Mary Shannon and the High Life

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As a middle-aged white woman, I’m finally a “minority”

I like United.

Yes, the airline that everyone loves to hate has been nothing but good to me.

It helps that it is the only airline that flies year-round out of our local airport.  DIA in Denver is 5 hours away. But it’s not merely a love born of convenience. The best things always happen to me on United. I’ve been later–and stranded–by other airlines. United, on the other hand, has squeezed me into first class to make a flight when I arrived A DAY LATE for the flight. They’ve moved my daughter and I up to the bulkhead seat in economy plus seating when she and I were returning from a girls’ cruise together. They’ve assigned other economy plus seating when I didn’t pay for it. In short, they make me feel special.

The complaints I’ve heard from other travelers about hated airlines would have you think they’d been Madoff’ed by them. After probing, though, it turns out that the delays or cancellations that occurred aren’t anything out of the ordinary these days, as unfortunate as that is. But the frustrated passenger needs to take it out on someone, so the airline becomes evil on par with Hitler.

We collect miles on business credit cards. To fly from Gunnison, Colorado to Portland, Oregon it takes over 60,000 “miles” on any airline with a Capital One card. No black out dates, but you have to buy it weeks ahead. With a United card? Only 25,000 miles, and I can book it the day before I fly if there’s a seat. AND I don’t have to drive 5 hours to get on another airlines.

I think I’m in love. Can you blame me?

Son of Rambow” played at the Baim Movie House last night. No regrets on our movie choice this time. It’s a rather quiet film, once again much deeper than the trailer would lead you to believe. Yes, there is the aspect of two young boys making a movie, but it’s more about making a friendship. I easily recommend this British film. On my shelf, it would be next to “Driving Lessons”, another choice movie of mine.

Of course, one of the things that connects them both is they both have a Very Serious Religious Aspect that figures in the plot. Is this because I came from a spiritual commune background? I never wanted to watch the Jim Jones movies, or learn about Quakers. Maybe it’s just coincidental that they both have it, and it’s not what subconscously attracted to to either. Maybe it’s just reassuring  to know that there were others besides the one I was involved in around, and that we all survive in spite of it.

I found myself hesitant to rant about all the things I thought I was going to, because so much crazed ranting was going on, on a regular basis. Instead, I held my breath, my composure and good thoughts, then in November my faith in American citizens was restored. I’m talking common sense here, not partisanship. I invite all those who “lost” to work towards success, to at least  welcome that possibility into your consciousness. After all, it’s in our best interest for the present administration to have wild success. Would you rather be right and poor, or wrong and better-off?

I’ve come to realize that, all things considered, I’m pretty comfortable when out of my element.

I’m sure I will run into situations that may make me uneasy, but a big part of dealing with such a feeling is recognizing just what is making you uncomfortable.

Back in March Michael and I traveled to Jamaica as part of an incentive reward program from one of our suppliers. They wined and dined us, and put us up in accommodations much nicer than anything we would ever choose ourselves.  But our favorite time came when we went into Mo’bay with some other couples to check out the jerk food at “the Pork Pit”. The newbies to Jamaica wanted to hit the crafts market that they had read about in guide books, so we went with the.

Now Michael and I had made many trips to Jamaica before, so while the market is something I would have given a pass to, I was fully prepared for what met us as we approached. By the time we got to the entry we had quite an entourage that had  joined us casually as friends and were now pleading/insisting that we come to their stall. Michael and I bantered back with them and saw what we could. But when we looked out on the street a few minutes later there was the rest of our group huddled like displaced people with nowhere to go.

Turns out they were all uncomfortable  and one woman just plain scared at what she saw as an onslaught of aggressive people. And since they all happened to be black, she was afraid of appearing racist if she stood up for herself and refused to do what they asked her to do.

The encouraging thing was she was bothered by her reaction, and talked about it for some days. She said she used to travel when she was young, and never felt uncomfortable. She couldn’t quite understand why this experience had unnerved her so.

I am now a firm believer in traveling to those places that challenge your comfort level. I think our minds and emotional responses to things need stretching just like muscles. Like anything else, one can increase one’s flexibility with some deliberate effort.

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My son Trevor left today. If all goes according to plan I won’t see him until Christmas, when the family hopes to join him in India. That’s nine months away. A child could be conceived and born before I see Trevor again.

It’s something of an apt analogy. Trevor, as he knows himself, could very well be reborn by the time I see him face to face.  While he has enjoyed Italy and France traveling with the family, his personal desires have taken him to the lesser traveled countries where he hopes to learn how he might make a difference. Azerbaijan, Mongolia, and now India. He’s gone to take his first official job since graduating from college.  He is working for the Dakshana Foundation in India for the next year. If all goes well, he may be invited to stay on for another year. Still,  he may be ready to come back home in a year.

Living with nomadic families in Mongolia, he thought, would have prepared him for anything he might run into in India. I think, however, that while surrounded by familiar objects like cell phones and cars he will still run into a culture shock different from anything he’s dealt with so far. Some who have visited India have described it as so poor, full of people who believe that suffering is a necessary part of life. My instinct isn’t that they believe they are suffering for a purpose but rather that they don’t judge. We are so used to judging things here in the States as “right” or “wrong”, “good” or bad”, that to not do so is inconceivable to us. We do it as naturally as breathing, without even trying.  How can you not make a value judgment when you see someone suffering?

Long ago a friend who was the wife of the Irish Ambassador to India said that the diplomats had a choice of two ways to survive their assignment in India. (This was back in the ’60’s mind you.) One was to feel compassion for every beggar they had to step over in the street, and end each day emotionally exhausted.  The other was to pretend they weren’t there when you stepped over them.

There’s got to be a better way. I hope Trevor finds it.

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I stand on the precipice of technology. Might I actually use my computer for something more than a glorified typewriter/photo album/research tool?

I chose very deliberately to be a mother. That doesn’t mean I used my children as a basis of my identity, but I thrived in the opportunity to help them grow to be the best people they could be. My husband and I got lucky, didn’t mess up too badly, and we have two great kids.

Our son Trevor majored in International Relations, graduated from university in record time and is about to depart for a year in India for his first  “adult” paying job. Our daughter Megan will be going off to college next fall in Chicago to study her first love, theater.

More and more I’ve felt frustrated or excited about things in the world, in the news, and in society.  There have been many long, ongoing, animated discussions within the family, but I’ve usually kept quiet outside my house.  No more!  I’m writing not to change your mind but to challenge your thinking, to make sure you don’t think of things blindly without due consideration.

Welcome aboard.

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