Chicago, IL

I Don't Travel Well

Sherry McGuinn

Can you relate?

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Early in the 80s, because of a guy with an accent who called me “darling,” I flew to Brussels on a chartered flight. Eight hours straight through, without a stop.

I met this slick dude at my neighborhood watering hole where the guy who was to become my husband tended bar. And we had already taken the first tentative steps toward a relationship.

That flew right out of my head when this sexy guy, who had a certain panache about him, squeezed into the crowded throng next to me, leveled me with a searing look and started to chat me up.

Here on a fellowship, Euro-dude was half Swiss, half Dutch, and one-hundred percent charm.

My husband-to-be watched, bemused, as he picked me up that first meeting, and swept me off my feet.

And yes, I took him home. I remember soon after getting back to my apartment, the phone rang and it was my intended. He knew I wasn’t alone. When he asked, “full house?” I just gulped.

My bad.

So Euro-dude had to go back home for a while and wanted me to meet him in Belgium.

How could I refuse? I felt like Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday,” albeit a slutty one. So I took time off from my P.R. job and took off.

Three weeks in, after he’d pulled me from one majestic cathedral to another in Belgium, France, Switzerland, and Holland, our hot relationship fizzled like a spent punk stick on the Fourth of July.

As I reflect on that adventure, it blows me away that I was able to last for eight hours on a plane, in the middle seat, yet. Allow me to explain: I hate flying. I have never had a positive experience on an airplane.

Planes freak me out. They’re crowded and stuffy and scary on so many different levels. To me.

A few years ago, my husband and I flew to New Hampshire to visit his brother and his wife. Soon after we took off, I felt this terrible pressure in both ears and my hearing literally dropped to about five percent. I felt my panic rising like a stale egg in a saucepan of water. I could barely control my breathing.

I wasn’t alone, though as a young Asian woman a couple of seats ahead of me, was experiencing the same “cabin pressure” fallout. Yet while I suffered in silence, a flight attendant had to step in to try to calm her down.

After landing, several hours passed before my hearing returned to normal.

Apparently, this response is common in many people who fly. I’ve since discovered an OTC fix called “EarPlanes.” Basically, they’re two, very small plastic tubes that you insert, one in each ear. By design, they’re supposed to help reduce and equalize the pressure to the inner ear.

I put them to the test when I flew to Los Angeles. I had a short film premiering at the L.A. Film School, to be followed by a Q and A with the audience. Fear of flying be damned! I was so psyched, how could I not go?

Guess what? The little buggers worked. Or maybe it was the cocktails prior to taking off, as well as en route. Or the motion sickness pill. Or all three, who knows? But I arrived at LAX relatively unscathed. It helped that I was accompanied by a friend whose aunt invited us to shack up at her cool, Santa Monica condo.

Aside from flying, traveling brings up another concern for me. Strange bed linens. I don’t trust them. Never have. Especially since watching, horrified, the “undercover” news feature years ago that brought to light the disgusting factoid that hotels and motels across the country swath their beds in sheets and blankets liberally speckled in “bodily juices.” My coffee bubbled up in my throat just writing this.

Yes. We’re talking sweat, semen…bodily juices, people! Investigators used that blue light thingy that you see in movies. You turn the overheads off and the horror show begins.

I was deeply affected by that revelation. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around crawling into a bed where perhaps, just hours before, strangers were getting busy on. Or doing other things that cause bodily juices to flow. And those awful, polyester quilts! And possible bedbugs! That last one would send me around the bend.

No thank you.

My husband’s not a great traveler, either — in fact, we both worry incessantly about our cats when we go anywhere — but he’s not sheets-obsessed like I am.

The same short film that screened in L.A. was also accepted into the Nashville Film Festival. My hubby and I decided to drive there. The road trip would be lovely and we’d avoid the plane bullshit.

The hotel we’d chosen to stay at was pretty decent and had great reviews but still, I stuffed the trunk with our own sheets, quilt, and pillows. I was determined that there was no way in hell our bodies would come into contact with other peoples’ bodily juices!

Okay. I know I sound nuts and perhaps I am but this is a hard obsession to break. I like my own bed. My own linens. My own amenities.

The thing is, there are places I’d love to visit. Like returning to California and sojourning down Laurel Canyon. Or smelling the salty tang in the air in Carmel and Sausalito. Or hobnobbing with the locals in a Dublin pub. Or lying under an olive tree in Tuscany. (I think about that one a lot.)

No. Much like a potato salad in the hot sun, I don’t travel well. But that said if the opportunity arose, and my husband and I could find a trustworthy cat-sitter, I suppose I could survive the flight by knocking myself out.

I’m pretty good at that.

© Sherry McGuinn, 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Sherry McGuinn is a slightly-twisted, longtime Chicago-area writer and award-winning screenwriter. Her work has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and numerous other publications. Sherry’s manager is currently pitching her newest screenplay, a drama with dark, comedic overtones and inspired by a true story.

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Chicago, IL
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