I woke, as planned, at 5am. Around ten after five, Spesh said, "J?" I answered, "I'm up!" I brushed my teeth, washed my face and put on the outfit I laid out the night before. I closed the suitcase and was ready to go by 5:20. Spesh said, "Do you have your passport?"
"Ticket? You have an e-ticket, right?"
"Yes--but I have my itinerary."
"Did you pack everything?"
I said, "Pack? Hmm. Good idea."
"I mean, is everything in the suitcase?"
"Yes! You're as bad as my father."
When Spesh carried my bag down to the taxi, I said, "Do you have the key?"
I said, "I'm as bad as my father!"
We couldn't get the car, so Spesh called a cab for me on Wednesday evening. The driver was early and got me to the airport by 5:45am for my 8:05am flight. The driver was friendly and attempted conversation in broken English. He said, "The food here is very good--you like? Falafel?"
"Yes, it's very good!"
Last year, Spesh came to the airport and stood in the first security line with me. This year, I was on my own and the first screening was faster.
Security lady: Why did you come to Israel?
Jamy: For my niece's wedding.
SL: You've been to Israel before?
SL: Always to visit family?
SL: Speak or read any Hebrew?
J: Um, I can sight read and I know a few words.
SL: You learn this where?
J: In Sunday school.
SL: Ah, you are a member of a congregation?
J: Not now, but I was…my parents were.
SL: And the name of that congregation?
J: Temple Beth Am.
SL: Ok, thank you. You can take your bag to be x-rayed there…
And that was it. I was asked more questions last year--including all of the questions I was asked this year. Was it simpler this year because I didn't have to explain Spesh's presence?
The next step was to check in for the flight. After that, I went through another security check where my carry on bag was x-rayed. I said, "I have a computer in here, should I take it out?"
"Yes, please. It's so small! I have to get one like that."
I smiled. "That's the point!"
Next, I went through passport control, where I was asked nothing. Finally, a young woman looked at my boarding pass before I went into the duty-free shopping/waiting area.
I got a coffee and helped myself to the free wifi. Then I decided I should bring some presents home--at least something to say thank you to DrJ for watching the cat. I stopped in a bookstore and got a couple of maps and a Hebrew phrase book. It's long overdue, and possibly humorous to buy on the way out of the country, but given that I'll be back, why not? I bought a couple of other things for DrJ and Alicia (who's meeting me at Heathrow). Nothing too special, just tokens. (I'm not saying what, since I don't want to scoop myself with DrJ.)
The first leg of the flight was uneventful, but I had an annoying seatmate. She was an older woman and she kept talking to me, even after I put my headphones in. Normally, I like to make conversation with my seatmate, if they're amenable. But all this woman did was grumble and sigh and I wasn't in the mood to hear her complain. Plus, on this leg, I could stop and start any number of movies and tv shows at will--very cool!
After the flight landed the lady said, again, that this was her last hurrah, probably the last time she'd make the trip. I thought, "You should ask her if she was visiting family. It would be a kindness." I took a deep breath and asked. We had a brief conversation, where I mostly listened. She was more pleasant but still on the gloomy side. It's hard getting old. Still, I was glad I was not going to sit next to her on the next leg.
This was my eight-hour layover in London. My college friend, Alicia, lives near London and she'd offered to pick me up and drive me somewhere for the afternoon. I was looking forward to seeing her because I knew it would be a great way to end the trip.
The guy at passport control discouraged me from leaving the airport, but when I told him how long the layover was, he agreed it was reasonable. Also, since I had a boarding pass, I'd get to skip one of the lines and go straight to security.
Alicia was waiting for me and whisked me off in her minivan to nearby Windsor. First, she bought me lunch and then she paid for our entrance to the castle. She said it would be too expensive for me to pay, given the ridiculous exchange rate. Since all I had were shekels and dollars, I didn't argue.
Lunch was good and the castle was impressive, but the sights were mostly a haze. I talked Alicia's ear off with tales of the Israeli family and Spesh. I tried to pause and listen to what she had to say too. We had about four and half hours together, but it just flew by. It's been at least four years since the last time we saw each other. This was not nearly enough time to catch up, but it was well worth it. It did make a sweet ending to the trip.
The next leg of the flight was also uneventful. I was sad that I did not have the movie-on-demand service, but I did see something that hasn't even been released in the states yet. Cool! (Becoming Jane--don't bother.)
I also had another unpleasant encounter with a fellow passenger. It was the woman sitting in the seat in front of me--we were both on the aisle. I first spotted her when she had a mild argument with a young woman trying to get into her row. I could only make out the last line, "No, it's my assigned seat!" Finally, the woman got up to let the other woman in to her seat. I noticed her face--she had a mouth permanently pursued from a life spent showing disapproval of people.
About halfway through the flight, after dinner, everyone fell asleep. I did too, even though I was determined to stay awake. As I woke up and got back to watching a movie, the lady in front of me reclined her seat as far as possible. I can't blame her, but she put me in an awkward position. If I stirred at all, I'd bump her seat. I needed to stir quite a bit because my knee was bothering me. A few minutes after her big recline, she turned to me and said, "You keep bumping my seat! You must stop." Her accent was heavy and possibly Russian.
I said, "I'm sorry, but you're practically in my lap and I can't move without bumping you."
"It's not normal! He is too!" She gestured to the man in front of her who was also fully reclined.
"I'm sorry, I'm doing my best not to bump you. But there's no room."
She said, "Everyone is in same place!"
A few minutes later, the guy in the window seat in my row needed to get out. With the seats so far reclined, it's impossible to exit the row without hanging on to the seatbacks for balance. I wondered how she would handle it. I did my best to ease out without touching her seat, but I wasn't completely successful. The exiting man did an even worse job. As I stood in the aisle, the lady started fussing at me again. "Why do you keep bumping me?"
"I tried to explain to you that I'm doing my best not to bump you. I said I was sorry."
"It's not normal!"
"I can't help it when you're in my lap."
"Ok, fine! Not normal!" And when she sat down, she moved her seat up, just a little. Geez lousie, what a loon! She didn't yell at me again but I was bracing for another onslaught when I pulled my book out of the pocket in the back of the seat.
We landed safely, I got home by 12:30 and I was asleep by 1:30am. Whew. Long, long, long day. It' s good to be back.
Grateful for: home.
Washington DC: 8/3/2007