When life didn’t give me just one lemon, but a whole crateful, I decided to make lemonade by taking advantage of free-time to do a little travelling. Europe! Asia! Africa! No. . . Today begins the first in a series of debriefing (no, silly, not that kind of debriefing) entries about a trip to. . . the Midwest.
You might wonder why, with all this time, I would go to Chicago and Milwaukee for my first “big” trip, but without going into too much background about why I chose it, I’ll just say that it was the best, the most-needed vacation I’ve taken in a long time. Although I was in both cities for only two days each, I have to break up the review into more pieces because there was a lot of activity in each day, and since Delicious is always in full detail, well, I best take it one post at a time.
So now fasten your seatbelts, and get ready to take-off...
Good Morning, this is your Captain Speaking
I used to fly at least twice a week for work for almost five years. I know the drill. The flight was scheduled to leave at 9:55 am, so with just a carry-on and an e-ticket, sashay into the airport by...9:25 am, right?
No, no, not so, o ye of air-travel in ancient times.
They (who are these mysterious “they?”) recommend arriving at the airport two hours early. Work backwards two hours from the departure time, add 20 minutes for long-term parking, and additional time as determined for inevitable delays like the required coffee stop, 405 traffic, McDonald’s breakfast, possibility of missing the exit, etc. Great. We have to leave the house by, what? 2 am? ETD was set for 6:30 am, alarm clock set for 6. Sheesh. I get to start my vacation by waking up four hours earlier than I do for “work.”
Amazingly enough, we were in the car, on the road at 6:31 a.m. I checked. How’s that for on-time departure?! With my 22” standard rolling bag, eyes still half-shut, and denied request for a coffee and sausage McMuffin because let’s just get to the airport first, okay? I had a strange, decaffeinated sense of deja-vu...
Please Turn Your Attention to the Flight Safety Demonstration
Two hours. Why are we supposed to be there two hours before the scheduled departure time?!? I’ll tell you why. Because even if you look like a harmless, F.O.B-ulosa Asian schoolgirl tourist on a field trip to America, you have to take your shoes off at the metal detector. You have to open your bag that is now exploding underwear and bras all over the inspection table and explain that your suspicious $45 Tweezermans just cannot be left behind, they're Tweezermans for fox ache! You have to sit down in a creaky plastic chair and have Alice, who really looks like she should be an “Al,” wave the magic “wand” over you and then give you a rub down in places that you’d never to think to hide anything in the first pace. And all the while, the whole line of cranky AM travellers, snaked back and forth amongst the chains on the other side of the security station is glaring at you for holding them up.
After that, I wasn’t in the mood for a Sausage McMuffin from the in-terminal McDonald’s. Just a small coffee from Starbucks, no cream, and a Splenda. Thanks. Whatever, "tall" coffee. Yeah, okay.
Please Bring All Seatbacks and Tray-tables to Their Fully Upright and Locked Position
The gate is a marvellous place for people watching, especially since the people you are watching are most likely getting on the same plane as you. These are the people who will be with you in a very small, confined space for upwards of four hours. These are the people with whom you will be sharing an oxygen supply and a limited quantity of minature bottles of Beefeater. These are the people with whom, if this tiny metal tube suspended in the air seemingly by faith alone, happens to crash on some desert island (because there are so many desert islands on the way to the Midwest), you will have to live out every episode of Lost, for real. Great, I was stuck with a group of USC students perfectly preppily pressed, every one of them, in trendy $200 jeans and blazers. I think they were law students.
There were some other interesting people there, but none of them looked like they would annoy me. Just the USC prep(py) squad. LOL! They made me clutch the bottle of Xanax in my pocket just a little tighter.
I had been wrestling with myself the night before and all morning abot whether to take a Xanax for the flight. I should take it. I shouldn’t take it. It’s going to make the flight so much easier. It might have some nasty side effects. Back and forth. Wrestling. Fighting. Grumbling. The grumbling was my stomach, and I realized that whether I was going to take the Xanax or not, I still had to eat breakfast. Looking at the clusterf**k in front of the McDonald’s from my seat in gate 26A, I regretted being such a pouty brat earlier about getting that Sausage McMuffin. I walked over to the store instead, and paid the most money I’ve ever paid for a granola bar. $2.99 for a Harvest PowerBar. Let me just say that it was the best damned tasting Strawberry Yogurt flavored granola bar I’ve ever eaten.
You Are Free to Move About the Cabin
After we reached the final cruising altitude of I-don’t-really-want-to-know, the flight attendants came knocking elbows and knees down the aisle way with coffee, beverages, and biscuits. I was tempted to ask for ginger ale, since airplanes are the only place one ever really drinks ginger ale, but instead, I let them pour me some coffee (as if I needed more caffeine to calm me do
wn). They also dropped off a kelly green packet of biscuits, more appropriate with coffee on a morning flight than peanuts. I let go of the deathgrips I still had on my arm rest and my bottle of Xanax, and joined in the chorus of customers opening their crinkly crackling wrappers. I didn’t think much about what I was eating until I had taken a bite. It was incredible – spicy, cinnamony, and had the flaky-crisp texture of a graham cracker, yet a slightly sticky caramelized surface chew like a gingerbread cookie. Holy shiitake, I couldn’t believe my eyes were popping out of my head over the complimentary in-flight biscuit from...what are these things called? Biscoff. I looked up and around, desperate to make eye contact with someone and knowingly smile and nod in confirmation about the biscuits, but apparently, I was the only one who had been sent into gastronomic orbit by these sweet, spicy little angels. The guy across the aisle from me in 39F hadn’t even touched his! How bad would it be if I leaned over and asked if he was going to eat his? Wait, is he asleep? Could I just...swipe it as if the flight attendant never left one for him? How much a psychotic glutton would they think me if I sashayed to the back of the plane and asked for a couple more packages of the biscuits?!?! I told myself to make sure to find these once we hit the ground. I did.
Thank God for that $2.99 granola bar and the biscuits because unless you are one of the bourgie few who get to sit within earshot of the captain and his skipper, you don’t get much to eat on the flight. I am sort of torn about this. Is it a bad thing that you have to pay a whopping $5 for a snack box that only has raisins, pretzels, and a few other miniaturized vending machine items? Or is it actually a good things that they no longer serve rubber Denver omelets with pencil eraser potatoes and styrofoam fresh fruit? I don’t know. I guess I didn’t really care, since I was still in mild state of rhapsody over the biscuits.
Please Fasten Your Seatbelts for Our Final Descent
After a flight that most everyone else said was surprisingly smooth and uneventful, but quite stressful for me, we began our final descent into Chicago. To keep my mind off the speed at which we were racing toward the ground, I focused on snapping photos from the window. I couldn’t believe how many trees there were all over the ground below. I was born and grew up in the Midwest. I’ve lived in New York and Texas. It’s not like I’ve never seen trees before, but after living in LA, even if it’s been under 10 years, I had forgotten. I had forgotten that trees don’t grow in pots. I had forgotten that there are oaks and maples and elms, and that they are full and volutptuous and round and turn colors in the fall. I had forgotten that trees grow together in groups, not like gangly, gawky, anorexic awkward palm trees lined up, perfectly spaced apart along the street all leaning over toward the ocean. It was pretty amazing to be reminded again.
Coffee from Starbucks in LAX's Terminal 7, a very expensive granola bar, airplane coffee, and two delicious biscuits later...welcome to Chicago. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a hot dog.