Conquering My Fear

By the time you read this, I’ll be gone. At about 4am, I left for Wisconsin. For the first time in nine years, I am taking to the air, and I am conquering my fear.

I am not afraid of Wisconsin. Cows, cheese, Green Bay Packers, all good. It’s not the state.

It’s my first professional conference in about 15 years. I’ll learn some things and get free pens. I’m not afraid of conferences.

I’ll be off-line for three days. I’m not taking any electronic devices except for my e-reader. No email, no Twitter, no WordPress. No pressure. I’m not afraid to unplug.

I’m not afraid to fly. There is nothing better than taxiing down the runway and feeling the earth fall out from beneath my feet. There is no fear, only exhilaration.

I’m afraid of TSA. I don’t like being told what to do, especially by an organization drunk on its own power. I don’t know all of the regulations, and I know from an experience last year that sometimes airlines make stuff up as they go along. The airline itself charges $25 to check a bag. That’s $50 round trip. To check a bag.

I am allowed one carry-on, but if I put the wrong thing in it, I’ll have to check it. Guess who doesn’t want to spend the next two days shopping for shampoos and conditioners in exacting three ounce containers? In the interests of time, I will forgo personal hygiene altogether.

Hairbrush is okay, right? What about a cup of coffee? Is toothpaste considered a liquid? I’d like to have clean teeth and minty fresh breath, but I can skip if necessary. I hate all these rules. I don’t like the total loss of control. Anyone at any given time can choose to do a pat-and-probe or search my things, and there’s not a thing I can do about it. It doesn’t seem quite fair.

What if they go through my bag and steal my stuff? I’d kill over my Severus Snape t-shirt, you know. What if I have to kill over my Severus Snape t-shirt and I go to jail forever and without my guidance my children become pole-dancers? What if my imagination runs away with me and never comes back?

But the real issue is this:  I didn’t lose enough weight to be happy about passing through the nekkid scan. Ten pounds lighter, and they’d have to beg me to leave. And to please, for heaven’s sake, stop that dancing. But for now, I must do the suck-in-and-run.

Flying friendly skies? As if.

Why I Don’t Fly.

Last week, I had the privilege of spending the day with Nina, a delightful breeder of English Cocker Spaniels from Finland. She had come to the US to bring over a couple of puppies and to take back with her a handsome champion male on breeding loan. She was staying with my friend who bred the puppies in the above link, and she needed a companion for the day. Squish and I took her to the mall per her request. Nina has a tremendous sense of humor and has a great take on American life, so I was sad to have to drop her off to catch her ride to the airport.

I'd rather walk, thanks.

I’d rather walk, thanks.

A few minutes after arriving home, I received a call from my friend, Kay. “Nina needs you to check your car. She can’t find the rabies and health certificates!” In case you’re not in the know, those things are kind of important for flying a dog anywhere, and the flight left in an hour and a half. I dashed to Kay’s house and located the papers, which appeared to have fallen out on the table. Eek! Kay’s daughter helped me pony express them to the airport (I drive like old people in the rain. Did I mention it was pouring rain?)

A couple of hours later, I called Kay to make sure all was well. She laughed. Apparently the nice folks at the ticket counter had refused to put the dog on the flight because he lacked an acclimation certificate, something none of us had ever heard of. It’s not even mentioned on their website. He apparently needed certification from a vet that he could fly into a cold location.

I may be going out on a limb here, but isn’t he a dog? With a thick fur coat? And don’t the temperatures here drop fairly quickly? Like, it was 70 degrees on Sunday and 40 on Monday? And he wasn’t exactly flying to Antarctica. But whatever. Airline wants what it wants. Nina and Spence were here for another night.

I picked up Nina and Spence the next day to take them to the airport myself. She was totally prepared, having acquired the necessary certificate at a vet’s office the night before. All papers were neatly tucked in a secure location. What could go wrong? Hmm. Let’s see.

The acclimation certificate was filled out incorrectly and was, therefore, useless. It was an unusual request for the vet’s office, which is why the mistake was made. The vet indicated that the dog should not fly below temperatures of 32 degrees. The temperature in Helsinki was 11 degrees. No shipping. Ironically, the airline themselves would ship down to 10 degrees, so it was the certificate itself that prevented him from getting on the plane. It took 45 minutes and a call to the vet to sort this part out.

We considered putting Squish in the crate and sending Spence home with me because there are fewer restrictions on flying human children.

The language barrier.  Airlines have a language of their own. It looks like English, but it isn’t.

When the website says the dog must have a water bowl, it translates”you are required to bring a water bottle, as well.”

If the animal will need to be fed, food must be provided.”  doesn’t mean “If you want your dog fed on the trip, bring food.” In airport language, it means “If you don’t have food, your dog stays on the ground.”

Many dogs are fed once a day, and not at all during transport to prevent illness. Spence had no food with him. The nice lady at the counter said “This dog is not getting on the plane without a packet of food and a water bottle.” Squish and I made a mad dash to a Wal-mart to buy some little bags of food. The airline folks said they didn’t even care if they were just dog treats, which just goes to show it’s all about regulations, not the actual health and well-being of the animal. Glad we got that part sorted out.

We arrived back at the airport and handed off the food just as Nina’s flight was being called, two hours after we first started trying to get her off the ground. I was lucky. I got to go home. She still had to face customs in Amsterdam.

From now on,, I’ll leave it to the experts. Check out Animal Couriers. They make it look like fun. I wonder if they would ever ship people. I’m due for a vacation.