Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Most folks think that the life of a travel correspondent is a glamorous collection of fillet dinners washed down with champagne and caviar. Alas, I do not spend my time in a five star resort or have a secretary to make all my travel plans and foresee any difficulties that may impede the journey. The hard economic times have even forced me to let my personal masseur Sven, who usually accompanies me everywhere, move on to greener pastures. Sven, sad to say, is a figment of my admittedly twisted imagination/my need to get out of the house more.
Without the assistance of my fictional entourage, I am forced to make many of my travel plans myself, and at times I must deal with the hassle of actually being transported to the exotic locations I am forced to visit in order to bring you these reports. Although the destination will be kept secret for the time being, I will now relate to you the trials and travails I encountered on my most recent journey.
First off, there was a long trip via airplane involved. I don't have the traditional problems associated with flying. I have never experienced motion sickness in the air and I don't tremble with fear at the thought of a fiery wreck unless I hear the pilot mention how baked/drunk he is over the loudspeaker.
No, my main difficulty is being tall. Most American airlines nowadays have designed their planes to squeeze in as many people as they can. The catch is that these humans need to be about five foot three to fit in the spaces into which they are squashed. Being about thirteen inches in height over this arbitrary number, I am a wee bit uncomfortable during any flight, much less one of six hours in duration. If only my legs would fold up like an accordion so that I could stow them away in the overhead bins.....
Fortunately, our pilot was on some sort of mission to arrive at our destination (you would be too if you knew where we were going), so we recklessly cut off a number of planes and zoomed on out of the Philadelphia's airport. My sardine-like confinement aside, the first half of the flight was about as enjoyable as one could expect. I perused the year end Rolling Stone and prayed for sleep to carry me away in its embrace (even though I never sleep on planes I foolishly keep the faith that the next time is going to be different).
All of a sudden I was woken from my daze by one of the more wretched smells I have ever encountered. I looked around, wondering what could have produced such an impressively nauseating stench. I immediately, spotted the culprit, a two-year old boy who was showering his father with his love. Or, more accurately, a massive pile of vomit, much of which the child managed to cover himself with as well.
The parents, knowing how unlikely young kids are to purge themselves of various internal fluids, had neglected to bring a change of clothes with their carry-on bag. Therefore, the aroma of two hour-aged baby barf potpourri filled the cabin for a good half-hour before the stewardess managed to rescue us by covering the lad in US Air's high quality blankets.
The incident mercifully behind me and my seat mates, my brother and some random woman who never spoke the whole flight, moved on with our lives and waited for the long airborne nightmare to come to a close. At least there weren't any snakes on the motherfucking plane. I have had enough of those motherfucking snakes.....
As the sun rose in the eastern sky, breakfast was served and we came to the happy realization that we would soon land. Unfortunately, the barfing boy had a sister, who apparently was jealous of her brother's accomplishment and desired to get into the act as well. Her mom and dad decided to play catch with her as they fought for the right to disown their children first. Two vomit-covered parents later, this flight was beginning to resemble a certain scene in "The Exorcist" (no not the one where Linda Blair shoves the crucifix into her snatch).
Mercifully, after a thirty minute period spent with a broken Certs jammed into my nostrils, we came to a gentle landing at 9 o'clock in the morning local time. We had arrived! Just a short trip through customs, on to the baggage area, pick up the rental car, and the vacation has begun. There was one teensy problem. Half the customs officials had gone on a wicked bender the day before and had decided not to show up (guess which country I was in now). Their computers had taken the day off as well, although I can't say for certain that they were hungover as well. Add to these worrisome details the fact that four flights from the United States landed in the span of fifteen minutes and you have a recipe for disaster.
When we walked off the plane, the time was nine in the morning. Although that was the current hour, our bodies, not knowing we had switched time zones on them, disagreed, claiming the true time was the middle of the goddamn night. As we sat in a line that did move and seemed to have no end, our initial excitement at escaping the plane was tempered and our energy levels crashed to nil.
You wouldn't think that sitting inside a fuselage for six hours doing absolutely nothing but reading, listening to music, and watching movies could be exhausting. Sadly I felt as if I had just finished running a marathon. Check that, I probably couldn't finish a marathon. I felt as if I had just walked all the way to the mailbox.
Two hours later we finally trudged to the end of the line. At this point the line forked and we had two choices. Murphy showed up just in time with his law in hand and we picked the really slow queue. The official servicing the folks in front of us had the kind of sublimely slothful worth ethic that would make even the laziest slug or tortoise turn even greener with envy.
We watched with an ever-growing sense of disappointment as the people in the other line flew through immigration and on to freedom. Murphy, not yet done with us, sent our customs official to the bathroom just as we neared the front. Finally, as we neared complete physical and mental breakdown we reached the official's kiosk and were set free to wander the land.
Nearly ten hours of hell had finally come to an end. I hope whatever country I am in is worth the aggravation it took to get there.