Wednesday, May 28, 2008

curse you, jet lag...adventures in coming home

it's 4am. I'm wide awake.

returning to Omaha was a quest. Traveling was a chore with the timezone changes, three flights, waiting, whining kids in front of us, a grumpy guy behind us, and low blood-sugar levels the last two flights. From the door of our hostel to the front door of my place, we made it in around 27 hours. Because traveling solo or with another person is stressful enough, I have to empathize with people traveling with kids through these terminals. Talk about a challenge to navigate through insecurity, to find something to eat, to keep the kids occupied, and to not lose any of the kids. I gotta hand it to the folks who travel with kids.

Jamie and I returned from the bullfight and a short trip to eat at around midnight where we packed up all our stuff and grabbed about five or six hours of rest before we checked out. The hostel we stayed at was quite in the sense that you never ran into any of the other guests, but noisy for the fact that a bar and restaurant were located directly below us. Because Madrid is famous for it's nightlife, people will stay up well past sunrise. This meant that earplugs were a necessity. But because we didn't want to miss our flight, we got the chance to hear everything happening in the streets. That night an intense game of drunken soccer with a crushed beer can occurred. Soccer is fun, but not at 3am and not along a street that echoes quite well. Sleeping didnt happen well. We awoke, showered, paid our rent, and made our way to the subway. As a sidebar, it's funny how you dont see the people we saw during regular business hours. I suppose junkies, winos, pimps, and prostitutes sleep in...and we were in a good part of town, too. With our backpacks draped around us we navigate our way past some nefarious and questionable activities happening in plain daylight to the metro. It's six am and the people on the train are zombies. Jamie and I are the only ones without bloodshot eyes, slow shuffling, and droopy heads. Across the platform was a guy in a group of three that couldn't stay awake. So, his friends did what intoxicated guys would do...flick him in the ear with their fingers and joke around with their buddy who falling to sleep while standing up. Some things dont change, no matter where you go. The hour-long train ride gets us to the terminal where we check in and make our way past the insecurity checkpoints. No 3-1-1. No "please remove your footwear, sir." Just pass your belongings through the xray and get on with your life. I always sigh in exasperation when passing through TSA insecurity. They do their routine because they are told to, right?
Because we got to the terminal early enough, Jamie and I were able to secure seats next to the bulkhead. The good news was the extra legroom. The not-so-good-news was the positioning right behind first class. Their food, wine, champagne, movie selection, Bose noise-canceling headphones, and comfortable seats were just feet away. sigh...maybe next time if I work a bit harder, I can enjoy that luxury. On this flight is where I meet a grumpy guy who I will call Lex Luther. I dont think that Lex liked my presence in front of him because we were the same height, but he didnt have the leg room that I enjoyed. So Lex gave me a few dirty glances whenever i got up from my seat to use the restroom, stretch, or grab something from my bag. Getting to the terminal early paid off. Lex should have learned from Richard Nixon who said you gotta make hay while the sun shines.
So...anyway you look at it, these flights from Europe are long. "Excuse me, ma'am...How many hours will this flight be?" "Long." That should be the only response. The flight was nine hours from Madrid to Miami. With the prebording and safety briefings, we were in our seats for a little over 10 hours. We arrive in Miami and pass through immigration where we stand and wait for our bags before passing through customs. While we wait for our bags, Lex makes another appearance and tries to squeeze Jamie out of her waiting spot by the baggage carousel. His maneuvering and strategy to be the first person to grab the bags off the carousel was all for naught when the the carousel rotated clockwise away from him, instead of counterclockwise like the carousels beside us. People go nuts when they want their baggage right as it comes off of the carousel. They will crowd right beside the entrance to be the first to grab the stuff and must not realize this mechanism does rotate in a circle. Lex was not happy about the bags moving away from him and Jamie was a bit miffed because this guy tried to box her out like a bball player. He's lucky Jamie didnt throw an 'bow to the gut. We get our stuff after a 20-minute wait, pass through customs, and drop our backpacks off at the luggage connection. But because the international and domestic terminals are separate, we get to pass through insecurity again and do the ol' 3-1-1 and please-remove-your-shoes routine. Arg. We get through that and make it to our gate for the 2-hour layover and watch the same 30-minute CNN news broadcasts a few times. We are both pretty tired and our blood sugar levels are pretty low. We grab a bit to eat and make it onto Dallas where our next flight to Omaha had a Nanny 911 potential. The family of five was spread between two rows where the two young sons (think the twin boys from Desperate Housewives but not as mischievous) were in their own row with the Mom, five-year old daughter, and Dad behind the boys. The dad plugs his iPod in and tunes out while mom leans her chair back onto my knees, removes her sandals, and puts her feet between the seats ahead of her and tells the boys to behave. We thought, "oh boy, here we go." The kids were pretty rowdy until take off where the dim light puts them to sleep. Jamie and I were thankful things quieted down because we were getting to the end of our patience after being up for over 24 hours. When we landed in O-town we were in a much better mood because we were home. The two boys on the plane awoke and the first thing you hear was, "Daaaad, Jake slobbered on me!" to which the dad replies, "That's not slobber. Honey, can you grab me some napkins?" During the course of the flight, Jake had thrown up onto his brother! And to think that the sour smell was my unwashed sandals!  Jamie and I empathized with the family and were glad to see they hung around to clean up the mess. You gotta hand it to families who travel with kids...You people are a brave bunch.
The airport pickup is always the next daunting task at the end of a journey. Anyone who has flown knows the frustration that occurs when your ride is not on time to pick you up. Long ago my folks would say, "just call us when you land and then we will leave for the airport." This policy has lead to days where the noses of family members get bent out of shape for the fact that waiting outside the Omaha airport for your dad is frustrating...especially when your dad is a guy who will get stopped for slowing before he gets stopped for speeding. Especially when he never travels and gets to experience the waiting! This did not happen on this trip. Ma and Pa were right there for the pickup and waited a minute or two for our bags to arrive and we were off. We were exhausted and my parents wanted to talk about the trip. It was nice to see my folks after a long trip and we are very thankful for the timely airport pickup. Thanks guys!
So we are back and we are still getting used to the seven hour timezone difference. My boss said yesterday that the adjustment period takes about one day for each hour of timezone you pass through. Jamie and I are looking at around seven days before our bodies are caught up. Sounds about right since I woke up at 330 and 430 yesterday and today. It feels great to get some rest, enjoy prices that are in dollars, and drive my own car again. Europe was a learning experience and I'm glad Jamie and I went for the two weeks. More stories to come. In future postings you will get to learn about: Missing remote controls. The Dolce Vita hostel (three roach rating by Lonely Planet), and some out and about stories that you may find entertaining. It's time to get ready for work. 


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