Holiday Overseas, teh Second

by Megan M. on January 17, 2006 · View Comments (Blog) |

(If you’re just now joining us and would like the whole story, the previous installment happens to be here.)

I had Popeye’s chicken for dinner at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. My god, it was so yummy. (The chicken… NOT the airport.) It was hot and greasy and spicy and wonderful. I threw away the sidedish, because I couldn’t carry it, and the rest of the food, and my carryon bags. I didn’t have enough arms. If I was punkier, I could pierce my muscles (such as they are) with big industrial doorhooks, and hang my bags on those. No hands!

Officially I was on ‘standby’ for my flight to Gatwick. The robot woman had assured me that I would be on the flight, and I never should have believed her, but it turned out I’d be on the flight anyway. Everyone said so. I believed them all. I was tired of crying. I changed from my regular clothes into pseudo-pajamas – sweatpants and another tshirt, new undies, new socks. That made me feel a little better. I sat in the terminal and ate my fried chicken. I talked to my parents and I talked to Angel, knowing my cell phone would be useless when I landed in England. I got on the plane. I got on the plane!

Now, I’d never been on a flight quite like this before. I’d done a jump from Akron to Chicago to Los Angeles where the last leg was a turbulent five hours, but I’d never been on a longer flight. I’d certainly never been on a flight over a whole ocean. I had a very vague idea of what to expect, and was pretty sure I’d be hideously uncomfy most of the time.

By now I knew they’d been quacking at me when they told me there’d be a power port on my seat in coach, and without an external battery I needed to conserve iPod use as much as possible. I had a great book – King’s Wizard and Glass – and that helped me along quite a bit. They played the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I made it about three quarters of the way through before my own thoughts were incoherent, and I half-dozed in my seat. There was no sleeping – oh, was there ever less sleeping? But being a zombie was inevitable and precluded the intelligent watching of silly movies.

I read, and sat there, and read, and listened to the inane television programming that came after the movie. And read some more.

I let the cute Mexican girl in the seat next to me use my pencil to fill out her immigration card. We had a hard time understanding each other, but she had a pretty smile.

I wanted my iPod. I wanted my computer. I wanted anything to take the edge off of the impossible boredom I was experiencing. I may have played five minutes of Super Mario World before my laptop battery went the way of the dodo. I remember they fed us reasonably well. I don’t know how I lasted all those hours, looking forlornly at the woman across the aisle who was seated in front of a bulkhead, and could put her feet up while she napped. I tried every conceivable position in that little seat in coach, but nothing was comfortable, so I gave up. Who needs sleep, anyway?

Blessings upon blessings, we landed.

I don’t remember a whole lot of this part, either. My lower brain functions were taking care of me. My higher brain functions were still trying to nap in that little seat in coach. I remember getting my bags. Actually, I remember being absolutely certain that my bags were lost, until a very nice old man showed me the luggage on the cart he was moving.

Come to think of it, he reminded me a little of Paul.

I tried to make phone calls, but either the payphones at Gatwick are evil, or I was too tired. It was most likely a little of both. I did manage to get a hold of my parents once or twice, and Angel too (who answered her phone despite the early hour and was somehow not dismayed to be hearing from me)! I had no idea how I would get a hold of anyone in Ireland, but I thought I might cross that bridge after I successfully met my flight at Heathrow.

I wasn’t going to be missing any more flights, not me!

I somehow managed to find the right shuttle desk, and schlepped down to a waiting area for the bus. After all, they speak English in England! While I was trying to think clearly enough to decide what should stay in my checked luggage and what should come with me in my carryons, an older dude with a giant cell phone sat down nearby and proceeded to call everyone he knew. I was oh so jealous of his mobility and lack of confusion regarding foreign calling codes. Of course, they weren’t foreign to him. I didn’t say anything. I was too damn tired.

The bus was big, but it wasn’t a double decker. (I later saw a double decker while on the way back from County Wicklow grocery shopping, squeaked significantly and promptly forgot the bits and pieces of whatever conversation was being had at the time. It was so neat! But I didn’t get a picture.) I was so glad to be on that bus and not in an airport, or on a plane. I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it another however many hours, and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to force my body to board another flight. What kind of cruel torture is this, this airports?

I saw such neat things, just driving down an English highway! I saw something that seemed shaped like a toucan, but was plain black with a big yellow beak. I gaped after it like a total tourist. I saw a real honest-to-goodness magpie, a beautiful black and white one without mushy markings the way they seem to have in the States. It felt like a good omen. I saw a real live fox, picking along a hillside away from the road, and many tiny sheep, white and fluffy on the sides of hills! That was the first time I felt like I was somewhere else. The hills, the hills were a little different.

Not different in feeling, but different visually. Different like a picture book. But I was still on the planet Earth, if not in big ol’ America. Who needs America when you’ve got magpies and foxes just runnin’ around, I ask you!?

(I would like to note at this point that I am aware we have foxes, and maybe even that kind of magpie, in the U.S. But I have never seen them here, so keep quiet and let me continue.)

I must have gotten to Heathrow. It was a strange little airport. Its signs confused me. I went to the wrong terminal once or twice. I did successfully check my luggage, and discovered that European airports (well, these ones, anyway) offered free luggage carts. Didn’t have to pay a thing for ‘em! So after dragging my bags to one terminal, I got smart and piled them on a cart to go to the proper terminal. It took me awhile (and a lot of backtracking, and elevator hopping), but I found it. And I got on the plane. Another plane. Whew.

I sat down in my first window seat of the last eight years, for that is the length of time I felt I had been away from home, traveling in airports, lonely solitary wanderer. I sat next to a guy and a girl, both about my age. They had Irish accents. I believe they were flying home, and they’d been on planes forever today, like me, and they’d been vacationing in Vegas. They were really, really nice. They would’ve talked to me the whole flight, but I was at the end of my rope and bundled in my coat, I passed out for the whole. Two hour. Flight. Window seat and all.

I missed the Irish Sea, but it was pretty cloudy. I probably wouldn’t have been able to see anything, anyway. But I am sorry I didn’t talk more to those nice people, and maybe be friends, and maybe know them better. The girl’s name was Deirdre. I can’t remember the guy’s name. They were downright nifty, and their attractiveness was not due solely to my state of exhaustion and perceived travel isolation. That said, I should’ve stayed awake and gotten pictures. And phone numbers. Or something.

I awoke as we were landing in Dublin. My brain was not comprehending that this was the last plane, because it was thinking hard about how I was going to find the right people, how I was going to get out of the Dublin airport before I’d even set foot outside the plane. My cell phone was non-functional. I had plastic to use on the crazy payphones, but I was confused as to how much it was costing, and concerned about disappearing my meager emergency funds. I decided that I would get my luggage, change some money, and figure out then what to do next.

I had a feeling of muffled, exhausted terror that perhaps my bags would be lost, lost, lost, but I did eventually find them. I changed everything in my wallet to euros, having had zero luck at the payphones and wondering exactly where I would be sleeping that night. If nothing else, James had been to Ireland, and he would know what I could do from the Dublin Airport. He would know something, something about where I could stay, or someone could tell me how to get to a hotel, and I could use my emergency money to get at least that far.

“Can you tell me how far County Wicklow is from here?” I asked the woman at the exchange desk. She looked alarmed, and estimated a good three hours. I could take a bus, or hire a car, she supposed, but looked doubtful.

Three hours!?

I took my wallet and stuffed it safe in my laptop bag, clutched at my luggage cart, trundled toward customs and the exit. A strange calm and coherency was falling over me. Survival instincts kicking in? This was a city like any other city. I’d find my way around, and it would be fine, and eventually I would get in touch with the people I needed to be settled safely.

I went through a door into customs, and through a door out of it. I kept my eyes open for signs that would tell me things I needed to know. And on the way through that second door, I saw two angels, creatures from a higher plane, I’m not talking about an awful metal bucket that flies through the air, I am talking about a bright, brilliant, happy place that spawned these two angels who appeared out of fucking nowhere and implausibly, incredibly, unbelievably, rescued me from a foreign, self-sufficient fate.

And that’s how I got to Ireland in one piece on New Year’s Eve.


  • Angel
    I love angels ::nods wisely::
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