Getting from London (England) to Charlottesville (Virginia) is much easier said than done.
I woke up (well, my mom woke me up) at around 7am, for an 11:15am flight. I made it in plenty of time. Got on the plane, sat down next to a kindly elderly British woman with a posh accent…and woke up an hour later, to find us in the air. Realized that I slept through take-off, which is disappointing since I always enjoy take-off.
Seven hours, much GRE studying, one grant proposal draft, one edible lunch, and one inedible snack later, the plane began its descent. Lower, lower, lower, lower, and the tarmac rose to meet us, until WHOOSH. The nose of the plane turned up, and we took off into the sky again.
I nearly threw up. A woman across the aisle from me DID throw up: whether from terror or from motion sickness, or both, I don’t know. I was certainly sympathetic to both. I was suddenly very conscious of the fact that I was sitting in a little metal box, up in the air, with a bunch of strangers, my life in the hands of another (albeit highly trained) stranger sitting in a cockpit.
All the passengers turned to stare at each other – I had an entire conversation with a guy across the plane, using only our eyes. “Did you feel that?” “Yes.” “Is that…supposed to happen?” “I don’t think so. “Should we be panicking?” “Not yet.” He smiled, which made me feel a little better.
FINALLY, after what felt like fifteen minutes but was probably more like two, a voice appeared on the loudspeaker to comfort us.
“Ladies and gentlemen!” he said. “As you probably noticed, we just went back up in the air.”
Yes, thank you.
“Um…this is quite normal, and happens quite often. Usually the reason is that there’s something on the tarmac, or…or it’s too crowded. I’m sure the pilot will explain to us what happened exactly, very soon. Might be a few minutes.”
Wait, you’re NOT the pilot?
About 5-10 nauseating minutes later, the pilot FINALLY came over the loudspeaker and told us that there had been some issues, but that we would land in 7-8 minutes. He didn’t actually tell us what the issues were, but frankly I was just relieved to hear his voice.
Longest. 7-8 minutes. Ever.
I sat with my head against the seat in front of me, eyes closed, until I felt the wheels hit the tarmac. I have never been so thrilled to haul a heavy backpack through an airport; at least my feet were on the ground.
Then, I stood in line at Dulles International Airport customs for something like an hour (can someone please explain to me why TWO SEPARATE PEOPLE need to read my customs form, such that I need to stand in two different lines, on either side of baggage collection?) and spent the hour watching time tick on relentlessly, because I REALLY NEEDED to get to Union Station to catch my bus to Charlottesville.
I got to the front of the line at 3:50pm. My bus was at 5:05pm. I still needed to get from Dulles Airport to Union Station — which is about a 40-minute drive (at best, not including traffic).
Customs official: …Are you okay?
Me: Uh…yes, I’m fine.
Customs official (reading my form): You’re turning 21 this year.
Customs official: Are you excited?
Me: Yeah, I guess so. I’m a little freaked out, though. I feel old.
Customs official (visibly upset): …why would you say that?
He, presumably feeling even older than I did, stamped my form in a huff, and I booked it out of there, wheeling my suitcase through reunited families and drivers holding up name signs.
I found the Super Shuttle desk.
Me: Hello. I need to get to Union Station.
Super Shuttle employee: No problem!
Me: Is there a shuttle leaving right now?
Super Shuttle employee: Ummm…there’s one leaving within twenty minutes.
Me: My bus leaves at 5:05pm.
Super Shuttle employee: Oh. Umm…well, then, there’s actually a shuttle leaving right now.
Me: …Okay. Thank you.
I broke a world record for Fastest Credit Card transaction, then another for Fastest Sprint From Dulles Airport Super Shuttle Desk To Super Shuttle Vehicle.
Super Shuttle Driver: Slow down, don’t worry – I’m not leaving yet!
Me: Actually, I was hoping you WERE leaving.
Super Shuttle Driver: Where are you going?
Me: Union Station. I have a bus to catch at 5:05.
The Super Shuttle Driver looked at his watch, and his grimace brought on another wave of nausea.
Me: You don’t think I can make it?
Super Shuttle Driver: Well, I’m leaving at 4, but that’s cutting it very close.
What choice did I have? I threw my suitcase in the back, and jumped in.
It took us about 20 minutes to get to DC. It took us another 20 minutes to traverse five blocks of DC. At 4:50, I was leaning forward and biting my lip, and at 4:53, I had my backpack over my left shoulder, and bus ticket in my right hand. The Super Shuttle driver took me straight to the Greyhound entrance, because he’s a hero — I jumped off the bus, and made it halfway up the stairs when a chorus of homeless people outside the station yelled “YOUR PHONE! YOUR PHONE!” to alert me to the fact that I had dropped my phone on the sidewalk. I ran back and grabbed it, shrieking ‘thank you! thank you!’, then ran as quickly as it is possible to run while wheeling a suitcase (I was limited by the coefficient of friction between the suitacse wheels and the tarmac.)
At 4:57, I was on the bus, somehow, safe.
Now, it’s 6pm. We just left Springfield, VA. There are little white puffy clouds in the sky, and the sun is tanning the left side of my face. My laptop is on my lap (where a laptop should be, I guess) and my headphones are on. Mumford & Sons is up.
It occurs to me as I write this that I’ve been traveling for 16 hours. I credit my consciousness to the hour-long nap I took at the beginning of my flight, and to the various panic attacks I’ve been having this afternoon. They’ve kept me on my toes.
Tomorrow, I’m going to see a movie with my fellow summer interns. And on Monday, it’s back to work! I have a post half-done (I started it on the plane) about what I’m doing this summer and why, so that’ll be up soon.
Three more hours to go!