When we returned, Mercury Retrograde was right where we left it

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Being served column leftovers in August can mean only one thing: Vacation!

Yes, I was off to the East Coast for a couple weeks, in a different time zone in more ways than one. The Cutest Man In The World and I made our annual trek to Pennsic — a medieval reenactment encampment with 12,000 of your closest friends from various centuries and cultures. And what could be better than camping in a canvas pavilion in a torrential Pennsylvania thunderstorm and slogging through mud in sandals and a 15th Century chemise to get to a port-a-privy at 4 a.m.? No technology allowed, that’s what.

For more than a week, I didn’t see a computer screen, television or cell phone. Completely off the grid. Which was serendipity, as that merry prankster Mercury was in retrograde throughout, wreaking havoc on communication, whether it be by mouth or Mac.

Haha, you celestial troublemaker! Can’t mess with me when I’m hiding in the 15th Century!

Know what a technology-free environment means, besides a total lack of endless, mindless media babble, and blaring, glaring ads for all sorts of stuff you don’t actually need but can’t live without, and discovering that three hours quietly evaporated while you watched cute kitty videos on YouTube? It means that nobody can contact you. No phone calls, no email, no unexpected visits. Even better, nobody recognizes you when you go out in public, save for your campmates and anyone you befriended whilst party-hopping from camp to camp. In a way, “you” no longer exist at Pennsic. In other words, total freedom.

And oh me oh my, did I need me some freedom.

Sadly, both centuries and vacations must come to an end, followed by a hard shift back to reality. I returned Tuesday morning, and launched straight into press day, trusting that the folks who filled in for me had everything ready to go. Thankfully, they did not disappoint. In fact, they did such a great job, I offered to turn right back around and go away again. Our editorial assistant, Sharon, and our office manager, Barbara, nearly leaped from their chairs in protest. Our boss, Charley, however, propositioned Sharon: “Let her go and we’ll split her job and her pay.”

“No way,” Sharon shot back.

It’s nice to be missed. Appreciated even. (Charley, please take notes.)

So. When last you and I left off, we were exploring the effects of the impending Mercury Retrograde, and it did not disappoint. The evening before we were to leave, we got a call from United Airlines, informing us that our flight had been cancelled. The date of the flight? Aug. 2 — first day of Mercury Retrograde, right on schedule.

“Mechanical issues” were cited as the reason, and although I suspect this is United’s cover story for cancelling flights that are under-booked and therefore not profitable (because, really — thousands of airplanes, and not one other could’ve made the flight?), I equally suspect that the airplane had a sudden, inexplicable computer snafu. The reason? Look to the heavens. Mercury eats computers like Doritos during retrograde.

This threw our schedule out of whack, but we regained our footing with a later flight, and thankfully, no more hiccups thereafter — a small miracle, given a hectic and unforgiving schedule. Besides planning to immerse ourselves in 15th Century Medieval Europe, we had visits with TCMITW’s family, and he also had two days of business meetings to tangle with before we could step back in time.

I did some meeting as well — lunch with author and screenwriter Amy Ferris, one of our iPinion Syndicate writers who I’d never actually met face to face. Amy lives in Pennsylvania, so we met for lunch over a mighty fine seared ahi salad at the Spinnerstown Hotel, an authentic early-1800s stone inn. (Pennsylvania is literally dotted with these charming historic places. Almost mitigates the lovely Pennsylvania “summers.” Almost.)

So, how much did I love Amy? More than seared ahi. That’s really, really, really a lot. Amy’s latest book (soon to be a movie) is called “Marrying George Clooney,” a collection of columns about midlife and menopause. Check out her blog, and see if you don’t love her more than seared ahi too.

I’m planning to get into the finer details of our Pennsic adventures next week or so, but first, I’ll fast forward to our return, since August is all about zipping back and forth through time.

Our flight home was perfection — no cancellations, no glitches. “Ah,” I thought, “Maybe Mercury Retrograde has settled down some, and we’ll coast into an uneventful, peaceful summer’s end.” Nope. Mercury was still feeling frisky.

I got in my car to drive home, and what was I greeted with? A big, orange “Service Traction System” warning light on my car’s dashboard.

A visit to our local service station, and the prognosis is not good: The computer that controls the anti-lock braking system is hosed. Estimated cost for just the part: upwards of $1,000. Labor will be at least twice that. The takeaway from this little tale of woe is that I’ve hit my tipping point of how much misery and expense I’m willing to tolerate, even for my beloved Impala, Pearl. I will miss her so. Were it up to me, I’d have driven her until she was a steaming pile of nuts and bolts in the driveway.

So, thank you, Mercury Retrograde for one last parting gift.

Jerk.

Anyone want a well-loved Impala that’s worth only slightly more than a computer for an anti-lock braking system? Call me.

— Email Debra at debra@wintersexpress.com; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.comwww.edebra.com and www.ipinion.com

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