14 December 2000, Thursday
As a single mom, I’d been careful to keep family traditions sacred. And there is none so sacred as Christmas, right? But ten years in, the Boy was older and the opportunity arose to visit friends in England. We both wanted to go.
In the short weeks between Thanksgiving and our departure on 14 December, though, I had to transition from one job to another within the publishing company I worked for, make ready for sales conference, and physically move my office from one building to another, all while preparing for a two-week overseas trip (buy British pounds; pack, pack, pack) in my, uh, off-time. Oh, and ride herd on the Boy’s preparations for his midterms and his applications to three Tennessee Governor’s Schools.* During this time my Daytimer and I, while always close, became intimate.
To wind down and get into the Christmas spirit, we saw the Jim Carrey movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas the night before we left. It was perfect.
The next day we parked my car at a friend’s house, where the Boy’s dad met us. He drove us to the airport and helped us lug three large suitcases, one large box (full of Christmas gifts), and one carry-on each to the check-in point. Honestly, I’ve come to realize that travel at the holidays is insane. But that was then. 🙂
Music fans will find it interesting that Nancy Griffith was on the Nashville-to-Charlotte leg of our flight. As a big fan, I spotted her immediately (she was not traveling first class), but as a longtime Nashvillian and veteran of the music biz, I did not approach her. (sigh) And then we were in New York, as easy as pie.
I’d been shocked to learn we couldn’t fly into the same airport we’d fly out of. No, we landed at LaGuardia and would have to make our own way to JFK, forty-five minutes across town. The Port Authority’s got it covered—there are shuttles passing by every thirty minutes—but you’ve got to schlep all that stuff out to the curb and throw it up into the van. That’s one good reason to travel with a teen. I’ll think of others, surely.
The driver of the van we boarded was living through his own personal first-day-on-the-job-from-hell hell—yes, you heard me: his first day on the job—so the trip took twice as long as it should have. During which time my fellow passengers, I am ashamed to say, verbally expressed their dissatisfaction and lack of confidence in his ability. He was Chinese, so there was a bit of a language challenge, too, although I am sure he learned a few uniquely American words that day. Welcome to America! Land of the Free, home of the Rude.
Lucky for us, we had plenty of time to make our connection with Virgin Airlines, so we checked in, then grabbed a bite to eat. Virgin, a British company right down to its socks, was very, very civilized; from our first contact with them to the last, our experience was wonderful. (Although I’d had my doubts at first, when the plane was an hour late getting into NY from London—where it had been delayed because they held the flight for a passenger who’d gotten lost on his way to the gate! Seriously, that’s civilized, no? But having now experienced the Virgin terminal at Heathrow, I understand why that passenger was lost.) When we finally boarded the plane, each passenger found a pillow, blanket, and nylon backpack goody-bag in his or her seat: pen, postcards, toothbrush, toothpaste, earplugs, eye-covers, rubber ducky (I’m not joking), breath mints, cologne, hand/face wipes, tissues, and—my personal fave—socks. I was charmed from the get-go.
I’d planned a late-night flight (originally slated to depart at 11:10 pm, it was well past midnight before we were in the air) so we could sleep on our way to England. But you may know that Virgin was the first airline to equip each seat with personal television screens and a selection of movies on demand (as well as television shows, MTV-style radio, weather channel, and Sega and Nintendo games) at no extra charge, so needless to say the teenager with whom I was traveling had to experience … well, all of it. After the not-at-all-like-airline-food meal (which included wine, a choice of three different entrees, after-dinner liqueurs, and some truly sublime cheese), I slept. The last thing I remember, I checked the on-board flight map and we were over Iceland …
* He made all three, chose to go with Music and the Arts, of course.