Holiday Travels

From the moment the elderly couple latched onto me at the train station, I knew this trip would be good.

The night stretched deep into the winter morning and I had to keep moving to avoid frozen toes. The elderly couple was talking to someone, who turned around and asked me if this was the right train then bid them goodbye and left. Right after, the couple inched to the side and stayed quite close, asking me a few questions because “we’re not used to taking the train.” Usually, I might’ve become irritated and wished they’d leave me alone, but I felt quite compelled for company and welcomed their ‘intrusion.’ We chit chatted about the cold, the train, and our respective vacations. I don’t think they understood I was changing continents, and I didn’t press the matter – I didn’t want to shock them too much.

The train finally arrived, late, and I found my seat, although it was occupied by a sleeping student-aged woman. Already mentally complaining, I had to stop myself and realize this was probably better because I was getting off at the next stop and it’d be really cumbersome to sit by the window while managing my three bags.

Once at the airport, I stood in what I thought was a long line, humoring the employee asking if I packed any dangerous items. “Well, unless you count chocolate… no.” Her face showed no amusement and she proceeded to interrogate the person behind me. After finally getting to the counter, I found myself harping on the French slowness of things. Stop chatting with your colleague and speed it up, can’t you see the line? The fact that she spoke English to me as soon as she spotted my American passport and didn’t acknowledge my French question did nothing to help either. Until she handed me a ‘Fast Track’ pass to skip the longer lines. Score! I turned around and noticed how long the current line was. Hah! I take it back, my line was short.

At last, I made it by the gate, and nibbled on some snack in lieu of breakfast. Might as well start grading those papers. I’m pretty sure I get some weird looks from people not understanding why I’m stifling laughter when students misspell “autopilot” as “autopalate.”

The flight itself was fine. My neighbor had to ask me for help a couple of times to figure out how to turn the light on/off or where to plug in his headphones. I gotta say, the touch screen was really nice, except when it came to playing games on it – my arm would get quite sore. Although I didn’t play all that much, and tried very hard to finish my grading but could only manage my 3rd year papers (and yes, I did watch two movies). I might’ve napped for an hour. And I definitely scarfed down the lunch they served, my only proper meal the entire day.

Once in Washington D.C, I had to wait for my luggage only to recheck it, go through customs then security again. I managed to find the right currency and got myself a smoothie before going to my gate 5 mn before the boarding time. Except, there was still no aircraft. Sick of sitting after about 10 hours, I stood in line, because I could. It didn’t take long before the announcements had the passengers groaning, and the people around me were surprisingly chatty.

The lady behind me commented on the delayed flight. “As long as we have a plane.” Chitchat was abundant until the plane arrived at last and the passengers unloaded. Never had we seen a plane unload so quickly. Despite the employees’ attempt to clear the lanes to facilitate the unloading, people aimed for the shorter route: cut directly behind the employees’ counter. “We have your back, literally.” My neighbors laughed.

I kept the jokes coming until we could finally board the plane – only an hour late. But contrary to our expectations, the plane stayed on the tarmac for another 30 minutes, and when we finally kicked away from the gate I got to talking to my neighbor. Turns out, he spent 3 years in Japan! Talk about a common interest. We had a nice conversation for the next two hours.

“How’s your Japanese?”
“Not as good as yours.”
“How do you know!?”
He just laughed. (But seriously, how did he know!?)

He gave me his number in case I wanted to go down to Torrance for “the best” Japanese food and entertainment (his words). We chatted some more until I gave in to my exhaustion and managed another nap. When we finally got to LAX, we taxied for some time while the flight attendants kept asking the passengers without a connecting flight to stay seated until those whose connections were waiting could get up and leave. By that point, I didn’t care, as long as I got my bag, found my dad and got to the car. Figures, the flight attendant’s “we’ll leave in just a few minutes” wasn’t the only lie they told us. “Your luggage will be at carousel 3.” Nope, it sure wasn’t!

But that’s alright. I was, after all, home in one piece and with my luggage. The positive outlook all those hours ago certainly made this trip positive despite all the opportunities to get mad or annoyed. And after some real food (my second real meal for the day) I went to bed at 10a.m., my Saturday.

Happy Holidays! Spread the cheer around. ~(^o^)~
Ali J.

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