Early signs of sleep deprivation began to set in on the second leg. Too excited to sleep, I was also too excited to notice that I hadn’t. My first sights of Europe (well, from outside the airport, at least) were still a full day away from me. Heading towards Dublin under the dark of night, there was no chance of seeing the Atlantic. I watched the flight tracker, obsessively for God knows how many hours, instead.
Watching flight trackers is a deceptive hobby. Your airplane is nowhere near as large as it appears on the map. Were it so out of proportion, the main cabin would be the size of a Great Lake and one of the wings as long as New Jersey. Poor bird wouldn't stand a chance.
Cristina napped for most of the nearly 3,000-mile, six-hour flight between Boston and Dublin. It’s a frequently flown route, believe it or not. The Irish have been coming to Boston since the famine, forming the city’s largest ethnic group. Roman-Catholic-Irish catholicism runs deep in South Boston, from Marky Mark all the way down to his Funky Bunch. Her Lingus has been the official paddy wagon between Potatoville and Beantown since the sixties.
My eyes were fixed on the tracker. I read the temperature outside was in the negative sixties. That was much colder than I ever imagined.
I’ve long suffered from strange paranoid fantasies about dying in a Final Destination plane crash. These hallucinations are either aerophobic or aviophobic; the Internet is unclear about which. Either way, these waking nightmares are more of a passing preoccupation than a phobia. They always go something like this:
I see the top of the plane peeled back as if by a giant can opener. People scream while being thrown helplessly to their deaths, doomed to drop 40,000-feet through the clouds. I white-knuckle my armrests as my oxygen mask dangles before me, reminding me to breathe. I'm just about to let go, and then I wake up.
I now realize a new pain these fantasies overlooked. Until my flight to Ireland, I never realized how cold it would be if that actually happened. Negative sixty-six degrees... can you imagine?
Los Angeles Airport is the Hartsfeld-Jackson of the West Coast. Luckily for me, I grew up in Atlanta under a busy Delta pilot. LAX is easy compared to ATL. We breezed through security and found our gate with nearly two hours to spare. I spent one of those hours waiting in a typically snake-like Los Angeles-bagel shop line. I can’t remember the name of the café, or at least I won’t put it in print. All I will say is that the bagel shop was adjacent to the airport’s animal relief station. Or was that just the café's kitchen?
Cristina and I shared a breakfast of two just-lightly-enough-to-technically-be-called-“toasted” bagels, cream cheese, and two coffees. Already, my plant-based days were behind me. When I asked for a receipt to mark the occasion, I was wholesale ignored. When I reached over the counter and snatched the slip myself, the barista yelled at me. Boy, was I going to miss LA. The entire transaction costs me $17 in USD, but far more in self-esteem.
We arrived at LAX around 3:30 am, anticipating trouble with our tickets. Aer Lickus, in addition to jigsaw puzzling our preferred set of plans, re-booked our first leg to Boston through Jet Blue. What happens when the powers of two substandard airlines combine? Nothing that bad, actually.
Unable to print our boarding passes at the self-service kiosk, we became the third party in a growing ticketing line full of agitated Jet Blue regretters. As we waited, we learned the ticket counter opens two hours before the first scheduled flight. Our flight was scheduled for 6:30, so I pulled out a book, making myself comfortable for the wait. At 4 am, many in the increasingly antsy crowd behind us learned that the 6 am flight to San Francisco had been canceled.
Murmurs in the crowd behind us were becoming louder, ruder, and more frequent. People were the type of mad that people become when their day is ruined by some slipshod airline, which could really be any of them. The woman directly behind me was particularly frustrated with the Blue. She aired her grievances very loudly to no one in particular.
“Shitty-ass airline... motherfucking Jet Blue. How the fuck are they just gonna cancel without telling anyone? That’s no way to treat people. That's not how you treat people.”
Cristina and I found ourselves at an early hurdle in our journey. On the one hand, the mood surrounding us was clearly going south. It would be easy, nay, understandable, to fear the worst. On the other hand, we had no particular reason to become anxious just yet. Our flight was still scheduled for 6:30, so we saw no reason to lose hope until 4:35. It wasn’t easy to remain uninfluenced by the angry mob behind us. Somehow, we persevered.
When the woman behind me umpromptedly prompted me to testify and share my negative experience with Jet Blue, I answered that I had yet to have one.
“But I hear they really suck,” I added a lame footnote, desperate to be accepted by this representative of the crowd. She wasn’t impressed.
“Well, they aren’t that bad.” She countered, willing to contradict her initial point just to disagree with me. She said something nice to Cristina, who responded in kind. They became fast friends, bonding over their mutual disdain for me.
Bringing people together – one of the many little things I do that make me a great boyfriend.
Charlie and I planned to do what we always did when he came to town. We’d go get a Fat Sal’s actual-submarine-sized-sandwich, have a few drinks, and play Grand Theft Auto V until Cristina got off work. Then, we’d all watch some delectably trashy television, something like Love Island or Fox News. It was a beautiful day of regression, one that was nearly ruined by the dog.
In the days before our departure, our beloved Lox, a 77-year-old pandemic Shih-Tzu, developed an eye condition we’d never seen before. Both eyes had swollen pink. They produced mounds of green mucus at alarming rates. Unable to be seen by our vet on Friday, we were crushed to learn their offices would close on Saturday. I would have to take him to the Veterinary Centers of America.
I walked into the VCA looking for a pet hospital. Instead, they took me to the cleaners.
Three hours, two unnecessary tests (even if there were tumors behind his eyeballs, did they really think we were prepared to do something about it?) and one insultingly small bottle of doggy Vasoline later (I’m assuming the stuff was made with pure silver and gold) - Lox had his medicine, Cristina had her re-assurance, and I had to sell my left foot to a pawn shark.
Seeing that I was clearly upset by the unforeseen small fortune spent the day before leaving the country for three weeks, brother graciously paid for my sandwich. We spent the rest of the afternoon sticking to our original plan of crime without punishment. It was a glorious Saturday of nothingness and laughter.
Traveling during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic comes with peculiar challenges. Obstacles took the form of government forms, permits, and the associated risks of sharing air with strangers in a flying tin can. Every country has its own scourge-related travel regulations. Cristina and I planned to span three nations in one day.
A year and three months after the start of lockdown, the United States required no special permits to travel in between states at a federal level. Most states only require some sort of face covering, whether it be a mask or your mother’s Sunday panties, and a determination to leave wherever it was that you were.
Our first stop after Los Angeles would be a short transfer in Boston. The Boston layover would only last two hours, preventing us from stepping into Massachusetts proper, anyway.
Dublin, Ireland, would follow Boston, accompanied by about a 10-hour thumb-twiddling marathon between connections. At the time of our departure, the Irish required a clean covid PCR test taken within seventy-two hours of your departure. Even though Cristina and I had no plans to leave the Dublin airport, we still had to produce a negative PCR to lounge around the lush Irish terminals. We signed a form stating under the threat of perjury that we didn’t have the vid. At least to the best of our knowledge.
Completing the requirements for a long morning in Dublin took less than half an hour in total. We did so two days before chasing the rainbow. Ireland had done away with all of these requirements (and, it seemed, mask-wearing) by the time we returned from Spain.
Spain, in line with local customs, was lax on regulations. All we had to do was fill out another perjury form, swearing to abstain from pro-corona life choices. We did so in earnest, spending less than five minutes on the project while sitting in the Boston airport lounge. But it was a long day before we reached the lounge.