For almost twenty years, my Canadian-born neighbor and friend has been itching to give moiself suggestions for the Canadian Trip I Have Yet To Take ® . Tuesday morning I awoke early, excited about the decisions I’d made on Monday re just such a trip. I looked forward to emailing an invitation to her: “I’ll take you out to lunch and you can be my travel agent!”
But first, I decided to go ahead and book my trip.
Long Story Short: I have a significant birthday coming up in few weeks, and have had a significant Act 3 Career & Life Crisis ® going on for a few…years. I shared some recent downturns regarding such things with friend SCM who, wise counselor that she is,  offered this wise counsel:
It’s obvious you need a control-alt-delete from life right now….
She advised I take a trip, to…anywhere. Someplace totally random, or “…even if it’s just Quebec or Victoria or someplace on the same continent, you need a break from real life.”
I’d been thinking along similar lines – a meditative kind of vacation, not a trip involving lots of activities, which is what I’d usually want. I need to go alone, to have contemplative opportunity away from distractions, from the familiarity of work, routine, home and family…the kind of trip where you are forced to chill, where my main activity would be a combination of taking it easy, taking stock, and Figuring Things Out ® .
A long train trip would fit the bill. One where the destination is not so important as the process…and with really cool scenery on the way. However, my birthday being when it is (within loogie-hocking distance of Christmas)…what’s available/accessible in December?
After many days of research, I’d found the one that hit the spot with both my head and heart: Vacation By Rail’s Canadian Snow train, which travels across five provinces, from Toronto to Vancouver. I discussed it with MH Monday at dinner, working out which departure dates would be good for him perhaps being able to meet up with me at the end of my solo jaunt and spend a couple of days sightseeing in Vancouver. Later that eve, my fitful sleep was, for once, due to a good cause. I was filled with restless excitement – I was doing whatI usually poke fun at: setting my heart on something.
You know where this is headed, don’t you?
Here is the email I sent to MH Tuesday morning, after I’d tried to make the reservations.
Subject line – trip: back to square one.
I noticed that no matter what date I put in on the train trip, just trying to see how far I could get in the online scheduling process, I got a message saying I had to call to speak to a booking agent to continue.
It turns out that I had to call because I was booking for one passenger traveling solo, and they don’t list that price on line. The price listed on Vacation by Rail site’s – $___ for the rate class I sought – is the price per passenger for more than one passenger. Same trip, same room, for a single passenger is “…uh,…significantly higher,” the very nice (and apologetic and embarrassed-soundin) booking agent said, after she’d looked it up. “Significantly higher” turns out to be More. Than. Double.
Seriously – over $8k (I stopped writing the figure down after I heard the “Eight thousand…”)
I told the booking lady I feel as if I’ve been had.
I flashed back to a conversation during my Croatia/Slovenia/Bosnia trip, where a bunch of the veteran travelers were talking at dinner about the many reasons they liked Rick Steves tours, including the fact that there was no price discrimination for single/solo travelers.
I woke up excited this morning (can’t remember the last time that has happened) and now I feel like I’m six years old and someone strangled my hamster.
I don’t often burst into tears when talking to a stranger on the phone…at least I managed to hold off until I hung up.
Fuck. To put it mildly. 
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Department Of Things You Should Know About Me If We’re Going To Be Friends
I like “bugs.” Mammalia and Insecta – I am appreciative of our respective ecological niches…with notable exceptions  . I particularly respect and admire spiders. If at all possible, any spider found in our house is escorted to the great outdoors (as opposed to squashing it), where she may build her web in peace and harmony.
We love you too, sweetie.
Ants, however, can kiss my ass – but Noooo, blog-reading ants out there, do not take that literally, because I absolutely hate hate hate it when you creepy crawlers get in the house.
Maybe it was that stupid movie I saw as a kid – a movie which held the distinctions of being both the first nuclear-mutated-big-monster movie and the first horror movie I ever saw on TV. I had nightmares for days, until…once again, Science to the rescue! ® With a little research I discovered that humans could never be attacked by giant mutant ants due to basic laws of physics; that is, physical limitations of the ants’ exoskeletons meant they’d be unable to support a body weight beyond a certain size.
Still, I find little comfort in the fact that ants will always remain small. The ants go marching one by one – that’s the part that gets me.
The hive mentality is abhorrent and frightening to me. I am uncomfortable around any creatures which display groupthink and which, voluntarily or otherwise, act as slaves to instinct. From social insects to German soldiers marching in lockstep; from fundamentalist Christians simultaneously raising their hands at a faith healing rally to Mormon missionaries on bicycles to a bazillion Muslims all dressed white and in throwing pebbles at pillars during their hajj…..ICK.
Ants in the house is the worst; I feel like I’m being invaded by The Borg. And I don’t just want to kill them; I want to frighten them. I want to hire tiny ant IRA operatives to kneecap the invaders so they can return to their colony as a living warning to the others: stay away from this lady; she means business!
Can you guess what tried to occupy our kitchen this week?
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Department Of The Things We Do For Science
Text exchange between daughter Belle, a junior majoring in Biology at the University of Puget Sound, and moiself, yesterday:
Belle: …guess what – I am now the temporary owner of a super cute frog.
Moiself: Temporary? You mean you’re watching it while someone is away? And you know you must prove it is super cute…
And she did:
Moiself: Dude, that looks like a huge toad!
Belle: He’s for my ecology independent research project!
Moiself: What are you researching?
Belle: Me and my partner are looking at how diet nutrient content affects behavior syndromes in crickets after a predator stimulation.
Moiself: So, you’re actually interested in cricket behavior? The frog is just there to be the predator?
Belle: Basically we’re feeding crickets a bunch of different diets, and seeing if that affects how brave they are in the presence of a predator. Yeah, he’s just there to scare some crickets.
Moiself: Are these male crickets? If so, just given them a diet of nothing but beer and they’ll think they’re invincible. I’m serious. You might win a Nobel Prize for this.
Belle: The sex of our crickets is unknown, ha ha.
Moiself: Well then, can your research project have more than one hypothesis? Do the beer diet thing, and if it produces what passes for cricket bravado, they are likely male. If it has no effect, except that the crickets seem to be getting a bit heavy in the hip, they are likely female – and you have found a noninvasive way to determine the sex of crickets.
Belle: I don’t think they’ll let us use beer.
Moiself: Hot pockets?
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Department Of Going Through The Motions
For reasons that should have been made clear in the opening of this post, I’m not in much of a oh-fa-la-la-la-la-la-here-come-the-holidays mood.  Nevertheless, with Halloween just around the bend, it’s time to share what has become my holiday season tradition:
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May you be careful what you set your heart on;
May you be free from ant and Borg invasions;
May you find the good in going through the motions;
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
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 Literally. Among her many attributes (such as being the Queen of Hats), she is a lawyer.
 After several hours of feeling like I got kicked in the gut, I got back in the saddle so to speak, and researched more options…and once again and more than once encountered the obscene solo traveler surcharge. Not gonna be a party to that ripoff.
 IMHO, fleas and mosquitoes can suck festering, turd-encrusted donkey dicks and die.
 And only four footnotes? Now, that’s a funk.