This was written on Saturday as I waited for my flight from D.C. to Atlanta. I'm just now posting because a) there was no wi-fi there and b) I'm lazy. Enjoy!
1 1) From my parents: NEVER say the word “bomb” in an airport.
2 2) From my sister: ALWAYS pick an aisle seat.
Okay, I’ve learned a lot of other things about traveling from my family, but these two are particularly important today. Don’t worry, Dad, I didn’t say “bomb,” but I may as well have…and NO ONE CARED.
Let me back up just a bit.
I left Cape Town last night at 11:20 PM Africa time (I’m not sure of the name of the time zone, but I know it’s not Eastern). Africa time (by my estimation, all of Africa, but I’m sure Kate will correct me) is six hours ahead of real time. Don’t ask me how that works, but it does. I arrived at the airport a solid three hours before my flight, and that three hours counts in my travel time, so as of this writing I’m at 27 hours of traveling, and 40 hours of wakefulness. I still have at least four more hours of travel ahead of me, so as you can probably guess, I’m a bit delirious. This post promises to be either awesome or awful…or both.
In the CPT airport, I hassled the lady at the check-in counter about checking all three of my bags (I went with three, I left with five). She wanted me to check all of them, I wanted to only check two and then check the third at the gate. We argued for a good 37 seconds (it was brutal) until she informed me that I got two checked bags for free. Wait, what!?!?!?! That wasn’t in the brochure!! I smiled politely, paid her my R760 (760 Rand = $76) and bounced away, cheerful as ever.
At this point, I was sweatier than a fat guy in a fat suit. Seriously, I hadn’t even done anything yet and I was already regretting my choice of “plane clothes.” But, with no other option, I flung my puffy jacket over my shoulder and headed for security.
In a rare moment of forethought, I had the presence of mind to pack deodorant, face cloths, toothbrush, toothpaste and medicine in my carry-on. Now, it should be mentioned that I almost always have one of my carry-on bags flagged for a search. Leaving Atlanta back in May, it was for a jar of Nutella (I’m still a little sore about that). But I am nothing if not cooperative with security and I told the nice TSA guy to “go for it.” He pulled out my deodorant and stared at it for a few minutes. One the inside I’m thinking, “Please God, don’t let him take my deodorant away.” On the outside I smiled politely and said it really wasn’t a big deal if he wanted to toss it, and that I understand how this stuff works. I’m sweating on the inside AND the outside now, desperately hoping he won’t throw out the precious commodity which I was only just beginning to grasp the value of.
He let me keep my deodorant.
Once on the plane, I settled into my aisle seat and informed the mother and son sitting with me that I likely wouldn’t sleep so not to worry about needing to get out. The mother, Carol, looked at me like I was crazy, sure that an eleven hour flight which departed at 11:20 PM would warrant sleep from even the pickiest sleeper. It did not. I even took a sleeping pill. Nothing. So, I was grateful for my aisle seat because I got up, I’m sure, about two dozen times. At one point, in a desperate attempt to sleep, I took my pillow and my neck pillow and discreetly found myself a spot on the floor outside the bathrooms. I mean, no one is using it, except those greedy, greedy guys in the front of coach…as if their feet need more room than mine. Anyway, like I said, I did it discreetly. First I stood as if I were waiting for the restroom. Then I sat, as if the wait was WAY too long (there was one person in line, and I sat down after about fifteen seconds). Then I said screw it and just sprawled out on the floor. Unfortunately, I knew it was against the rules, and my scoff-law ways were likely to get me thrown out the emergency exit I was so fitfully attempting to sleep in font of. I didn’t sleep for fear of missing it when they started opening the emergency exit. When I felt the tap on my shoulder, I didn’t even wait for an explanation; I just gathered my pathetic pillows and headed back to my seat. The flight attendant gave me sad eyes and apologized, which I thought was sweet. I spent the rest of the flight with my legs flung over the side of my seat, not caring that I was obstructing the cart path. A cart hit me in the foot and then I cared a lot.
I had been feeling kind of sick leading up to my departure and had drowned myself in Vitamin C. The plane, however, gave me a serious case of the icks. I haven’t enjoyed anything I’ve eaten for two days now (which, admittedly, could just be the airplane food) and I’ve been coughing a lot. So as the plane was landing, one flight attendant asked me how I was feeling. Seriously, kudos to the KLM flight attendants. They’ve been wonderful start to finish.
I got off the plane in Amsterdam and, with two hours before my flight for D.C. was scheduled to leave, I began to meander in that direction. I slowly made my way from D7 to E17, pausing at coffee shops along the way to peruse their hot tea selections. I didn’t ever get any, thinking I would get some closer to my gate, that I was really hot and may not actually want hot tea, but my throat was killing me and I definitely needed it, but did I really want to pay with a credit card for a cup of tea because I have no Euros??? It was a serious conundrum. I got to E17 and, spidey senses tingling, quickly noticed that something wasn’t right. I looked at the board and it said nothing about D.C. in the next hour. I asked a gate attendant, who told me I needed to go back to D57. It was a long enough walk between D7 and E17, but then I had to go back to D7 and then past it?! Hearing my complaints about my heavy bags, she offered me a cart. Why had I not thought of this?!?!?! It made the trek back to D57 much more bearable, and faster. And that was when I decided, again, screw it. I stopped at Starbucks. It was at D50, and I knew I had a few minutes before I absolutely had to be at the gate (I was wading into dangerous territory here because I’m kind of neurotic about being at the gate at least an hour before departure…thanks Dad). I stopped at the remarkably slow Starbucks and ordered a grande iced chai latte (OMG THANK YOU JESUS FOR ICED CHAI LATTES) and a giant bottle of water. The barista asked me my name, as they’re wont to do at Starbucks and when I said, “Bethany,” she head, “Becca.” She asked me, “Becca?” I thought for the splittest of split seconds about correcting her, and then I realized the opportunity the aforementioned Jesus was giving me for comedy gold. I let her think it was Becca and watched with self-satisfying amusement as she wrote it on my cup. Then I took a picture, which proves that it’s not just an American Starbucks thing. Score.
At this point, however, it’s way past time to get to my gate and I’m hauling ass, sucking down my glorious iced chai latte. As soon as I stumble off the moving sidewalk (I seriously suck at those things), I see a line forming before the gate sign. Not ever having seen this before, I just figure the crowds obviously know best and I should fall in line. So I did. It was the right decision. That’s always an iffy thing with me, because I’m more likely to blindly follow everyone else than go ask. Sometimes it goes my way, sometimes it doesn’t. This time, in a foreign country, it went my way. Thanks again, JC.
I’m waiting in line and I notice something peculiar. I did not notice it at the SEVENTY-THREE gates I passed (TWICE), but in Amsterdam, each gate has its own individual security check-point. This did not bode well for my giant bottle of water I had just purchased for $5 at the amusing Starbucks. I certainly couldn’t chug it, mostly because I don’t chug, but also because by the time I noticed, it was too late. I hoped they wouldn’t notice…because that always works. They noticed, and took it. I weighed my options. I could either give my best “you just kicked my puppy and I’m both mad and sad about it” eyes, or I could understand that TSA doesn’t give a shit about my puppy. So they took my water and I sulked in a corner for a little while…sure I was going to die from dehydration before my plane for America took off.
How much would that suck?? I made it this far, and then I die before getting to America because of the TSA which I have the utmost respect for… I guess that will teach me to have respect for the people working tirelessly and thanklessly (seriously people, they have a terrible job) for the security of us all. Never again, I tell you.
Once I was through security, I sat by the window looking out at the plane. Now, I’ve seen planes. I’ve seen a lot of them. It’s like that time I was talking to boyfriend about going to a Braves game and he asked if I wanted to go early to see batting practice. It was very sweet, but oh my goodness have I seen batting practice… So I’ve got my back to the window. The gate attendant comes on the P.A. system and says we’re delayed because they’re replacing the front tires. I look up just in time to see every head in the joint turn and look (some in utter dread). I can’t help but laugh because, come on, tires need replacing. But people literally watch the whole process. Some even take pictures of it happening.
Okay, I took a picture.
Once we got on the flight, I once again thanked my sister and her neurosis that led to my neurosis about aisle seats. My seatmate said not one word to me the entire trip. As we were getting ready to land, I looked over at his claims form and saw that his home country is Kenya. My guess is that his Swahili is much better than his English. He also slept most of the way, and covered his face with a blanket. I wanted to take a picture of that, but decided that would probably be a very ugly thing to do. I don’t want to be ugly. I’m very self-conscious (give me compliments).
We landed in D.C. and the only reason I didn’t kiss the ground is because I haven’t actually been outside yet. Despite the fact that I’m on American soil, I still have yet to see any soil. Georgia red clay, here I come!!
I breezed through passport control and customs (and by “breezed” I mean trudged through like cows being herded in an hour long process which I am thankful didn’t take any longer). With all five of my bags precariously perched on a cart much smaller than I needed, I headed to the Delta counter to re-check them for the final leg of my flight. Walking up, I noticed a bag just sitting there. That’s not the kind of thing that is generally considered okay in an airport, and I must admit, I was nervous. It’s the first time I’ve ever been nervous in an airport. I mentioned it to the check-in agent by asking, “Does this bag belong to someone?” She responded, “That would be the assumption.” I still kind of want to report her to the Delta gods or whomever handles that kind of thing. Whether or not she knew the bag was there, and whether or not she knew who it belonged to, the appropriate response to my genuinely concerned inquiry about airport safety is NOT, “That would be the assumption.” I let it go, though, because, again, fatigue. I told her my bags had already been tagged and paid for, all they needed to do was put them on the plane. She called a guy over, telling him I had three bags. I pulled them off my cart and put them on the scales. He pulled them off the scales and put them on the conveyor belt. Then they both looked at me expectantly, waiting for their tip. Normally, I’m one of the best people for this because Dad and airport decorum and whatnot. But after her response to my question and his lack of actually doing anything at all, I was less than inclined to offer them a “way to go guys.” Dad confirmed for me that I had made the right decision.
And now, here I sit, waiting for my flight to Atlanta. As I made my way to the gate, I recalled a conversation I had had with my friend Patrick, the American at Bellville Presbyterian outside of Cape Town. He asked me what my first meal back in the States would be. Without hesitation I answered, “Chick-fil-A.” I had to eat crow on that, however, because it was dinner time and I was hungry, and this being D.C., there wasn’t a CFA in sight. So I settled for a day-old Turkey BLTA (avo) wrap. It was less than stellar for my first meal back, but it gave me a good excuse to make jokes. Unfortunately, I think I failed at the jokes. I’m le tired.