Monday, June 4, 2007

Home Again, Home Again

Jiggity Jig.

Just warning you that this is a booooring entry. Just some plane pictures and stuff ...

It has been a long week and a half. It is hard to believe that I have been away for almost two weeks. I miss my family and am eager to see them. When I am making a big trip, I begin thinking about it the day before and am halfway there on the first day of travel. Last night, I did a quick mental pack and did a little organizing. I am a little anxious about getting on the road -- I have visions of long customs lines and other unanticipated delays. Part of me will be very, very glad to be on the plane.

When I get up, it is very cold and there is frost on the ground for the first time. I hope that it is not too slick driving to the airport. My plane leaves at ten and I want to be there an hour and a half early, just to stave off any problems. I get washed and packed in record time. I have my two bags, one of which has my posters in it, rolled up in a cardboard tube. My ultra-dangerous lip balm is in a plastic sandwich bag.

After breakfast, Rowan's stepdad comes to take us to the airport, which again, is very kind of him. Her mom and stepdad have been marvelous to allow us to stravaig aboot, by watching the kids as needed. It has been a wonderful visit, all the way around. We crunch out to the car and load up. I give Lena a hug good bye and leave enriched with her artwork.

This trip is a little different from the trip in -- Rowan and I are not meeting each other in 3D for the first time; we are no longer a little ill-at-ease with each other. We are quiet, and we chat of this and that. I think that we are both tired and I am a little preoccupied with travel thoughts ... do I have my passport, what time is it at home, will I have a good seatmate, am I going to get hung up in customs? That kind of stuff. This time we take the freeway, not the back roads to Edinburgh, and make good time. I wonder if I will be brave enough to drive the next time I come here.

I look at the car clock and start to get a little nervous -- it is much later than I had hoped. Instead of having an hour buffer, it looks like I am going to have substantially less. I begin to hyperventilate a little. I am not sure how we have lost so much time. When we drive into the airport, I stifle the urge to yell, "stop the car!" and merely say, in a tense sort of way, that I will get out. Although they do not have to do so, Rowan and her stepdad say that they will park and meet me in the terminal. I grab my cases and trundle off to the ticket counter. It takes a while to get to the ticket counter -- the signs are a little confusing, and I am nervous because I am much later than I would like to be. The line is looooong, and some of the people in front of me are leaving on a later flight, and I am just about to have a panic attack.

I looked at the clock in disbelief -- it is an hour earlier than I had thought -- an hour earlier than the car clock in Rowan's stepdad's car. I realize that his clock is an hour late. I am not late, but am just right -- just as I am handing over my passport and reeling from the blood rushing to my head, Rowan and comes to say good-bye.

I am not a fan of long good-byes, so I thank her stepdad, most sincerely, for his help. He went above and beyond in the hospitality department. Rowan and I hug goodbye, and I tell her that I will let her know when I get home. It is quick, because I am close to the front of the line, and I shoo her away -- my mind is already occupied with the trip home. We will see each other again, for sure. They depart, and I watch them disappear into the crowd.

I am trying to impress the sound of Scottish voices in my mind -- and I remember what it was like to arrive in the airport for the first time. I don't feel much like a visitor. I have been enriched by the experience. It has been a great trip.

I get through the ticket counter -- there was some hang up, one I can't remember right now, but I had to wait for a bit at the counter. Oh, I remember, it was to do with the electronic boarding pass -- I had printed it out before I left the US, and there was some confusion about it, as the ticket people had apparently never seen such a thing. I am getting irritated. And worried. And when I get worried, I get irritated.

Finally I get through the ticket line with my two bags and poster tube. When I say two bags, I mean one carry-on and my purse. Please remember that I just left the ticket counter with these items, clearly observed by all of the counter personnel. There is a little pub-ish place where I get a coffee (I remember when Rowan and I peeked in on the way to London) and a mini-Boots, which I quickly look into, again remembering walking through with Rowan. I finish my coffee quickly and I get to the security screening line and am informed that you are only allowed to have one bag. I goggled at the person. I just left the ticket counter and all of my luggage is checked. I stomp over to some chairs and begin throwing away unnecessary items -- not that there are many (good-bye tuna and sweetcorn sandwich that Rowan made for me) -- and manage to cram everything into one bag. Thankfully, I travel light, but it was not an easy task. I have to cram, and I do mean cram stuff into my larger bag. I can't zip it. Things are stacked on the top of my open bag, but I only have one bag, so technically it is all good. The same amount of stuff in one bag is less dangerous than the same amount of stuff in two bags, apparently. My poster tube is laying across the top of my bag and there is just enough room to get my fingers at the top of the handle to carry it. Not the most comfortable arrangement, but workable. I have no idea why they did not tell me that I could only take one bag at the ticket counter ... grrrrr. I might have hated the people at the baggage counter for a moment or two.

We don't have to take our shoes off, for a mercy, but we have to practically strip when getting our bags x-rayed.

I get into the second waiting room and once again curse the lack of wheels on my bag. I get a slice of quiche, as I am starving. I nostalgically over-pay and I settle in to read for a bit before getting on the plane. I check the boarding information like one hundred times, waiting to find that I have messed up the time. Finally, I get on the plane and find, to my delight, that I have a whole seat to myself. No seatmate! Bliss. I rearrange my stuff and settle in to read. Here are some shots outside the plane as we take off over Edinburgh.

This is the city as we leave. I think it is lovely. I heart Edinburgh.

Straightening out over the Firth of Forth.

And over the countryside.

Pretty, no?

I feel like I am wrapping things up, taking pictures of the countryside as I leave, impressing the images on my mind.

These are the colors that I remember from the window of the train.

And we turn to head out over the Atlantic. I am officially a trans-Atlantic traveler. Hard to imagine that, really.

I always like being above the clouds. It is a nice trip so far -- the extra space is a bonus. About now, I have pulled out my magazines that I did not read on the way out. I have a copy of People Magazine that I brought from home -- the Sexiest Man or something issue. I look at the cover and then do a double-take. There is a familiar, but unexpected face on the magazine cover. I burst out laughing, because my husband has taken a picture of himself and glued it on the cover. It is hilarious and I miss him quite desperately. I am soooo glad that I did not throw the magazine away in the Great Edinburgh Airport Divesture.

The flight attendant comes by later, and sees the magazine and makes a comment about the cover, saying something about George Clooney, I think it was. Laughing, I show her my husband's handiwork. She is so impressed that she takes it back to the back of the plane to show to the rest of the crew. It is a big hit and she tells me that I have a keeper. I know -- after 17 and a half years, my husband still makes me laugh as much as ever. He is smart and funny and kind and does not grudge his wife trans-Atlantic flights. There is no way that I would be as accommodating, I have to say. I will have to make it up to him ...

The flight seems much faster this time, and very quickly, we are over the ocean. I look up from my book and I catch the first glimpse of land -- I know it for Greenland this time. I remember the flight attendant on the trip in saying that if it is green, it is Iceland and if it is white, it is Greenland. It seems a long time ago.

It looks white to me.

I wonder where we are ... When does Greenland become Canada? Or Newfoundland or Nova Scotia or wherever it is that we are. Should I be more embarrassed at my lack of knowledge?

I am irresistibly reminded of the Penguin Encounter at Sea World. I love that place.

I wonder what those lines are -- roads?

Where is Jack Bauer when you need him?! The plane does not seem to be threatening to shoot us down, though.

It is still there, and I am a little nervous. Don't they have laws about planes being too close to each other? That plane is practically looking up our nose.

I ask the flight attendant what she thinks that the straight lines are, and we think it must be a road, but it looks all snowy. The flight attendants are much nicer on the way back than they were on the way out. We talk about her recent trip to Edinburgh, her first with her husband.

Well, I looked out the window as we went south to Atlanta, but nothing much more interesting or picture worthy. I waved hello to all of the Southern Monkbots as I flew over. When they said that we were over Mississippi, I waved. Hi, Shelley!

I was very excited to get off in Atlanta, as my cell phone finally worked properly. I had about two hours in Georgia, long enough to get some lunch and to stretch my legs. I collected my one over-stuffed bag and poster tube and went through Customs. You have to collect your bags and re-check them in as you enter the country. I re-organized my one heavy bag into the two original smaller bags and got a cart and trundled over to the baggage area. It took a long, and I do mean a long time to get my suitcases. I think that mine were the last to be put out. Visions of lost luggage began to dance through my head. I was really glad that I had my computer with me.

I rechecked the bags and went through security again. It is at this point that my poster tube was confiscated, as being oversized. Please remember that it was checked in at Edinburgh with no difficulty at all. I was re-routed through to the "oversized carryon" counter where it was taken away. I was assured that it would be at my final destination. I asked if that was for sure, and I was reassured that it was. I was not convinced, but three people swore to me that the poster tube would get there with no difficulty and would be waiting happily for me at my destination.

I went on through and got lunch while I waited. A young woman commented admiringly on the jacket that Rowan had given me, a lovely teal one with Celtic petroglyphs on it. She had been studying at the University of Edinburgh and found them familiar. She said that I was wearing all of her favorite symbols. She was traveling back to California, as well. I left messages for folks that I was alive and well and on the way home. Rowan emailed me, and it came through on my phone, and once again, I marveled at technology.

It was interesting to be in the US again and to hear Southern accents. There was a Scotswoman talking on a pay phone as I walked to the gate, and I got a little pang, realizing that I was not going to hear that accent for a while.

It was about a half an hour before we boarded that I was stuck with the realization that there was no address on my poster tube. I went to the counter and said that I thought that there was no way that my stuff was going to make it to my destination. I was asked to show my claim ticket, and admitted that I had not been given one. Apparently, I was supposed to get one, but the crack TSA staff took away my stuff and did not give me one, despite the fact that there were three of them clustered around me, telling me that my posters would get to California. How did they know? What was I thinking, to TRUST THE TSA?? I deserved to lose my stuff for that alone. Anyway, it took a number of phone calls to everywhere from lost and found to the Delta baggage counter to verify that my stuff was lost. I was very sad ...

I learned a valuable lesson though, about getting claim tickets and following your own instincts, even when you are confronted with the scary TSA people who have the power of life and travel and getting home over you.

I was on the phone, trying to hunt my stuff down, even as we were on the tarmac ready for departure. I was one of those obnoxious people who had a cell phone glued to her ear as if what she had to say was soooo important that she couldn't hang up. Needless to to say, my stuff was not waiting for me at home and every one that I spoke to agreed that the TSA had botched it. I ended up getting a claim reimbursed, but That Was Not The Point.

Ah well.

I got off the plane at home and was greeted by my husband and the boys. My husband looked very handsome and some part of me eased when I saw him. Being with him feels like home -- he snuck up on me, just to get the reaction. I was reminded that it had been a long time since we had seen each other. It was a lovely kiss hello. My youngest did the traditional "run across the airport" to greet me, and I got all choked up. Let's just say that he has good dramatic instincts, but it was heartfelt. My oldest boy gave me a hug and mumbled hello. It was so good to see them -- it felt like a million years that I had been gone and I was all full of new experiences.

So, I went off to the UK to see a friend that I met over the Internets, which, in general, is not a good idea. In this case, however, it was a very good one. We had a wonderful time, exploring London and Edinburgh and Dundee. It was an adventure for sure. Somehow, across a continent and an ocean, we have become fast friends. My husband says that we deserve each other -- which is a high compliment. We are both refugees from the academic feminist world and have small children. Rowan knows more about literature than I will ever know and has a wide sentimental streak combined with journalist's observing, wry, eye. We are both marching into the world of the middle-aged woman, sans elastic-waisted pants. I refuse. Rowan has a wonderful twisty sense of humor. She hates pizza and avocados (which I do not understand) and is enamored with a great turn of phrase. In a lot of ways, we are more similar than we are different. We "get" each other, which is a great basis for friendship. I like that she is smart and funny and has a bit of a kick to her gallop.

I would say that one of the best ways to see a new place is with a friend who lives there, and I got to do that. She also shared her world with me, seeing it fresh through my eyes. It is her turn next, so stay tuned. I wonder what Rowan will make of California?

We are planning our next stravaig, now that Rowan sees that the world is not too scary and strange. I think that she needs to come out this way soon. Dublin would be fun. London, of course, is a must-do. I have my eye on Spain, as well. I have barely scratched the surface of Scotland.

The world is a wide-open place, waiting to be explored.