I took some down time for the month of December. It was a needed break from contemplating the news of the day. I don’t know if I admire or pity the people who are able to daily absorb and hammer away at events especially when all news seems to be all politics all the time. It’s difficult to completely ignore politics and the accompanying insanity woven into the fabric of everyday life. I can’t speak for anyone, but I felt so wrapped up in the nonsense generated by politicians, news media, and the ignorant as Mac Davis put it, I wasn’t stopping to smell the roses. A period of withdrawal and blissful ignorance is healthy, I think. Granddaughter time is therapeutic.
In the recent weeks, I’ve seen more of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport than desired. In airports, I people watch as I think most do. You see many and wonder what’s their story and where they’re headed. From the middle-aged guy in the blue blazer and jeans uniform, the guy or gal in jogging suits and Moms with unhappy babies. Even though the middle-aged guy has a little more paunch than his jeans and blazer allow for, I try not to judge except to wonder what he sees in the mirror. I used to believe that the scourge of manhood was letting one’s ass hang out of his trousers, but now I accept that it’s skinny jeans. I’m convinced both are some sort of mating ritual. I recommend you avoid either if you possess bird legs or the possibility of skid marks in your boxers. Sort of reminds me of an old friend of mine who was prone to look at a bird-legged male and ask if those were his legs or was he riding a chicken. In my youth, we wore tight jeans pegged at the bottom and rolled up a couple of turns so as to expose our bare ankles and penny loafers or on the greaser side our pointy toed boots. It’s been a more comfortable life wearing baggy pants and keeping my rear inside of them. My travel advice is wearing baggy clothes for the long layovers and international flights and if humanly possible avoid Atlanta.
Our flight to Germany was uneventful. It was too smooth leaving the feeling that something unpleasant might be waiting. Nothing ever goes that smooth. Passport control at Stuttgart Airport was interesting. Being the only inbound international flight, there was only two agents. One a smiling young man who was moving people quickly through and a rather stern looking lady not moving so fast. If you have an image of hair in a tight bun and glasses at the end of her nose, you pegged it. Suzie-Q and I were in the feeder line when she looked up over her glasses, signaled with the flip of a wrist and said, “Komme.” So, we did. Her accent was a little stronger than I’m accustomed. Most German speakers I’ve known speak English quite well. Eventually, she understood that we were traveling for pleasure and the date we were leaving, stamped the passports and hoped we’d enjoy our stay. I felt like we needed to tiptoe away. Our luggage came out quicker than usual and we headed for the nothing to declare customs gate that dumped us out into the terminal. Getting into Germany was much easier than getting on to a plane bound for the US.
The interlude between flights was relaxing. France’s yellow vests caused us to cancel the planned train ride to Paris. It was 25 years since we left Germany. We were not able to revisit all the places we wanted due to a stretch of bad weather and on top of that catching colds. I certainly admire the German’s preservation of the historic look of their towns. From appearances, it looked like I was there days rather than years ago. Germans, like citizens of other EU countries are experiencing problems associated with open borders, migration and their political leadership. It leads you to wonder if there is a tipping point for what I know to be a culturally strong and culturally protective people. I did not dwell on issues I was trying hard to clear my mind of other than being hopeful the leadership of our country is taking lessons.
We enjoyed the German tradition of Christmas markets. Large and small, there’s one in practically every town. We did make it down to Triberg in the black forest. It’s another place that appears unchanged since we last saw it. It’s the place of cuckoo clocks, wood carvings and the hand-crafted Christmas ornaments Suzie-Q is so fond of. The best of course was family time with a great son, a super-hostess and mom daughter-in-law and the most amazing granddaughters you could imagine. It was a great Christmas.
The pleasantries waned as we arrived at the airport for departure. All we needed to do was check bags. To do that we had to clear an interrogator asking the typical questions. Who packed the bags? Did anyone give you anything to add to the bags? Did you leave your bags alone? Passing that step, we were mildly questioned again by the lady that actually checked the bags. Then we passed through security and the body scanner. Finally, we were headed to the international gate at the far end of the terminal. We were met by another interrogator asking similar questions who directed Suzie-Q toward another search. I followed her and we were both searched again and checked for explosive residue the apologetic agents telling us these were TSA requirements. After that, passport control took only moments and we were at the gate.
The flight from Stuttgart to Atlanta was roughly 9 hours. Our minds were already prepped for a 5-hour layover. We were herded through immigration, baggage and again security before we were let loose to find a gate for our connecting flight. Our flight was not posted on the departures board. The lady at the information counter told us we were scheduled to leave from gate D34. We caught the train over to the D concourse and found the gate. We had time to kill so we got something to eat. At about 6PM, my phone app was updated to show our departure gate as D27 with an 8:20 PM boarding time. We went there. In about a half hour, I got another alert telling us our gate was changed to D16. We went there. In about 15 minutes, I got another alert telling us to go to gate D32. I was waiting for someone to leap out and yell, just kidding you’re on reality TV. We went back to gate D32 and sat. Probably 30 minutes before our scheduled boarding time, I was alerted that our flight was delayed with a new departure time of 6AM. I didn’t even swear. I grabbed Suzie-Q’s backpack and mine and we headed for the airline info desk that we’d passed by a couple of times. A very loud young lady was telling everyone to scan their boarding passes at a kiosk. We did and it spit out a hotel voucher and a new boarding pass for a 5:20AM boarding time.
We went back to the train and made our way to the end of the line and ground transportation and eventually found the hotel shuttle bus. With the little ditty bags the airline passed out, we were able to shower, but sleep never came. At 4:30AM we were back on the shuttle bus to the airport. I think the driver may have been a former NASCAR driver. We told him we had a 5:20AM boarding time and he pulled out like he was leaving a pitstop. Lickity-split we were back at the airport and again going through security. And again, Suzie-Q was singled out for a more thorough search. By then, I was convinced that somewhere there was a 4-foot 10-inch grandmotherly looking terrorist on the loose.
When we got back to the departure gate, which was now D15, the new departure time was 7AM. I went to get coffee, some bagels and a bottle of water for Suzie-Q. 7AM came and went and we sill sat. Eventually a lady showed up, picked up the microphone and announced there was a flight weight restriction and she needed 9 passengers to agree to a later flight. Before she could secure 9 volunteers, she made it up to $700.00 gift cards. We finally landed back home a little past 8:30AM. When our luggage came off the carousel, Suzie-Q’s was soaked through obviously having sat on the tarmac in Atlanta during the pouring rain. Mine was a hardcase and dry inside.
We did not intend for our Atlanta experience to sour what was otherwise a great Christmas vacation. We stopped for a big breakfast and headed home. Later that night, having won the first jet lag skirmish and following a small glass of Merlot with a handful of melts in your mouth melatonin, I buried my head into the overpriced pillow that’s guaranteed to eliminate all of my sleeping problems, stretched out on my overpriced mattress making similar claims of restful sleep and contemplated how blessed we are. What followed was 10 hours of dreamless sleep.
I don’t know what the new year brings for us, this blog or our country, but it is an interesting start. Suzie-Q and I hope all of you had a blessed Christmas and you find and fulfill your calling in the new year. Make sure to stop and smell the roses and carry clean undies in your backpack.
© 2019 J. D. Pendry J. D. Pendry’s American Journal