Wednesday, October 04, 2006

It's A Trip To England, Charlie Brown: Part One

O'Hare International Airport

I dutifully (if somewhat inadvertently) arrived at the airport two hours before my plane was scheduled for departure. Puffed the crap out of two cigarettes and got into the security line, which took about an hour. Had to chuck my lighters and bottle of water. I was worried about not being able to smoke again for quite some time, but looked at it as a challenge I would have to face in order to get to England. Any of you who have ever watched me leave a concert or movie to go smoke will recognize why I was leery of an 8-hour flight, plus security, customs, etc. on both ends.

I had called for a cab to pick me up at 3:45, figuring he'd be there at 4, and that there would be traffic. So of course, he got there at 3:35. My plane was to depart at 6:28. I get carsick sometimes, and thought I could try out my new Dramamine on the cab ride. I'd never tried it before.

I did have to make him pull over once, just blocks from my house. He seemed really happy that I had asked him to pull over. I guess most people just let go right there in the cab. But in the middle of the left-hand turn off Division to get onto the highway, the Dramamine kicked in.

I can remember virtually nothing of the rest of the ride. My only sensations were drowsiness and a sort of floating feeling, pulling me towards sleep. My entire body was numb. There was no level at all on which I could have been described as conscious. I hadn't really eaten anything that day or slept the night before, which probably didn't help.

But when the cab dropped me off, I was able to function. I had more trouble than I might have had while trying to work the computer at the check-in point, but I was otherwise operational.

So, with an hour before I was supposed to take off, I made my way to gate C16, intending to beg whoever was working the counter for an exit-row seat. It was only when I got to C Terminal that I remembered to check on my flight. I saw it was delayed an hour and a half.

The folks at C16 were actually still working on a flight that was supposed to have departed a half-hour before I even got into the security line. I didn't think much of it, and wandered around the airport a bit. I cheekily ate a Chicago-style hot dog and a McDonald's hamburger for my last American meal before departing.

I couldn't figure out the internet at the airport, so I mostly just listened to my iPod and watched the people milling around. I bought some candy to help with the cravings for a cigarette. A magazine to pass the time.

I'm not the most well-read person in the world, but it is only in airports that I fully embrace what I otherwise think of as mass-consumption crap. I bought Premeire magazine, and very nearly the latest John Grisham, but I put the latter back and opted for Running With Scissors instead. I just don't have the attention span to read serious books in an airport or on a plane. I require reading material that I can easily return to even with repeated interruptions. In hindsight, I probably should have bought the Grisham.

I went to the duty-free to buy a carton of cigarettes. They're pretty clear about only allowing you to bring 200 cigarettes in with you, but when I saw that a carton was $25 (a third of normal Chicago price, and a quarter of London's) I bought two cartons, and figured I'd just pay the fine on the second carton. Because I smoke a lot more each day than 200 cigarettes would allow me. And "ciggies" are almost $10/pack in London.

I was able to wrangle an exit row seat out of the steward at the gate. We boarded the plane at about 7:15. At this point, with the exception of two little cat-nappy spurts of about two hours each, I had been up for about 30 hours.
Part two will follow...

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