Thursday, March 29, 2007

en route to spain


March 15, 2007

The two headlines on the front page of this morning's paper:

1) Sept. 11 Suspect said to confess: Sears Tower a target, too, Pentagon says

2) Flying toward disaster? Near collision shows hazard in skies around O'Hare

This only seemed appropriate seeing as my last awake thought last night included falling out the tail end of an exploded plane. Out of superstition I wore a sold blue t-shirt I've owned since 7th grade, chosen because it's the same shirt I wore on my first ever solo flight, just three weeks after September 11 (2001), when I flew from NYC home to Chicago to surprise my dad for his 50th birthday. At the time I decided that if I made it to my destination sans terrorist action, I would always wear this shirt on future flights.

When we got to O'Hare a swipe of my dad's credit card wasn't enough to bring up our itinerary on the do-it-yourself computer screen. Of course he knew the record locator number by heart: Q...4...LBJ? And my parents already argued about something dumb, to which the Delta employee responded, "She's always right--haven't you learned that by now?" To which my dad responded, "A billion seconds."
"Sorry?"
"We've been married a billion seconds."
"And what does that translate to?" he asked.
"31 years and 8 months."
"Well congratulations!"
"Thanks!"
As the man weighed each suitcase individually, my dad bent over and peered under the counter, announcing, "and this one should be...." The man remarked how groups of retired men will turn this into a betting game--who can guess the closest to the actual weight.
"Times have changed," my dad said with a chuckle as he attached identity tags to each suitcase handle. "Cell phone and e-mail it asks for!"

Just past security my mom spotted the book she left at home with only 15 remaining pages to read. So she stood beside the kiosk and quickly skimmed the final chapter. The woman selling the books directed us to the Starbucks a few feet away and said they were giving away free cups of coffee. I had vowed I wouldn't drink anything, especially coffee, but I couldn't resist "free" (I've subsequently peed, I think, 6 times since then). In line we overheard the woman in front of us say she had both triplets and twins (actually 2 sets of triplets, but she "lost one"). So we started talking to her and we had to play the age-guessing game. She guessed "high" with 18, and her mouth dropped when I said 24. Before this, she had walked past and brushed her hand along my hair and said in passing, "Love the curls!" She, herself, had tightly-wound light brown ringlets.

We took a small plane to NYC's JFK airport and sat in 3 consecutive window seats. 9-11. Those numbers. Again. There are those brief moments where I hold my breath and assume we'll suddenly plummet or crash into a building. Instead the flight was fast and uneventful. The girl next to me read a thick book that I assumed was written in Polish. I might be the only person in the world who simultaneously reads The New Yorker followed by the fourth book of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. I started with a fascinating article about spiders and reminisced about my former aspirations of "When I grow up, I want to be a/an.....ENTOMOLOGIST." And the Pants book obviously reminds me of my friends--the "Septembers" standing in for the Unit.


[my dad watching us ascend]

I waited to eat anything until we arrived at JFK. We went to a place called the Sam Adams Restaurant, and I ordered quesadillas. Safe bet, right? Wrong. I hardly ever have complaints about food, but that was one of the worst meals I've ever eaten. But I didn't want to be wasteful, so I at it all anyway. Afterwards we sat at gate 8 for about an hour. My dad sat next to me reading about Madrid. "I can't find anything about Franco, but he died November, '75...five months after we got married. Ha! So he's almost been dead a billion seconds."

Boarded the flight to Madrid. My parents shared row 36 A&B. I had been assigned 37A, a window seat, which was already being occupied.
"Do you want the window?" the man asked, tilting the cell phone away from his mouth.
"I don't care," I replied, as I carefully lifted my backpack into the overhead compartment.
"To the girl sitting down," the man said into the phone. "I don't know. She's a young girl."..."My girlfriend," he mouthed to me and pointed at "her" in the phone. I half-smiled politely.
"HOW OLD DO YOU THINK SHE IS?" my dad dared him in a loud voice.
"18."
"Ha! Just like the woman at O'Hare!" my dad laughed. "She's 40."
"This is a really fun game," my input dripping with sarcasm. "I'm 24," I said to the man.
"No way."
"Way."
"No you're not. Are you serious?"
"I'm serious." Why is this always a topic of conversation?
My mom turned around in her seat then and looked over the headrest--"And how old do you think I am?" she asked, her voice gleeful.
People always tell me I'll appreciate the young guesses when I'm older. Apparently my mom has reached that age. People usually express doubt that she's old enough to have not one, but two daughters in their 20's. She loves every second of it.

Another disappointing meal. I don't know what I was expecting being airplane food. Plus, the quesadillas are still taking up occupancy in my stomach. Now the salty pasta, wilted salad and two cans of Coke are piled on top of the gross lunch.

I was reading a good amount of the Pants book (there are at least 2 other girls reading the same one on this flight), and this baby has been persistently WAILING for almost an hour. Her dad keeps pacing up and down the two aisles trying to gently console her. I finally couldn't take it anymore--hence the journal continuation and the Amelie soundtrack blasting in my ears. I think I might attempt sleeping a little...they're showing Rocky Balboa, even though before take-off they announced it'd be Dreamgirls, which I actually would have watched. My dad is sitting in front of me whistling the Rocky theme for the third time, my mom just scolded him for the second time. At one point he punched both arms into the air in a forceful "V for Victory" motion.

NOTE TO SELF: IF YOU EVER HAVE KIDS, AND THAT'S A BIG IF, DO NOT TAKE THEM ON AN OVERSEAS FLIGHT UNTIL THEY'RE OLD ENOUGH TO KNOW NOT TO CRY UNRELENTLESSLY IN A PLANE FULL OF EXHAUSTED TRAVELERS!

Sleeping was virtually impossible. I had to incessantly crack my toes, and there was just no comfortable way to position myself. I maybe dozed off for an hour.

[photo taken by Mom]

We began our descent just as the sun began rising over Madrid. Topographical vocabulary started permeating my brain. That is a plateau boys and girls. As we touched down and pulled up to the jetway, music began playing overhead. Gipsy Kings? David Bisbal? Mána? Nope. A rousing sax-filled rendition of the theme song from Cheers. We landed over four hours ago, and I'm still whistling, "Where everybody knows your name...."

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