Rainy days and Sundays
Trip Start Jun 18, 2005
52Trip End Jan 01, 2006
This time I got a shaky plane, three hours of turbulence, an unintelligible squawk from the speaker. "Was that Happy New Year in Spanish?" I wondered. My feet were hot. I pulled off shoes and socks. Across the aisle, a Korean lady who boarded in Lima sat placidly, legs balloon-wrapped and feet slippered, a wool hat on her head. I'd watched in fascination earlier as she inflated the leg-wraps, screech screech screech with a tiny hand-pump. Protection against clots, I figured. Better than my compression stockings, that caused such blisters on my feet the first day
I must have slept. I smelled breakfast. An omelet, and coffee. A few more sips from my water bottle. Good things, but I was "flying ugly" - that raw-eyed look you get when you stand in endless lines and sit for endless hours without sleeping, or a bath.
Touchdown, American soil! On the ground in Los An-ge-les. It was 7 AM Pacific Time, noon in Buenos Aires. Thirty hours since I left the bed in my hotel room. My luggage was tagged for Seattle, so I only had my carryon, thank God.
"Welcome to the United States of America" bannered over the escalator. I was in a huge room, high-ceilinged, fresh-air flow. Everything looked clean and new. Many counters rowed in front of me, manned by uniformed personnel. Customs. "US destination, go to Number 13," a woman called, over and over. I headed for 13, waited my turn,
"Good morning maam!" A young man held out his hand, blond hair, short-trimmed, clean-cut, he was
"I don't have a form."
"They gave it to you on the plane."
"Nobody gave me a form. Do you have one here?"
This kindly person looked under his counter, looked all around, called a passing guard. "Can you get me a form for this lady?"
The guard could not leave his area. "Maam, I'm sorry, you'll need to go back to the information desk and get a form."
I was good at this by now. I trudged back through the line to get The Form.
INSET, NOTATION, ALERT TO ALL AIRPORTS EVERYWHERE. PUT SOME (*&*%$(*^ INSTRUCTIONS ON THE WALL. BIG SIGNS. BIG ARROWS. HOLDERS FILLED WITH FORMS. DO NOT GO BEYOND THIS POINT WITHOUT THE FORM. YELLOW FOOTPRINTS ON THE FLOOR. STAND HERE AND FILL OUT THE FORM.
"Are you bringing anything into the US?" The Form wanted to know. "No," I answered.
Back into the line. Hand over The Form. Stamp! "Welcome to the United States," said a smiling Latino customs guard. Into the wait-pen. Since I had no luggage, I did not have to go through customs check. That did not prevent two serpentine turns in a line around the giant room JUST TO GET OUT THE DOOR. A pilot behind me, spiffy in his uniform, circled just like me. "Surely you don't have to wait in this line too," I sympathized. "Oh yes, I do," he answered.
There are too many people, I thought to myself. People in one place want to go to another place, the world is HUGE, there's much to see. But we all have to crowd through one little butthole to get there. It's called an AIRPORT.
I HATE airports. I feel sorry for anyone who has to WORK in one, in any capacity. And I would spend my New Year's Day in this one. I had reached Stage Three on the Grumpy Chart.
Outside, cigarette-puffers alley, too tired to care. I sat down by the azalea bed and looked at the American flag. One more flight, one more shuttle ride, and I'd be home. But first, seven hours to kill. I decided to walk to the United gate. I'd been sitting long enough.
United gate now. Inside, people, people, people everywhere. Please God, not another line. God answers prayer. In front of my eyes an auto-ticket machine appeared. Nobody there! It beckoned with a flawless screen. "Give me your CREDIT CARD." Pop it in, my name, my flight, displayed. I touched YES, my boarding pass slid into my hand. Thank you good angel, I smiled in thanks.
Good news again. An elevator, ten feet to my left. At the top, security. No one in line! I breezed through. The walkway was clean, marble, polished, wide. My gate was not too far. McDonalds! Starbucks! Short line at Mickey D's, I ordered lunch. "We're serving breakfast, maam," I'm told. "Big breakfast then!" I laughed. "Happy New Year!" came with the food and now I had my tray. Two New Year's breakfasts then, who cares?
A bookstore there. I'll buy a book to read today. A corner seat, tucked and snug. One person there. One person with one cell phone. Girlfriend quarrel. Painful talk. Hangups. Recalls. "Make up or break up!" I screamed inside my head. His plane was called.
Across the way, a child. On the floor, hands and knees, futile travel, getting nowhere, britches tightly clutched by Dad
After Chapter 12 I went to Starbucks for a coffee break. Kept reading.
Chapter 20 finished. Time for lunch. Checked the famous chef's place, pretty and pucky, but crowded loud, loud, loud. Back to Mickey D's for fish filet, with cheese and quiet. My needs are simple. Leave me alone. I read some more.
Three PM, at last. Boarding call, at last. "When I get on this plane," I thought, "I can sleep all the way home. Two and a half hours of good solid sleep." I smiled. Yes, I got my window seat. I settled in, head leaning, eyelids falling. A woman eased into the seat beside me, quietly. Peace.
Announcement. "We have too many babies on board in the same row! I need someone to switch seats." The woman beside me raised her hand. "I'll move!" she said. I grabbed her arm in horror. "Oh NO! PLEASE don't do that!" It was too late. Mother and tiny squalling baby slid into the spot beside me. I knew the baby was wailing in misery. I was miserable too. I began bawling, just like the babe. I'd passed Grumpy and was now in full-fledged Stage of Wallow. I could not help myself.
I cried for the baby. I cried for all the sleepless hours of push, and shove, and hurry, and wait. I cried for the rain that was pounding Los Angeles on New Year's Day. The Rose Parade!
It's not SUPPOSED to rain in Southern California, I sobbed, as the plane taxied to the runway.