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The Big E – ‘Everywhere’

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110 – September 2019

By Elaine Lessig

As I am reviewing my United Airlines Mileage Plus account, the sound of Johnny Cash singing the Geoff Mack song, “I’ve Been Everywhere Man,” reverberates in my head. There on the page on the computer screen it is clear to see, but hard to believe. I have flown 94,000 miles since January this year. That represents, in airline lingo, 94,000 “BIS” miles. No. It does not mean Best in Show but “Butt In Seat” miles, those miles actually flown. The airline flights are chronicled in reverse order. From my first trip to Virginia in mid-January to my most recent to Vilnius, Lithuania, Johnny Cash has nothing on me. I have been everywhere.

The first trip of the year ended up being one way in the air. A change in the weather forecast early Saturday morning suddenly harkened a major snow storm with blizzard potential headed directly toward the show grounds. As the day went on, it became evident the updated forecast was correct. Ten inches of snow was headed our way. By mid-afternoon, the snow had started, hard and heavy. Exhibitors were packing up, getting out of the bullseye rather than getting trapped. After I finished my breed judging, I realized there was probably no way I would make my flight home early the next morning from Dulles Airport, which was more than an hour away.

While I was waiting to judge a group, a concerned show chair confirmed my fear. The transportation company cancelled the shuttle ride scheduled for the wee hours of Sunday morning. The blizzard was fast approaching. Like so many of the exhibitors, I recognized the necessity of making a hasty departure after judging the group. Miraculously, I found a ride which would allow my husband to meet me at an exit on the New Jersey Turnpike. Fortunately, the hotel was next to the show facility. I ran across the driveway in my fancy little flats hoping I would not fall on the slippery pavement. A very kind desk clerk understood the situation, and went up to the room with me while I packed up faster than I had ever done before. Off I went with my ride, an exceptional driver and kind travel companion, too. By the time we got to bottom of the New Jersey Turnpike, not a flake of snow was falling. Six long hours from the time we started–shared conversation, protein bars and bottles of water–I got into my husband’s car, tired but safe.

Going up the list of flights, I recalled dozens of delayed flights, cancelled flights, desperation, anxiety, and exhaustion. Late in April, I spent a frantic Friday trying to get to a judging assignment. Early that morning, I went to Newark Airport, my usual starting point. Shortly after I arrived, my good friend, the United App, signaled me that I had an important message: “Your flight is cancelled, you have been rebooked.” Terrible thunderstorms were affecting the entire northeast. Instead of a direct flight to my destination, I was being sent south to get a flight back to the original destination. By the time I got into the Dulles airspace, the storms were just ahead of us. We had to circle in those storms through an extra hour of horrible turbulence. By the time the plane landed, I missed the connection for my next flight. On the app, I see I have been rebooked onto a flight to an airport not on my original itinerary, but close enough to drive. The small airport at my final destination was closed due to the storms. This was the only option to get nearby.

Once again, it was time to call the show chair with whom I had been communicating regularly. I shared the options; take a return flight to Newark or the flight to the other airport which would land around 10 p.m. Without hesitation, he said, “Just get here PLEASE!!!!” After checking, he found that there was neither a vehicle to rent nor a hotel room to be had at that airport. The hospitality chair picked me up when I finally landed at midnight. We shared a harrowing two hour car ride in the relentless rain. I got into bed at 3 a.m. and walked into the ring early the next morning where I had a wonderful day doing what I love, judging dogs.

Seventy-four flight segments represent the challenges of travel and the honor of being able to judge. They recall the countless acts of kindness, the pleasure of the dogs, the wonderful people I meet along the way, the friends I make, and the places I get to see. I only hope that there are more “everywheres” yet to be.

Click here to read the complete article
110 – September 2019

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