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Recently my wife, Bobbie, confided she wanted to see more of the world. Visit exotic places, and because of our fiscal circumstances do it on the cheap. I’m a school teacher which means to travel to exotic places would mean walking, rowing or on donkey-back.

“I want to see the world,” she said one night. Gently, I explained joining the United States Navy at this point in her life was a bit extreme.

“But if I became a travel agent,” she offered.

And so it began. I poured us both a splash of bourbon, and patted the empty space next to me on the couch.

“A travel agent?” I asked.

Bobbie folded her knees and sat side-ways. “I’ve checked it out,” she said. The brochure says you must be meticulously organized and detail oriented. That’s me, right?”

I wasn’t going through that door. I sipped my bourbon.

“Besides getting to travel all over the world, travel agents get lots of other perks.”

I sighed.

Undeterred Bobbie continued, “Do you know travel agents get discounts,” her voice rose a notch, “Complimentary stays at hotels, up-grades on air flights, car rentals, cruises, even helicopter tours.”

The bourbon tasted good.

“I can be my own boss. I can work from home…”

Bobbie paused. I knew the look. Her brain had just shifted gears. “When I’m not traveling.”

“And me? When you are traveling?” I asked.

Bobbie looked me up and down. “Sometimes I can bring you along. You can go for ten percent off.”

It’s always nice to know what you’re worth.

Bobbie went to Travel Agent School. She learned the capitols of countries. Different monetary systems. The names and codes of airports around the world. And a few phrases in the world’s major language groups most important: ‘Where is the bathroom?’ ‘Do you really eat this?’

Bobbie graduated from Travel Agent School Double Jeopardy cum laude in world geography. She received a certificate in a glass frame which now hangs on the wall of her new office; our old laundry room.

We were still celebrating Bobbie’s new life path when Mike called. He said his wife Tina, and our mutual friends Del and Bailey were planning a trip to Hawaii. They invited us. I told Mike I knew this new professional travel agent who could take care of all the details.

“What’s his name?” My sexist friend asked.

"Bobbie," I said.

“Bob, who?’

“Bobbie, my wife. You met her twenty-years ago. Five years before our wedding. She and your wife have been best friends since grammar school.”

“Oh, that Bobbie.” He paused. “She’s a travel agent now.”

“Just graduated from travel school, with honors, and ready to serve."

Mike followed his hem with a haw. It’s not that they didn’t want Bobbie to book their trip, but they’d had their own professional travel agent and had been using him for years.

I got a call from Del later that day. He and Bailey had a cousin twice removed who they ALWAYS used as their travel agent. They hadn’t been ten miles from their house in ten years and that was on a Grey Hound Bus to Costco when their car broke down.

“That’s okay,” Bobbie said. “I’ll make of our reservation.” I knew Bobbie was hurt. “It’ll be good practice for me. A chance to flash my travel agent badge.” There was no bravado in her voice.

At breakfast a week later, I said, “Mike and Tina are flying United, Del and Bailey are on Southwest.”

Bobbie was scrambling eggs. “Let them waste their money,” laughed my private professional travel agent. “Wait to you see how we're flying.

I had a queasy feeling when we went to bed that night.

We waited in the boarding line of Stan & Bruce Air Pacific. “You won’t believe how reasonable,” Bobbie said. “Cheap. Very cheap.”

The plane was a cross between an outrigger canoe and an ancient Roman Galley.

There was no causeway. We have ushered up a plank. There were no railings. We went to our assigned benches. Broken fingernails were lodged in the cracks.

Stan, our co-pilot, strutted out of the galley gnawing on a greasy turkey leg. He squinted at us through his monocle, then tucked the turkey bone under his arm, clasped his hands behind his back and goose-stepped up the aisle.

“There is too much flab aboard my aero-plane. Who wants to arrive in a tropical paradise with flab?”

I started to raise my hand. Bobbie grabbed it.

Stan pulled a baton from his other arm pit and tapped the stick on the palm of his hand. Apparently, Stan wore more than one hat. He was not only our co-pilot, but also entertainment director and an amateur magician.

He rapped the baton near the thigh of a flabby woman already in a grass hula skirt. Multi-colored moths and butterflies exploded from the tip of the baton flew around the cabin for a beat and disappeared. “Do we want flab?” Stan cried. “DO WE? DO WE?”

Caught up in the moment, I chanted, “NO. NO.”

“I hate myself,” a woman in fourth-class cried, just as the single prop on our outrigger canoe, Roman galley plane ignited.

“And do we want to arrive in paradise without a tan?” Stan asked as we taxied down the tarmac.

It was the first time I noticed our outrigger canoe, Roman Galley plane had a retractable ceiling that was slowly peeling open.

“Only Stan & Bruce Air Pacific offers this perk.” Stan said on his way back down the aisle. The baton was gone. He tapped the turkey leg against his thigh.

“OFF WITH YOUR SHIRTS,” Stan yelled replacing his monocle with an eyepatch with a skull and cross bones embroidered in the middle.

A man pointed to a well-endowed woman and shouted, “Captain, that woman won’t take off her shirt.”

“I am not your Captain,” Stan spat. “If I were your Captain would I be standing here? Wouldn’t I be flying this aero-plane?”

Our aero-plane careened down the runway. Stan explained the safety procedures at the same time handing everyone a set of fins, goggles, and a snorkel.

We were airborne. We followed a truck down highway 101. An elderly man in lime green Bermuda shorts and polo shirt passed out from the diesel fumes. Finally, the truck passed us and disappeared north towards San Francisco.

We flew over Lake Merced. Though a golf ball from the tenth fairway at the Olympic Club came through the tanning roof and hit me in the shin.

“He should have yelled fore,” I said to my wife.

“Ssh, we’re saving money.”

We gained altitude over the Pacific. The cabin was not pressurized. It didn’t need to be. We were never that far above the tops of the waves.

I thought of the golf ball and what damage a breaching whale could inflict.

“Is there a movie?” Lime green Bermuda shorts had regained consciousness.

On cue Stan raced down the single aisle. The eye patch was gone. Replaced by dark glasses, plastic nose and a moustache. We where high school graduates. We knew it was Stan. That is most of us. A woman yelled, “Terrorist! Terrorist!”

Stan pulled out a tommy gun. I leapt from my seat ---

Bobbie shook me awake. “Honey, honey are you okay? What were you dreaming? You’re bouncing all over our bed.” She sat down next to me and smiled confidently waving pieces of paper before my watery eyes. “Got up early and made all of our reservations.”

On our flight to Hawaii, we were up-graded to First Class. What a difference a Professional Travel Agent makes.

On Maui, we never saw Mike, Tina, Del, or Bailey's room. After they saw our room we weren’t invited to theirs. We were on the eighth floor overlooking the pool, the beach, and the islands of Molokai, Lanai, and Molokini. On a really clear day, you could see Australia.

They decided not to join us on our free helicopter tour of Haleakala Volcano even after Bobbie got them a ten-percent discount.

I intended to use my professional Travel Agent again in the near future.


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