Houston to London
In their prime my parents were very keen on traveling around the country. Dad took care of the car and the driving; Mom did the organizing, planning and packing. Mom was a great planner. And an even better list maker. She made countdown lists of Things to Do, such as arrange for mail pickup, get pets to vet and arrange for their care, clean out the refrigerator, pack an “office box” consisting of pens, pencils, paperclips etc. There were lists for things to do two weeks ahead of time, one week ahead, two days ahead and the day of departure. There were lists of what to pack, such as socks, underwear, cosmetics, rain gear. There were lists of what to take along for entertainment, such as crossword puzzles and books, and there were lists of what you need to have to get around such as maps, guide books and trip diaries that listed favorite places we had visited before and places to avoid. She took it to the extreme – but I have to admit I have used her lists as a basis of my own planning for thirty years of our own trips.
Before we set out for England, while Michael was tending to arrangements “over there,” I was tending to things “back home.” I’d been taking care of my parents for a couple years, doing their shopping, getting their prescriptions filled, getting them to doctor’s appointments and the like. That is what I was doing while Michael was researching bed and breakfasts and places to see. Both are necessary jobs, but mine was, shall we say, less exciting. So, when Michael says we went through last minute check lists this is what he is referring to. And here is a wifely note – he used to mightily resist going through these checklists until the great “computer cord” incident that he so casually mentioned. After that he began to initiate the checklist rundown. Here’s what one page of the checklist looked like.
Let me say upfront that I like to travel – but I don’t like to fly. I’m not afraid of flying. I have perfect confidence that the plane will take off and arrive safely. Maybe a bit bumpy or uncomfortable, but safely. However, I am mildly claustrophobic (an apparent genetic gift from my Dad) and after about three hours on a plane I want OUT. I begin by getting antsy, then agitated and after about four hours I begin to shake. So, I was not looking forward to eight to ten hours on a plane. Stuck in a tube. Up in the air. No way out. Makes me shiver to think about it. That being said, I was not anticipating with joy the first day of our travels. I didn’t sleep well the night before and the 7:00 am alarm came both too quickly and not soon enough after tossing and turning all night. It was a relief to get up and begin the process of putting the flight behind me. Yeah, that’s how I looked at the first day.
Breakfast was, like most of our most recent meals, kind of weird. Cleaning out the last of the food makes for some odd menus, which I both dread and enjoy in a perverse way. How do you make a meal out of two carrots, a bit of onion, one potato and leftover Chinese? Heartburn, anyone? In any case, we got fed, we ran through the infamous checklists and locked the doors. Then we checked all the locks. Then we paused in the driveway while I ran through the list again in my mind. Oven off? Check. Lights off (except for the lights on timer)? Check. Computer equipment? Check. Hanging bags picked up from their peg by the door and moved into the car? Check. Deep breath and… off we went.
I love how Michael glosses over the “said a quick goodbye to Minay’s parents” after the taxi arrived. This is so much easier said than done. It’s not one goodbye, it is about five followed by an emphatic “We have to go NOW” before you finally make it out the door. To give you some context: When I went off to college for the first time my Mom said “It’s almost like you’re dying.” Leaving is not a simple process. But leave we did.
The drive to the airport was fairly uneventful, though I personally believe the taxi driver got a bit lost because it took much longer for him to get to the airport than it usually takes me. But at least we got there, paid him (I agree, we over paid him) and got inside the door.
I should say at this point that while it was May it was already very hot in Houston. In the 90’s. And humid. Like, tropical kind of humid. The kind that takes your breath away, or more precisely, makes it very hard to take a breath. And here we were, dressed for a typically cool airport and airplane – long sleeved shirts, toting sweaters and raincoats, the latter for our England arrival. What with all the rushing about, the stress, and the humidity I felt, shall we say, less than fresh upon our arrival. Add in the hot flashes and let’s be honest – I was sweating like a field hand at the end of the day. And, knowing I was about to get on a plane, from which there is no escape, for the next ten hours I was also nervous as all get out. Michael, as is typical for him, was all happy and excited to begin the adventure. He couldn’t sit still, so while I guarded the carry-on baggage, he gadded about buying pens, water, taking a few pictures and the like. I just wanted him to come back long enough so I could get to the bathroom before getting on the plane.
Finally, they announced our flight and we boarded the plane. I’m not going to talk much about the flight. Michael has already covered that pretty much, from his point of view. From my perspective it amounted to a lot of checking the computer display of where we were and how much longer the flight was going to last. “I can hang on for four more hours. England is at the end of it. I can do it.” That sort of thing. I tried to read, but that didn’t really work. So I watched movies on my seatback screen and tried to “think of England” as the advice goes.
I also have a little asthma, and when I get tired it begins to get difficult to take a deep breath. The only thing that helps is to lie down and totally relax. That was not going to happen, obviously, so not only was I dealing with claustrophobia, I was also dealing with struggling to breathe. I tried to keep hydrated, which is important on a long flight, but that also meant trips to the bathroom. Airplane bathrooms are tiny. Very tiny. Please see references to my claustrophobia.
Finally the plane landed. Like the sea voyagers of old I was ready to kiss the ground. The nice, solid, non-vibrating ground. But we had made it. We were in England. The grand adventure was about to begin.