Concourse C, Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, Minneapolis, Minnesota
"Caution. You are nearing the end of our moving walk."
Here we are again. I think if I worked here I'd start hearing that in my sleep within a week, and get homicidal urges inside of a month.
I did not sleep at all. I just never went to bed. Last night, Dreama took Jeff and I to Eat n' Park (a Pittsburgh favorite) and for a short drive around town. After most of the people leaving had left (in a rather nasty looking storm, I might add), I then visited Dreama and Amanda in their room while they packed. We chatted and traded what was left of our food (neither of them were particularly keen on li hing apples) and randomly sighed "we made it" until we were yawning more than talking.
I then went back to my room to shower, pack, and log on... and once I did that, there went the next five hours. I just plowed through the digicam photos I'd taken, cropped and thumbnailed 'em, and uploaded them to the site, in the meantime watching the lists and the forums for folks posting, 'My JournalCon entry is up!"
Surprisingly (or maybe not, as I'm just a paranoid pessimist at heart), most have been positive, some more positive than I could have ever imagined.
Of course I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop for any event, you're going to find many spots where things didn't quite line up right, and that goes double with the first one. I already have a head full of maybe fifty things to get right next time.
'Next time.' Hah! Listen to me.
Anyway. I stayed up all night. I watched the morning CNN and network news shows (finally, I realized, I was seeing them live rather than tape delayed six hours). An explosion on the same street as our hotel, four blocks down. Unrest in the middle east coming to a head. How Pittsburgh was going to feel like December today, with snow predicted in some areas.
Snow. As excited as I was at this last possibility to experience it, I was also remembering how much airplanes don't like the stuff. I looked out the window at thick gray clouds and muttered for the billionth time, "I hate flying."
As the city rumbled to life outside, I pulled everything together and headed down to the lobby, where Jen Wade was already waiting and reading the New York Times. We talked about San Francisco, Jen and Katie, mutual friends, and of course even more ways people from Hawaii are weird.
The 7:30 rendezvous time we'd set for the last Happy JournalCon Shuttle trip came and went. I was anxious, as my flight was at 8:50 a.m. (and Jen's departed for SFO not long after). I was already cutting it close, so every minute that ticked past boosted my blood pressure two points.
Amanda came down, breathless, followed a minute later by a very unhappy Dreama. Apparently, there was (another) problem with the hotel's billing, and it had to be worked out before Amanda could check out. So while the two of them took aim at the front desk, Jen and I were sent to wait in the van.
The next thing I knew, we were still outside our hotel in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh one hour before my flight was supposed to leave. It was all I could do to keep from hyperventilating.
Dreama eventually came out, although for a harrowing five minutes Amanda went missing (we'd neglected to tell her where to find the van). But finally at 8:10 a.m., we were off... to the Greyhound terminal, where Amanda needed to be to return to picturesque Millville, New Jersey.
Then we were off to the airport, hitting more traffic than was expected, but still less than it might have been had it not been Columbus Day. Jen and Dreama kindly tolerated my panic attacks, as we made our way to Pittsburgh International and the small terminal segment claimed by Northwest Airlines.
Rushing through goodbyes and hugs that were altogether too short, I scurried in. The time was 8:35.
Thank god the line was short, and the ticket agent cold but efficient. I was issued my boarding pass at 8:42.
Looking about as inelegant as could be, I clutched my bags closed and ran full-bore toward the gates. Although the attendant at the X-ray station was quite involved in checking out a pair of blonde travelers the next line over, he too worked fast enough to get me through in a matter of seconds.
I started running again, down a series of escalators. And when I hit the bottom, my chin almost hit the floor. I had forgotten that to get from where I was to the gate also required a underground train ride.
There was a full train beeping and rumbling to my right. Wondering if, for a split second, I might end up on a train going the wrong way, I made a dash for it anyway.
The doors started closing. I crashed through them noisily, catching my bag and causing it to beep in annoyance. But I got in, the doors closed, and we took off I was happy to realize toward the gates, and not the baggage claim.
A man who'd witnessed my sprint and wrestling match with the door nudged me and said, "How's it going, O.J.?"
It took me a while to figure out what he was referring to. I replied, probably so late as to make it awkward, "More like Judge Ito."
Stepping out of the train, I heard on the P.A. system, "This is the final boarding call for Northwest flight ten-sixty-one..." Although I couldn't hear what else he said over my footsteps and the pounding in my ears, I imagined it might have been something like, "...and if your ass isn't here in sixty seconds, you'll be stuck here for eternity! Mu-ha-ha-ha!"
The gates were numbered 1 through 100, and of course I was at gate 83. But thanks to a couple of well-placed and empty people movers, I made pretty good time. Though I arrived at the gate sweaty, red, and out of breath, the attendant tore my boarding pass and motioned me aboard without a second look.
So there I was, running on no sleep, aching and exhausted, the last food eaten being a Tim Tam from Amanda at midnight. I knew immediately history was about to be made: I was going to sleep on an airplane.
Even before take-off, I couldn't keep my eyes open, and drifted in and out of consciousness. I dreamed about the preflight safety demonstration... then woke to it actually happening. I remember take off, though, and it was sharp and smooth. We were in the clounds in seconds, headed up and out...
I then slept some more.
Our landing in Minneapolis/St. Paul was sloppy it was my first hard double runway bounce but we reached the terminal alive, which is all that matters.
It was here that I noticed a significant "to do" list failure: I had planned to spend a frantic ten minutes at the Pittsburgh airport doing all my souvenir shopping at once. Although I could order some Pittsburgh stuff online, it's just bad form to return to Hawaii (or even friends from Hawaii) empty handed.
So I quickly grabbed an armful of stuff at the gift shop here (the cashier tried to talk to me in Japanese). Even though it all said Minneapolis, it was a start. I also bought an overpriced apple, of which I could only eat about half before getting a stomach ache.
And that's where I am.