Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

 Trip with foreign airline taught surprising lessons

Here are some travel incidents in no way related to the terrorism events of Sept. 11.

I chose Israel’s El Al for our bicycle tour in 1971 because Hortense Davison, Christian College French teacher, had found it economical for French Club tours. Traveling with a foreign airline was educational because of the differences in food, money, baggage handling and other details.

We traveled with a Japanese airline the year before. They served two meals on each tray - an American dinner and a sample of Japanese specialties - including raw fish and other things I’d never tasted. El Al served American food with a few changes for religious reasons. We also had a more complete "scanning" before boarding the plane - frisking, actually.

When we lined up to check in, I went to the head of our line of 11 female students and two men. The uniformed El Al inspector pointed to the Nikon camera hanging around my neck and said, "Madam, is there film in that camera?"

"Yes, sir."

"Let me see you take a picture."

I immediately raised the camera and snapped his picture. He screamed, "Don’t do that! Take the picture of the floor!"

The students froze in their places, wanting to laugh but afraid to move. I took a picture of the floor, as directed. Those students teased me a lot about that - later, of course.

Our tours were approved for two hours of credit - one hour for the physical activity - 900 miles pedaled - and one hour for a course called "Comparative Recreation." We often had group meetings to discuss things we’d learned about recreation. While ending one meeting, I said, "I’m sure you’re taking good care of your valuables, your passports and your return airline tickets."

Two girls gasped! One had sent her return ticket home to Coffeyville, Kan. When I shipped a package to Chub and said, "If you Columbia girls have anything to send, there’s space in my package for something," a local girl had sent her return ticket. These mishaps led to rush overseas telephone calls to have the tickets sent to the last hostels where we were to receive mail. I made several calls to El Al, and it all worked out satisfactorily without delaying our trip.

The 1971 trip ended in Paris. I had an unusual package, which had to be handled differently. My son, Walt, had ordered a handmade Geoffrey Butler bicycle frame. It was just tubes - nothing else. The English Bike Shop made it, packed it carefully and shipped it to me at the Paris airport. It was in storage for two weeks before our departure date.

When we arrived at the airport, I produced the papers and asked for the bike frame. It was "bandaged" with crinkled paper strip padding and yards of bandages. But it could not be taken on the plane until El Al Airlines employees unwrapped, inspected and rewrapped it. I begged to let them watch me do that, but no - I watched them!

The El Al employees were most cordial. The head man whispered to me, "We are especially careful because we know some of our cousins are on this flight."

I didn’t tell the others that.

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