February 23, 2021

Opening the door always filled me with hope. Ten minutes later, depression hit me. Who uses a travel agency anymore? Especially one named “Anywhere Travel?” the motto was stupid “If you name the place? We can get you there.” I always wanted someone to come in and ask, “How much to go to Hell?” Yes, I have a ready answer. “It’s free, you’re already here. In fact, this shop is the Welcome Center for the first level of Hell.” My boss did not find me funny. I mean at all.

Today a little old couple came in. They asked a thousand questions. My favorite. “If we only go one way, this cheaper? A refund on the half we don’t use?” As in they were going to Ocean City Maryland but not come back. Maybe move into a retirement community or something. Right?

I always wanted to go to interesting places. Never go. Did you know back 30 years ago, when people used a travel agent? Travel agents got perks like free trips. Now, I’m lucky if I earn a free cup of coffee.

“I am sorry, no, we can’t offer refunds. However? I can give you an insurance deal,” Like they were not coming back, right? “I can offer you a three-dollar insurance policy. If for some reason you choose not to use the return trip portion of your trip? You can give this portion of your trip to anyone you may like. They will have to pay a small fee to use this, but this would be like getting a free trip in the mail for whoever. How does that sound?” They eagerly signed up. I got my Peet’s money for later this afternoon.

We set up their vacation to Europe they were super excited. Giddy, almost. Holding hands, whispering, giggling. All panda bear cute. Made me sick to my stomach a little. I would not last long at this job. I wondered if the Parks and Rec people were hiding, I could go around and pickup trash or something, earn my steps in and all the while outside. I needed my vitamin D.

The Kreger’s, the name of the couple, were happy to pay cash. Who pays cash? I almost didn’t know how to process the transaction. Cash. Old people are weird. I must have told them five times “deals if you use credit cards”, we even had our own credit card. If I had gotten them to sign up, I would have earned an extra fifty bucks. I can always use an extra fifty bucks.

They were all set. They had bus tickets. Why they didn’t want to fly was beyond me. They had their bus tickets to the port, their stateroom on the ship, and everything they needed to get to Paris and to use Euro rail, the best way to SEE Europe. I wanted a car, they again did not. “We are too old to drive hard on the eyes.” Why did they want to take a bus or a train if they couldn’t look out a window?” Again, old people, right?

Setting up everything in the database took no time at all. Paying for their trip on the company account also took little time. There were times concerned the amount might not go through, we had little business. Did the boss pay the bills? My salary always got paid. Didn’t understand it. Long ago I decided this was a front for something else and somehow this was a place money got laundered. Travel agencies, right?

Days went by, I checked days off the calendar, knowing the Kreger’s trip was coming up. My little fantasies played out. The bus driver got them the best seat on the bus. I requested an upgraded stateroom for them, saying a birthday anniversary together. Who cared why? This is what a travel agency was all about, the extra service. Felt good to do more than to check flight status to Hawaii for the owner’s family. I booked all their travel. Who ever wanted to go to Bulgaria?

When the sailing date for their return trip came and went, I stopped using the calendar. Things were all alright. Five days into their return trip, I did receive a call, the Kreger’s did not board the ship. Some searching and I found a newspaper clipping on the Internet, where else? How they were found at the bottom of a chasm. Either murder or suicide. I thought had to be suicide.

A telegram came, really, a telegram who sends those? Then I realized old people sent them. “Will be a package, stop, be ready for it, stop, Myriam and Clyde Kreger.”

The package arrived, the unused tickets. Money inside too to pay for the change fees. “Now you go have a vacation and travel some. Stop not traveling and go somewhere you have always wanted to go and couldn’t afford.”

I decided right then going some place different, important. The more stupid the better. I was going to go to Mount Rushmore and then Deadwood. Two places I had wanted to go in 2nd grade. Had gotten one of those Weekly Reader kid newspapers and a place I had always wanted to visit. Plus, a place IN the Weekly Reader which had said. “Go to your local Travel Agency for the best times and coupons.” Well, that was me. I was going to Travel.


Getting out of town

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