Hello readers, both new and old. Some of you have been with me from the beginning and some are my Virtual Travel Buddies who have migrated over from www.DropMeAnywhere.com. If you’re new here, I should explain where the title of this blog came from. It was originally called My OWN Adventure and was started to promote my entry for the Win Your Own Travel Show on the new (at the time), Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). Well, Oprah is like a bad boyfriend and, though I sat by the phone, she never called.
I now use this site to express my, sometimes snarky, sometimes touching, and generally quirky, observations on the world around me. Feel free to check out some of the past stories below. I love a good discussion so comments are always appreciated. Let’s get started.
I’ve gone a whole week without writing and I’m going through a bit of withdrawal. As I expressed in the last Drop Me Anywhere story, I’m a writer so, while it may not be exactly like breathing (I rarely turn blue and pass-out when I don’t write), it’s much like yoga and keeps me sane (although some might question my claim of sanity). So, after a week of not writing, what brought be back to my little iPad keyboard? Flying, of course.
Today I’m on board American Airlines flight 2020 flying from Chicago to LAX where I’ll connect to a flight to Phoenix. After relaxing on a beach in Mexico (I was actually sick much of the time so there was a lot of relaxing in bed) I flew to Chicago to visit an old friend. I’d hoped to stop by a few tour companies which are based there in order to bother them for a job. I’d also planned to visit the Hungarian consulate in order to discuss a possible resident visa so that I can open a walking tour company in Budapest. (Drop Me In Budapest – A division of Drop Me Anywhere.) I wrote the main embassy E-mail address while I was in Mexico explaining my desire and asking how the visa process might work. I was impressed when the foreign ministry responded and explained the type of visa I would need and that it wouldn’t be impossible to obtain. They recommended I speak with the consulate in Chicago or New York. When I arrived in Chicago, I made several attempts at contacting the consulate. I found a couple of different addresses, phone numbers and E-mail addresses on-line, for which the phone numbers turned out to be invalid, as did the E-mail addresses. Finally, I decided to call the Hungarian consulate in Washington DC (their location somehow made them feel more official to me).
“Hello, I’m trying to find out the address of your consulate in Chicago as there seems to be a couple of addresses listed online and the phone numbers and E-mails are invalid,” I said cheerfully.
“We do not have a consulate in Chicago,” the man on the other end said sharply.
“But I wrote your embassy ahead of time and they told me the Chicago consulate could assist me,” I questioned. “And there are a few different addresses listed online,” I added. “It’s why I flew to Chicago.”
“Did you not research before you came there?” the man said accusingly.
“Yes, I contacted your embassy and the Foreign Ministry told me there was one here.”
“Well it does not open for a few months,” he said, scolding me as you would a child who forgot to tell his mother that it was her turn to bring cupcakes to school the next day. (Yeh, I know, food allergies no longer allows for this, but use your imagination.)
Mr. Gloaty then connected me to a voicemail for someone which instructed me to leave a message which, in reality, will never be returned.
As far as the tour companies go, between the unreturned phone calls and the various people out of town, Chicago turned into a nice visit with a friend and my first yoga class in months. (Imagine Al Gore doing yoga and you’ll have some vision of what I looked like.)
So now, six-days later I’m on a flight to Phoenix, where I first began this journey. I have a job interview next week and, if I get it, I’ll settle in to write the book based on Drop Me Anywhere and figure out my next move (the job is a one-year contract). If not, hopefully the Hungarian consulate will come through.
Every country is a new experience in flying and America is no different. The difference is how I look at things now. Though I had traveled a great deal prior to Drop Me Anywhere, being outside the country for an extended period (nearly ten-months), while seeing the world as an observer, changed me. I’m now seeing my country as less of an insider and more of an outside observer.
I arrive at O’Hare over ninety-minutes early. I used to arrive at the airport as late as possible as I spent so much time in them in my job in meeting planning that any time not at the airport was appreciated. What I’m now finding is that the airport is my comfort zone. With people from all over the world following signs and attempting to get to where they need to be, airports are now where I fit in best and arriving early is a bit like coming home.
I’ve checked in online yet am still required to do so at a machine (so what’s the point of checking in online?) Though I have two flights today, the machine issues only one boarding pass. When I question the agent, she explains that my next flight is operated by U.S. Air and, though they’ve merged and are one airline, that part doesn’t go through until later this month. This brings back memories of Asia where a common expression is, Same, same, but different. She further explains that I can attempt to get a boarding pass at the gate.
Next, I head over to security screening which is has a line longer than the free-food tastings at Costco on a Saturday morning. I have serious doubts about whether I’ll make my flight, let alone get the much-needed coffee and food I’d hoped to grab before the flight.
I look past the extremely long-line for Security Gate 7 (even the desk agents are surprised by the length of the line) and see a sign for Security Gate 6 at the end of the hall. I head over to it and see that there are only about thirty-people in line. As I step in line with my freshly printed boarding pass in hand, as well as my driver’s license (I haven’t pulled this out in a while), I smile at the security lady while presenting my documentation. She looks at my carry-on bag (a roll-aboard which is the smaller, European size) and says, “I don’t know if that one might be too big.”
“Um, I’ve traveled with it around the world for the last ten-months,” I respond while looking at the people both directly in front and behind me with bags the same size or slightly larger. I wonder if she’s required to say this to every ten-people who pass in order to show that she’s doing her job. She doesn’t make much of a stink and allows me to pass.
I remove my shoes, belt, sweater and bra (wait, no, I think I imagined that last part) as well as my computer and my liquids (all nicely contained in a Ziplock bag, thank you). Once I and my things go through the machine, I’m pulled aside and patted down. (Apparently my ass contains metal.) I’m then asked to hold out my hands so the lady can swab them (hoping she’s doing free manicures) and analyze them for explosive residue. Once I clear there, I gather my things and look around for my backpack, which seems to be missing. After a brief moment of panic, the man behind the x-ray machine (no not the Wizard of Oz) instructs me to follow him over to a metal table. He rifles through my backpack and, once satisfied that I’m not carrying a gun, pair of scissors, knitting needles, corkscrew, nail-clippers, numchuks, liquids, sheep-sheers, toaster-oven or, yes, the proverbial kitchen sink, he takes out his swabby thing and checks to be sure that the explosives, which the examination of my hands showed I hadn’t touched, weren’t stored in my backpack.
Finally finished with security, I grab my much needed cup of caffeine, this time in the form a much-missed cup of bubble tea which I’ve been jonesing for since Kuala Lumpur, and a muffin and head over to my gate.
Coming next, adventures in flying.