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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Smart

Come Fly With Me ( or, the Internal Ramblings of an Out-of-Practice Tourist)

Updated: Aug 15, 2021

I’m about to take a trip. A trip on my own, for the first time in (counts fingers on both hands). I’m flying to Germany to visit family and friends.

We drive to the Baltimore Airport through all the traffic we should have left earlier to avoid. We get a beer at a restaurant. I feel a smidge of guilt because I’m dumping the our teenage boys on him for a few weeks. That guilt makes me drink my beer faster.

Pretty soon, it’s time to head to security.

6:20 pm – I say goodbye to DH. I cry. He cries. It’s like that scene in Last of the Mohicans, when Daniel Day Lewis is about to jump through the waterfall and he tells Madeline Stowe, “Stay alive, no matter what occurs! I will find you!” Except this version has much older characters, no bad guys chasing us and much fewer fleas than 18th century North America. But Madeline Stowe definitely has better hair than me.

I go through the first gate and wait in the security line. DH and I keep waving and smiling at each other as I shuffle through the zigzag. Let’s be real here: at some point it gets awkward. Like, it morphs into Romper Room. “Helloooooo! I see Marsha!” DH is a good sport about it though, because I keep waving and he waves back. I switch hands every so often so I don’t fatigue my waving muscles. Gotta keep those jiggly triceps activated.

6:22 I’m in line at security. A guy in front of me puts his flip flops on the conveyor belt. He is now barefoot. He has a dirty bandaid on one of his toes. The bandaid looks like it’s been dirty for awhile. I am fascinated at the thought of how much nasty goo attaches itself to the bottom of his feet in the 4 minutes he’s going through security. That guy is drinking deeply from the cup of life, I think to myself. I also hope he isn’t on my flight (shudder).

6:25 – I go through the security gate. There is an older TSA man assigned to assist at the belt where you remove all your metal crap. He is very helpful. He also looks exactly like Gabriel from The Americans. Hmmmm. That would be totally a perfect window into all sorts of lives. But then I think, what stuff would he see? Moms griping at their kids to leave their brothers alone and not to dance inside the TSA electric human scanner thingie? I discard the idea and shuffle through the scanner thingie. I do not dance.

6:38 – I’m through security. Hooray! Now I just need to repack every single thing I brought. Also I need to find my shoes.

6:39 – Suddenly, I’m all by myself. My first thought: nobody is yelling “Mom!” at me like Stewie on Family Guy. My second thought: Now I’ve got to pay attention to my surroundings and watch my backpack like a hawk. You know, keep track of all my possessions. Make sure I don’t leave my passport anywhere. Not talk to strangers. All the stuff you forget about when you’re playing Kid Chauffeur in the burbs. “Panera has better iced tea, but McDonald’s has a drive-thru. What to do, what to do…”

The realization that I need to be alert, like, constantly, makes me need to pee, immediately. Why? Nerves. Because until I dump my bags in a hotel room sometime tomorrow night, I will be carrying this backpack (and my newly acquired cross-body travel bag made out of metal mesh and other hopefully theft-proof materials) on my person like a mama kangaroo. It’s a safety necessity: I am old and slow. My only weapons are pointy elbows and a Mom yell that should theoretically stop my teenage boys in their tracks but doesn’t. So any Jason Bourne-esque situation that presents itself will make me respond the only way I am equipped to do anymore: holler really loud and hold onto my purse while hoping I don’t trip and break my bifocals trying to escape. Hey, it’s a plan.

6:40: I find what will become my go-to bathroom. It’s right next to my gate. Eureka! It’s fully stocked with toilet paper. That’s a relief. In the Army, I always traveled with a ziplock bag of extra TP, because (1) unlike my male soldier comrades I cannot manage that function standing up, and (2) the Army never really sends you to locales where you can make assumptions about things like toilet paper. The only givens in the Army are the tiny bottles of Tabasco in the MREs and the certainty of being prescribed 800mg Motrin for any malady from a sprain to a 9 hour surgery, but that’s a topic for another post.

6:42 – I go on the hunt for headphones that will fit my phone. It’s 100% something I should have taken care of before I left, because I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that sticker shock gives you eye wrinkles and I’m almost out of room in that part of my face. But instead of wisely shopping ahead, I hit the snooze button a few (dozen) times this morning. Now I make my way from concourse to concourse like the baby bird in the book “Are You My Mother?” – except instead of wandering away from a hatched egg, I’m a technologically challenged mom asking for plastic crap that fits the iPhone 7.

After some time I find a store that is literally called “Your Entertainment Needs” and features pictures of headphones and connector cables. This is the place, I think. Here I shall have success. Inside, I ask the expert clerk manning the register if he has anything that fits my phone. The dude (who has clearly learned business communication at the University of Bill and Ted on one of their Excellent Adventures) answers in slow motion, “naaaaaaw, dude. I reeeeeealllly don’t think we have those. Loooooots of Samsung though.” He reminds me of the sloth in Zootopia, although I’m pretty sure his glacial pace has been chemically (or plant-ly) enhanced. This store should really be called “Your Entertainment Needs, If You Have an Android Phone or Want to Spend a Bajillion Dollars on Beats by Dre.”

I leave this emporium of awesome and search some more. Eventually, I find a store with a pair of headphones that look sturdy and cost approximately 5.3 adults’ worth of Chik-Fila dinners. This is a lot of money but less than the Beats, so I say whatever and get them. I also buy a neck pillow. It’s my first one, ever! I feel oddly exhilarated. Everyone I see has them around their necks or snapped to their backpacks. It’s like we’re in a club: “We Who Reject Sore Neck Muscles All Agree to Spend $18 Plus Tax on Silly Looking Squishy Pillows With Microbeads.”

6:55 – I walk back to my concourse, realizing on the way that I need to use the bathroom again. Dagnabbit. I’m too far away from “my” bathroom. But sometimes you need to be brave and use a strange potty, so I face the unknown like a (very timid) boss.

6:57 – I walk by a Starbucks cart. The line is long and comprised of (1) pilots and (2) soldiers in uniform. The soldiers part I get. They all look like they’re on the first part of a long trip. Caffeine makes sense in this situation. The pilots though. Hmmmm. Is it a good thing that they need to stock up on ginormous (and surprisingly fancy) caffeinated bevvies before flying a very big plane full of humans? Are they that poorly rested? I schedule time to worry about this later.

7:00 – I finish my vision quest for the headphones and go back to my terminal. I’ve been walking for a solid 20 minutes now. It’s a good practice session to see how the Birkenstock sandals (with socks! Yeah, I know…dead sexy) will work over long distances. I mentally high-five myself.

7:02 – I see Gabriel the TSA checker guy again. Now he’s in front of me at the end of the international concourse. Spooooooky.

7:03 – I order dinner at the only restaurant in the concourse. On the restaurant radio, Madonna is singing about being a Material Girl. Gabriel has disappeared. Or has he????

7:20 – I experience a cardiac event (okay, it was more of a panicked freak out) when I go to pay for my delicious airport fried green tomatoes and can’t find my passport in my purse. I resist the urge to dump out the entire contents of my purse onto the counter next to a couple who I am 100% certain are Soviet spies posing as Americans. (I seriously have to stop staying up so late to watch that show).

7:23 – I find my passport in its assigned compartment of my purse. I am an idiot, I think. But…I’m an idiot with her passport. So, another mental high-five for myself.

7:24 – Van Morrison is singing “And it Stoned Me: “Oh the Water, oh the water,” he croons. I need to find that bathroom again.

7:25-7:55 – I go to the bathroom 6 more times. Each time I curse my beautiful children and their giant heads (you moms will understand).

8:00 – We board. I’m flying IcelandAir. At the door, the flight attendant hands everyone a bottle of Icelandic water. According to the label, it is supposed to be the most delicious water in the world. I’m hoping it has magical dehydrating properties because I have a window seat and the lady next to me goes to sleep within 127 seconds of sitting down. I look at the minuscule space between her knees and the seat in front of her and realize I won’t be seeing the inside of a bathroom on this flight.

8:43 – We take off. I do not handle this particularly well. I’m a nervous flyer (betcha couldn’t tell from all the potty trips). Thankfully my deep breathing exercises work and my fellow passengers don’t see that I’m a complete goober. “In for 4, hold for 4, out for 4.” Also I don’t make weird scared person noises so it’s okay. Really, I’m fine. (Crazy laugh).

8:45 – The in-flight entertainment starts with a 4 minute video clip that is essentially a compilation of advertisements for Icelandic products. Every ad features tall, fit, fair-haired people who look like they should have their own Marvel superhero universe. It’s like everyone is a second cousin of Thor. All the people in the video are gorgeous specimens of Icelandic-ness. They have perfect, blemish free skin (no midlife acne for these people, evidently). They’re super outdoorsy. I bet they drive Subarus.

The vistas on the video are beautiful, too. There seem to be a lot of rocky outcrops and wild horses. Also glaciers. This country makes winter look glamorous. I find myself wanting to incorporate more hiking garb into my repertoire. I also resolve to grow my hair out so I can wear it in a messy bun (with loose strands!) along with a chic-yet-casual wool sweater. It might work, except I’d get maybe 3 days’ use out of it a year where I live. Ah well. A girl can dream. Which is what I’m about to do, since my inflight video monitor is frozen and it’s late. Goodnight and sweet dreams from somewhere over Canada.

9:05 – Maybe I’ll hit the bathroom one more time before I go to sleep. Oh wait. My neighbor lady is still sleeping.

Four hours later – Aaaahgh! I am never going to drink water again.

The next morning – The plane lands. I untwist myself from my seat and make my way to the baggage claim area. There is a couple in front of me who are straight out of whatever Icelandic central casting agency hired the actors for the infomercial on the plane. They are impossibly tall and their cheekbones are amazing. She has the messy bun (with strands!) that I saw in the videos, too. It must be a Thing. They both are wearing monogrammed warmup jackets with the logo “Icelandic Horses – World Championships 2017.” Because of course they ride beautiful, long-maned horses in, like, a global competition. With jackets. I look down at my bag. I still have that bottle of Icelandic water. Well, might as well try it.

Bottoms up!

Ten minutes later – I’m at the rental car agency. But that’s the next post…

Until next time, stay hydrated and always know where the closest potty is.

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