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First Place winner Humorous Column Category in New Mexico Press Women Communication Contest, 2008. Published in“Follow Me!” Friday, April 13, 2007

Today is Friday, April 13.

Would you travel on Friday the 13th?

Then you’re triskaidekaphobic!

Don’t reach for the aspirin. Triskaidekaphobia is simply—or not so simply—fear (phobia) of the number thirteen (triskaideka). And for triskaidekaphobics, Friday the 13th is the ultimate whammy. Many won’t leave their houses, much less fly in a plane or sail over the ocean.

How about you, Fearless Outdoor Adventurer?

As much as I travel, it was inevitable that one day I’d be traveling on the dreaded Friday the 13th. It happened several years ago.

FOLLOW ME TO . . . . .?

My husband Rusty and I sharpened skis for our long-awaited first ski trip to Europe. The Austrian Alps promised snow-covered peaks, strudel and gemütlichkeit in the little mountain hamlet of Badgastein, Austria. For days, I hummed tunes from The Sound of Music and practiced yodeling.

But when friends found out the trip started on Friday the 13th, the teasing began.

“Maybe the plane’ll fall out of the air.”

“You’ll break a leg.” (This from my mother.)

“Bet your luggage goes to Hawaii.” Well, this could happen, but not because it’s Friday the 13th!

Our Flatlanders Ski Club, replete with dozens of ski bags and a group manifest instead of individual tickets, overwhelmed the little Midland-Odessa Airport. (This was in the 80s, before E-tickets). One agent in particular had difficulty separating the various vouchers, slips, carbon copies and baggage tags from each other. Tossing slips into a wastebasket, she finally sorted everything out and pointed us to the gate for our flight to DFW that would connect to Frankfurt. “Hope the bags make it,” confided Rusty as we watched luggage being loaded.

Our DFW connection was tight, but all Club members made it to the international terminal and lined up for boarding. “Hope the bags made it,” Rusty repeated.

One by one, we filed toward the giant 747 waiting outside, like a skyscraper on its side, gleaming white in the afternoon sun. Ours was an overnight flight; landing in Frankfurt at dawn, we’d be in Austria that afternoon. I hugged myself in excitement.

“Where’s your boarding pass?” The gate agent’s question brought me back to reality. She was thumbing through our packet and frowning. “It should look like this,” and waved the previous passenger’s slip.

“The Midland agent threw it away, said we didn’t need it,” I answered.

“That was your pass,” the agent responded. “Step out of line, please.”

My heart stopped. I looked up at Rusty. His face was as bleak as the Texas landscape. Boarding passengers shoved us aside as they hurried into the jetway, the magic entrance to the fantasy ski trip that was no longer ours.

It was Friday the 13th.

Club members looked quizzically at us as they filed past. “Hurry up, you’ll miss the plane,” they teased, not knowing our predicament. We smiled weakly.

Only the gate agent seemed unperturbed as she sent passenger after passenger ahead. When the last passenger had boarded, she said, “Wait here. Don’t move.” As if we had someplace to go.

Another agent made to shut the door, but she stopped him. “Wait, I have two more,” she said, handing us slips. “Hurry,” she said then added with a smile, “I think you’ll like these seats.”

Not looking at our passes, we ran down the jetway, once again admitted through the magic portal.

Inside the plane, we handed the attendant the tickets then turned right, toward the main cabin. He stopped us and gestured left. Confused, we followed him through Business Class—right into First Class!

“May I take your coats?” An attendant helped us out of our parkas and hung them next to mink coats.

“Care for a glass of champagne?” offered another. “I’ll show you how your seat reclines and give you pillows and blankets after dinner.”

“Would you like your filet mignon rare or medium?” asked yet another.

We wiggled into roomy leather seats and tried to look as if we traveled First Class all the time. But grins as wide as the Texas landscape gave us away. Between sips of champagne, bites of rare filet and nibbles on chocolate truffles, we stared at pinpoint stars in the stratosphere between free movies. We were too excited to sleep. “Happy Friday the 13th,” we toasted. When we finally dozed, we were awakened by cappuccino, lobster omelet—and more champagne!

When the plane landed, attendants escorted First Class passengers ahead of coach passengers. At Baggage Claim, the rest of the club caught up with us. “Hey, didn’t see you last night. Where’d you sit?” Bubba asked as the conveyor belt started up.

Before we could answer, our bags dropped down and slid into our arms. “Hey, first ones off. Now that’s lucky,” Bubba said admiringly.

You said it, Bubba. Friday the 13th—the luckiest day I’ve ever traveled!

c. “Follow Me!” Ruidoso and Alamogordo (NM) Daily News 2007. Used with permission

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