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Here are Your Tickets. They’re Cursed.

Here are Your Tickets.  They’re Cursed.

Live in a place 27 years, and nothing happens.  Plan a long trip and the floor sags, there’s a flood in the closet, and you’re called for jury duty.  It’s the traveler’s curse.

Cursed tickets

Cursed tickets

April 26, 2007

Ask anyone who has gone on vacation—things that never go wrong, always go wrong the moment you lock the front door and give your neighbors the key.  I don’t mean on your trip.  I mean back home.  Floods, locust swarms, meteorite showers.  The more bizarre the catastrophe, the more likely it will happen to your house while you’re away.

And the longer your trip, the wilder the mishaps.

I once traveled for several months in Central America.  I planned to shutter up my low-maintenance house on my nothing-ever-happens street and head off to adventure.

Well, the adventures began before I even set foot outside.

The day I bought my ticket it snowed three feet.  This was in Syracuse, where dustings of three feet don’t merit comment.  During this time a straight and very tall maple tree soared over the north end of the garage.  It was gorgeous, though it suffered from what the tree guy called ‘weak crotch syndrome.’  So far as I know this only happens to trees, which is a good thing.

The maple, its unfortunate crotch configuration withstanding raging storms for more than a half-century, suddenly decided it had had enough winters and split in two lengthwise like a really big hotdog.  The day before my trip.

If it had crashed to the ground I would have thought “Too bad—I’ll clean it up when I get back.”  But neither half of the tree actually fell down.  Instead both parts shimmied wildly in the slightest breeze–first over the garage, next over my neighbor’s house–as stable as those fluttering cartoon-character tubes advertising a big blowout in front of the car dealership.

Which is why I could be found lumberjacking in January, thirty feet in the air, with mittens and a rusty handsaw but without previous experience, a safety net, or a clue.  This was instead of packing my swim trunks.

Finally the day came, and I was off for sunny climes.  I went overland by bus and train.  Saw a lot, and most of the feeling in my behind has come back over the years.

A week into the trip, I crossed the Mexican border and called home to check “Is everything ok?”

“Funny you should ask” my house watcher said in a really unfunny tone of voice.  “It seems you robbed a bank in 1975.  I have a subpoena for your appearance in court this Tuesday.”

Now that was funny.  I was reasonably certain I hadn’t robbed any banks in 1975, as far as I could recall.

“How much did I get?” I mumbled, numbly.

“Four thousand dollars—but don’t worry.  The guy they are looking for has your exact name and lived on your street where nothing-ever-happens in Syracuse in 1975, but he had a different Social Security number.”

Well, that was a break.  It would have been a nasty coincidence if they were the same.

And anyway, if I were going to go through all that trouble to rob a bank, it wouldn’t be for $4,000.

During the same trip the upstairs toilet sprang a leak and destroyed part of the floor.  Now how does a toilet break when you’re not home?  It had functioned without a hitch under conditions of pretty much daily usage for like 100 years.  It had to be replaced before I got back, at great expense, by letting people I don’t know and would never see dig up my bathroom.

I snubbed that new john.

Central America was amazing, and I stayed long enough to avoid the last traces of winter, which in Syracuse is June.  Somehow I was more worried about coming back than I had been about going.

The snow was gone, and the exposed broken limbs studded the lawn where they fell months before.  Upstairs, most of the damage to the oak flooring was behind the new toilet and I could ignore it on good days.  The letter from the lawyer specializing in grand theft robbery I trashed.

It was a good week until I noticed the cellar.  I suppose the mildew smell permeated my subconscious long before I allowed myself to become aware of the other signs.  That ornate plaster frame, which for the last five years had sat on the cellar floor and I was going to refinish any day now, was crumbling.  Cardboard boxes were a little darker on their bottom half.  Little things that make you go “Hmmmmm.”  In a fool’s paradise, I ignored the clues for as long as I could and then unpacked some dishes.  At the bottom of the box, rust-stained water splashed around in the cups.

I figure the flood reached 18 inches or so at its highest mark.  No one had seen water in the cellar, no one had turned faucets on or off, there were no broken pipes, it hadn’t rained or snowed to excess.  But everything was bone dry now and not too much damage was done, so I just let it go.  Another mystery, but no great loss.

Then the water bill came, for $827.

Don’t think for a moment that I’m the only one with these experiences.  Strange things happen to everyone while they are away.  Breakfast nooks fall off the house, cats get stuck inside walls—and we keep traveling anyway.

There is no way to avoid the cursed tickets.  You can only be aware and forewarned that the chances of extremely unlikely events happening during that small fraction of your life you spend far away from home are inexplicably increased.  Like, a lot.  Plan on it.

You’ve go to choose only very levelheaded, responsible adult people to watch your house.  Preferably plumbers.  Discuss with them what to do in case of an emergency.  Leave them a Rainy Day fund for mishaps, especially if you will be hard to get a hold of, along with a list of contacts who might be helpful when—I mean if—something goes wrong.   Check in once a week, by phone or Internet.  Even if you don’t want to.

And enjoy your trip.  Remember, curses only happen in dusty tombs and mummy movies!

Dan and Omar

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A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.