Just Joan - Joan Huguenard

Three Princes of Serendip still holding court

Here’s a rerun of a fun column the Sun first published on December 9, 2010. I hope you, too,  have tuned into the continuing magic of Serendip on your own journeys.

When son Tom related at the Thanksgiving dinner table that the word “serendipity” was derived from the name of a town where everything seemed to magically go extremely well, it sounded so outrageous I thought he was making up a story.

It turns out, I vastly underestimated my son’s sagacity and the story was truly made up as an ancient Persian fairy tale, “The Three Princes of Serendip.” Wikipedia tells us Serendip was likely a long-ago name for Sri Lanka, and in the olden tale, Serendip’s heroes “were always making discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.”

My current tale of serendipity begins on December 25, 2009. I was in quest of a good deal when I volunteered to wait for a later flight to the Midwest. Hardly did I expect that gesture would almost entirely finance my 2010 venture to the Midwest. Serendipity.

Southwest is my favorite airline for many reasons. Its hub protocol features one-way travel, suitable to my annual hops from city to city to visit scattered friends and children. This October, with December’s gift voucher in hand, I began perusing Southwest.com to book special web-only fares to my various destinations, amazed at how many flights the voucher paid for completely.

Because Sonoma has lost its wonderful airporter service, I booked myself in and out of the Oakland Airport, hoping to once again take advantage of an available couch in the East Bay I’d previously slept on before boarding an early morning BART to the airport. However, this time when many phone calls went unanswered, I correctly surmised that the owners of that couch were out of the country, so I needed to look for an alternative solution.

Several attempts failed and as my November 15 departure date approached I came close to getting nervous. Until the day I walked into a Sonoma doctor’s office and the caring receptionist asked if I’d completed arrangements for my upcoming travel. Of course I mentioned the piece of the puzzle I hadn’t yet found and her response was, “Well, my husband drives to the airport at 5 o’clock every morning. Problem is, he drives to the San Francisco airport.”

“Hm-m, if I can change my ticket, do you think he’d be willing to drive me in?”

“I’ll ask. Here’s our home number, call me tonight.”

Southwest charged not even a penny for my ticket change, and though I never quite found time to get into bed the night before I left, it was lovely to be picked up at my doorstep at 5 and delivered to the Southwest gate in plenty of time for my 7:40 flight to Milwaukee. And to be met there at 6 p.m. by Dianne, a wonderful friend of thirty years who drove us the nearly 30 miles to her palatial Lake Pewaukee home. There, we fit in three Scrabble games before retiring, and a few more games in the busy two following days before her scheduled departure to the east coast.

With a full refrigerator, full gas tank in the car I’d drive into town for visits with other friends and with Internet access for doing my work, I was set for a restful couple of days with only one challenge remaining. Enter LeeAnne, gardening service provider, who asks me, “But if Dianne has left town, how will you get to the airport on Saturday?”

“I haven’t figured that out yet.”
“What time is your flight?” “1:30.” “Well I’m flying out at 1:15.” What a lovely conversation we enjoyed on that long drive to Mitchell Field on Saturday. Serendipity.

Arriving in Louisville, Kentucky at 8:30 p.m. I was whisked by eldest son Jim to the final stages of an early Thanksgiving celebration – Turkey with all the trimmings prepared to surprise a friend who’d felt sad about being away for the holiday. Scrumptious foods.

Jim’s an experienced whisker, having completed the Iron Man triathlon this summer at age 56. I can’t even fathom swimming 2.4 miles in the Louisville River, much less following that with a 112-mile bike ride and then a run of 26.2 miles. Committed to coming in under 12 hours, Jim collapsed onto the finish line at 11 hours, 59 minutes and 48 seconds. Wow.

Next stops for me were South Bend and nearby North Liberty in northern Indiana, where sons Chuck and Bob reside. Enjoyed another Thanksgiving Turkey with all the trimmings with three of my grandchildren and one great-grandson.

Tulsa and Claremore, Oklahoma provided one more Thanksgiving Turkey with all the trimmings with son Tom and three young grandchildren who played major roles in the dinner preparations. On subsequent days, I had the fun of offering home schooling to the youngsters while Mom studied for her nursing recertification.

Just one more transportation challenge remained on this whirlwind journey; Steven, who’d graciously delivered me to SFO in November would have brought me home when I flew into SFO on December 2 except that he got scheduled for a day off. Not a big problem with airporters available at that time of afternoon to get me to Napa or Petaluma.

In an email exchange with a friend in Sonoma on a completely different topic, she told me she was spending the entire day of December 2 in Petaluma and would be delighted to swing by to pick me up on her way home. Serendipity.

It was not serendipitous to encounter the new full-body scanner at the Tulsa airport so I opted out and endured a full-body pat-down. Definitely not serendipitous.

Now as you read this in 2012, I have just returned to Sonoma after nearly eight months in Oklahoma, and it would certainly be serendipitous if one of my readers happened to have a room available they’d consider renting to me at a reasonable rate.

Call just joan at 707-287-3455.

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