Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Trip

Before I talk myself out of it, let me tell you about the trip home (to California).

I hadn't flied since before 9/11, so I hadn't experienced all the little changes that have taken place with security - the liquids, the gels, the shoes, the tiny metal things that might be used as weapons. So I didn't know what to expect. I knew that I needed to be at the airport plenty early, especially since I was flying standby. (My brother used to work for United and gets "companion" tickets that are much, much cheaper than real tickets.) I'd also checked online to find out about the gels, liquids, etc.

I made a pre-flight shopping trip to get the tiny things that I needed. I got some tiny shampoo and conditioner. Tiny lotion. Tiny deodorant. Tiny tootpaste. Tiny mouthwash. Tiny hand sanitizer. I put them all in a quart-size, transparent, plastic zipper bag. With my non-tiny items (Blistex, for example) it was a tight squeeze. I'd read on the TSA website that the items need to fit "comfortably" in the bag, and they didn't look comfortable to me, so I took out the mouthwash and hand sanitizer. I put this bag of stuff in the end pocket of my carry-on bag. I'd decided not to check luggage since it gets lost and can be a hassle. Besides, I was only going home for a few days.

I packed a pair of jeans, a couple of t-shirts, undies, bras, socks and a pair of shoes. I forgot to pack my flip-flops. Fortunately mom had an extra pair.

I added some electronic stuff - mp3 player, earphones, etc.

That was about all I needed. I was traveling in the clothes I would wear to the memorial service, so I didn't need to pack anything for that.

I drove up to Dallas, to my brother's house. I was flying non-stop from DFW to San Francisco (SFO). Good idea when going standby. You don't want to get stuck some place halfway home without a flight. My brother and his family were already in California, so a friend of theirs who was house- and pet-sitting drove me to the airport. (Thanks, Laura.) It was a short and uneventful drive.

When I got to the airport it was not crowded at all. Security was a breeze. I got my ticket from the automatic ticket machine, walked up to security, took off my shoes, put all requested items in the plastic totes, and breezed through. (I think I could have sneaked my little swiss pocket knife through. They really didn't seem to be paying that much attention.)

With security behind me, I had two hours to wait for my flight. Wait. Wait. Walk a little. Wait. Eat some fries. (There was a McD's in the terminal.) Wait. Walk some more. Visit the shops. Wait. Use the bathroom.

Finally we board the flight - some sort of "Airbus" - I forget the nomenclature. I'm seated near the emergency exit, but before I can sit there I have to promise that I will help if there is an emergency. Sure, I can help. Twenty-two years of military service and experience should be good for that, at least! The person next to the exit appears to be a United pilot in uniform, and there is a seat between us.

Here's something I didn't expect: lots of leg room! I ask, when did this start? I'm told that it's common in whatever class I'm in. Economy Plus, I think. The seats cost a little more, but you can actually move. And you don't end up with the private parts of your seatmates in your face when they have to get up and visit the lavatory. So the flight was very comfortable, and the flight attendant (I almost wrote "stewardess") was really nice. I think she thought I was an ex-employee because of my ticket. But she was nice to everyone. Just a little nicer to me!

The flight was a short three hours so we didn't get a meal. We got a "snack." A tiny bag of mini pretzels! Of course, we got free beverages, but I didn't want to drink too much because I hoped to avoid the lavatory. Didn't work. The lavatories haven't changed a bit. They're still way too small, and the plane always experiences turbulence as soon as my pants come down!!

Arrival at SF, and my older brother had to drive around twice to find me. His instructions were to "go to the baggage claim area and then go all the way to the right - there will be some chairs there. Then go outside and wait." Well, I went almost all the way to the right. There were lots of chairs. I finally went outside to find a no parking, no loading, no unloading, no standing, no breathing, no nothing buss stop. I suspected I was in the wrong place. Thank goodness for cell phones. I called, he broke the law by answering while driving, and I found out that I'd gone too far. So "all the way" didn't really mean "all the way." I'm a linguist, but I apparently missed that class!

I soon found where I was supposed to be, and my brother found me, and we drove to my mom's house in Santa Clara.

I was surprised to find my cousin Ed in the car. I didn't recognize him at first. It's been so long since I've seen my cousins I don't recognize most of them. I spent a lot of the time at home asking people who they were!

Let's call this part one, and end it here. I'll get to part two another time. As you can see, this has become a very long post. Next time I'll tell you about my time in California.

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