“So we'll depart from Seattle,” Mom said.
“Sounds good, I'll meet you there,” I replied.
This was several weeks ago. I'd spent the interrum wrapped in a hum of work relating to perennial grains and traveling down to New Orleans. Finally, I had a space of time and everything else had been figured out, except how I was getting to Seattle.
I looked up Amtrak tickets and found they were $275 from Minneapolis… and $209 if I took a $40 bus ride north to Grand Forks. Cheaper if I secured one of my discounts. So I began to get pretty excited taking the train out there. I've done it before, and it's a nice trip! The train leaves the Forks area around sunrise, you reach glacier around sunset and have time to see the park before night falls. You wake up and find yourself in the Olympics and arrive in Seattle around 10:25AM in time to enjoy a whole day.
I traveled down to Minneapolis, figuring that I'd buy the tickets the next day. But, naturally, when I looked, they'd jumped to $375 from Minneapolis and $275 from the Forks. WTWTF, Amtrak? Not happening.
I looked at flights to Seattle, but they were expensive. I looked at flights to Portland, and they were also kind of expensive. Then, out of the blue, I had a brilliant idea: San Francisco. Sure enough, I could catch an afternoon flight (leave at 1450CST, arrive 1650PST) for $160 from Sun Country. Bingo!
So I bought my plane ticket a good forty hours before departure. I met with the Tilman group to discuss grains, and with the mspbus.org group to discuss next steps on our project. I dropped by the Stone Arch Bridge Festival and listened to music out by the St. Anthony Main falls. I met up with Tess & Justin for Indian food and we went on a walk where we talked with a beekeeper.
I also wrote to a bunch of people in San Francisco, Northern California, and Portland, searching for places to stay. No dice.
I woke up this morning, packed my bags, removed stuff and repacked my bags, put out some feelers to the Berkeley Student Coop association, emailed and called a few friends hoping they might know someone in the area, had some food, and left. In the meantime, I got invitations to go rock climbing and my hypothetically-rented car filled up with passengers looking to go North.
I swung through the kitchen in search of food before leaving. Six of my housemates were there and, as I exited the premise, they all began hooting, cheering, and clapping their encouragement.
I made it to the airport 1 hour and 43 minutes before my flight! Twenty minutes later, I was through security. I sent out a few more messages, and some time passed. I went and bought the book “Quiet”, which Steo had strongly recommended to me, and more time passed. I went to Subway to get a sandwich and still had a good fifteen minutes before lift-off.
Sandwich in hand, I strolled up to the deserted waiting area, a trio of flight stewardesses were standing by the counter. “Mr. Richard?” and then I strolled down into the moving walkway to find that it was (of course) filled with people who weren't yet on board.
I'm near the back of the plane, with an aisle seat. Theoretically, this increases my survival odds should something unfortunate happen. The seat next to me is empty, but the seat on the far side of that is occupied by a very pretty, petite woman in a bright pink sundress. A nurse who's taken a break from her jobs and kids for a weekend visit from California. As we get to talking, I discover she's one of those special people who seems completely satisfied with what she's doing and where she is in life. Observing me reviewing the layout of the plane and appraising its exits, she says, “I don't worry about that too much; I like to go with the flow.” The topic becomes a recurring joke between us:
“Do you like wine,” she says.
“Mostly if it has fruit and not so much alcohol,” I reply
“If this starts going down, I'll buy the cart out.”
“What if the credit card machine takes to long?”
“I've got cash, I'll spot you.”
“Okay, in that case I'll try the wine.”
“No, you'll need something stronger. You'll need vodka.”
“The wine'll probably be enough for me. We'll share: I'll have the wine, you can have the vodka.”
Despite this, she remains unfazed. The plane revs its engines a few times, pushing down the runway and stopping, before finally throwing it to Mach 5 and leaping into the air as I lean forward into a braced position, chuckling.
Now we're about half-way through the flight. I've had a couple of waters, proofed one of my papers, and she's asleep. San Francisco, and my unknown lodgings, lie ahead.