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Traveblogue: Neo-Notes from the Road (and Air)

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On the Thanksgiving weekend just past, I had the chance to take a flying trip to the Washington, DC area to tape two interviews for a program called Between the Lines on the Hope Channel. You know I’m always up for some shameless-self-promotion in a good cause, but I had some trepidations about taking a trip that would involve so much travel in such a short time. Here are some notes I made on the Neo while travelling down and back:

Sunday morning finds me airborne, after saying farewell to my family at the airport (a heart-wrenching farewell in the case of Emma, who hates it when I go away and makes me want to never travel without her again, although I suspect it will be a different story when she’s fifteen so I may as well enjoy her attachment now and leave her as infrequently as possible). I’m on a Continental Airlines flight to Newark, New Jersey. There’s no earthly reason I have to leave this early for my one-night stay in the Baltimore/Washington area, except that there’s only one flight out to Newark from St. John’s each day, and this is it. 

I’m not as positive and happy about this trip as I ought to be.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to talk about books and writing on a Christian TV show that will be seen by people around the world, but this is also my ONLY long weekend of the fall and for the sake a few hours’ taping (maybe less?) I have to spend two days away from Jason and the kids when we’d otherwise be together. Plus, four airplane flights in two days, and flying is really not my favourite thing.

But I am trying hard to accentuate the positive. I have lots and lots of free time to read and write and maybe even relax.  I get to stay in a much nicer hotel than I’d ever book for myself on a trip I was paying for.  And … no, that’s about it for accentuating the positive, except for the interview itself which hopefully will make the whole thing worthwhile.

Here’s the thing that’s bothering me right now: they’re showing a movie on the plane.  This shouldn’t be my problem since I didn’t buy the earphones and don’t intend to watch it, but this is one of those planes with the little drop-down screens above every seat so I can’t glance up without seeing scenes from the movie.  And the movie is … Space Chimps.

If you know me and my whole thing about monkeys, I think you know how I feel about that.  Little animated chimps in spacesuits hovering over my head.  Let it end soon, I pray.

Halfway to Newark…  We’re flying over the ocean. The chimps are talking on banana phones.  Plunging into the sea suddenly doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.

Later … We must be getting closer. The chimps have vanished.  Last time I looked up they’d been replaced by some kind of inane sitcom, mercifully starring live human beings.

11:28 a.m. — Newark Airport, waiting for connections. I’m enjoying a pretty straightforward stopover in Newark. Lunch was a disappointment, but that was entirely my own fault for not reading the menu carefully enough. Usually I’m a very good and thorough menu-reader, but service was fast, I made a quick decision, and it turned out to be so very wrong.  But that’s OK.  It’s a long life and not every lunch is going to be perfect.

I have an hour and a half till the flight for Baltimore leaves.  I’m not looking forward to this one because it’s a Very Small Plane.

Incredibly, there was a time in my life when I used to think I’d like to FLY small planes. Not just fly IN them, but pilot them. This was entirely due to reading Antoine de Saint-Exupery and the John Gillespie Magee poem “High Flight” at an impressionable young age (you just cannot be too careful about young people’s reading matter).

At that point, not only had I never been a passenger in an actual two-seater or four-seater plane (still haven’t), I hadn’t even flown on a passenger plane that wasn’t a “big ol’ jet airliner.”  The first time I got on a plane that held fewer than 50 passengers, I knew this was not going to be one of my preferred modes of travel.

I’m a little compromised anyway, I feel, by the fact that I absolutely love to travel, but don’t really like flying. I don’t HATE it, and I’m not terrified like some people are, but on balance I’d much rather NOT fly than fly. I’d love to have the leisure time and money to travel the world by train and boat.  Every time I travel by air, I tick off the flights to see how many I’ve survived. Right now it’s one down, three to go. I’m never fully at ease till I’ve touched down in Torbay Airport.

Of course, if you’re reading this, I made it safely back — unless the Alphasmart Neo turns out to be made of the same stuff they make those black boxes out of (still don’t know why they can’t make the planes out of that). 

12:37, Newark: Should be boarding The Small Plane soon. I got some work done and read a bit. I know I’ve said this before, but there’s nothing in my life that makes me appreciate the mind of an addict like my relationship with books. I start a trip all happy: I’ve got a good library book to read on the plane, one I’ve been waiting a while for.  I start reading as we take off — excellent, this is really good stuff.

Then I notice how quickly the pages are turning and the low-level panic sets in. I’m not going to make it. I’m using it up too fast.  I’m going to run out.

There’s the point where I try rationing: I’ll read just a few pages now and save the rest for later. I’ll eke it out, ten pages at a time.  But the book is just there, in my bag, so tempting and close.  I read more. And more.

Then I capitulate. I obviously can’t make this one little book last the whole trip.  This will be my trip-down book, and I’ll just finish reading it now, and then I’ll score another one for the trip back.  But even as I’m reading I’m obsessed with that next hit, trying to figure out where the bookstores are, whether I’ll have time to stop by one at the airport tomorrow.

It’s actually kind of scary. But the book is great.

While I’m sitting and reading in Newark, I have one of the stranger encounters of the trip (so far).  Two young people in uniform, a guy and a girl, walk past.  I don’t look closely; I assume they’re airline personnel, as one uniform is much the same as another to me.  The friendly woman sitting next to me (who has already commented admiringly on my Alphasmart Neo and on my typing speed) leans forward and holds out her hand for the young man to shake. “I just want to say thank you for fighting for my freedom,” she says, and the young man smiles and says thanks.

I’m kind of taken back, I have to admit.  Making a statement like that to a soldier in an airport seems to require, first, an almost unbelieveably outgoing personality, and second, a rather extreme faith in what your government tells you about the reasons for being at war.

I don’t have anything against soldiers; the ones I’ve met seem to be nice kids, kind of like my students — in fact some of them were my students at one time.  But I’m still not entirely sure of why our boys and girls are in Afghanistan or if they should be there, and if pressed for a reason, the one thing I’m pretty sure they’re not fighting for is my freedom.  If I were the kind of wildly outgoing person to say something nice to a soldier in an airport (which I obviously am not) I would say, “I’m so glad you made it back alive. Thank you for not getting killed.”

4:15 p.m., Silver Spring, Maryland: I’ve gotten on the Very Small Plane (which wasn’t really too bad) and off again, and gotten settled in my hotel, which, as predicted, is much nicer than any hotel I’d ever book for myself.  I’ve had a swim, a soak in the hot tub, and a nice little read outside (I’d say the temperatures here are in the low 20s, a nice change from October at home, although that’s nice enough too in its way).  I think I’m going to call home to report my safe arrival, take a nap, then go find something to eat.  And I still have about 10 pages of my book saved to read before bed!!

8:00 p.m. — Back from supper at TGI Friday’s — tasty, but left me feeling a  little queasy later on so I think there might have been something in there that disagreed with me. It’s settling down now. BUT!

Did you know …

USA channel plays back-to-back “House” episodes on Sunday nights?

I know! TV is amazing. Of course, I have all the House DVDs at home but there’s still something kind of unique about sitting in a hotel room and having someone else just randomly pick episodes to show me.  As long as this keeps up, I think I”ll be OK even without a new book to read!

Monday morning, 7:50 a.m.  Remember about how I felt a little queasy but I thought it was getting better? Well. Yeah. I am so not the gal go into the gastro-intestinal details, not even with my nearest and dearest much less in public on my blog. So let’s just say no, I was not all better at the time, and despite the lovely accommodations I did not pass one of the most comfortable nights I’ve ever had.

I woke up this morning thinking nostalgically back to yesterday when my biggest problems were accidental chimp viewings and the fear of running out of reading material. Today I have to get through a television taping with not nearly enough time to do it, then get to the airport and spend the whole day in planes or airports — all with a touch of tummy trouble. What fun!

Right now, though, after a cautious breakfast of half a toasted bagel and a banana, I’m over at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, desperately hoping that one of the people who’s supposed to meet me here will show up eventually, feeling a little calmer inside and wondering how this whole day is going to play out.

11:30 a.m., BWI airport. All done, and safely back at the airport. Unfortunately, I did have to pay (read: my publisher will have to pay) for a taxi in addition to the return shuttle trip I paid for but wasn’t out in time to use. But I got here in loads of time, in fact, there probably would have been time to tape the three interviews they’d originally talked about rather than the two we ended up doing.

The interviews themselves were lots of fun. I’m lucky in that I have no nervousness about that kind of thing at all, so I had great fun talking about my books in two twenty-minute interviews, and could have gone on much longer! The interviewer, Samuel Thomas, asked me mostly about Esther: A Story of Courage in the first interview and mostly about Deborah and Barak in the second, but I did also manage to get in some plugs for upcoming work too.  There’s really nothing easier than talking about my writing — I could do it all day (probably putting everyone within a five-mile radius to sleep).

I need not have worried about looking ghastly pale and sick on-camera: there was a nice young lady named Frenita (her parents were named Fred and Juanita) who did my make-up quite tastefully before we went on, and also advised me against wearing the sweater that made my breasts look lopsided.  Frenita is actually a producer, but she’s also the only woman in that department so they make her do people’s make-up as well.  Fortunately she’s good at it.

I didn’t have any problems with my upset stomach during the taping either, which was good. I’m feeling better now but still not the kind of better where food looks attractive.  Maybe by Newark I might want to eat.

Now, I have to tell you the flip side of my utter lack of nervousness on-camera. When I came out of the studio, the next interviewee, who was then having his makeup done, was Dr. George Knight. I so much wanted to introduce myself and say, “Dr. Knight, you’re one of my heroes; your writing is one of the reasons I’m still in the Adventist church.” And I’m sure that would have meant a lot to him. But could I do that? No, of course not, because I am actually ridiculously shy, just not when someone’s pointing a camera or a microphone at me. I’m really kicking myself for not saying that to him. I bet Friendly Airport Lady who thanked the soldier for fighting for her freedom never has these kinds of problems.

Anyway, the working part of the trip is over and now all I have to do is get home safe and sound.  In the category of “Things I learned too late,” we can file the information that you can get from Newark Airport to BWI in about two hours by Amtrak, thus avoiding the Very Small Plane altogether and travelling by train, which I love.  If I ever have to make this trip again, I’ll definitely be going Amtrak!!

Still, I’ve survived two flights, with two to go. And I have a new Oprah magazine, which should pick up some of the reading slack.

4:00-ish: Three flights out of four are behind me now, and my stomach settled down enough that I was able to eat some soup and a salad. I’m glad I’m on the home stretch with only one more flight between me and St. John’s.

In case I had any doubts about it, I’m now 100% sure that while I still love travel and always will, I’m not cut out to be a jet-setter flying across the continent for a quick meeting and then back.  Any trip where the amount of travel time exceeds the amount of time spent in the actual place you’re visiting, is not the trip for me! 

If anyone’s interested, I will post when my interviews air on Hope Channel, since they can be viewed online.

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6 thoughts on “Traveblogue: Neo-Notes from the Road (and Air)

  1. please do post your interviews! i’d really love to see them!

    i enjoyed your description of your trip… i’m sorry for the tummy trouble.:(

  2. Oh, the lives of the rich and famous, hey?! Glad the interviews went well. Can’t wait to see them! Monkeys…what’s the deal with monkeys?!

  3. Monkeys, in any form, just freak me out. Cartoon monkeys, stuffed monkeys, real monkeys … can’t stand ’em. I think it may go back to the sock monkeys my college roommate used to have … they were disturbing in some way I can’t quite put my finger on (ewww, put my finger on a monkey … now there’s a disturbing thought).

  4. As soon as I read the part about the monkey movie, I doubled over laughing! Monkeys, bats, and blueberries rolling across your kitchen floor all have the same effect. 🙂

    Congrats on the interviews. It’s great publicity. I’m glad you’re home in one piece. 🙂

  5. The statement by the woman in the airport is a direct mimic of a commercial for one of the military branches. Which was a not subtle response to concerns of how soldiers are treated returning from an unpopular war…like Vietnam. While the woman was very outgoing, the script was already written.

    You went to TGIFriday’s? I’m sorry that you didn’t ask me for advice. Somehow, that place is cursed (at least for me). I refuse to go anymore.

    Out of the last three times, I have had, um, the same issue as you, once. Once I had to explain to church young people that I am really really cool and laid back, and I remember being silly and crazy, but they CANNOT play-swordfight with the steak knives. And the worst time of all? A 22 year old’s birthday party where she took pictures of a random guest’s latest birthday present from her boyfriend. Which required the random guest (who apparently was an “exotic dancer”) lifting her shirt to display her bare breasts. Yeah, don’t go to TGIFriday’s.

  6. The meal actually tasted great and the atmosphere was very nice … but there were definite aftereffects.

    As for the woman with the soldier … I dunno. I do feel for the plight of the Vietnam vets and I don’t think soldiers should be blamed for their part in a government’s unpopular wars — but like I said, my response would be more along the lines of being glad they made it back than applauding what the government tells me they were supposedly doing. And I don’t believe in following anyone’s already-written scripts without some critical analysis…but even if I were a huge fan of the war I still wouldn’t be up for initiating contact with strangers in airports!!

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