Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Great Rescue of Carlos the Cow by Jenny Gardiner

There are a few truisms in the world that are often glossed over by the media's fixation on gloom and doom. Take, for example, this latest fiscal cliff nonsense, which occupied far too much mental space in people's brains for the past umpteen months. Believe it or not, Congress was always going to get it done. Just not in a reasonable time frame.

Long ago, in my blissful youth, I worked in the U.S. Senate. And I saw firsthand how even then, when Congress actually occasionally accomplished things, that they did it in the manner of a knuckle-dragging ape that had been hit with a tranquilizer dart: veerrrrryyyy slowly, and only after a period of complete paralysis. And usually with very little grace or good spirit.

I cannot tell you how often my life plans were thwarted by an annoyingly prickly group of cranky old farts (i.e. our elected officials), who waited till the eleventh-and-a-half hour to do the meager work for which they were voted into the office to do. Mostly they were too busy flying all over the world (yes, world) attending fundraisers to ensure their perpetual reelection, making it impossible to get any of them in one place long enough to agree on anything. Who knows? But I do know that dinnertime, holidays, summer vacation plans, you name it, were often kiboshed because Congress failed to do something they had to do on time.

Thus I never once worried that this fiscal cliff thing would lead to the end of the world as we know it. I knew that eventually those ne'er-do-wells in Washington would have to do halfway-well. Or at least act, a crazy notion for them. So in the upcoming now tritely-named "March Madness", i.e. Stage II version of the fiscal cliff, please, all, just turn of the news and ignore the gloom and doom. It'll get figured out.

The other thing the media loves to do is reinforce the concept that we live in a dark and distressful place in which bad is lurking around every corner. Okay, I'll grant you, there's plenty bad out there. But there's also plenty good. We just never hear about it. Because good does not successfully sell cars or Viagra or tax preparation services or Geico insurance, during the nightly news. Scary stuff does. So I'm here to regale you with a tale of good folks.

My college freshman daughter had a pillow in the shape of a cow with which she often traveled. It was compact, making it perfect for sleeping in cars, airplanes and busses. Plus, it held sentimental value, as it was a gift from a good friend years ago. Carlos, as this Pillow Pet had come to be known, joined us on a Thanksgiving trip to Turkey. It wasn't until we were at the airport to return home that my daughter realized she'd left Carlos at the hotel, which of course made her a bit sad, as she'd had Carlos for years, and it was, after all, a gift from a good friend.

Assuming Carlos was a goner, we nevertheless emailed the lovely manager at the small hotel in which we'd stayed, and tried to figure out a way to get Carlos home. At first he couldn't find him, but persisted in searching, until he unearthed the thing. But then we learned it would cost $100 to ship a $15 stuffed animal back to the States, which was out of the question, and naturally a bummer for our daughter, but she could deal with that.

But we got to thinking: we'd been visiting our other daughter who'd been studying in Europe, and surely there were American students studying in Turkey, and it was soon to be Christmas which meant students would return home, so maybe we could find an American in Turkey willing to courier Carlos back to the U.S.

At first we were unable to find any schools that had students in Istanbul at the time. I then considered the U.S. Consulate. After all, I'd had great success with them in Peru while trying to figure out my son's voting dilemma back in the fall. So I emailed the Consulate in Istanbul, assuming there'd be no way they'd retrieve some random person's stuffed animal: surely they'd seen Midnight Express and didn't want to end up on the wrong end of Turkish prison for smuggling drugs some bogus person might stuff into Carlos the Cow. I get that.

Amazingly, I got an email back from them, asking what hotel Carlos was being held in. Now this was an encouraging start. It wasn't an offer of assistance, per se, but certainly they were putting out feelers. Meantime, I contacted my other daughter's college, explaining the dilemma. I failed to mention the stuffed animal belonged to a college freshman, figuring that would kill any chances. Alas, they had no one in Istanbul. But then someone called back 10 minutes later to tell me after relaying the sweet tale of the girl's stuffed animal being stuck in Turkey, she learned students would be there for January term. At least Carlos had a (delayed) way back! Hallelujah! And then I started getting responses from other colleges who were also willing to help in the Carlos Retrieval Project. We had a host of helpers, willing to do a kind deed to help out a girl (albeit a grown one, a small detail I might have omitted) reunite with her Pillow Pet!

So I was happily orchestrating the least circuitous return route for Carlos, hoping to surprise our daughter for Christmas, when we found out some friends were taking a vacation over the holidays. To Turkey, believe it or not. Our lovely hotel manager volunteered to escort Carlos to our friends' hotel in another part of sprawling Istanbul, where he would enjoy a holiday with another family, soon to be reunited with his owner any day now.

In the end we had people kindly collaborating for the return of Carlos from several universities, a possible government hook-up, a sweet hotelier who spoke no English willing to go the extra mile to help out, and ultimately, friends willing to jam a stuffed pillow into their no-doubt overflowing 44-pound limit luggage, just to do a kind thing for someone. Granted some of them might have thought it was for a much younger someone, but we'll keep that our secret. While shouting from the rooftops that you know what? People are pretty darned awesome.

When not orchestrating overseas trips for wayward stuffed animals, Jenny Gardiner attempts to write books. She can be found at
  Sleeping with Ward Cleaver

Slim to None

Anywhere But Here

Where the Heart Is

Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me

Accidentally on Purpose (written as Erin Delany)

Compromising Positions (written as Erin Delany)

I'm Not the Biggest Bitch in this Relationship (I'm a contributor)

And these shorts:
Idol Worship: A Lost Week with the Weirdos and Wannabes at American Idol Auditions

The Gall of It All: And None of the Three F's Rhymes with Duck

Naked Man On Main Street
find me on Facebook: fan page
 find me on twitter here
 find me on my website


Mary Preston said...

People can be amazing. What a great story about Carlos. Heart-warming!!

Karen H said...

A truly heartwarming story. I'm so happy Carlos will be home soon and in the ever loving arms of your daughter!

Kaelee said...

I'm so glad I found this story. It really balances out some of the doom and gloom that seems to be never ending. I would buy a good news newspaper. thank you so much for telling us about Carlos. Hope he comes home soon.

Jenny Gardiner said...

Thanks for stopping by! I like the idea of a good news newspaper! Even worse than the newspapers are TV cable news--ugh-they're the worst! Oh and I forgot to update it--Carlos is home!

Pat Cochran said...

Thanks for counter-balancing the terrible
Algerian news I had just read with the
Carlos story! There are really good people
every where!

Pat C.

Edie Ramer said...

Jenny, I love Carlos's story. Thanks for sharing.

BTW, what great covers you have! I'm definitely checking out your books.

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