They said I need to go somewhere . . .

I work for an airline, booking flights and helping our guests as they join tens of thousands more guests trekking back and forth across North and Central America every single day.

I hear all about the beautiful weather, the bad weather, the flawless flights and the flawed flights. The beaches and the mountains, cloudless days and star-studded nights. Meeting new friends and rekindling old friendships. You name it, I’ve heard it.

So now, I have eleven days off work. The world is at my fingertips. “Where are you going to go?” my coworkers asked on my last day. After all, the first thing most people who work in the travel industry do when they have a good chunk of time off, is take a trip SOMEWHERE. At the end of March, Calgary still has six weeks of possible, and probable, snow. Cancun, Hawaii, Aruba, St. Maartens. These places do not expect snow.

Yes, it would be fun to take in some of the sights, to dangle my feet in an ocean. But at the destination of each of those flights, there are hotels, restaurants, tours, souvenirs. All these things take money. And money is the last thing I need to be spending frivolously. I looked into the possibilities. If I did go ‘somewhere,’ it would have to be a one day trip (no hotels.) What did I want to do when I got there? That’s easy. Pull out the computer and write. Edit. Rewrite. Find an agent.

So I compromised. I dug through photos of great times past, and came up with the perfect solution.

Budget Beach, AB

Budget Beach, Alberta

The beach scene in the background is Laguna Beach, CA, taken in 1993 on my first trip to Southern California. The trees are in Los Angeles somewhere near City Hall from a 1997 trip, my third trip to Disneyland. The wine glass (yes, it lights up) is from a daughter’s fantastic one-week-to-plan-it backyard wedding in 2007 although the drink pictured was new which my granddaughter enjoyed after I took the picture (I don’t like raspberry ginger ale but it looked nice in the glass with a dash of orange juice and a strawberry. I couldn’t find my little drink umbrellas!) The sand is from our stash on the porch that we use on the icy sidewalks, just to remind me what I’m “missing,” not that we have ice on the sidewalks right now but it’s a symbolic thing. I considered sprinkling sand on my bedroom floor so I could squish my toes in it, but common sense and my daughter both said no. Those are, however, my toes, which you can see have had a virtual pedicure to go with the virtual manicured thumb. To complete my basement beach experience, my space heater blows a nice warm breeze over me while a tranquil nature CD produces the ambience of waves breaking on a beach with seagulls screeching on the wind.

I can even ‘go to the spa’ because my office chair has a massage function.

And now, without spending a dime, I can play on my computer and end up in the same wonderful (albeit imaginary) worlds I would be in if I were, in fact, on a real life beach, without the sun glare on my screen and the worry of salt and sand getting into the ports. Knowing me, though, I probably wouldn’t have even left the air-conditioned and secluded hotel room!

What can I say? I write fiction . . . I make up my own worlds!

Share some of your favorite vacation memories so I can pretend I’m sitting on the beach with you, enjoying a wonderful conversation with a friend!

Cheers!

It all Started with a Bear . . .

This is a lesson on the snowball effect.snowflake

As you know from my previous entries, I was planning a trip to Phoenix to see my sister (who was also visiting Phoenix and we met up there) and I planned a day trip to Flagstaff for some serious research into Caleb and Ana’s world. (Those are my best friends, and they live in my books, in case you didn’t know that already.)

And then the bear came along—just before the flight and—Look. I’ll just tell the story, which is not about my imaginary friends.

Early in October, I was working, booking flights, answering questions, trying to not get too excited that my trip was fast approaching. A lady wanted to book a flight from London, Ontario, to Phoenix. Not too unusual, as that is a destination for a LOT of Canadian snowbirds. She knew what flights she and her husband wanted and proceeded to tell me. As our airline doesn’t fly direct from London to Phoenix, they would be coming to Calgary and getting the connecting flight to Phoenix. Imagine my surprise when she wanted the exact same flight I was already booked on! We chatted while I booked their tickets, and I asked, as I often—but not always—do, what was drawing them to Phoenix.

What about the bear? you ask. There was something about a bear. You said a bear!
Be patient, dear ones.

They were going down to meet their yet-unborn first grandchild (a girl), who would be just a few days old when they got there! (A plan hatched in my brain. Just a smidgen of an idea at that point.) She asked my plans, as I had told her I would be on that flight, too. I briefly mentioned my sister and my research plans, but I just touched on it because I was nearly excited as she was about that baby. (Sorry Caleb. Sorry Ana. I was excited about seeing where you met, but this was a real live baby event. I’ll stop now before my imaginary friends decide to stop speaking to me.)

She wanted to choose seats so I asked what their preference was. She chose (completely unprompted by moi) the seats immediately in front of my already reserved seat! She said she wanted to try to find me on the plane and I told her I’d be the one kicking the back of her seat. We laughed and the call ended.

A few days before the flight, I bought this little bear from the airlines store. Just a little pink The Pink Bear in YYCbear wearing a hoodie with the airline’s logo. My plan was to sneak it onboard and have it waiting in the seat for the new grandma. A bit tricky as I didn’t know what they looked like, and we would be pre boarding together. The day finally arrived. At the airport, I met Anne in the check-in area. She gave me some check-in advice and asked about the little pink bear poking it’s nosy little nose out of my bag. I told her my story and it suddenly seemed rather silly. Still, she wanted my picture and before I made it through US Customs (cleared in Calgary-it’s a Canadian thing to clear US Customs at a Canadian airport) and then security—both in record time, of course!—she’d posted the picture—and my brief story—on Facebook.

I was at the gate before the United Airlines flight before mine was even boarding. So we sat there, we two, the little pink bear and I, and watched the comings and goings of a lot of people. Before anyone else on the Phoenix flight arrived, however, Miss Bear was tucked safely out of sight in my bag. When the gate agents arrived, I took my precious gift over and asked if they could sneak it onboard and gave them Miss Bear’s seat number. So now, my pink bear story has grown by two gate agents and three flight attendants and Miss Bear is securely buckled into her seat. Needless to say, the bear was a surprise and a big hit with Grandma and Grandpa and it turned into quite the ice breaker, as the twelve people sitting in those two emergency exit rows became friends (and a better emergency team because of it, I’m sure.) Not life-long friends, but oh-so-friendly. Fortunately, the team work aspect didn’t get tested. It was a friendly flight.

And all because of a little pink bear.

The Pink bearBut wait. It didn’t stop there. That bear started gathering good vibes. My boss saw the Facebook picture and read the story. She nominated me for an award with the company. I knew I had little chance of ‘winning’ the final spot but I had been nominated and felt like a winner already. I’d never had a boss do anything like that for me. I felt the warm fuzzies as if Miss Bear was right there hugging me.

A few months go by. I’d all but forgotten the nomination, but of course, I had my warm fuzzy memories of how my little idea had touched a few people and this made me feel the way I had wanted the new grandparents to feel. Then I received a corporate email inviting me to a Celebration. I asked my boss about this and she said it was because of the bear. Yes. THE Bear. I joined about fifteen or twenty of my co-workers as our specific actions  were read by the management. I felt rather out of place. I mean, one person had came up with a money saving idea which was implemented, another devotes hours and hours of overtime, and the HUGE ways the others had contributed. All I did was give a grandmother a bear. You may well imagine how surprised when I saw several eyes being dabbed as my story was read. A comment was made a little later on in the same meeting about how we need to listen more to our guests, like the way that [Peggy] had listened to the guests.

Wow.
Just Wow.

Wait. It really and truly didn’t stop there. You see, I do listen. A cute little three year old was in the background during a call last week, asking his mom about their trip to (drum roll, please) Phoenix the next day. “Who you talking to, mom?” “The person who is driving us to Phoenix on the plane.” Well, after I got over the shock of being promoted to CAPTAIN, I thought that was just the cutest thing. Mom was a little frazzled, and I was helping ease her stress (details not important) but I wanted to share that sweet little conversation, so I posted it on Facebook. The Likes and Comments started pouring in. The Flight Attendants on that flight were excited to meet the family. Others watched from the virtual stands.

We were all pumped up, all these friends I had never met, a team working together. Again. One of the comments came from Anne, who had originally posted my story back in October, so I wrote to her to let her know the impact she’d made on my life by doing that one simple thing.

That in turn made her feel good to know just how her one little post had blossomed. On two separate flights, Airport agents and Flight Attendants felt good because they’d joined in the fun, my boss felt good because she had done something nice for me, my executive team that held the celebration felt good because they loved the story and were able to share it.

Great Attitude SnowballThe thought occurred to me: How many times do we, in general, pass up an opportunity to perform one little act of kindness because we feel it won’t make a difference in the long run? That nobody cares.

Instead, just do it. That act of kindness might seem little to you, but to another it could be a huge day changer. And when you add all the people who are touched by it, even if only by the story of it, the little act grows and grows, and becomes even more acts by even more people and it keeps on growing, until you can’t even imagine how many people may have felt better even if only for a second—

All because you gave one little pink bear to a stranger.