The Journey Back

(High Point, NC) — I woke up on Friday morning at the Super 8 in Wilsonville, Oregon, just south of Portland.  I didn’t want to get up.  Ever.  I knew what lay ahead.

I drove from Wilsonville, through Portland, up to Lakewood, Washington, part of the Seattle metro.  I washed the school bus (okay, I had the bus washed at a truck wash.) Then, I drove a few more miles to deliver it to the dealership.  I arrived during lunch, so I waited 45 or so minutes until the folks at the dealership could inspect it, which takes about an hour.  Then we took care of the paperwork, and I was driven to the bus station, where I waited half an hour for the bus to the airport.

This time was a bit different.  My old friend John met me at the airport transit station, and he took me out for a great seafood meal, and we had the chance to visit for awhile. Generally, I spend 8 or 9 hours at SeaTac, waiting for the red-eye flight to someplace, where I connect with a flight to Charlotte.  It was truly great to see him… and to have someone at the other end of the journey to talk with.  And he has a lot of wisdom and compassion… both of which have been in short supply lately.

John dropped me off at SeaTac, and I left on the 10:45 flight to Atlanta.  And on that flight, I had a most interesting experience.  Because my reservations are usually made within a week prior to the flight, I almost always get stuck in the middle seat. Which I hate.  But this time, as I arrived at seat 16E, I found, in the window seat, a beautiful young woman in her 20s.  And in the aisle seat, there was a beautiful young woman in her 20s.  So there I was, a 60-year-old guy, between these lovely young women, and I thought I’ll bet they’re just thrilled to see me!

But almost immediately, and I’m not sure exactly how, a conversation among the three of us was underway.  The one in the window seat was from Alaska, on the way to meet her boyfriend in Chicago (yes… a flight from Seattle to Atlanta… then to Chicago) and the one in the aisle seat was from Hawaii, on the way to meet her boyfriend in Jacksonville. I remember their names, but I don’t know how to spell them — but they sounded like Hetty (from Hawaii) and Siriana (from Alaska.)

Sunrise in Atlanta
Sunrise in Atlanta

Both of them were friendly, intelligent, and interesting.  Siriana arrived in Alaska when she was a little girl, and had been born in Albania. She speaks unaccented English, as well as fluent Albanian.  For some reason, I’ve always been fascinated with Albania, which was, at one time, before the breakup of the Communist bloc, considered one of the world’s most backwards countries.  I think I surprised her when I said, “I’ll bet you don’t run into to too many people who can name the former leader of Albania.”  She looked skeptical.  “Enver Hoxha,” I said, naming the former dictator.  She pondered for a minute, because I pronounced it En-ver Hox-ha, which is not the way it’s pronounced in Albanian, but she was either impressed, or did a good impression of being impressed.

And since I lived in Hawaii for a few years in the late 70s and early 80s, Hetty (I’m so sorry… I’m sure the spellings of these names aren’t right…) and I had a lot to talk about: Zippy’s plate lunches, Honolulu radio (I worked at KIKI and KPOI when I was there,)  where her school was, what had happened to one of the neighborhoods I had lived in…

She’s first generation American — or Hawaiian.  Her parents came from South Korea, and she had spoken Korean as a first language.  I was fascinated with these two remarkable women.  Korean on the aisle, Albanian in the window seat.  Both of them on similar missions, and both of them thoroughly American.

Eventually, I drifted off to sleep… and so did my new friends.

We arrived in Atlanta at about 6:00 AM.  Siriana  was gone in a flash. Hetty gave me a big hug, with promises to stay in touch (I hope she will…) and we were off to our connecting flights.

As has been previously noted, following airline policy, my gate for the flight to Charlotte was as far as possible from the arrival gate… so I hoofed it to the right place, and promptly fell asleep.  Woke up in time to shuffle with the rest of the cattle on board, and fell asleep again.  I wasn’t even aware when we took off.

Arrived in Charlotte about 9, picked up my checked bag, and waited half an hour for the “Airport Sprinter” bus, since I no longer have a wife to pick me up in Charlotte.  That bus took me to the downtown transit station, where I caught Bus 11 to the AmTrak station.  There, a group of around 6000 Cub Scouts had arrived early for their train trip to Raleigh.  So all of us, Cub Scouts and Non-Cub Scouts alike, waited for an hour and fifty minutes for the train…

… and a little before 1:30, my sister picked me up at the train station in High Point. The culmination of a trip that included a bus, a bus, a car, a plane, a plane, a bus, a bus, a train, and finally a car.  I was still wearing the same clothes I had put on the morning before in Wilsonville, Oregon. I had a headache. My feet hurt. I probably didn’t smell very good.  And I wasn’t quite as enthusiastic about arriving back in High Point as I was when my wife would meet me, take me home and tell me she missed me.

It was back to the rec room lair, shared with the kitties.  I went to church this morning, took a nap this afternoon, washed my clothes… and now I wait for the next trip. I hope you’ll come along on that one as well.


4 thoughts on “The Journey Back

  1. Nice to hear of the completion of another safe cross-country trip.

    Two minor observations:
    Either you need to adjust your ‘arrival attitude’ at Kendra’s in High Point, or learn to love cats…it’s a mental thing, Steve – I can teach you if you want. Cats LOVE me – all cats – big (I mean up to ‘Bobcat’ big) and small, young and old – I’ve only had one cat in my life not like me, and in my own defence, she doesn’t like anyone – the rest of the journey, (with the exception of your mis-pronounciation of “Enver Hoxha”), and missing a hug from Siriana, (probably due to the “Enver Hoxha” debacle) was fine…you never know if that thing in Jacksonville (was it N.C. or FL???) will work out with Hetty, so keep your options open. Stranger things have happened – look at the Kim Kardashian-Kanye West thing!

    You’re not totally off-the hook yet, Steve – I’ll check with the BSA later to see if you offended any Bobcats or Webelos along the way and let you know.

    Next trip see if your boss will include a 50′ extension cord as a ‘freebie’ for the buyer – and get an immersion heater for coffee!

    1. Pete… the idea that Hetty would ever be interested in me is a pipe dream best left in the pipe. But I’ll hope for a 50-foot extension cord…

    1. Thanks, Dinah Lee… yes, it’s interesting. Not particularly pleasant at the moment, but interesting. I’d swap interesting for pleasant any day.

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