The Saw That Went To Hell
Almost six months have sped by and I find myself back in Northern Ireland again. It was actually quite a pleasant journey over, this time. Even though I had to wake up at the ungodly hour of 3:00 AM on the day of departure, I managed to get enough sleep the night before so I wasn't as brain dead as I might have been. It took me years to trust the online checking in, but I'm glad I finally gave in to this 'newfangled' system! It really does cut out most of the stress at the airport. The only thing I'd been concerned about was that my suitcase might be over the limit. Heaving it onto the weight machine, I held my breath and tried to look nonchalant. Exactly the allotted 50 lbs! Feeling like I deserved a prize for my packing aplomb, I made my way to TSA security.
Obediently I shuffled up to enter the roped area and join the snaking line. The TSA agent sitting at the entrance glanced at my pass and waved me into a queue to the right where only a few people waited. I smiled my thanks and began to draw out my laptop from my bag. I'm well trained. All my travel toiletries neatly in the required baggie, no belts or anything in my pockets, easily removed shoes … I've got it down pat.
I heard a loud 'tsk' from behind, and an agent standing off the side shouted, “No! Just put your bag through!”
"Really?” I asked in disbelief.
He snatched the bag from my grasp and laid it on the conveyor belt.
“Shoes … ?” I began.
“Just the bag!”
Blinking rapidly and decidedly alarmed, because THIS JUST DOESN'T HAPPEN, I walked through the metal detector arch, and picked up my bag from the other side of the x-ray machine. Wow. Finally I took a proper look at my boarding pass, and there in big black letters was printed 'Pre TSA screening'.
But … but … how?
Who cares! It was brilliant! I was through in seconds and on my way to the gate. All the seats looked like they were already taken but I spotted a free one beside a lady near the middle. I made my way over and asked, “Is anyone sitting there?” (Yes, I do know it's obvious that no one was actually sitting there at the time, but you know what I mean!)
“No,” she replied, “but my stuff's there.”
I smiled and nodded. “Would you mind if I sat there, please?”
“No, my stuff's there.”
I blinked. Did she really just say no? She had a cane leaning against the seat, and a bag on it, but…
“Here, take mine,” said a male voice, disapproval oozing from his tone as he glared at the woman.
Too taken aback to say anything intelligent, I thanked him and sat opposite the woman and her 'stuff'. The man took off toward the public rest rooms.
I looked around and made amused eye contact with a couple of people. Then I surreptitiously drew my phone from my bag and took a picture of the woman. Passive-aggressively, I uploaded it to Facebook and one of my favorite sites, passengershaming.com (I showed her, right? That'll teach her to be selfish!)
The five and a half hour flight to Newark went by quickly. I'd purchased their in flight television package at a discount on line, so I immersed myself in a couple of films, including Disney's delightful Moana.
At Newark it was a quick walk to United's Club Lounge. My credit card company kindly gifts me a couple of passes every year, and it really does make things much nicer. In there I found the usual little corner hidey-hole that I like, and settled down for a three hour wait, catching up on emails and chatting with a couple of friends.
In no time I headed to the gate to catch the flight to Dublin, and made my way to my aisle seat quite close to the front of the plane. I'm glad I booked mine a month earlier. I'd checked the seating on line the night before and the flight was completely full. Imagine my delight when the two people who should be in the middle and window seats didn't show up!
As the plane doors slammed closed and we prepared for take off, I caught sight of a woman a few rows up in the four-seat center aisle, looking back at the empty seats. She twisted round and called to another woman across from me. “Hey, we could take those (and sit together!)”
Before she got to 'those' I had slipped into the middle seat and laid claim to the aisle and window seats on either side with my tablet and coat. Yes, I know. Not very polite of me. I pretended complete oblivion, but if she'd come over and asked, naturally I'd have moved back and let her take the seats. But she didn't. So I had lots of room and a bit of privacy once the lights went down. I can't sleep on aircraft, so I got comfortable and caught up on all the newly released movies. Tried to watch Jackie but couldn't. It was depressing from the get-go and I wasn't in the mood for being brought down.
The last time I'd flown into Dublin I'd used my American passport. That was a pain because of the queue and then answering all the immigration questions. So this time I simply flashed my EEU passport and was waved right through. Amazing. My bags weren't searched at Portland and went right through to Dublin, and there wasn't even anyone at Customs when we landed. It was convenient for sure, but I don't mind the security normally. It makes me feel a little bit safer in these, shall we say, trying times.
Straight out of the international terminal and a quick walk to the area where the complimentary hotel shuttle picked me up. In minutes I was at the hotel, and even though it was barely 9:00 AM, they let me check in with a twenty Euro addition as they only had a 'superior' room available. Are you kidding? I'd have paid more than that to get a room right away and still been thrilled to bits!
Unbelievably I slept for almost twenty-four hours, and then took the shuttle back to the airport to catch the express Airbus to Belfast. Just under two hours later my brother Ian met me at the station and we were on our way to Dad's. It's always nice to have this time to catch up, and we chatted all the way there.
At Dad's age and with him living on his own I worry that he might take a fall or something, so when I'm in the States we talk every single day via Skype. I knew he hadn't been feeling very well for a while but I hadn't realized how badly he felt until I saw him in person. He looked drawn and weak like he was suffering from a bad bout of flu, and he went back to bed to rest very shortly after I arrived.
The calendar on the kitchen wall hadn't been changed over from March yet. Very unlike Dad, who's a stickler for details. Some of the cupboards and drawers, usually kept in military precision looked like things had been tossed carelessly into them. When I went to make Ian a cup of coffee, to my horror I discovered that Dad had run out of food. There was literally nothing in the cupboard except for porridge. Even though he knows how to order groceries on line, he'd obviously been too unwell to deal with it. After Ian left I got online to Dad's Tesco account and ordered a delivery for early the next morning. It broke my heart when I saw Dad had gone to the effort of putting some items in his basket, but had been unable to complete the order. I think part of the reason he felt so ill was that he must have been undernourished.
Then I set to and straightened the cupboards, and took Cooper the dog for a quick walk before getting him some dinner. I was able to get Dad a bite to eat as well, and the next day he began to show much improvement. Within a few days he was bouncing back, thank goodness. He's eating properly now and getting some decent sleep. He told me he thought I'd arrived in the nick of time. I think he's right.
So, now that things are settling back to normal, I'm enjoying being here as always. I consider myself very lucky that one of my parents is still around and I can spend so much quality time with him. As I write this, I hear that he's back to his old eccentric self. He's out in the garden with a rusty metal saw, (a saw at his age!) cutting down an errant branch from one of his many verdant trees. True to form he's addressing inanimate objects, informing the offending branch at top volume that it will go to hell for being so difficult to cut!