Seven hours before the previous post I was waiting at the end of a long security check line right before the gate. An elderly American couple joined behind me. We briefly exchanged looks. “Are the lines always this long?”, I asked. “No idea, it’s the first time we’re passing through here”, they replied. The two of them had just completed a trip through eastern Europe and were headed back home. They asked me how the ‘polders’ were created and how tulips are grown: typical. As I was explaining something about dikes our conversation was interrupted by a security officer as we’d reached the front of the queue.
I sat down in the overly filled waiting room after passing through a fancy full body scanner and being patted down. A fragile gentleman, sitting perpendicular on a bench to my right, was anxiously shoving his laptop around. I was checking the news on my smartphone, but stopped as his behaviour attracted my attention. He seemed to be in his mid fifties, had a short gray beard and glasses, and was tall and thin: could have been a professor. He stood up and nervously waited until a confident ground stewardess crossed his path. His voice was trembling.
“Sorry, I can’t access the WiFi here and I have to let me wife know that I switched to a different flight.”
The stewardess explained there was nothing she could do for him, leaving the man behind in an even more anxious state. I stood up and walked to him.
“Can I help your sir? I have Internet access on my phone, you can use it to send your message.”
I boarded the plane and approached the row I was supposed to sit in, but two guys occupied it, one of whom was in my seat. I was about to say something, but heard a pleasant, but serious female voice behind me and turned around.
“Are you guys supposed to sit here?”.
I looked at her: American, dark blond, late thirties, tired. She would be my travel companion for the next eight hours or so. Her vibe was formal and distant, but accommodating. She was on her way home to Boston, where she’d lived most of her life despite being born in New York, returning from a business trip to Belgium. She had been partying till the early hours with colleagues the day before: that’s why she looked tired.
“So, do you like beer or wine?”, I asked.
“Uhm, both, my husband actually works in liquor distribution, so I get to try a lot of things.”
She smiled broadly. This was a woman who’d probably enjoyed lots of wild partying and drinking during her early twenties, before sailing to calmer waters as she approached thirty.
“So, yesterday, you alternated between both beer and wine?” I said playfully.
“No, no, just had Belgian beers.”
Her two children were now with her husband in Finland, but would return in a week or so. She would have some time to party with her girlfriends in Boston. I told her to get some sleep during the flight. Honestly, I had slept terrible the night before, so this way I could also recharge.
In Boston I was waiting in the non-US passport immigration line. I felt like a second class citizen. A girl queued behind me. I said the obvious.
“So, you’re not American either?”
“No, no, I am from Germany.”
“Cool, I guess that makes us neighbours, as I am Dutch. Where in Germany are you from?”
Turns out she was a biology student from Hannover visiting her father in Boston. I asked her whether she thought biological systems had a discreet and finite number of arrangements. She didn’t think so.
After passing through immigration I walked to an elevator to switch terminals. A man in working clothes handling a cart with utilities was standing there: waiting. He was impatiently tapping his right foot.
“The elevator is taking its sweet time”, I said.
“Yeah, yeah, it is”, he replied.
He was tall, strong and his hands had a thick layer of callus. He’d been working at Boston Logan for twenty years and told me about the new parts that had been recently built as we crossed the footbridge together.
Upon reaching the other terminal I joined the next security line followed by a cute American girl. She eyeballed me, I don’t remember what I said, but we were quickly engaged in conversation. Her parents had a business in Slovenia and she was headed there. She was flying first to Amsterdam in the exact opposite direction as I had shortly before. Before I knew it we’d reached the point where I had to take off my shoes and pass through security. I walked through the metal detector, but froze in the middle.
“What are you doing, buddy?” The TSA officer laughed, “just walk all the way through.”
The full body scanners had confused me.
I boarded my final plane that would fly from Boston to Pittsburgh. I installed myself in the window seat and waited until the person supposed to sit in the aisle seat arrived. Let me just say it was a well ’rounded’ American. We had a brief chat.
“I am originally from Chicago, but I am living down south now, people are far more relaxed there.”
“So, you traded the Gangsters for the Cowboys?”, I replied.
“I am from the Netherlands”, I said.
“Great, Amsterdam, I’ve been there, love the place. The women were good, if you know what I mean.”
He looked at me with beady eyes and blinked as he nervously twitched his thumb and index finger.
The plane was having delays. A lady, and her luggage, were `offloaded’. The weather got rough and stormy, further delaying take off. He was getting annoyed.
“Shoot me in the neck, it’s always the same, one thing goes wrong: this lady, leading to five other things. Dammit.”
The plane took off and flew to Pittsburgh. But once there, we had to wait to actually land. Maintaining a holding pattern we flew through storm clouds. Turbulence: the small airplane was shaking violently. I had to hold on to both the left armrest of my seat as well as the head support of the seat in front of me. People exchanged frightened glances. The American next to me was unsettled.
“We’re circling”, he said.
“Yes, it appears so”, I replied.
He shook his head in silent disapproval. We landed nearly an hour later than planned.
The bus from Pittsburgh Airport to the Oakland neigbourhood was stuck in a heavy traffic jam with five other buses blocking an intersection. I was tired: just let me reach the hotel, so I can sleep.
“Is it always like this?”, I asked an Indian guy sitting behind me.
“No, no. In the year I’ve been here, I’ve never seen a traffic jam this bad.”
The bus was delayed about twenty minutes or so. When I reached my stop I walked together with an Egyptian student who would stay at the same hotel. He’d been there before and was hoping for a ‘clean’ room this time. I wasn’t reassured, but luckily my room turned out to be nothing to complain about.
How many lives did your cross during your last trip?