My deep-seeded love of air travel reared its ugly head when I experienced the extraordinary cluster fuck that occurred in the process of finally getting to Israel. The story is a long one, but full of the entertaining antecdotes that you have come to know and love.
When I booked my flight to New York, I made the mistake of doing it online without consulting anyone who was on my trip. I used on the panoply of online ticket services and purchased the cheapest flight to get to New York's JFK, our departure point.
At least it was what I thought it was the cheapest.
I also booked what was the shortest flight to JFK, a drive to Jacksonville, followed by a flight to Miami and then to JFK.
At least it was what I thought was the shortest.
Evidently, those internet services don't really tell you about little things like JetBlue. JetBlue had a less expensive direct flight from Jacksonville to JFK.
Yeah. I got hosed.
However, no airport trip would be complete simply be getting screwed on tickets. When my Miami flight got onto the tarmac, the pilot came on the speaker---always a bad sign---and told us that while the crew was unloading the luggage from the last flight two panels came off the plane's cargo hold!
I'm willing to admit that I am certainly no expert in aviation. But I'm going to take a stab in the dark and say that large pieces falling off the plane before it gets into the air is probably a bad thing. Sure, large pieces falling off the plant after it gets into the air would be worse, but before...still bad.
Evidently, the airline agreed because we, and by "we" I mean an entire airplane of passengers, sat at the gate for a solid two hours waiting for them to repair the plane.
As a rule of thumb, anytime an aircraft is repaired at the gate, I tend to get a little nervous. I visualize some groundscrew (and you can break that up as grounds-crew or ground-screw) man named Pedro running to the plane with jumbo pack of duct tape, yelling to his coworkers, "No, no! We just need to put this on it!"
Eventually, we were cleared for takeoff and I had a lovely discussion with the lady next to me, who told me of all things New York. As a born and bred Southerner, I always enjoy having Yankees tell me about the north. Unfortunately, this pleasantness quickly passed.
When I got to JFK, I raced to the baggage claim. The takeoff delay (a/k/a shit coming off my plane) make my comfortable transfer to El Al a mad dash across the airport.
And the Miami-JFK flight was no help. Whatever the problem was with the luggage compartment, it wasn't fixed when we got to JFK. Apparently Pedro's duct tape job was a temporary fix. It was another hour---that's right, another hour---before the luggage started to come out on the luggage carousel. The only saving grace was that I won the luggage lottery.
Everyone has experienced the luggage lottery. Each person sits at the luggage carousel with a claim ticket in hand, hoping---indeed, praying---that their luggage comes out first.
And I won. My bags were two of the first five off the carousel.
No NBA first pick, but I'll take it.
I grabbed them and, like Mercury, ran through the airport (and with an overweight bag, that says a hell of a lot). It was during that dash that my trip coordinator, quite literally, ran into me when she almost took me out with her luggage cart.
We ran like diuretic track stars in search of a bathroom to the El Al ticket counter, which for the first time that I've ever seen, was entirely barren of any other passengers. And, after I sweet talked my way into checking an oversized bag (I love flirting with Israeli women), we were on our way.
The last time I went to Israel, I looked at it as an opportunity to make friends and share the experiences with them. And it didn't quite work out that way. I didn't really connect with anyone on my trip and certainly don't keep in touch with them now. Looking back, I wish I had been a bit more selfish then, letting the experience be one only for me.
So, it may sound a bit rude, but this time, I plan to be a bit more selfish. I see the next week or so as an experience for me and me alone. If I meet some people who's company I enjoy, great, but it's not the reason I'm here.
I'm here to experience my history, to find myself, to remind myself who I am by experiencing where I come from from that singular perspective.
I know it sounds selfish, but sometimes being selfish is the way to learn about those little parts of yourself that you wouldn't have discovered unless you looked.
And this week is my time to search.
Throughout this series, I will accompany the posts with pictures from my time is Israel. Hopefully, this will give you some glimmer of this fantastic experience. Today though, all you get is the plane location monitor as we approached Israel. Don't worry, the good stuff is coming soon...