March 21, 2013, about 7:17 pm local time; Bewleys Hotel, Ballsbridge, Dublin Ireland.
I keep intending to write up and keep things updated on the blog but it's been more dreaming than work. Well, the amount of walking I've done lately has surpassed my normal limits by about a factor of 20, and my work shoes were never meant to pound the rough cobblestone of Dublin the way they have. Result? Sore shins, ankles, and feet. I am forcing myself to come in early tonight to give my legs and feet a break. I can finally get caught up on what's happened the first few days here.
Let's start on Monday, March 18.
I am still in Fort Mill working on last minute packing details. One completely massive distraction was a voucher for $350 at the BMW dealer's performance shop in Charlotte. One last opportunity to drive my car, one last chance to see Charlotte, so I went for it. In the end I got a leather wallet and a wristwatch, all very nice, and 'free' if you don't count the 7 years of accumulated points I had on the BMW credit card.
Now it's time to head to the airport, and Liz and little Aaron in the back take me to CLT. Teary goodbyes, and I am off. Always hard to part with loved ones, I don't even like to write about it!
The first leg of my journey takes me to Chicago. Isn't that the wrong way, you ask? Why, yes it is! You probably know that you can save some money when buying plane tickets if you're willing to take more than one stop and fly different carriers. I usually end up falling for the low ticket price trap despite the hassles presented by changing planes, switching terminals, long layovers, and in this case, going through immigration and security again in London. Normally fine when I only have one small carry-on, but I had two, and both were pretty heavy. The heavier one didn't have a shoulder strap, either. One could launch into implicit versus explicit cost/benefits here, but I won't. I still haven't decided if it was worth it or not.
Chicago; boarded the giant B-777 and it was completely full. It's a big plane, and it fits a LOT of people. As is usual, all the first class passengers were boarded and seated first. Then the cattle get to board. We slowly shuffle through first class, gazing longingly at the passengers' smiling faces as they sip on cold drinks and slowly recline virtually horizontally in their wide, padded leather seats. I seem to hear a voice: You see these people? They're flying first class. See how happy they are? They're treated so special. They even get their own lavatory that you can't use. Maybe next time you should pay the extra $5,000 and fly first class, eh?
That's about the time we enter the main cabin. It has three columns of seats, 2, 5, and 2-wide, respectively.
The word sardines comes to mind. Cattle. Deck of cards. The old college stunt of seeing how many kids you can pack into a VW Bug. Everything else on the plane is 'coach', which even that is broken into zones. I am in the last zone, which really is 'last class'. This means that my carry-on will really have to struggle to find a home, and everyone who is seated before me will have to get up so I can get in to my spot. Everyone behind me must wait until these steps are complete. The voices again echo in our minds: First class! Why didn't you fly first class???
Now seated and airborne, the fun begins. Seated to my right is a fellow who seems to have previously flown first class but has since been relegated to last class with me. He seems to have a high sense of entitlement. He continues his loud conversation on his cell phone well after the cabin doors are closed and the plane is in motion. That's too bad for him because he has to learn the hard way that you don't get the freebies and white glove treatment here in last class. On the left, running up and down the narrow pathway is American Airlines flight attendant, Mr. Ihateyou. He despises things like customer service, passengers, himself, airplanes, and flying.
Mr. Relegated and Mr.Ihateyou's worlds are going to collide very soon, and I am in the middle.
I have already set my watch to Dublin time and it's way past my bedtime. We all know the quality sleep one can get on an airplane, but I have to try. The last time I flew to Dublin I stayed up all night watching movies, which was a huge mistake (More on that later).
I'm not going to get much sleep before we have the first exchange between Mr. Ihateyou and Mr. Relegated:
Mr. R: ''Excuse me, my food, it's very bland, I want something else''
Mr. I: "I'm sorry, that's what you ordered. We only have enough meals on-board for each customer to have one"
(me in my mind: Seriously, dude? Your food is bland? Have you never flown in last class before???)
Mr.R "Yes, but you see, my food, it's very bland, I want something else. The pasta, I would like the pasta"
Mr. I "You will have to wait until all the other passengers are served; if we have any left over I will bring you one" Storms off down the aisle.
About a half hour later, Mr. I returns with a small microwaved paper dish of pasta, very much like a TV dinner, and slides it onto Mr. R's tray.
Mr. I "Next time sir, we won't be able to do this for you. You ordered the special vegetarian dish and that's all you can have. Each passenger can only receive one meal per flight."
Mr. R "Yes, but is this pasta vegetarian?"
Mr. I "Yes"
Mr. R "No meat?"
Mr. I "NO! No meat!" Storms off again.
I get the keen impression that whether the pasta had meat or not wouldn't have changed Mr. I's answer.
About 3 hours later.
Mr. R "Excuse me, I am very cold, I would like another blanket"
Mr I, obviously completely fed up, "no, sorry, we don't have any more; one per customer". Doesn't wait for a reply, keeps walking down the aisle.
My earplugs are firmly in place at this point, and sleep finally wins. We finally land at London Heathrow. My biggest achievements were not head-butting Mr. R and not having to get up to use the lavatory on a 7 hour flight! Boo-ya!
Now I was warned previously not to fly through Heathrow if at all possible. Again, the allure of low ticket prices and the irrational satisfaction of saying I had set foot in London proved too great a temptation. It really wasn't that bad, per se, but the airport is HUGE and moving from one terminal to another means going through security and immigration again. Ouch.
So, lessons learned: Avoid the 3+ stop routes to your final destination, don't transfer planes in London, and don't wear worn out dress shoes when tramping around Dublin.
One last jump and I'm in Dublin. Irish immigration was surprisingly easy, only took a few minutes. They didn't even bother looking at all the extra documentation I brought with me. No, seriously, look at my high school diploma, I brought this special for you to help prove who I am. Hair samples, DNA, it's all here.
Down to the main floor, and my friend Colm is waiting for me. What a relief that I won't have to figure out a way to get to my hotel on my own with three heavy bags. We load up the car and I nearly get in on the right-hand side. Ooops, sorry, forgot about that one, I'm on the other side now.
But now I'm here! Ireland! Say that again? Ireland? I shake my head in disbelief. As I write this my eyes tear up and my heart swells at how grateful I am to be here. I never, ever in a million years thought I would be working and living in a foreign country. I feel a profound sense of gratitude that I and my family get to experience this. I make no pretense that it's going to be all wine and roses, er, rather, Guinness and shamrocks, but I do feel it's going to be worth it.
And it's only my first day, and this day is only half done. More on that tomorrow.
And tomorrow: different shoes.