It's 11:20 p.m., Champaign time; 6:20 a.m. Amsterdam time. We just got here after a seven hour flight from Detroit. Our plane for Lucerne leaves in about an hour. Here is the first installment from my $17.89 leather-bound, gilt edged journal with a maroon silk bookmark. I'll go as far as I can before my time runs out.
9/3/05 Detroit Metro Airport, 1:35 p.m.
So far, so good. We were packed and ready to go 10 minutes before we intended to leave the house, which was 9:00 a.m. It was a good thing we left early, because there was a long line at the Northwest gate to check in. Although we already had our boarding passes; Northwest issues those 24 hours ahead of time over the internet, we had to check our luggage through to Zurich. There was a large family of Indians (real ones, not American ones) in line ahead of us, and the lone passenger agent (who I later learned was also the lone baggage handler) was trying to get people to use the electronic check-in machine. It didn't help for those, like us,who had to check luggage, or who had to produce passports to start international flights.
Going through security was weird. I had to wait while the blue-gloved guard dug through Rosalee's purse. When I presented my boarding pass, briefcase and carry-on, the 60s something woman mechanically repeated, "Please present photo I.D. and your boarding pass," although she already had them both in her hand. Then she said, "You're fine, John," and waved me through without checking any of my carry-on stuff. I said, "Do I know you?" and she said, "Yes," without telling me her name. I said "How do I know you?" and she said, "I've been working here since the airport opened. You don't come through as much anymore." I've never been a frequent traveler; the last time being a year ago when we went to Portland for a weekend, and the time before that two years previously when we went to Korea. I don't think she could possibly remember me.
The plane from Champaign to Detroit was really small. It was a two-engine turbo-prop with two seats on one side of the aisle and one seat on the other. I had picked out our seats beforehand on the internet, so we sat on the single-seated side. Our pilot was a woman, which was reassuring. I figure that for a woman to get to be a pilot, she has to prove that she is better than the males vying for the job. Besides we won't be in a position where she will have to change a flat tire.
The Midwest is very beautiful from the air this time of year. The varigated fields in shades of greens and browns; the geometrical shapes of the fields, not all of them exactly square or symetrical.
The skies were clear and we had a smooth flight until we were about 15-20 minutes out of Detroit Metro. Then the plane started bucking; a couple of times my hands holding the newspaper suddenly flew up a couple of inches. I stayed calm, knowing that there was one of two things that could happen. We could land safely, or my two poor sons could be millionaires. Well, here I am, safe and sound and my children are still poor.
They gave us nothing to eat on the flight to Detroit except a bag of pretzels, which tasted like aluminum snap cookies.
We dressed up for the flight because my wife's uncle, who frequently flies to Europe told us that you have a better chance of being upgraded to first class if you're well-dressed. We stopped to eat at a Chili's on the way to our gate. I kept dropping pieces of lettuce and bread on my silk shirt until I stuck a napkin on my collar to use as a bib. My wife thought a dollop of ketchup on my shirt would pretty much end any hopes of traveling first class.
When we got to the gate, two and one-half hours before departure time, there was already a well-dressed gentleman sitting there. I carefully checked my shoes for milk spots and settled in to write in my new $17.89 cent leather bound, gilt-edged, etc. journal to wait for our departure for Amsterdam.
2:45 p.m. Detroit time, Detroit Metro Airport:
I just got back from having my ritual brandy in honor of one of Rosalee and mine's many common ancestors. This one, Andreas Diener, who is about six greats back, sailed from LeHavre, France in the mid-nineteenth century with his five orphan siblings. The last thing he did before the ship sailed was have a keg of brandy delivered to the ship. My brother has a photocopy of the receipt. Whenever, I cross the Atlantic, I like to honor him by having a brandy. My Christian Brother double shot, cost $7.73, probably a multiple of 10 of what his barrel cost.
4:40 p.m. Detroit time, Detroit Metro Airport:
We're now in the air northeast of Detroit. Whoops, I'm running out of time. Gotta go. Will get back when I next have computer access.