I Like Having a Plan

My experiences on this trip gave me some food for thought:

  • As soon as I got home, I purchased a plug with multiple USB slots to facilitate charging in airports.
  • I also purchased multiple adapters—one each for camera battery, laptop, Kindle, and CPAP. No one has to share.
  • I also gave a lot of thought to the swelling ankles/painful feet problem: I diagnosed the pain (tendonitis) and learned exercises to prevent; discussed it with healthcare professionals; purchased compression socks; and have realized that a full massage is something I need to have within twenty-four hours of landing.

I like having a plan.

I’m ready for the next trip.

I’m ready for the next trip.

I also learned something about overbooking on the airlines. (When you travel alone, as I mostly do, you end up as an observer, a listener, a lot.) Sitting in Nashville waiting for my outbound flight to JFK, the gate announced they were overbooked and looking for three volunteers to step off (before they started bumping people involuntarily). (I’m not sure why they overbook in the first place—perhaps because people don’t always show for a flight they’ve booked?)

Anyway, in this case, the offer to a volunteer was they’d put you on the next flight to NY (although it would land in LaGuardia, not JFK, which was where my next flight would depart), and they would give you a $300 voucher as a thank-you. I’ve done that LGA to JFK thing and know what it involves. You have to retrieve your luggage, schlep it out to the curb, and catch a shuttle (at a cost of $15 last time I checked) to JFK. The shuttles come by every fifteen minutes and it’s a forty-five–minute ride. Then you check your luggage back in and wait for your flight.

Five minutes later the gate attendant asked again, only this time the offer was $400. Five minutes later it was $500. And they got takers. But I’d never been aware of—never listened attentively enough to—the escalating offer. So if you’re so inclined, you gamble on the reward getting more lucrative … or people taking the offer ahead of you.

I had the time to participate—a five-hour layover—but really didn’t want to spend it humping luggage across New York City by myself. Not to mention the fact that something could go wrong—a storm delay here, a traffic jam there—and I sure didn’t want to miss my overnight flight to Dublin. I decided then and there that I’m too old to switch itineraries in the middle of the stream … and let someone else grab that five hundred dollars.

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Flying Is Both a Blessing and a Curse

Sunday, 28 June 2015
We got up extra early and were at the restaurant for breakfast early—6am—and then caught the shuttle at 7am. I was checking a second piece of luggage, so we had to wait in line for that. (They didn’t charge me! Three years ago I had to pay extra to bring a second piece of luggage, but now the American Airlines website proclaims that the second piece is free. When did that change?)

Gerry walked me right up through the security gate and watched me pass through. (sigh) Watched me, in fact, until I rounded the next corner and couldn’t be seen.

It was very, very busy. The lines were long to check in, to go through security, to pass through U.S. Customs. Tourist season, remember. I don’t usually travel during the height of the tourist rush, so I know now I should have allowed more than the recommended two hours (and I was there two and a half hours early). I didn’t have time to do my VAT forms or get anything in the duty-free.

There are no electric plugs in the Dublin Airport, except in one little room that had two plugs (what’s up with that?)—and I’d forgotten to charge up the Kindle the night before (partly because I was using my adapter for other things: CPAP, for example). But all the lines I stood in took so long that they’d started boarding by the time I arrived at my gate.

Honestly, flying is a miserable experience. It used to be exciting and fun, back in the day. Today it felt like the seats had gotten smaller since my arrival—in the last eleven days.

That said, one of the nice things about flying is the view from above. This last view of Ireland always makes me a bit melancholy, though.

That said, one of the nice things about flying is the view from above. This last sight of Ireland always makes me a bit melancholy, though.

And then I got to Chicago. My Kindle and phone were both dead. I needed electricity, stat. JFK was so civilized: every hundred feet or so there was a huge column with a dozen or more outlets. Electricity was easy to find in New York. But Chicago had only one electricity supply area per concourse: little desks with four chairs and four measley outlets, and at first I was just glad to get a seat. Until I realized that the guy next to me was having an argument with his girlfriend while his phone charged. He absolutely did not care that there were three of us sitting there, unable to escape from his verbal posturing and strutting. Oh my goodness, it was painful. He was an idiot.

And then … Nashville. Home.

My friends Jenny and Kevin were waiting to pick me up in mid-afternoon; they’d been visiting Middle Tennessee friends and house-sitting for me.

At the Nashville International Airport: me, Kevin, Jenny.

At the Nashville International Airport: me, Kevin, Jenny.

• • •

That wasn’t the end of the excitement, though. My son and his girlfriend were in the process of moving to Tennessee from Phoenix. The next day, they crossed the state line.

Heading east over the Mississippi River at Memphis. Welcome home!

Heading east over the Mississippi River at Memphis. Welcome home!

I ran to the farmers market to get ready to greet them in the best way I know.

I ran to the farmers market to get ready to greet them in the best way I know.

Supper!

Supper!

It was definitely very good to be home.

Let the Vacation Commence! Part 1

Wednesday, 17 June
I’ve been getting ready for this trip—I’ve known about it for more than a year; the flights were purchased nine months ago, as were the hotels—for the better part of a year. Granted, it’s been an eventful, fraught year: I got married, went to Phoenix for the Christmas holidays to see my son and a dear friend who was dying of cancer, hosted other friends who passed through Middle Tennessee this spring, helped my son make an important decision, made plans to throw a party in another country … and worked a lot. (I’m self-employed. I work a lot.)

I was really, really looking forward to this trip. (Not least because I’d see my husband for the first time in more than seven months.)

My housesitter—a lovely young man, a friend of friends—drove me to the airport first thing in the morning. We ran a bit early because I’d forgotten commuter traffic is lighter in the summer, but that’s OK. And then he gave me a hug at the airport. Because that’s what you do, right? A hug at the airport. Sweet. 🙂

My first flight—one of those tiny comuter planes—took me to JFK International Airport, over the hills of Virginia and the enormous Chesapeake Bay, and up the coast.

Long Beach Island, New Jersey.

Long Beach Island, New Jersey.

New York City—I’m still wowed by it.

New York City—I’m still wowed by it.

I had a five-hour layover, so I found a “bistro”—restaurant with tables, as opposed to a fast-food takeaway—and ordered lunch (a very expensive lunch, I might add, and not very good—but is airport food ever good?). The good news is I was in a quiet corner right next to an electrical outlet, so I got out my computer and worked for about three hours. The waitress was a doll (Venus, always smiling and calm, not something you normally see in an airport), so actually this was fortuitous. I always need to take work with me.

But finally, it was time. I was seated next to a married couple from NYC; she was American, he was Irish by birth, now an American citizen. A Dubliner, even! They were on their way to Dublin for a wedding—a wedding on the same day as the wedding I was crossing the ocean for. We laughed thinking how wonderfully coincidental it would be if we were going to the same event, but, alas, we quickly discovered we were not. And then we slept.

Wherein Jamie & the Boy Take a Vacation at Christmas

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.