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My American Trip

Stroud NSW Australia

If you can’t get enough of Beryl’s delightful stories – her book “Growing up in Stroud” is available to purchase for $20. Enquiries 4994 5355

A story by Beryl Bowden…more

A group of six, within a group, totalling forty-four in all, we left Sydney at 6.20pm on Thursday 29th December 1977, bound for 30 days in America.

We had been told by the travel agency to report to our tour guide on arrival at the airport. Slim, elegant, a briskly efficient young man, wearing gold bracelets on each wrist, his dress from top to toe was understated ‘chic’. Conscious of our ‘recommended for travel’ drip-dries; we were immediately disadvantaged but resolved to keep on good terms with him if possible. Mindful of his supreme role as shepherd and our minor ones as members of his flock, we had no wish to be among the lost or mislaid, if asked to account for his sheep at some future date. Patient, helpful to young and old alike, he at no time favoured any members of the group. His attitude helped to create the friendly atmosphere that developed as we went on our merry way.

We had been air-borne for some time when I felt a touch on my shoulder. Concerned that I was the only one still awake, the guide was asking if I was all right.

“Oh, yes thanks” I said. “I’m not a good sleeper; I have trouble getting to sleep in my bed at home. I am quite O.K. I’ll just read a little longer, then I’ll settle down.” Mention of home and bed brought to mind the previous night.

'My American Trip' - tour guide and bus driver

‘My American Trip’ – the tour guide and bus driver

Just as I had been dozing off a dreadful thought occurred to me. I sat bolt upright with the sheer horror of it. Teeth!

Like most Australians in my age group I wear dentures. The dreadful image I had just had was of me with mine in two pieces in my hand. All the literature I had read about what to take when travelling overseas, no reference had been made to spare molars.

With a cry, I sprang out of bed. My husband Lloyd who had been lying ‘doggo’ for some time; an art he had perfected when our children were small; pretended to wake up.

“What on earth are you doing?” he asked?” “You only tidied those drawers yesterday; now you’re messing them up!”

“Looking for my teeth.”

“But you’ve got them in!”

“Not these; my old ones. I remember seeing them, but I can’t remember which drawer they’re in.

“What do you want them for? There’s nothing wrong with the ones you’re wearing.”

“Not now there isn’t, but I’m not going to wander around America without teeth, if something does happen to them. I’ll stay home first!”

Finding them at last, I raced into the bathroom for a try-on and was relieved to find they still fitted. A big smile in front of the mirror, showed them to be cosmetically adequate. Lovingly, I wrapped them in tissue paper and placed them in the centre of my port; rearranging the contents to achieve the maximum cushioning effect.

Surveying the chaos, I knew that in an emergency, I preferred spare teeth to tidy drawers any time!

The cabin of the plane was quiet when I finally put my book aside. I then decided to take a little ‘stroll’ before turning in. As I walked to the back of the plane the aisle seemed to heave under my feet. Steadying myself, I continued on my way. Unlatching the door I stepped in. This confined space contained every conceivable aid to cleanliness. It was possible, while seated, to wash and dry face and hands, remove or apply make-up, comb hair and in the case of gentlemen passengers, even shave!

Almost unseated at the first lurch, I grabbed the sides and hung on. For additional stability, I braced myself by planting both feet firmly on the back of the door. As we tossed about the pilot’s voice came over the intercom, apologising for the ‘slight’ turbulence and advising us to fasten our seat –belts.

He had to be joking! No way was I going to let go my hold to put on a seat belt; even if there was one provided, which I seriously doubted!

“Turbulence indeed”! I thought. “Just a fancy name for air-pockets!” It was small comfort to hear him say, “Because of our size we are better off than smaller aircraft in the vicinity… they can’t climb as high as we can and so would be buffeted about much more.”

As we pitched and tossed, I tried to work out his reasoning. No doubt it was meant to be reassuring to us that others were suffering more than we were, but try as I might I could find no satisfaction in their discomfort. (Having just glanced in the mirror and seen the whites of my eyes gleam as we took another dive, I doubted if there was another mortal air-borne over the Pacific more deserving of pity than myself, anyway.)

When the violent action of the plane eventually subsided, I attempted to stand up. This proved to be a rather delicate operation. Due to my strenuously rigid posture of the past half hour, my knee joints had locked, and also, I was stuck fast to the seat! Not wishing to leave any skin behind, I gently worked my embedded posterior free.

Instantly I begged my children’s forgiveness! I had often seen that red imprint on their bottoms after an enforced stay on the ‘potty’ and could hear my stern command, “No, you can’t get off until you have ‘done’ something!”

After a great deal of effort, I managed a stance midway between upright and kneeling. Prompted by an urgent knocking on the door, I shuffled out.

I had left a dimly lit sleeping world, but as I limped back to my seat the cabin was ablaze with light and the passengers, previously reposing in the arms of Morpheus, were now, without exception, sitting bolt upright and staring straight ahead!


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