Sunday, April 06, 2008

Home Sweet Home

Yeah, it is a cliche .... but it is so damn true.

I am finally home after a leisurely trip to Nicaragua. I was so lazy, I didn't even blog much. I have the rest of April's story to tell, nightlife in Managua, a KC Symphony concert to review from this PM, plenty to keep me busy.

But getting home is what is on my mind now. Air travel is nothing but a nightmare anymore. If I was rich, I would spend my fortune on chartered jets just to avoid the hassle. Once a grand adventure and even pleasant in coach class, air travel now is designed for no other reason to torture the passengers.

Service sucks.
Planes are cramped.
Nothing is on time.
No one explains or talks to you when there is a problem.
Airports are huge obstacle courses designed to confuse and exhaust.
Prices are up up up.
You are assumed to be a terrorist or a smuggler until proven otherwise.... this time.
Passengers have no qualms about making their flight more comfortable, at your expense.

Yeah, you can tell it was a rough ride up. Starting with the now expensive taxi ride to the airport in Managua (used to be $5-7 now up to $15 plus tip, gas is out of sight there) the voyage home was a challenge from the very start. The flight was overbooked and the line was long. It seems some people, despite being far from home, do not travel much and never read the rules. Bags over size, over weight, surfboards, paper flowers.... liquids, whatever... all argued about with the harried ground staff.

Hearing "overbooked" put me immediately in the panic mode. I wanted to go home, it was time. When I am on my way home, get outta the way. I morph into a homing pigeon and neither rain, snow or surly airlines will get in my way. I thought we were ok, until they began to ask again for volunteers even after we were seated. Some did, and thus the exodus of old and arrival of new passengers began. Bags put on, bags removed, new ones in their place. Took over an hour. Finally in the air, and homeward bound, seat secure, I felt a bit more at ease.

Nicaragua is still very poor, thus it is a prime destination for church groups to meddle and do some feel good projects. But since the country has become more of a tourist destination, infrastructure is better and become relatively safe, the church groups are no longer composed of just the adventurous and hardy, but chock full of kids. A whole damn herd of them were in front of me, giggling, bouncing, singing, taking pictures like they were on a damn field trip bus to the rival town football game. The 74th time the brat flashed her camera flash in my face, I bellowed for her to please refrain from the activity. From her look, you would of thought I told her to fuck herself... but she got the message.

All was tolerable aboard our Boeing made flying prison, until we got close to Atlanta. Rain, delays, holding pattern... but not to worry...yet.. we had a 3 1/2 hr layover. Finally landing, we sat on the tarmac and waited, our gate given away since we appeared to not want it.

Time slipped by and I was beginning to get anxious. This homing pigeon was not too thrilled about roosting as a guest in someone else's porch that night. We got in and thankfully immigration was not too bad, officially back in the USA, safe and sound thanks to the TSA, INS and our government's best at work.

Baggage claim was a war zone. We waited almost 45 min for the bags to arrive, no one telling us what the problem was. Passengers, formally just stupid, became unglued. Bags in hand I then rushed through customs, thankfully not asking me about anything I bought. I always bring back too much liquor and despite my nervous face, they always let me pass.

If baggage claim was a war zone, then baggage recheck was Hiroshima. People screaming, crying, what is happening??? No one telling anyone any reason for the mess, just barking orders. Chaos rained. I did as instructed by the pushy, surly and I am sure as frustrated as I was baggage fellow and pushed my red bag into the sea of luggage, waving it a forlorn good bye as if a loved one was going off to war, not sure if I would ever see it again or in the same shape. So long, brave son.

The 3 1/2 hour layover was all but consumed by the whirlwind of anxiety and thus we got from terminal E to terminal B with only moments to spare. I was exhausted, sweaty; adrenalin pumping, I was sure not to relax on the flight or even sleep when I got home.


Luck was no lady tonight, she was a roaring bitch. The man sitting next to me was all happy and chatty, a sure annoyance for me as I was not in the mood to hear see, smell or communicate in any way with another human being. Period, paragraph.

"40 to 19". He told all in earshot and me as well, showing me a screen on an hand held communication device that had print and buttons too small for me to see. I assumed it to be a sports score but the unusual spread confused me.

"What is that, a football score?"

"Silly!! (but his face read "oh my God") KU and North Carolina..the Final Four, my son is sending me updates on my Blackberry."

He was all but sure I was from another planet or worse just released from Solitary at Sing Sing. Explaining I had been out of the US for a bit did some to help allay his fears about my planetary residence or my parole status. Deciding I was safe, he began to yap but thankfully he could not negotiate his digital camera and show me his pictures from New York, otherwise I would be heading to the Pen.

The flight to KC was the only one on time and actually halfway pleasant. The passengers were thrilled to hear that KU won, I was thrilled to know I was home.

Of course our bags were not there so we had to make a claim for them. B had both of his delayed so he had no keys to his car or to his house. His condo door man would let him in so he was spared the ignominy of having to stay at a hotel so close to being home.

Throughout the whole ordeal, I could count on the loyalty and reliability of two of my greatest treasures; the Queen Mary started right up and took us home in style and Puggles, upon seeing me, wagged her little pug butt so hard that the energy powered a city block.

Home Sweet Home.

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