HOME PLACE - A journaliDisneyland for journalists? Here I come


You know how when good things happen to you -- all in a row -- you feel maybe God got you mixed up with someone else?

Recently I've had a few awesome things come my way I am pretty sure I don't deserve.

We'll start with the first one. So, turns out I am unexpectedly going to Philadelphia for the coolest thing ever, the 2011 Association of Health Care Journalists conference.

It's a four-day extravaganza of medical and journalism superstars, workshops, field trips and panels. The exhibitors' list makes my head swim.

I'm so excited that I keep making little "squee" sounds whenever I remember. I had no real hope of landing this fabulous freebie. Basically, this is Disneyland for journalists.

However, the scholarship that gets me to the Land of Enchantment has a generous travel stipend that makes sense for most travelers, but not so much for those flying from one edge of the nation to the other.

I began ticket hunting, becoming more (dare I say) disenchanted with every link clicked. With a margin of a mere six weeks, nothing looked stipend-ous. On the low end, tickets to Philly were running about $550, and that was with checking for departure at every reasonable airport.

A colleague reminded me to try a travel agency, which I used to do before travel agencies had to impose finders' fees and it became a sign of cool tech-ness to find your own path online. However I have always been a little overwhelmed with that chore, instead preferring to beg friends to shop tickets for me.

Back to my point. I called the travel place down the street, hooking up with Sue. She initially wasn't having any better luck than me. But she definitely knew which flights were not going to work and that in itself was a relief to have on her shoulders, not mine.

That was a Thursday. Friday was no better. Over the weekend, I resigned myself to a painful experience of purchasing a ticket that hurt.

On Monday I heard from Sue. Something had happened, she said.

I braced, expecting to hear things were growing worse in the airline ticket universe.

"I don't know where this came from, but this morning there was a ticket available for $336.00," Sue said, sounding like she could hardly believe the news herself.

And then the magic happened with her next utterance. "Out of Walla Walla."

I believe Sue mistook my silence for hesitation. "You might want to decide soon..."

I found my voice again. "I'll take it!"

I may have shouted this.

So here was a ticket for more than $200 under the best price I could find on my own. Out of Walla Walla. What's that like, getting on a plane here?

This was score No. 2.

Now we're at this last weekend. I'm on my way to Portland for a variety of reasons, all fun. Including, for those who have been asking, moving Girl Child into her first-and-utterly-adorable house.

In the van was a friend and more girl children. We zipped along I-84, happily chatting, until I began hearing a "skreeeeeeescritch" every time I turned. The adults diagnosed it as a belt problem that would need looking into. Then the "low coolant level" light came on, about 45 seconds before steam smelling like antifreeze began rushing past my windshield.

I may have said a bad word.

We got to a Les Schwab with a completely empty and very hot radiator. The nice guy in a white shirt told me radiators weren't the Les Schwab thing, but informed me of a radiator repair shop just a few blocks away.

"But this is Saturday," I reminded the young man. He picked up the phone and called.

The radiator guy was there and would wait.

Wow, God.

After a fill up of water, we toodled over to Gresham Radiator. The owner popped open my hood and announced it was one of three problems -- "If it's your radiator, that's gonna be $500. It could be your water pump, and that'll set you back $150. Or, if it's your hose, it's $20."

He pulled out his tester thingie and shot air into my hose system. We watched in glee as air and liquid burbled out of a little snake of rubber no more than six inches long.

"There's your problem," Radiator Guy announced.

He then sent us to an auto parts store half a block away to purchase a bypass hose for $5. That way he didn't have to charge us his markup, RG explained.

We trooped off and trooped back in less than 15 minutes. In another 15 minutes, the new hose was on and a $20 bill had left my hand and gone into RG's.

Please stop and think about this for a minute, folks. I paid $20 for an emergency car repair at a specialty shop on a Saturday.

To add to that, RG said he had just been readying to close up for the day when the Les Schwab youngster called on my behalf.

Does it sound like I must be making some of this up? There's more. Mere hours later, my cell phone carrier gave me credit I didn't ask for and an extra service on my calling plan. For free. After they messed up, but still....

I suppose the Heaven Guy is going to realize any moment now that he's been dispensing to the wrong person.


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