos taken today and I go down to the passport office on Monday morning, maybe we can get an express passport renewal in time to leave on Wednesday as planned, though I’m not too hopeful.  At least I hope that we won’t have to delay our departure by too long.”
She didn’t even call me an idiot or give me a hard time. 
         “Okay,” she said, “I’ll get ready as fast as I can.”
The Clerk at Black’s Photography emphasized that we must not smile or show our teeth.
“If even a tiny amount of white shows the picture is not acceptable.”
I assured her we would have no difficulty whatsoever in not smiling.
I went on line as soon as I got home.  The government web site covered it all.  I learned more than I ever needed or wanted to know about passports, including the fact that it takes about four weeks to get one.  I also learned from the US site that a passport should be at least six months from expiry to gain entry into the US.  The only glimmer of hope from my research was the discovery that there is a new expedited pathway for passport renewal for Canadians, and for an additional fee there is also an express route.   
I was at the passport office before they opened on Monday morning and after appropriate begging and groveling was promised a renewed passport for Irene and me for a mere additional thirty dollars apiece. The clerk was really nice because when she informed me that a piece of white tooth showing make the passport photo unacceptable and I looked as though I  was going to break down, she pulled out a black marker and eliminated the white spot, while informing me this was our secret as she could get into serious trouble for altering an official document!   There are still some kind people around!
I had scheduled a major pre-safari servicing of my trusty Honda Accord.  You know, a “check the steering, check the breaks, check everything, replace everything, damn the expense, our lives may depend on it, type of overhaul.  Especially check the brakes, I cautioned them, because the brake light seems o come on occasionally.   When I picked it up they reassured me that this car was indestructible. 
We departed on Wednesday after picking up our brand new passports only a few hours behind schedule.  We had a delightfully uneventful drive to Naples, avoiding even the mildest vicissitudes of weather and as we cruised into Naples and our rented condo, I remarked to Irene, “Hey, a Honda Dealership just a few blocks from where we’re staying, at least we know where to go if we ever have car problems.”  I laughed at that ridiculous prospect.
We found our condo to be delightful and after picking up some grocery essentials settled in to organize ourselves.  The next morning was rather cool and overcast so we took a trip out to the Outlet Mall, one of those magnificent plazas, that shoppers get so excited about, where manufacturers get rid of all the garbage that they can’t sell anywhere else.  I had a few things I wanted to buy – like another few long sleeved shirts, that I had a feeling that I was going to need.  After that I settled into my car, as it became increasingly overcast, to read a good book that I’d found in the condo the night before.   I also set up my computer and iPod in case my stay became prolonged.   It didn’t and we started home just before the rain came pelting down. 
“You know,” I said to Irene, “the brakes seem a little soft and spongy.  I’m really glad I had them checked out thoroughly and new brake shoes put on the back.  I guess this whole Toyota brake disaster (remember?) is making me a little anxious.”
“It might just be from the all the rain and moisture,” she said, as the rain poured down and I turned up the wind-screen wipers to top speed in an effort to see which way the freeway was going.  We made our exit and arrived home a few minutes later.
“I hope these brakes are okay” said I.
When I got up next morning I knew that I must have been letting my imagination run away with itself, with the Toyota disaster and all.  Just for the hell of it I would test the car around the condo complex.  I got in the car, started it up and to my horror the brakes pedal hit the floor before the car braked.  It did stop, however, and I decided after some consideration that it would probably be safe to drive to the Honda dealership, which I know was only a couple of miles away.   So Irene and I got into the car and drove to Honda. 
 I drove into the service lane and was greeted by a young man whom I told I had no brakes.     
         “You’ve got no brakes,” he told me sternly, after checking out the car.
 I felt appropriately guilty.
“I’ll have to get Tony, the service manager to take a look at this.”
It sounded pretty serious to me, and I hoped Tony was a nice guy.  He was.
“Hi, I’m Tony Capobianco,” he said, “I hear you’re having a problem with the brakes?”
“Yes, don’t seem to have any!” I said.
“That ain’t good,” said Tony, who was a grey haired grandfatherly fellow like myself.  “I gotta take a while to assess the extent of the damage.  We’ll drive you home; I’ll call you later and let you know the damage,”
He did call me a couple of hours later.  It seems that the right rear brake caliper developed a leak and required replacing.  That, of course, automatically meant that the system needed to be flushed out.  It would only cost about $500. That was the good news.  The bad news was that they didn’t have a brake calipers in stock and it would take a couple of days to get one.
“Have you got a loner?  I’m a prisoner here without a car.”
“Sorry, we haven’t,” Tony said sympathetically, but we do have an arrangement with Hertz, They’ll let you have a car for a flat $30 a day while your car is being repaired.
           To cut a long story short I phone Hertz, they have nothing available because they have pulled all the Toyotas off their fleet until the brake debacle is resolved.  They laugh at me for suggesting thirty dollars a day.   I phone Tony back.
“What? I’ll phone you back in a few minutes,”
He does phone back in a few minutes.  “Call the local office and ask for Dan, tell him that Tony told you to call.” 
I did.  Dan was duly impressed.  “Sure, we’ll pick you up in a few minutes.  Thirty bucks a day, sure.  What sort of car would you like?”   
Tony obviously does have clout!
          When I called to pick up my own car, Tony said, “this is a lot of money, I’m going to give you ten per cent off.”  I hadn’t even asked!
          “Thanks, Tony,”   He didn’t have to give me the ten percent, whether or not it was previously added on.  I sort of liked Tony.
          So much for the beginning of our vacation.  The cold Florida weather was sure to warm up soon.  Things could only get better - and they did.
          By the way, when I got home  Honda issued me a cheque, without a whimper, for the brakes repairs, once I showed them the work order with the request to pay particular attention to checking the brakes!
           It's these little Gordian knots that make a vacation so fascinating in retrospect!


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