Monday, October 12, 2009

Not happiness, but money WILL buy you money.

"What if I gave you a whole mess of that neon toilet paper you Frenchies call money?"
--Duke Phillips, "The Critic", 1994.

The brass band's U.K. tour sidles closer and closer, a fact which is made very apparent by the increasing responsibilities and pressure during each rehearsal.  "If only we had another month to refine and rehearse, then we'd do something REALLY great."  All lies, of course: had we another month, we would have just started later in the season.  Whenever people get nervous, it's in our DNA to wish we had more time.

There's a Kubler-Ross stage of grief called "bargaining" for a good reason and that's not because we're trying to finagle a new pair of socks.

My preparations continue as well.  We have to be more conscious of luggage sizes than any other foreign trip I've taken because of the strict proscriptions on what is and is not allowed, as well as the fight over luggage.  I saw Southwest Airlines has a new slogan: "Luggage flies free".  Southwest doesn't fly to Gateshead, alas.

Packing my instrument is a special case (no pun intended).  The majority of my musician friends have absolute phobias about flying with instruments -- phobias that I don't seem to have developed in my instrumental incubation.  This goes back even as far as the high school marching band -- when a drizzle would descend on an early morning rehearsal, the woodwind players were given permission to run quickly and pack their instruments, while the brass people stood in the rain to wait for them.

I'm totally aware that my instrument -- which is, let's face it, not much more than a piece of metal pipe -- is largely immune to rain, while more fragile and warp-prone things like clarinets will be ruined (or effected, period) by sky water.  But this cavalier upbringing does tend to instill a sort of "so what" about my horn.

It helps that I'm taking a brass instrument to a country filled with brass instruments, accompanied by several compensated artists of one of the larger manufacturers.  Were I to disembark in London with a suddenly-two-dimensional representation of my horn greeting me at the luggage rack, it wouldn't be too difficult to find a ready replacement.  There'd be hell to pay upon my return but the galas, competitions, and recordings need not be impacted.

This morning, I also ordered a sheaf of currency from my local bank.  Due to a quirk of scheduling, I am visiting countries which are both in and out of the "Euro Zone", so I need to carry two separate nationalities of cash.  Curse the British and their currencatory pride -- or the Irish and their lack thereof.  Plus, there's a Bank of America "delivery" fee, which applies even if I pick it up at a bank.  I bet it's more of a "counting" fee. 

I'm bringing credit cards, too.  They supposedly do moment-of-sale currency conversions, but I like to have the cash for things that don't.  VISA is supposed to be accepted tons of places that American Express isn't (if I remember last year's Olympic advertisements correctly), but that doesn't stop there being a whole host of places that want no truck with Americans and their credit.

In fact, VISA's website has special section devoted to the assuredly rare situation in which a European merchant will decline the card.  Apparently, Europe is using a newer (and seemingly more secure) system involving microchips and PIN numbers for credit transactions compared to our magnetic stripe encoding.  All machines are supposed to be able to read both (in order to be a certified VISA vendor), but there's still a real chance that it will... you know... NOT work.  And when I'm buying my copies of Dutch-import EU-certified copies of "Pirates of the Caribonking: Love Purse of the Black Girl," along with sequels "Hard Man's Chest", and "At Girl's End", I don't want to have my card declined. 

That'd be embarrassing.

[Incidentally, when I looked up the proper definition for "travails" for use in this entry's label, each and every advertisement on the page talked about "Getting Ready to Travel?".  Amusing!]

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