It was apparently a huge lesson that my Expanded Self felt I needed to learn.
It began the week before, when I attempted to liquidate my IRA to help finance the trip. (I'll give myself some credit, at least I'm not obsessing about retirement, huh?) I completed all the paper work for my broker, we talked about the exciting adventure I was about to go on and I left with instructions to email the routing number so the money could be deposited into my bank account the same week. That was Tuesday, a good week before I was to leave. Smart, right?
Over the next few days, I did things like spend 30 minutes trying to figure out how to split up my travelers checks into different pieces of luggage and money belts, because I knew someone would go through my socks if I hid some of the money there.
I worried about whether I should wear a back brace through check in at the airport, since under a shirt it looks like I could be a terrorist with a bomb strapped to me. I'd be detained interminably, miss my flight, be rendered to a dark hole somewhere in Eastern Europe and generally have my trip disrupted.
Were the jars of salsa intended as presents for my Japanese hosts going to shatter in my luggage if they weren't triple bubble-wrapped, enclosed in a bag and nestled in a bed of styrofoam peanuts?
It got crazier.
The money still hadn't shown up in my bank account by Friday. My broker emailed, saying there had been some kind of delay within the banking system, so wait for Monday. I'm leaving Wednesday, no problem.
Monday came and my broker called to say she had forgotten to submit the routing number I had e-mailed her, and the deposit had been denied. I re-sent it. The money arrived Tuesday. But the fun was just starting.
Wednesday morning -- departure day -- with 99 percent of my preparations finished, about to drop off my car and get a ride to the airport from friends, I worked on the coup de grace -- laptop computer security. For the first time since I've owned a computer, I decided it would be good to set up my laptop so that a user had to type in my secret password to use it. In the possible event that my laptop was stolen while abroad, (insert wailing and screaming here) at least the bastards wouldn't be able to log in and steal all my passwords and information.
I was actually going to wait until the next day in Los Angeles when I had more time to mess with it and some help from someone who knew what they were doing. All this despite the fact that my laptop would be surgically attached to my hip the entire time, and that my son had told me on several occasions that Japan was the last place in the world my computer would be hijacked. In fact, if someone did steal it, they'd probably leave a better one in its place.
But no. All I could envision was some young cyber-thug running down an airport terminal with my life in his hands. Besides, all I had to do was follow a simple procedure, and voila, the final protection would be finished.
So I did it.
Then I re-started the computer. I typed in my name and password. The little screen just jiggled and spit the words back at me. I tried, 30, 40 times. Nothing. I called my techie friend, Blaise, who had recently upgraded my computer.
I told Blaise what had happened. We tried a few more things. Nothing. He knew the name and passwords were correct because he had just used them to do the upgrade.
Blaise, who was just returning de-planing at the airport from a trip, suggested he could look at it if I could meet him on the other side of town. He was waiting to be picked up and taken somewhere by his brother, though, and would call me back when he knew exactly where he was going to go.
I still had to drive from the far reaches of Albuquerque to a bank to cash a check for the trip. and get to my friends' house. All in about one hour and a half.
I borrowed a friend's laptop to search for possible solutions, but nothing looked remotely good.
I'd either have to leave the laptop with Blaise and let him figure it out then FedEx it to me at some exorbitant cost, or have him burn a start-up disk for me and mail it to Japan, hope it arrived at the remote town where I'd be staying with my son, then have him walk me through the fix via phone. For me, that's the equivalent of performing brain surgery on a fellow astronaut at the space station, with House giving me instructions on the phone. Did I mention, I'm not a surgeon?
My blog posts, my internet businesses, my writing assignments and most of all, my presence on Facebook would all be horribly impacted. Double shit.
I took off in my car, hit the bank, then did the Busting Loose process twice, as I raced across town to meet Blaise, who was in a cigar shop with his brother and a bunch of other people milling around.
I immediately started up the computer and let Blaise take a look as thought of doom filled my head. We chatted nervously as I envisioned my Japan trip in ruins -- all because of me and my fear.
As one attempt by Blaise after another to log in failed, I began my next OCD routine. I gathered the address where I would be in Japan, and other contact information. I calculated shipping costs. Blaise slaved away, typing in password combinations and checking instructions on his IPhone. After half an hour, even he was frustrated. I must admit, it's fun to hear geeks curse.
Then Blaise let out an exclamation. "I'm not sure what I did, but I'm in." As we back engineered a solution, we realized he had accidentally typed in two spaces between my first and last name when entering them, instead of one. It was a mistake I had made when setting up my name and password upon purchasing the laptop several years earlier. A simple mistake we would have probably never would have figured out in a million years.
Happy I was.
Never mind that I subsequently misplaced my boarding pass and some other papers while driving to the airport. No big deal.
The whole Japan trip has been an interesting mix of letting go and grasping. Living in reactive mode, then torturing myself over my decisions.
The past few days have given me enough fodder for a few years of process and contemplation, so already the trip's a success.
It was just one more exhilarating lesson about the fact that I'm still operating under the illusion that I -- the player -- have any control of anything. I still think I can foresee, and subsequently plan and scheme my way around any problem that arises. It's a good lesson and one that obviously needs to be reinforced frequently by my Expanded Self, because going on 53 years now, planning has not necessarily been my best friend.
So today, I'm going to get out of bed, and that's all I'm committing to. Sayonara until tomorrow.