Tuesday, September 18, 2012


I've been in the "When life gives you lemons make lemonade..." mode lately.  Some days I'm better at it than others.

The next time I'm on a hideously delayed United Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Cleveland to visit my family-- A flight that should have taken 5 hours but ended up taking 14 instead, I'll order lemonade from their overpriced "snack" menu and just roll with it.  Of course when you pay a (gigantic) premium price for the luxury of a non-stop flight that turns into multiple plane changes across the country-- not because of weather or mechanical difficulties, but because "oophs", someone forgot to "service" the original plane, and you don't get a refund on your high priced non-stop flight for a much cheaper multiple-flight ticket, well... that lemonade should be complimentary, don't you think?

Apparently not.  I wrote to the Chairman of United Airlines asking for a refund in the price difference between the two flights, and I spilled a little lemonade on the page for effect.  I'm guessing I'll never hear from him but I sure felt better after speaking my mind.

And then, after all those airport changes and schlepping, my souvenir was a whopping cold that turned into bronchitis and everything that goes with it, and I spent nearly 3 weeks in bed getting over it.  I'm no "sick wimp" either.  I'm a really good patient who's known to tough this stuff out.  But this time, I was down for the count.  I drank a lot of tea with lemon.

After a week in Ohio and three weeks in bed, my house was a total disaster from not being able to get much done around here-- But wait!--  as the commercial says-- There's more!   Painters started work on the exterior of our house last week.  It's a 3 week job with a ton of prep work that needs done before the painting can even start.  Did I mention it's about 100 degrees around here?  Nasty hot.  I'm giving these guys lots and lots of water and a little lemonade on the side.  I even told them to swim in the pool of they want.  It's that H.O.T.

Unfortunately, with workers sanding every window and door frame of the house, there is no where to hide and, um, "use the facilities", so each morning I'm up at 5:45 to shower and dress before the crew arrives.  And for the record, it's been about 20 years since I've seen 5:45AM more than one day in a row.  But that's the easy part.  I'm actually going to our local McDonald's to use their restrooms a few times a day-- it just feels more private.... And I'm ordering lemonade each time so I don't take advantage of the "restrooms are for patrons only" policy.

I was in the Mickey D's parking lot today when an older woman, so tiny she could barely see over the steering wheel of her circa 1980 Cadillac, made a 100 point turn into the drive thru lane.  Seriously, it took her about ten minutes to maneuver through the crowded parking lot around to the order intercom.  Once that task was complete she had to get her faded yellow monstrosity around another sharp curve to arrive at the window to pay and pick up her food.

Standing by my car, unable to move through the snarled parking lot, I watched all of her efforts. Other drivers started blowing their horns to hurry her up but that only made things worse.  Finally she rolled down her window and asked me to help her.  It was one of those moments when you look over your shoulder hoping she's waving at someone behind you.  No such luck.

By the time I'd arrived at her car, she was out on the pavement and wanted me to actually DRIVE her car as she hobbled around to the passenger side and got in!


With this increased delay you can imagine horns were honking like crazy now, people were cursing loudly-- even the McDonald's manager came outside for a look because the entire drive thru was totally blocked.

With the McDonald's manager helping direct traffic, I got behind the wheel and squeezed that massively long yellow Cadillac thru the entire drive thus process. The older woman smiled and chatted the whole time about her impending Big Mac sandwich.

Once the transaction was complete and the car smelled of classic McDonald's greasy deliciousness, I pulled the Caddy over to a spot that would be extremely easy for my new friend to make her way out of the parking lot and onto the boulevard.

She reached over and gave my hand a squeeze of thanks and place $1.00 in it so I could get myself a "little something from the restaurant".  Although the money was absolutely not necessary she insisted and we said our good-byes.

Now, finally, I headed directly to the restroom then returned to order a lemonade with my crumpled one dollar bill.  It was on of those "When life gives you lemons" kind of moments that actually made me smile.

Hope life is treating you all well.

Welcome to www.TheFiftyFactor.com  -  Joanna Jenkins
Photo Credit - Lemons - © Taffi - Fotolia.com


  1. Oh geez...after all that, I would probably have to add a little vodka to my lemonade!

    As for the airlines...just today I had a family member have her flight changed, charged $150.00, AND she is still going to risk missing a meeting. Reason for flight change: "a problem with the crew"

    p.s. Love the name of your blog...I just turned fifty :)

  2. An act of kindness in a crazy, overwhelming world. I always feel 'that's someone's grandma' and that I'd want my grandmother treated with respect.

    So thank you.
    Enjoy the lemons.

  3. I am inspired by you and how you manage to make the best of any situation! So sorry about the cold. Hope Cleveland was fun with the family!

    It's always a good thing when an act of kindness presents itself. It does all kinds of nice things for our insides, doesn't it?

    Loved this post!

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  5. You always have an amusing story to tell.. and tell it with humour. I'm sorry about the flight and that you were not well. But your references to lemonade, squeezes and yellow vehicles throughout kept me smiling.

    Orange you glad that all of that is now in the past? ;)

  6. see i just want to give you a hug now...there are def times you just have to suck it up...even if it makes you pucker a bit...smiles....

  7. I agree with Darcie above....a little vodka in that lemonade would have been the answer for me.
    We had our house painted last year and I felt the same way....there was always someone everywhere. I wish I had been smart enough to think of going to McDonalds to use the restroom.

  8. oh darlin...once i start reading one of your posts there's no stopping...what a storyteller you are...you make the mundane and the horrid...and the wonderful...so very interesting! So pleased you were there to drive that Cadillac baby!

  9. I'm glad you could help her out! And life goes on... nothing you can do about these airlines either.

  10. I'm so impressed, Joanna, by how you can take all that frustration and inconvenience and craft an important life lesson! Good for you for helping that older women (I'm always amazed that older, impaired drivers always seem to drive gigantic cars that would pose a challenge to anyone.) That was the best way to make lemonade out of all the lemons lobbed at you lately.

    I agree with you about the frustrations of air travel. My husband and I are on a vacation in Maui and the flight over here was just hideous -- never been in a more cramped coach section and the woman in front of me thought she was the only passenger and not only yelled continuously for service from the flight attendants, but also lowered her seat onto my knees early in the flight. I couldn't move, couldn't flip the pages of a magazine and she refused to budge an inch. I spent the rest of the flight hanging out with the flight attendants in a jump seat. Airline travel has worsened in so many ways in recent years.

  11. I guess you didn't really get a vote in this, did you? You were obviously the ONE to help her and she took advantage. But look at the bright side: you made a DOLLAR out of it! Oh how I laughed (ruefully) at this as I read it. Well done!!

  12. Now if that is true then you really paid it forward! I hope the poor, sweet old lady made it home with her Big Mac! And then she gives up her keys...my son was just rear ended to the tune of a totalled car because an 80 year old woman didn't "stop in time" as he was waiting at a red light. And last year an 88 year old woman ran a red light and did $900 worth of damage to his truck....and totalled her car to as it careened off his into the guardrail.

    Sorry about your flight...I hope you hear back from United!!

  13. oh my, that is all I can say, oh my. The airlines, ugh, I just dread flying because of what you describe. Then the little old lady, that was so cute that she gave you a dollar. but like you, i'd have been hoping she was waving someone else over to drive that big bird of a car. You are a very good person JJ - big hugs!!

  14. You always manage to make me smile and you have such a positive attitude to life.

    Love that story about helping the woman get her McD's sandwich! Classic!

  15. Sorry your flight was so messed up! Good luck getting a response from the airline! The little old lady in the cadillac was a funny story!!

  16. About the flight, go to ceo finder dot com, you can send letters to their homes, that will get their attention.
    About the old lady, gotta love her. And gotta love you too for helping her.

  17. What a wonderful thing to do! Priceless I say.

  18. I love this!! These are the eye-opening tiny moments, huge blessings, that make life beautiful!

  19. This is like two posts in one.
    United - Maybe you have heard of Dave Carroll and his "United breaks guitars" story - if not you should check it out.

    Next the kindness to the little lady - great story but I do wish people (myself someday) would think about the danger of driving without being able to see clearly where they are going.

  20. Ah, geez. You got me kind of verklempt right now. That sweet old lady--probably pretty clueless about the tangle she caused, but bless you for helping her out of it!

  21. Flying the friendly skies is no longer friendly! I have had my bouts with American, but I believe all the airlines have issues. Wish high-speed transit was available. Sorry for your troubles and your illness.

  22. A dollar! That's both funny and sweet. And good on you for finding the good in all the irritation.

  23. What a great story! So, she gave you a dollar for your trouble? And a gallon of gas is now four dollars?
    What a blast from the past!

  24. Oh JJ I'm sorry about your flight and illness and lack of privacy but omg I laughed so hard at your McDonalds experience!! Hope you are feeling better!

  25. Perhaps United Airlines will send you a crumpled one dollar bill...

  26. Your story about the little old lady (was this Pasadena??) made me forget all about MY frustrations with your flight!

    Hope you are feeling much better and will soon be comfortable in using your own facilities!!!

    Hugs to ya!!

  27. I'm generally of the school that says when life hands you lemons, hurl the f***ing lemons back at life's face with as much force as possible. However, I love that she gave you the dollar! Nice moment, and you're a nice person, too. Here's hoping you get the airfare refund. I think you should get an entire free flight, but that's just my sense of fair play kicking in and all that's ever done is get me in trouble, so ignore it.

  28. That is a riot. I've been in that situation before, where the washroom suddenly is not private due to men on the roof, or men doing windows etc. Creepy to have men clinging to the outside walls of the house... thank you for stopping by my little blog, Lois from Ontario.

  29. And I just turned 50 at my Gypsy Caravan... :)

  30. Awww, I have so missed you!! Your post made me laugh out loud at the thought of the little old lady and her cadillac. You truly made her day!!

    I sure hope the chairman of the airline decides to reimburse you. That's not right!

    Are you feeling better? I sure hope you are. Take care, my friend.

  31. Sorry to hear of your illness, JJ - hope you're on the mend now.

  32. Gosh, life can be crazy, eh? I hope you're feeling better now!

    Hugs! Vidya

  33. This post is the best thing I've read in ages! I felt everything you describe...and I laughed when I actually SAW the lady get out of her boat when you came over.

    Reminds me I need to be much kinder to my elderly in-laws...except they won't ask for help!

    Absolutely inspiring..and a great piece of writing. Thank You.

  34. I'm trying not to laugh too much because I will be 68 on Oct 3. I'm still able to manage McDonald's pretty well...heck, I'm managing 24 hr flights to and from India...but, for how long??? A few more years, God willing!!!

  35. Since I just returned from a non stop flight, I can try to understand the frustration you felt in the flying time taking so many more hours. I don't know what I would have done. And to come home with a cold is not the icing on the cake, unfortunately. I would rather go to the dentist than have to endure all that. That must have been uncomfortable to be in your own house and not feel able to use the facilities.

  36. patience of a saint, JJ, patience of a saint.

    I'm waiting for the day when we can merely say "Beam me up, Scotty" and get to the location we desire. In our lifetime? Gosh I hope so.


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