getting there is half the fun: travel day

07/24/2009

CLT > GSP > ATL > LGW > CBR

when i arrived to the greenville airport, i had one goal in mind:  spend my starbucks giftcard.  no such thing as starbucks exists in the greenville airport.  the terminal was deathly quiet so i finished up some work once i finally found a seat not directly under a frigid airvent.  one “gourmet” pizza (note the laughably gratuitous use of the word gourmet- someone sue them for false advertising please) later and i was on a flight to atlanta.

the atlanta international terminal is phenomenal.  complete with a grand piano being played, interfaith chapel, MLK exhibit, bright lights and even some sort of muppet museum display, sensory overload commenced quickly and the thought of being on a confined coach seat for 7 hours seemed relaxing.  i wonder if this is purpuseful?

i hoped to eat chick-fil-a but apparently they aren’t “international” enough for terminal E at hartsfield-jackson.  qudoba is though, and he was the winner.  there isn’t much good mexican in europe, so i figured i’d indulge one last time. though i wished it was chipotle, i was thrilled it wasn’t moe’s.

i flew delta/nwa and had a pleasant experience.  i walked onboard to one of rhett miller’s new ones and settled into my window seat to regina spektor.  i know i visibly smiled with approval and wonder if my muzak friend meg made this mix?!   i checked the set list in the magazine and sure enough, it was all quality.  good move, delta!

the girl in front of me was about 7 and traveling with her grandmother.  she was chock-full of questions from boarding until takeoff:

“when are we going to move?”

“we are moving. we are going  backwards.  why are we going so slow?  we are never going to get off the ground this slow.  when are they going to go faster?”

as we were sitting next in cue to takeoff:  “what happens if the plane doesn’t go fast enough and we crash into the trees?  what happens if we crash into the ocean?  what happens if the pilot stops steering?  isn’t it true that sometimes planes crash right when they take off?  if our plane crashes, how will they know why we crashed?”

she was completely logical about everything and purely information gathering.  luckily for her grandma, she passed out after dinner.

i awaited the sight of my travel buddy for the next 7 hours.  turns out, he was a young lad in school at washington and lee but from england and headed home for summer.  i thought, this is great!  i’ll get all the scoop on england.  as i tried to make conversation, i got the distinct impression he wanted to crawl under his seat.  his face kept a hue ranging from pinkish to rouge, depending on the length of the sentences, and he spoke very quietly and never asked questions back.  i thought, the headphones cannot come soon enough for this chap.  being an introvert, i can respect that vibe so we both rode in quiet.  he watched strange comic-book movies and i watched sunshine cleaning and gran torino and an episode of how i met your mother. i recommend all.

about 5 hours in (waiting until he was between movies), i asked for a potty break, strategising it to be my only one for the flight.  then i noticed him talk to the older couple behind me… turns out they were his parents!  no wonder poor chap wasn’t willing to strike up conversation.  his mum and dad had just picked him up from school and could hear every word.  poor guy!

sleep did not come easy, or at all, really.  as i watched the little plane graphic scoot futher east across the atlantic and over ireland, i put on the decemberists’ newest album (again, point for delta) and peeked out the window for the sunrise.  beautiful.

as we began our decent, i hear:  “oh my, we’re going into the clouds.  clouds are just cotton, aren’t they grandma, right?  or wait, they are just white air.  yes, white air.  uh oh, here we go.  wait, how does the pilot see when we’re in the clouds- he can’t see where we are going?!  are we going to see big ben?” our curious little friend woke up right where she left off.

i wiggled my way from the plane to the customs counter.  the customs agent was none too pleased to see i was staying for 4.5 months.  she had “trouble believing” i wasn’t going to work while i was here.  see, “many people do come and work, and that is the problem”.  sassy jessica was thinking “aren’t there a lot of worse things i could do besides work while i’m here?”  sassy jessica was overpowered by cool and calm jesssica who just kept reiterating i was only here for fun, once in a lifetime chance, saved my money,  live with friends, helping around the house…yada yada…. who never ever used the “w” word:  work or the “n” word:  nanny.

bottom line:  over the 15 minutes, the agent took lots and lots of notes and gave me a “coded” entry.  she was very clear she could and should have taken me to the back room for further interrogation where i would be photographed and fingerprinted.  so, why didn’t she?  she explained:  “well, you’re lucky.  i’m in a very good mood today.  and besides that, i just belive you.  i do.  i believe you.  but you better leave here by december 9th.  we expect you to be gone by december 9th.  and you must get the US agent to stamp your passport when you return.  do you understand?”

so, i need to keep all my docs up to date any time i leave the UK.  each time i return, they will need to see my latest bank statement, emails from hawthorne house and the k. family, etc.  they will pull up a digital image of the notes she took and i “better have the same story”.  i think that will be easy because i told the truth.

i couldn’t help but think of the show lie to me.  i watched it several times.  i kept thinking of all the clues that tell people you’re lying and trying not to do them, which is madly confusing!  especially when you’re telling the truth.  my nose itched, i thought, “don’t rub it or they’ll think you’re lying”.

passport stamped and adrenaline rushing, i rather ungracefully with my two rolling suitcases, bought a bottle of water,  a bus ticket to cambridge, popped a motion sickness pill and hopped on board.  sad (glad?) to say i slept the entire bus ride.  the alternative would’ve been pukey-monster. the british countryside will be there next time.

the bus dropped me downtown cambridge at a big green field which reminded me of clemson’s bowman field- people sunbathing, playing frisbee, eating.  it was about 70 degrees and sunny at noon…

i grabbed my bag and went towards the cabs.  then i realised i left my other rolling suitcase on the ground by the bus, so i ran back to get it.  then i caught a cab to Hawthorne House….

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