Thursday, February 28, 2013

My Non-Bucket List: 3 Things I'll Never Ever Do

"I'll do anything twice." That's long been my personal motto. But as it turns out, not everything -- and not even once.

1. I'll never ride in a hot air balloon. For as long as I can remember, helicopters have been at the top of my list of ways not to travel, but I might now have a new No. 1 transportation don't. I'd never even seriously considered going up, up and away in a beautiful balloon until a couple of nights ago. Something about it always seemed so late 19th century to me, so The 5th Dimension, which also was a little before my time. I was probably more likely to go skydiving -- which, due to excellent word of mouth, recently has been bubbling under my bucket list.

Then the other night I was talking to someone who was telling me about the joys of skyriding in a hot air balloon. He even had breathtaking balloon photos from a recent holiday in Turkey to enhance his testimonial, pictures of a multitude of them soaring hundreds of feet above planet earth, hovering over some of the most gorgeous landscape I'd ever seen.

Still, I insisted, pointing to the gorgeous photo on his iPhone, you'd never get me up in one of those things. I'm afraid of heights, and I'd probably be even more so all the way up there with my body exposed to the elements, unlike in an airplane, where I always feel fairly safe and protected. For someone like me with such high anxiety, it's all about being indoors when you're up in the air.

He assured me that in-flight issues in hot air balloons were highly unlikely, and after I considered how infrequently I'd heard about mishaps in them, and that they never seemed to be fatal, I started to believe him. I can't say I was ready to book a hot air flight over Melbourne, but helicopters were in no danger of being nudged from atop my list of no-no travel vehicles.

But only for less than 24 hours. Yesterday afternoon, I saw a TV news report of a balloon explosion during a February 26 sunrise flight in Luxor, Egypt, that was caught on video and by the cameras of passengers in other balloons. As I waited to hear if there had been any fatalities, I remembered a recent story about a couple in San Diego who had gotten married in a hot air balloon and walked away unharmed after it crashed mid-ceremony (an incident that also was documented on tape). Unfortunately, the outcome in Egypt was far more grim: There had been 19 tourists killed onboard the balloon, and the two who survived did so by jumping out of the burning, plummeting balloon, bringing back horrifying memories of 9/11 and what some people were driven to do to get out of the burning towers.

The timing of my conversation about riding in hot air balloons was too eerie to ignore. The explosion and crash had happened around 7am, only hours earlier, making the casualties even more chilling, and strengthening my resolve against hot air balloon flight. Despite the political unrest in Egypt, Cairo and the pyramids of Giza remain high on my bucket list, but when I go, I'll enjoy them both from ground level. Meanwhile, in the future, I'll continue to get my breathtaking aerial views from airplanes, very tall buildings, and other people's hot air balloon photos.

2. I'll never send flowers anonymously. I recently had a conversation with a man who's an even more hopeless romantic than I am. He dated someone for several months before the guy broke some bad news: He already had a boyfriend, and they could no longer see each other. Adding insult to romantic injury, he suggested that they delete each other's numbers from their phones to avoid the temptation of contacting each other again.

Although he was furious at the time, if the narrator of the story was still angry, it apparently waoverridden by gross sentimentality. On Valentine's Day, he spent $100 on flowers to be delivered to his sort of ex, a guy he used to date who already had a boyfriend. Rather than sign his name on the card, he merely wrote "I heart you" (with a drawn heart!) and signed the initials of an artist they both loved. "You really think he didn't know they were from you?" I asked, incredulous. He was certain of it, and that was just as he'd wanted it to be. He said he hadn't sent the flowers for any glory or to score any points with the guy, but rather because he wanted him to get something nice on Valentine's Day -- just in case his boyfriend didn't have that covered.

I wasn't sure if he was the most romantic guy I'd ever met, or the biggest fool in love. I'm not a fan of giving or receiving flowers, and I don't believe I've ever bought them for anyone other than my mom, but in the unlikely event that I ever do, there'll be no question where they came from.

3. I'll never extend a come-visit-me invitation to someone I've never met who lives in another city. Inviting holiday flings to come to your city is risky enough. I went there once before, and it's so much better to go to them (which I've done twice), so that if you need to ditch them (which I've done once), you can do so without guilt. I'd already spent a week abroad with Norbert, a guy from Hamburg whom I met during a 2000 summer holiday in Mykonos, when I invited him to visit me in New York City, not thinking he'd actually take me up on that offer. This was before I learned my hard lesson that most holiday romances should stay exactly where you found them.

I realized I had made a terrible mistake when I woke up in the middle of the night two days after his arrival to find Norbert with my toes in his mouth, declaring his love for me. It all went downhill from there. That's why I secretly feared the worst for my girlfriend in Argentina when she told me a few months ago about this amazing guy in France whom she'd met online. After logging hours chatting with her on the computer over the course of several days, he suggested a trip to Buenos Aires to meet her. Thankfully, my friend was savvy enough to insist that he stay in a hotel.

That didn't stop his time in BA from being a disaster. The other day when recounting the dreadful experience in an email to me, my friend was mortified by her own lack of good judgement. I still haven't gotten the full details of why it was such a nightmare, but I do know this much: Though she let him down easy, she felt like a "bitch" (her word, not mine) for making him travel so far. She felt like "shit" (her word, not mine) for a week because the guy, who she realized was a complete stranger one international flight too late, was so broken-hearted over her rejection of him. And she will NEVER (her emphasis, not mine) do anything like that again.

Sort of makes you long for a good old family visit. At least you know what they look like, and they won't expect anything more than your time.
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