Day 1 / Tuesday, 11 September 2012
I will never get over the sight of a grown man walking alone through the airport talking—in his (ahem) outside voice—to the air, gestures and all. Like the homeless guy I always see on Maple Street when I go to the Square in my little hometown. But of course this man is expensively dressed and then I notice that little thing in his ear and … oh, it’s a hands-free phone situation. It still looks a little crazy to me. (And I prefer keeping my phone conversations to myself.)
Not that I should talk about crazy. My last day in Tennessee I was trending toward insanity myself, throwing things into the suitcase and hoping everything would work together (it did), grabbing the (wrong, as it would turn out) adapter, and finally having a Facebook meltdown because I couldn’t raise my airport ride on the phone. Heather is a calmer person than me, the sort who turns her phone off because she needs a little peace and quiet of a morning. And we weren’t leaving until well after lunch. 🙂
She arrived, of course. Laddie the Cat wound around my legs as I was getting into the car, and made me wistful … for a moment.
I love my felines, and I work from home, so they are my constant companions. I have to account for them when I leave for more than a couple days, which is why I persuaded the Boy’s half-siblings to move in while I was out of town. They love cats too.
So a last moment with Laddie. And off we went.
Flags were at half-staff at the airport. What …? I thought. Oh yeah: it’s September 11. How could I forget that, even for a moment? But people are traveling, getting on planes. Life goes on. I don’t mean to be blasé about it; those who lost loved ones on that day—and didn’t we all?—surely don’t forget. But I think the history of man is a chronicle of one tragedy after another; the rest of us keep moving forward as best we can. Sometimes we take long-awaited vacations.
I was there plenty early, so I settled in at a table at the airport Wendy’s to start work on the one project I didn’t manage to finish (or even start) before I left. This was my favorite part of editing—the first read, making detailed notes and jotting down my impressions and ideas—and I was certain I could wrap it up in the first week of my vacation. I worked on it for at least an hour at BNA. (With minor distractions like the loud-mouthed man with the Bluetooth phone.) It was very freeing to be disconnected from e-mail and Facebook, though.
I was meeting my friend Margaret in Washington DC, where, with her husband, she’d been visiting family for a few days. Margaret would go on to Ireland with me.
I’d be flying on what they’re calling a regional airline. An Embraer jet, which seats just fifty-one people in seventeen rows of three seats, aligned one/two. I was in the single seat at the front, which was good, since the woman at AAA I’d consulted about a rental car had warned me Dulles is very large and my layover of one hour (and eight minutes) was very small. “Get off as quick as you can and don’t stop,” she said. “Go straight there. Run.”
She was right. The plane arrived late to Nashville and I lost twenty of those scant minutes. The flight attendant told me I’d have plenty of time, but in fact they put us out of the plane out on the runway, in the dark (it was almost 9:30pm), with no directions even on how to get to the building, much less to the next terminal. People were wandering around trying to find a door to get inside. The trek to the next flight involved going both up and down escalators, three moving sidewalks, and a shuttle train. Terminal A (and we were at the most distant gate) is the farthest you can get from terminal C, which is where I was headed.
I was really, really worried I was going to miss the flight. I am a chubby middle-aged woman only five feet tall; my legs aren’t very long. I was carrying a purse and a laptop and a Kindle. I was huffing and puffing and trying not to hyperventilate from anxiety.
When I arrived at the gate at the C terminal, there were only about a dozen more folks to board. Margaret looked frantic. I nearly cried with relief.
I will never fly through Dulles again.
Flying east on a clear night, I was treated to the sight of constellations I hadn’t seen in years, some I’m certain I didn’t recognize, but two I did: Ursa Major (the big dipper) and Cassiopeia (which forms a W). My father, a USAF pilot, had learned to navigate by the stars, and he taught us kids all the constellations and the myths associated with them. I always think of my dad when I fly, but this was a particularly wonderful remembrance.