I am back on US soil, sitting in my old favorite Christian coffeehouse in my little hometown in Iowa. Left the UK on Saturday, flying BA into Chicago and landing about 2PM. It was a great flight, actually.
I expected that, one week before Christmas, the airport would be a zoo and my plane would be packed. I arrived about three hours before my flight, and was summarily herded into a tent in the departures drop off area. NO one was allowed to even enter the airport until about an hour and a half before their flight. I took a seat and drank my free coffee and tried to pick out the Americans in the crowd. (Hint...look for ruddy cheeked fat men wearing trainers, and women in turtlenecks and you're guaranteed to be right.) Chatted for a bit with a fellow expat on the way home to see her family in Philadelphia and another on his way to Washington DC to see his girlfriend. We were all dreading the flight, and annoyed to be sitting in a tent when we'd tried so hard to be diligent in our planning.
I had to pee, so I begged the attendant to let me into the terminal. She gave in, and so I checked my luggage (had gotten my boarding pass online) and made a beeline to the toilet. Did not wet my pants. What a plus! Did a wander through duty free and then made my way to the gate.
The flight was crowded, but I got lucky and the seat next to me was empty. The other woman in my row was talkative in a good way (interesting, willing to talk only when it was appropriate, cooperative about sharing the extra space), and we had bloody marys to celebrate our good seat fortune. We were very pleased to have each other, actually. There were 30 Krunchy Kristians on their way back from mission in Kenya on the flight, and we were surrounded. Bless them, Kenya needs their help with whatever missionary project they had going and they seemed nice enough, but they held hands and prayed during takeoff and landing. And they smelled like people who'd been in a hot climate with less than adequate showering facilities who then had been on a plane all night. Which is how they should smell, I know, but since I know this about them and at least 5 feet away, you can't blame me for not wanting to sit next to them for eight hours.
My good flight karma just kept on coming. Since it was a 777 I had my own video with channel choices, and GUESS WHAT WAS PLAYING! Little Miss Sunshine!!!!!! I hadn't seen it yet, so I was elated. And, as you will suspect, I love love loved it. I watched it through once, and then kept it on so I could switch from the iPod to the movie audio in time to watch her dance every time it played. I have decided that those who say Olive reminds them of me must be referring to: a) her ability to get up and compete with the beautiful people in spite of her doubts about her own beauty, b) her infectious cock-eyed optimism in a world of dysfunction, c) her ebullient enthusiasm, or d) her red boots. I've decided any of these are a compliment. And can I just say that I love Steve Carrell and Greg Kinnear? And Alan Arkin and Toni Collette and that kid that played Dwayne, too? (Olive goes without saying.)
Even more remarkable than the empty seat and the perfect movie playing was the fact that I only developed two white-hot hatreds for my fellow passengers. One of the Kristians was a needy talker who needed to be the centre of attention and by creating drama ALL THE TIME. She was across the aisle from me, and I heard her complaining about having a middle seat (another K switched with her so she would shut up,) about claustrophobia on flights, about air sickness, about the food because the chicken was gone when it got to her, about her layover in Chicago, about the lines at duty free in London, about her headache, about not being able to sleep, about how one of her fellow travellers thinks she hates her (and she SO doesn't), etc. Eventually I stopped paying attention to her and watched the reactions of the fellowship. I think they were getting excited to be rid of her.
My other instant hatred was for a guy I nicknamed "the Recliner." Imagine, if you will, a 50 year old BMW driver with a trophy wife who wanted to be in club class but was too cheap to pay and didn't get upgraded. Now, imagine a total scofflaw who makes a production to get as much attention as he can when he breaks rules. Combine those two, and then make that guy recline during takeoff, refuse to move his seat up when asked to during meals, sit without his seat belt during turbulence, and keep his seat reclined during landing. I was ready to club him. In fact, he knew it, because about 15 seconds before we landed I shouted, "Oh for Christ's sake, pal. Put your damn seat in the upright position." Even the Kristians didn't mind my swearing.
I spent a sleepy jet lagged night at the Westin O'Hare. My friend Bethany came and joined me, and we sat and chatted while I was still awake, and then Beth read a book...it was great, as I hadn't seen her in a year and we had Heavenly Beds. (Sorry, Lu...knew I wouldn't be good company and wasn't there long enough to justify a call.) Caught a flight to Rochester MN, where my folks met me and brought me home. We had a rushed day to LaCrosse yesterday to meet with my dad's oncologist. He has been fighting an aggressive form of prostate cancer since his surgery six years ago, and unfortunately it has started growing again. He starts an experimental chemo treatment in the next few weeks, and we're hopeful that it will make him feel better and help slow it down. In the meantime, he's got Vicadin and my mom and me to make him happy.
Plan to have a good holiday with my family. Had lunch at Culvers with Dad today, and now he's keeping me company here while I type. It will be a slow-paced, easy going time these next few weeks, and I'm sure I'll have more than my share of lattes here at Magpie while I check in online.
It's good to be home.