A Murphy’s Law Kind of Day

  Some days are just bad from the start.

  You wake up feeling great, looking forward to the day, and before you know it things begin to unravel.

  It happened to me on a recent day when my older daughter and I went to a concert in Portland.

  Not everyone travels 400 miles to attend a concert, so a word of explanation is in order. Actually, a confession. We’re both addicts. We are addicted to the music of Steely Dan. We’ve been fans forever. We’ve been to at least eight of their concerts – she claims it’s more – in cities as far away as Boston.

  So for us a one-hour flight to Portland was nothing.

  Until the fateful day dawned.

  The trouble began with the morning coffee. When I took the coffee grounds from the day before out of the coffee maker – something I’ve done countless times without incident – the filter broke.

  It broke in a rather spectacular fashion, actually – an avalanche of soggy coffee grounds. Coffee grounds on the kitchen table, a chair, the floor, an area rug, me … It took 15 minutes to clean it all up. 

  Until then I’d been on track to drive to my daughter’s house in time to take an Uber from there to the airport. The coffee fiasco would make us borderline late for catching our plane, 

  And that was without the John Leo Ryan frisking in the TSA line.

  John Leo Ryan was my late father-in-law. John Leo Ryan was also, apparently, the name of someone on the TSA watch list. 

  My father-in-law was the farthest thing from a terrorist. He was a World War II veteran who proudly wore a “Kamikaze Survivor” ball cap wherever he went. Not that that mattered. Every time he went through the security line, he was taken aside and all but strip searched.

  Now it was my turn.

  “Sorry, sir, but we’re going to have to check you. Would you prefer to do this here or in a private room?”

  “Check me? Why?”

  “The scan is showing something in your pants.”

  “It is?”

  “Yes. Are you absolutely sure you removed everything and put it in the bin?”

  “Yes. Even my picture of John Leo Ryan.”


  “Nothing, just kidding.”

  “Well, the scan is showing something in your pants. You can see it on the screen there.”

  There on the screen was an image of a brightly colored box. In the last place you’d want it.

  “I’m going to have to pat you down. Are you okay with doing this here?”

  I was. Going somewhere else would have made us even later.

  “I’ll be using the back of my hands to pat you down,” the agent said. “Are you comfortable with that?”

  “I don’t know. Will you buy me a drink first?”

  Just kidding. I didn’t really say that.

  The pat-down took an uncomfortably long time, which wasn’t surprising because whatever the agent was looking for wasn’t there. There was absolutely nothing in my pants that shouldn’t have been in them. My daughter, meanwhile, was all but choking with laughter. 

  By the time I got everything back in my pockets, my shoes on and my dignity back intact, we were late getting to our boarding area. Happily, no one was boarding yet.

  “That’s odd. You’d think they’d be …

  “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re sorry to announce that our flight to Portland has a mechanical problem. We’ll let you know when it’s available for boarding.”

  So we were there in time, after all. Plenty of time. So much time, in fact, that instead  of getting up before dawn, we could have slept in. The delay, we were told, would be about an hour. Then, another hour. Then half-hour increments for a total of over three hours. We were starting to worry about whether we’d get to Portland in time for the concert when at last the flight was called. 

  “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re ready to board. We apologize for the delay and are giving you vouchers good for $12 at restaurants in the Portland airport.”

  At the Portland airport, we had a choice of two restaurants. At the first, an employee greeted us with a bizarre statement: 

  “Sorry, we don’t have any food. We’re having growing pains and are shut down for sterilizing.”

  The other restaurant may or may not have had growing pains, but it did have food and honored our vouchers. At our hotel, however, the desk clerk greeted us with another bizarre statement: 

  “Actually, I have three reservations for you.”

  It took a while – quite a while, actually – for him to figure out that two of the reservations were scams. This was a relief, because until then he seemed bent on charging us for three rooms. A bit paranoid by then, I began to wonder if he was going to ask whether I wanted to be taken to one of them to be patted down.

  The concert, at least, was great.

  Or would have been if the guy behind us hadn’t talked continually, trying to impress his wife with how much he knew, or thought he knew, about the music. Why is it that some people at concerts think that everyone around them paid for a ticket, and perhaps traveled hundreds of miles, to listen to them blather?

  With everything else that happened that day, there hadn’t been time to have dinner. The next morning, we couldn’t wait to get to the breakfast buffet.

  “I hope it’s a real breakfast and not just one of those cold cereal bars.”

  “Me, too. I’m starving.” 

  At the breakfast buffet, a sign was taped to the door:

  “Sorry. We’re closed. We’re out of food.”

  Some days are just bad from the start.

Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday in The Idaho Press and is posted on woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at woodwardcolumn@gmail.com.

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