Thursday, November 20, 2008

Life Goes On

On occasion I get a little nostalgic. I remember when I was 12 starting to cry as I laid in bed thinking back to the good times I'd had with my brother and sister when I was 8. Maybe I should say overly nostalgic. This excess nostalgia reared its head again today when I went to AAA to book the honeymoon for Ashley and myself.

I actually went to the AAA office for the first time yesterday. The office itself has a bit of a "days gone by" feel to it - it's staffed primarily by older women, brochures and posters cover most surfaces, and little wooden signs hang from the ceiling above various open air sections: "Insurance", "Auto", and "Travel Agency". I was going to the "Travel Agency". When my name was called I went and sat down at the desk of an agent named Suzanne. Like most of the employees, she was a woman who looked to be in her 50s. She was very friendly; an impression that I think was aided by the tinge of red coloring the end of her nose, most likely due to the unusually cold day. I told her where I was looking to go (the U.S. Virgin Islands), how long (5 nights) and my hoped-for budget. She, however, didn't look hopeful. But she was going to give it her best. She started typing quickly on her computer while also calling (using her speed dial) other travel agencies - the ones that actually made the reservations, it seemed. I waited patiently while she called several, intermittently shaking her head and asking, "What about an earlier flight? What if we add a layover? How about the garden view room instead of the ocean view?"

After a few calls she gave me the lowest price she could find. A few hundred more than I wanted, and the flight had a layover in Charlotte. I told her to hold it for me; I had to discuss it with my fiance.

The next morning I took the time to look at airfare and room rates online. I discovered I could get a pretty cheap direct flight if we went from Monday to Saturday instead of Sunday to Friday. Then I checked the hotel's rates and saw that room and and airfare added up to hundreds less than the lowest quote from Suzanne. However, the AAA package deal came with cancellation insurance, and none of what I found did. So I went back to the AAA.

I told Suzanne what I'd found, but said that I'd be willing to still go with a AAA package if it wasn't too much more because I thought it would be worth it for the cancellation insurance. I suggested she get some quotes on Monday to Saturday to see if that would help, since it made a difference in the airfare I found. She started calling around, much as she had yesterday, while also looking up flights on her computer. After a few minutes of keyboard clicking and screen peering, she looked up from the monitor with a doubtful expression. "Are you sure it was a round trip you were looking at? Because I'm just not seeing anything below $700 on any airline." I assured her it was round trip. "To St. Thomas?" Yes, to St. Thomas, I said.

I glanced at her screen. The computer itself looked relatively modern, but the program it was running looked ancient. Green text on black backgrounds, hardly any graphical interface to speak of - most likely a holdover from the 80s, back when the idea of an interconnected global database of flights seemed incredible and gave travel agencies real value. She made a few more calls, ending the last one with, "Well, I don't know what to do. I'm going to just, uh, talk to him." She knew it was fruitless. So did I; I'd guessed as much ten minutes earlier. Not only could she not find anything to bring the price down, she wasn't even able to book the hotel for the Monday to Saturday time because it had to be through one of these other agencies and they couldn't book that Saturday (evidently agencies are allotted blocks of time to book and they can't book outside of their block).

With that, I expressed my gratitude for her help as sincerely as possible and left. I headed straight to my house and within fifteen minutes I had booked the flights and the room.

On the way back to the office I wondered whether I should call Suzanne (she gave me her card in case the cheap airfare I'd found wasn't there anymore - or if it turned out to be a one-way price) to let her know I was able to book everything and thank her again for her help. I thought it might be awkward, though, to come so close to pointing out what I felt had become very apparent: her job was completely unnecessary. She'd been defeated by a home computer and an internet connection. Her old travel-agent only program that supposedly tapped into reduced rates from all the major airlines, her network of contacts at various agencies, her years of experience; all rendered inefficient, redundant, and pointless by the internet revolution.

It made me sad. Really, it made me nostalgic for a time I had never even experienced - one where overly cheerful travel agents were needed, one where engaged couples waited in hushed anticipation to hear whether the agent could "work some magic" and get them the within-budget honeymoon they were hoping for, one where all that clicking and peering was mysterious and exciting.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

CNN Headlines

My home page is set to On a surprisingly frequent basis, CNN makes... interesting headline choices. Allow me to demonstrate:

I read the article for this one and I remember it not being as insane as the headline would suggest.

Well now we're right back where we started.

Look at number 1. No wonder people think we dig up bodies to do baptisms for the dead. (which, in case you don't know, we don't - it's baptism by proxy.)

Hopefully they revisit this in twenty years: "Commemorative Tree Now Tall, Lush"

The More You Know...

This really should be a live developing story. Follow-up: "Mars Lander's Arm Now Extended"

If you do this, it will help you some sunny day. Take your time, dont live too fast. Troubles will come and they will pass...

I was watching the CMA's (no comment....I can't help what I enjoy watching!) last night and James Otto came on to preform. I had never heard of him before, so when he came out and started singing...I was shocked!! I couldn't take him seriously!!! He looks like a perfect hybrid of Jack Black and Travis Tritt!!!!! I mean, I am talking down to the crazy big Jack Black eyes. When ever he belted a note....I just had to snicker!! I couldn't dwell on anything other than that...I didn't really like him all that much, sad to say. But he definitely entertained me, because I kept on laughing. Wow....he was also sorta creepy. Sorry Mr. Otto!!

In other news...Carrie Underwood is one of the most beautiful women out there. She looked fantastic all night, and shes got that cute personality to go with those fantastic looks. Love her!!!

Don't even get me started on how much I like Taylor Swift! She's also freaking darling.

Anyways, the CMA's are a refreshing awards show to watch because they have so many great performances. I love all kinds of music, and country is no exception! I might not listen to it every day (or maybe I do!) but they sure do have some talented musicians and song writers! Plus, fall is the perfect time to listen appreciate it...well, for me it is!

Next time I will rant about the awesome death metal show I watch. Don't worry - I cover all my bases.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

We should get jerseys cause, we make a good team. But yours would look better than mine, cause you're outta my league....

I have felt the need to blog for a while now, but I have had trouble figuring out what to say. Here goes nothing! I feel like I have just been so busy with work, church stuff and the wedding planning (which is going pretty well, overall.) There are a few things I am REALLY grateful for that I have going on in my life though...

The first would be that I am able to work out again. I don't want to get into the drama that explains why I couldn't, but it all of it happened because of vasculitis. But I have been off my medication now since July and it hasn't flared back up. Getting off the medication meant that I was allowed to start working out again. I had to start slowly at first, but now I am able to do whatever I want and I have had no signs of the vasculitis coming back! And let me tell you how good it feels to be able to work out until I feel like I'm going to die. It's one of the best feelings in the world, and I am so glad that I am able to do it again. As big of a pain as it can be, I hope I always remember how grateful I am that I have the ability to work out and what an amazing feeling of accomplishment it is to work so hard at something. Plus, it's a great stress reliever. It might sound cheesy, but....oh well.

The second thing is also cheesy...but I'm a big fan of music and being involved in different music groups/ensembles is a pretty fun thing for me to do. It always has been. So, in our ward the bishops wife has a full set of handbells, so we are able to have a handbell choir. This is the third time in my life that I have had the opportunity to play in one. I first did in high school at the Catholic Church I went to, and since I hadn't really seen one before then, I figured I wouldn't see another one after that. Then in college, when I lived in Chattanooga, I had the opportunity to play at a few different churches up there too! Now, as luck would have it, I get to do it again. I realized at practice last week how much I appreciate playing in an ensemble. I really miss it. I have been saying for years I need to find a community band to play in...and I think that will be something I really try to do next year. I miss playing my flute. For now, I will just enjoy ringing my bells. And who knows...maybe one day I will get a chance to ring them again.

I have a huge urge to do something crafty....I can't wait to figure out what it is I want to do!

I'm rambling...I know....not shocking.

On a totally random note - I'm watching P.S. I love You. I read the book a few years ago and totally loved it, but I forgot that I laughed and cried all the way through it. Well, the movie isn't that much easier to get through it! I'm such a girl sometimes. Anyways, it's nice to have reminders in life that make you sit back and realize how blessed you are and how grateful you are for the people in your life. This was one of those moments for me. I know when it comes to the people in my life....I'm one freaking lucky girl.

Oh, and here is a sample of some engagement picture Heather took for us. She did a great job!