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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Abroad (Vacation, Day Six: Heathrow Airport and Patcham, England, 8/9/2015)

I don't like flying.

I especially don't like flying in a middle seat, behind people who like to recline their seats.  That happened on the way to New York from Seattle, and the thought gave me anxiety.  I've done long flights before, Seattle to New York is a 6 hour jaunt.

Ah, but a Trans-Atlantic flight, that's a whole other ball of wax.

Imagine if you will, flying in a scenario where, though you didn't go first-class, you're still treated like something resembling a human being.  They feed you without bleeding your credit card dry.  They offer you booze. There's legroom.  And the movie is free and recent.

Imagine going from steerage to the top deck of the Titanic.  Only the turbulence didn't land you in the ocean.

So after a sleepless red-eye flight that had me watch Avengers 2 (loved it, no surprise there) and Furious 7 ((liked it, a little shocked at that), I landed at Heathrow Airport an hour a head of expected arrival.  And yes, my eyes were quite red.  What was 1 AM for me New York time was 6 AM GMT, and even though I work nights and am usually up late, a week in New York on vacation time changed all that, and my body clock was thrown for a loop.  Jetlag was saying some mean things to my mind and body.  It was a conversation that went like this:

It's 1:00 AM.  So I'm awake.  But the sun's out.  So... I'm asleep.  But I'm on vacation, so I'm awake.  But it's 1:00 AM.  So I'm asleep.  But it's only 10:00 PM in Seattle.   So I'm at work?  Wait, what?

Soldier on, I did.  I navigated my way through slow moving travelers and customs to get to the National Express bus that would deliver me an hour and a half away to Patcham, and to my girlfriend's dad's house.  We passed some beautiful countryside along the way.  I'm guessing.  I was in and out of sleep on that bus, unable to get comfortable and too tired to care.  I was definitely not aware of my surroundings and quite glad I walked off that bus with everything I brought on it.

It's 8:30 AM when I get off the bus at the Black Lion Pub, which is where my girlfriend's cousin was supposed to meet me... an hour from now.  I had no cell service in England, and with no Wi-Fi nearby I had no way of letting anyone know I got in early.  So what was a guy to do?  I asked a couple of people on the street which was I was supposed to go.  It turns out my destination was maybe three blocks away, easily traversable, even with luggage.  I knocked on the door, and her dad opens like my arrival at that minute was expected.

Rose had gotten there less than 12 hours before and was finishing up in the shower when I got there.  Or maybe just starting.  Jetlag was messing with my brain and the exact order of events is still fuzzy a month later.  Either way I wasn't supposed to be there just yet and she was surprised to see me. The house was buzzing with life at that hour of the morning; it seems that they boarded international students here.  When I arrived one was on the way out, a Belgian girl named Anise to whom I briefly was introduced as she left;  an Italian guy name Massimo who I didn't see again that whole week; and a Middle Eastern boy named Abdullah.  He was interesting, more on him later in the week.

I hope I'm getting the names right.  If I'm not, I'll edit and update.

Breakfast was either just served or ready to be.  I can't remember if I ate because jetlag and weeks-late posting.  But I do remember being told that people were coming over later for a party.  I was shown to the bedroom Rose and I would share that week (double beds, don't get any ideas) and Rose and I exchanged brief conversation about our respective vacations to this point.  She said she needed a showed and I laid back in bed just to get off my feet.  And check my eyelids for holes.

And then it was 2:00.

They'd let me sleep some because I'd been so obviously exhausted, but the party was about to start, people were due over in about half an hour and it was time to go, go, go!  After a moment where I called my mom on Skype (I promised her I would) and took down some information on some family she has in England, the first of the guests arrived.

The party filled up over the next hour and an assortment of cousins streamed in, some with young (and loud and energetic) children.  I remember asking for forgiveness in advance in case I started babbling.  Jetlag and all that.  The ones that stand out to me were Sophie, Danielle and Jade.  Sophie and Danielle both had children (massive, massive respect to them for that).  I remember the madcap introductions, followed by game playing in the backyard and a genuine good time.  I remember temporarily soothing a newborn with my stellar singing voice.  And I remember succumbing to fatigue and jetlag at about 10:00 PM.

So for a first day in a foreign country, it felt shockingly like home.  How does that happen?