As an American I recognise that we ‘take up too much space’. We are also a largely enthusiastic society – we really believe all things are possible. Not that I would change anything about my mixed European (German, Polish, French, Scottish, Irish, English) American heritage but sometimes our enthusiasm can be taken for being ‘too loud’. My cognition of these attributes and my self awareness makes me try a little harder to bridle my enthusiasm and blend in when abroad but that’s not always possible (because life should be lived abundantly and passionately). Still we have a reputation for being – ugly.
I arrived in Split, Croatia five days ago. It feels like a Mediterranean version of Scotland – which, frankly, is why I am here. I almost didn’t make it. Despite 12 months of thinking about it, being an awfully good at spatial relationships, arriving at the airport two and half hours before the first leg of my flight and being one of the (normally) least-stressed-out-about-traveling people you could ever meet (I am the person calming the woman about to throw up or pass out from fear about taking off or landing. I am the person walking your child up and down the aisle because you just can’t cope anymore. I am the person who rallies 400 people in playing word games whilst stuck on the tarmac in Aberdeen, Scotland for more than three hours.) BUT… gauging weight of luggage is not such a strong suit of mine. I figure if I can still lift it IT MUST BE in compliance with the airline allowances.
This is my luggage (and pillows, yes two – one tucked inside the pillow protector of the other and then both inside a single case) once I arrived in Croatia. For the record one of the least civilised things about travelling by air in the United States is the absence of these wonderful little trolley carts that Europeans and Brits understand are so sensible! What is also annoying as all get out is a complete lack of porters – where they would do the most good. And if you are traveling alone without one or the other, in the midst of a driving rainstorm, trying to get said luggage that does not possess wheels and weighs more than 150 pounds in total and contains three months of all kinds of weather and occasion clothing and provisions, as well as a down comforter and duvet cover and spare pillowcases, and is not-water-repellent but handwoven Belgian tapestry with hardwood frames and solid brass locking mechanisms and suede trim that means a porter stand near the parking lot. Getting this into the airport to check in – reasonably dry – and to leave the car for your best friend in “the pre-designated spot” on your own is not possible. Rather it is TRULY impossible. Mine is the stuff of porters and tips. It is the stuff of a bygone era steeped in some measure of elegance. While utterly gorgeous, it is the least practical thing I own (of all the impractical things I own) and it weighs a freaking ton empty. So you can imagine with weight restrictions on luggage how this might be a problem waiting to happen – it was.
Special kudos to the lovely couple nice enough to have lingered to kiss on the staircase as I tried the parking garage instead of leaving the car outside who helped me haul it into the terminal. And thanks also to the AMAZING United Airlines agent who patiently and politely let me stay at his counter with one bag on one scale and one on the other for more than fifty minutes moving items around the three bags to be in compliance with the fifty pound per checked bag weight limit. Note that the clock is ticking, fifty minutes has passed and I still have not cleared security. What remained was the tapestry duffle bag on the top of the pile, within which could be found two boxes of Odwalla Super Food bars, bags of sea salted pumpkin seeds and garbanzo beans, golden flax seed, dark chia seeds, hemp hearts, and tea bags – lots and lots and lots of tea bags. (When I finally got to Munich the ever efficient and polite Lufthansa gate agent expressed astonishment that Rochester let me on the plane with it – they didn’t (actually couldn’t).)
You see because of the groceries I had packed in the carry-on I was subjected to both re-scans and wand-ing. And then unpacking and more scans, repeatedly. By the time I cleared TSA I had misplaced my passport and boarding ticket and all I recalled was my seat assignment but mistook that for my gate – meaning I went to the wrong terminal for boarding. Which in turn meant that I was paged – that has NEVER EVER happened before – not once but twice. And think about it, in this age of mobile phones when was the last time you saw a courtesy phone attached to the wall in an airport? I did find one. A maintenance guy rescued me and carried my bag to the opposite end of the other terminal. The United Airlines staff found me and walkie-talkied to the gate. They held the plane (or would have had to unload all the luggage so it was probably more expedient to do so). In finally getting onto the plane I HAD TO apologise to the whole plane – seething, ugly stares ‘greeted me’. Oh, and my tapestry duffle bag with the tea and Odwalla? Gate checked. Which was really very nice because it would have cost me $300 to check all three bags initially. Instead I just have bruises all over my arms and legs from wrestling it all the way to Germany and I didn’t pack the Arnica gel!
A final shout out to Chris, who was behind me in security and ultimately turned out to be my travel mate on the Rochester to Washington leg – he admitted he wanted to kill me in the security line (I was ‘taking up so much space’). He actually gave me a kiss goodbye at Washington Dulles.
Yes, I am here. Where I didn’t think it would be, the tether binding me to Rochester was really hard to break – cosmic interference that my girlfriend Nancy Lyn Cotter had forewarned me of, and felt (confirmed by phone earlier today – before I told her this story). Sometimes you have to REALLY work hard to make something happen.
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