Sunday, July 01, 2012

Travels to Innsbruck--Part One


I teach an Introduction to Literature class at Central Methodist University that focuses on Travel/Journey. We start with the epic poem, The Odyssey, read Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and some other texts, and end with Octavia Butler’s haunting novel Beloved.  One of the things we emphasize in this class is that it’s not about the destination, but rather about the journey itself.

I’m finally starting to believe that I may actually be full of crap. The journey sometimes sucks.

FRIDAY JUNE 29, 2012
Columbia, MO – Columbia, MO (leg 1)
The first leg of my trip to Innsbruck involved being taken to the location from where I would pick up a shuttle to St. Louis – Lambert International Airport.  I asked my friend Sharon to take me to the location, which is only a few miles away, mostly because I’m cheap. I’ll admit it. I know when I’m acting that way. This was by far the best leg of the journey. I got to spend a few minutes with my friend and she is a delight. I also expressed to her my unusually high level of anxiety for this particular trip. It was unusual because two years ago when I went to teach in Innsbruck, I was in a particularly precarious situation in that days after I returned I would move to Columbia, MO, attend a faculty orientation and start a new job & a new life. This time I am coming home to a good, stable job, lovely friends and a great life. Perhaps I am prescient.

Columbia, MO – STL (leg 2)
This leg started out quite nicely. There was a white guy with Dred locks playing the guitar softly and it was lovely. I finished up some Words with Friends games and then decided I would try to take a nap. Yet there was one woman on the shuttle who talked nonstop. She was talking to a person, but he rarely interjected, so it seemed more like a monologue than anything else. The things she was saying were not clear even with her explicating them in detail. I did manage to nap a little on this portion of my trip, but that’s woman’s voice was irritating me to no end. There were also a lot of loud phone talkers on this particular shuttle as well.  I enjoy my phone as much as the next person, but I do think there are times when it’s appropriate and when it’s not. Also, it depends on how many people there are who are doing the same thing. For example, it seemed very natural for me to partake in a long cell phone conversation on the train from Ronkonkoma to Penn Station because everyone else was.  There were eight people in this shuttle, so it made it extremely awkward and weird.

STL  - DTW (leg 3)
Upon arriving at the airport, there was already a scene in progress. A woman had collapsed near the Delta baggage drop area. It was unclear exactly what was wrong. The other passengers in the line were surmising that it could have been heat stroke or dehydration because of the 90-odd degree temperature already at noon. Two kind military personnel along with one of the baggage drop customer service agents were tending to this woman, which was nice, but this caused our wait in line to drop off our checked baggage to be even longer. Finally, when I did get up to another customer service representative, I put my bag up and it weighed 55 lbs. The limit, mind you, is 50 lbs. If I were going to try and send the bag as is, it would have cost me an extra $100 (notice the theme of my frugality here). So I removed some items and put them into my checked bag. She would allow a bag that was 52 lbs without charging the fee, but that was all she could do. After 2 attempts at removing things, I finally decided I needed to wear my sweatshirt and then my luggage was checked directly to Munich.

In STL, I didn’t have a lot of time to sit down. I think I was only sitting for about 30 minutes before I had to board the plane. Of the many benefits of my SkyMiles Delta Gold Card is that I am automatically put in Boarding Group 1, in addition to checking my first bag for free, which gives me more time to settle in to my seat. Once I got to the front, however, I was told that my regulation-size roller bag needed to be checked and I would be able to pick it up on the jetway in Detroit. This is one of the things that is a perk about flying, but also a disadvantage. Airlines charge people an excruciating amount of money to check bags, so most people now travel short trips with only carry-ons and even those end up being checked. The only good thing about this is that the airline can NOT charge to stow the carry-ons.  Thank goodness for small favors.

The plane ride to DTW was fairly pleasant. The woman sitting next to me was reading The Hunger Games, while I was reading a copy of Marie Claire that I hadn’t gotten to read when I was at home. I didn’t sleep this leg and finished the whole magazine. I even offered it to my seatmate since all I was going to do was leave it in the seat pocket for the next passenger—paying it forward, if you will.

Our trip to the Detroit Metro area was lengthened because the plane was diverted away from some of the thunderstorms that were taking place in the area. This made us about 15 minutes late for our arrival.

More on legs 4, 5 & 6 in my next blog.

To be continued…

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