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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Best Laid Plans II

It is Summer again and that means it is time for my annual leave back to the homeland. It has been over a year since I have graced (or befouled, depending on your political and/or moral leanings) my nation of birth.

The US, Something For Everyone!

I get asked all the time why I don't get back to the USA more often. Due to my vocation, I have the means and time to do so. The simple answer is that the taxman is to blame. He keeps me away from friends and family for all but a mere 30 days a year or he will make claim of a rather large percentage of the income I earn in foreign lands.

I have complained about this before. American citizens living and working overseas are penalized if they dare spend over a month back home during a year. Family emergency, screw pay,  miss a flight, screw you... you pay,  break a leg and need hospital time, screw pay. Get the idea? No other country treats its expatriot citizens this harshly. As a veteran of the US Navy, I am not amused. I served my country and now they hold this sword over my head.

I find this wrong on many levels. As an expat, I put no burden on the US infrastructure and I don't add to the massive debt and deficit. I feel like I am actually doing the government a favor by not living there. They don't have to feed and house me or provide me with medical care. They don't have to worry about policing me or collecting my garbage but for some reason they feel the need to stick me for taxes if I don't follow some lame random rules anyway. Even when I live 8000 miles away and have not earned a penny in the US for years. It is MY money not theirs!

Internal Revenue Service

Anyway, rant over. I am due to fly back home in a couple of days, and I am apprehensive about it. I should be happy and excited, but instead I sense a dark foreboding. I am clueless to why that is.

The first thing that happened is that a good friend/ex- coworker and I planned to meet here 4 days in advance of my departure. She was to fly from the US, we would see some sights then fly back together on my departure date back to JFK and go our own ways from there.

Simple, huh? Not quite. She was standby and got bumped off the flight from JFK to Abu Dhabi in a rare occasion where everyone actually showed up on time for the flight. Not one of the ~300 seats went unfilled.  It was an abort at the last minute. She ended up going back to her home.

I had delayed my departure to the US due to her visit and now have 4 empty days in Abu Dhabi eating into my valuable annual leave time. I could alter my plans and leave Abu Dhabi earlier but it is cost prohibitive to change my employer supplied JFK to Utah discount tickets on Delta airlines. Even if I did eat this cost and go through the gyrations of changing my itinerary (nothing is easy here!), all I would gain is 2 days because the travel center is closed today and the earliest I could possibly leave is the 6th instead of the 8th.

This is a perfect example of the "Butterfly Effect" where it is theorized that the presence or absence of a butterfly flapping its wings in a certain time or place may trigger the presence or absence of a hurricane in another time or place. In other words, series of minor, unrelated events add up to alter the lives of others. If just one passenger was delayed in NYC traffic and couldn't make the flight, my friend could have gotten a seat and my plans would have been realized and theirs would not.

Uh Oh,  Could Be Trouble!

We are not as in control of our existence as we like to think, everything is interconnected and our lives are determined by random things that happen near and far. For example, think about the circumstances surrounding the meeting your significant other. Most likely the meeting was the result of purely random choices, location and timing. Muslims have a good word for this, Inshallah. Loosely translated to, "If God is willing, it will happen". I am not sure about a deity being involved, but I think for the most part, we are just along for the ride with little personal influence in the outcome. There are just too many outside factors beyond our control.

Anyway, I will chronicle my upcoming visit back home in words and photos again as I did last year. Those posts seemed to be very popular and I will try to outdo myself this year. I plan on visits to NYC, Utah, Las Vegas, Texas, Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Chicago. Even though the start of my holiday was not auspicious with the failure of my friend's trip, I hope to have many adventures and stories to tell, Inshallah!