March 27th, 2009
2:33 p.m – Minnesota Time; 7:33 p.m. - My Time
I'm Home! I'm Home. Actually, I'm in Minneapolis airport waiting for my connecting flight but in the background I can hear talk radio and American accents and I'm surrounded by fast food places, signs that say restrooms instead of toilets, and coffee, - wonderful, wonderful coffee shops.
I have been mostly awake for . . . more hours than I care to figure at the moment. But, a lot. The walk to the tube this morning was the longest walk of my life, and it felt like that when I was only half-way to the station. I packed through the night, attempting to fit as much stuff, and the heavier the better, into my backpack so that I could put more little things into my larger rollie bag without exceeding the weight limit. In the morning, after a dismal 2 hour nap, I somehow managed to maneuver my bags down the narrow flight of stairs, past the stuff Katie has accumulated in the landing, and over the threshold of a door I will probably never see again in my life. I thought I'd be all nostalgic on the walk to the station, “oh, this is my last time walking this street, tripping over that paving stone, and seeing that corner store” . . . this was not the case.
I was more preoccupied with my aching back and getting to that tree, that corner, that spray paint mark so that I could take a well-earned break than anything else. A walk that usually takes me 15 minutes on a bad day took me closer to 25. I had a bag that towered over my head on my shoulders, a purse bulging with my laptop, 3 books (one of which was a Tolstoy, still not quite sure how that managed to fit), and other odds and ends, slung over my shoulder, the largest bag on wheels that the airline will admit before charging extra strung out behind me, and perched upon that my carry-on backpack loaded down with presents for everyone back home. I must have looked a sight, especially as I finally climbed that slight rise in the road that was quickly becoming a mountainous obstacle and sweat was pouring down my face and I was panting like a rabid dog. Then, I couldn't get the gate open, and then I encountered steps. Lots and lots of steps. Usually, not an issue. I don't even think about the steps. But then, I've never had 4 very heavy bags to maneuver down those steps, and only 2 hands to make that happen. Thank heavens 2 very wonderful people took pity on me as I stared ominously down that horrid flight of stairs and with 6 hands we managed to get them all down with no problem. Then, some other guy just grabbed my bag for me and threw it on the train. And the goodwill didn't end there. At the transfer I had to heft my bags UP the stairs this time, and then back down the other side. Not caring for the state of my bag, I simply tugged on the handle and thumped my way up one painful stair at a time. Half-way up another women offered assistance and together we found our way to the landing without much problem. Two steps from the top some man stopped on his descent to the platform below happened to mention the existence of a lift around the corner. Brilliant. Luckily for my mood, that said lift was taped off, so I wouldn't have been able to use it anyway. But I could use the one on the other side of the platform, going down. Praise God.
I successfully made it to Heathrow, Terminal 4, minus a little hiccup getting out of the train where my bag began to dangerously tip over, with my arm still attached, but between my leg and a fellow traveler's helping hand I managed to divert a potential problem. And so began another long journey up a corridor that was slanted, into an elevator where I so stupidly decided to bypass a cart, and into the airport and the longest check-in line I have ever seen. Now I understand why people say get to the airport 2 hours early. Between check-in and security, I needed every last minute. Luckily, I did have time to make one last stop at HMV to pick up a last minute gift I had been intending to get forever. And then the long journey back to the states. This journey was actually shorter than my initial flight to Europe but in my mind it took longer. I managed to lose both of the earbuds to my earphones as I hefted my backpack into the overhead compartment and caught the cord on the way up and viciously tore the phones from my ears. So I was left with those dinky airplane ones, which have definitely gone down in quality since I last used them. I guess the airlines got fed-up with people stealing their still cheap, but semi-okay headphones, and so they replaced them with you'd-have-to-be-crazy-to-steal-these-pieces-of-crap headphones. I can't really blame them, and they got the job done, it just sure wasn't a Bose listening experience. I also managed to pick some truly crap movies – Twilight? I was a little embarrassed to know that the people beside and behind me could see my selection. Slum Dog Millionaire was pretty decent and the kids were ridiculously adorable. And then I proceeded to watch half of Australia, but I was cut off, and I wasn't too upset about that. Of course, Hugh Jackman in dungarees and his hot accent doesn't leave much room for complaint, even if the movie was pretty cheese. In between movies and snatches of sleep I was entertained by the two British girls on my right – Emily and Arabella, 5 and 4 respectably. Arabella was 3 before she was 4, and 2 before that, and 1 before that. There was a big British bloke on my left and despite being from the UK he didn't quite get the whole dry humor bit. When he didn't realize that the remote popped out I asked him “First time on a plane?” rather wryly and he responded in all sincerity, “No, just first time to America.” I didn't push it.
I love that before I left the people sending out information and setting up orientation make a big to-do about not calling ourselves strictly Americans. We are US Americans, because we wouldn't want to offend all those people who are from either North or South America and who are also Americans. I personally think that's a load of bollucks and those people who get offended by that are simply looking for a reason, any reason at all, to pick a bone with the US, or anyone for that matter. And then you get to the UK and everybody there refers to us as Americans and the US simply as America, never the states, nor the USA, nor even the US. It's always America.
Anyway, that was my life for the last 13 hours. And in another 5 or so I should be stepping off the plane into beautiful, gorgeous Oregon and into the loving arms of my best friend. And then a much needed stop at Red Robin for a real burger. I can't wait. I was more excited for this trip than both Ireland and France, combined.
I am going home.