Happy Birthday! And Welcome to America!

30 May 2013, Thursday

We’ve learned it is much easier to turn in the car the day before—it is always likely there will be others turning in cars as the same time; the line can get long. If you are also trying to catch a plane, you could get nervous.

Or at least I could. 🙂 And I don’t like to be nervous or rushed. So when we turned the car in yesterday, we had nowhere to be but dinner and to bed.

This morning we were at the dining room when they opened for breakfast at 6:30, and by 7:00 we were getting on the shuttle bus to airport. For some reason the Dublin Airport has a shuttle bus lot; passengers are dumped here—nowhere near the actual departure gates—and must hump their luggage over to a terminal. In Nashville the shuttle buses pull up in front of departures (or arrivals) and let folks off right there. These are shuttle buses from hotels, shuttle buses from off-site parking lots, shuttle buses from car rental places (which are on-site). Doesn’t that make sense? They even do it that way in New York, for heaven’s sake. But … I guess it doesn’t have to make sense.

We had to go all the way over to Terminal 2 (fortunately there were trolleys). But by the time we checked the luggage, went through security and then through U.S. pre-customs (very handy, honestly), it was 9:00am. Good thing we didn’t want anything from the duty-free shops.

Wait, did I say pre-customs was handy? Maybe so, but it’s not pleasant. The customs agents are not friendly. Not nice. I mean, I’m a friendly, smiley, chubby middle-aged woman holding a United States passport; the customs agent was American. We were both Americans, not to put too fine a point on it, and I felt, at the very least, unwelcome and definitely under suspicion. Not a happy transaction.

To Gerry, a non–U.S. passport holder, they were even ruder. When the agent asked him how long he was staying and he said, “Returning on June 27,” this person gasped and said, “Four weeks!” (Why all the drama?) And then she asked him if he was employed and asked him to prove it. This sort of thing, frankly, pisses me off, as an American. Is this how we treat every humble person seeking to visit our country? No wonder others have a bad opinion of Yanks.

WELCOME TO AMERICA! (And you are, actually, considered to be in American territory once you’ve run that nasty little gauntlet.)

We had to show our passport five times from the time we entered the terminal to the time we got to the gate. And by the time we got there (again, 9:00), there was barely time for Gerry to buy us a couple water bottles and go to the loo, and then they were boarding us. I guess that’s a plus.

It’s so nice to travel home with someone. It’s particularly nice to travel home with the one you love—it makes an arduous journey merely long. And you can people-watch together.

I got quite a kick out of this young guy sitting across the aisle and one row up, already asleep, or trying to be. If I’d had to guess, I’d have placed him at nineteen or twenty, but you can see he has a bottle of wine (at 11:00am, which makes me tired just thinking about it), so he had to be at least twenty-one. He was traveling alone (we watched him come in, get settled) … with a bear. Yes, that is a very well-worn Winne-the-Pooh tucked under his arm. Gerry said, “Oh, he’s taking it back as a gift for someone,” but I say he’d have packed a gift. Or at the very least put it in the overhead bin or his carryon. But he held on to it for seven hours across the ocean. I’m just sayin’.

What do you make of this? Is that bear a gift for a younger sister he’ll be meeting in Chicago? Or a source of comfort? Hmmm.

What do you make of this? Is that bear a gift for a younger sister he’ll be meeting in Chicago? Or a source of comfort? Hmmm.

We lost him in Chicago, of course. And what was supposed to be a little one-hour layover turned out to be a two-hour layover, because, as it happened, President Obama was visiting the Windy City. It just about shuts down the entire city when a U.S. president comes to town.

However, we ended up having a fun conversation with a young Irishman sitting near us. (Anyone reading a book is fair game for me, you know!) He was twenty-four and a physical therapist. He’d been working as a freelancer in Ireland (you know: two weeks here, two weeks there) and had an opportunity for a two-year contract in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was very, very excited about it. Even more interesting, his girlfriend was following him. She is a schoolteacher, so she was trying to get all her paperwork in order to teach in North Carolina. Charlotte’s a lovely town (in spite of the fact North Carolina’s slowly becoming a red state), so I hope they have a good experience there.

I said, “Oh, your mother’s going to miss you.” My son is thirty and lives a four-hour plane ride away from me; an ocean of separation would be hard to take. But! He set his mom up with an iPad so she can Skype him. Good boy! He was truly delightful. From County Meath.

They finally loaded us but then the runways were backed up. Obama was long gone but O’Hare was still recovering from all the flights that had been held back. We had four flights in front of us, and we looked out the window and saw several behind us, so we were even later getting off the ground. However, they made it up in the air and we arrived in Nashville on time. A birthday miracle!

If you’ve been keeping score, you may have relized that Gerry hadn’t been to his Tennessee home in a year—since April 2012—and I’d had to leave my foxgloves before they were in full bloom, because spring was so late. So as soon as we got home, we had a walk around the yard.

The roses were in full swing.

The roses were in full swing.

The cats were a little bewildered at first, but they warmed up fast. The Feeders! The Feeders were back!

And since we’d put up the fence in March, we’d planned an ambitious landscaping overhaul, which involved killing some grass. We were anxious to see how it was all going.

Looking good! And Spot is … well, who knows. (Actually, a raised, flaglike tail is a sign of greeting.)

Looking good! And Spot is … well, who knows. (Actually, a raised, flaglike tail is a sign of greeting.)

My foxgloves had bloomed and were a bit blowsy, now, but still beautiful to me.

Foxglove, 30 May 2013.

Foxglove, 30 May 2013.

We unloaded the car, had a cup of tea, ate a little supper, and fell into bed, exhausted. And that, my friends, is how I spent my (mumble mumbleth) birthday. 🙂

NOTE: If you’re just joining me and would like to read about this trip from the beginning, you can start here. If you would like to read about other trips in chronological order 🙂 just click on “Where to Start” above.

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