I am among a band of history makers today, after a day among the ordinary and the heroic. I am in Washington DC, making the trip back to a city where I worked and in and near which I lived on and off for most of the last 20 years. It's the city in which my youngest child was born.
The getting there is always interesting. American Airlines did their part to make the trip interesting. I have no hesitation saying that they did not spoil the trip in any way. On the contrary, they did things, which if done more often would make their business better in the eyes of many travellers. My personal programme coordinator, who travels enough to have gazillions of miles for upgrades, graciously upgraded me to the denizens of business/first class. Being a Jamaican, I had to add my particular flourish. So, when the check-in agent came checking and explaining that the computer was down, and the line would move slowly, we smiled and showed that we understood. I then followed her to get the immigration forms. I had already ribbed her about how Barbados and Jamaica are converging, with the kind of breakdown she mentioned. Crime, was her response, lack of it in Barbados. but then she conceded that Jamaica was not all bad thinking of the Blue Mountains, the food, the music, the vitality, etc. "A Jamaican would use the fact that he is now at the head of the line to get himself checked in," I quipped. She smiled and asked for my passport. Yes, I was surprised, but not shocked as I looked back of the long line made up of British jazz band now headed to Brazil after apparently raving the night before. I waved to the PC to bring up the gear and went to pull up the luggage.
On board, we had the usual nonsense with people who have little experience flying. Those who put their bags in the first space they see and thing that like on LIAT the flights to the USA have open seating. "Dese seat big, man", or "Lucky me to get on early enough sit up front, bro'". I poked my nose deeper into Sudoku, and waited for the flight crew to clear the spaces.
I have never studied why American Airlines went into financial trouble but always thought that the food had a lot to do with it. Up front, it's almost always pasta or a chicken dish; I did recently get beef, but it was so raw that I could only nibble the edges. Air Jamaica or Caribbean Airlines win hands down in that area, with the little jerk chicken or fricasee. Sweet. This time, we had some trickery: vegetable lasagna or chicken teryaki, we were offered. I asked for teryaki and the reply "Chicken"confirmed that it was rogered. The PC went for the lasagna; again, "Pasta" confirmed her choice. Oooh, something exotic in the chicken line at least, I thought. About 10 minutes later, we chicken hopefuls were being told that there was a mix up with the paper work and in fact chickens had flown the coop but we had salmon instead. One passenger made his view clear: "I prefer chicken," he said. The "Salmon" reply confirmed that his preferences were duly noted. So, onto the main event. I gave them one more chance to salvage grace when I joked that rather than a measly glass of wine I would prefer the bottle. Now, I have said this many times on a flight and only with British Airways does it get the matter-of-fact reply "I'll bring it in a moment." My server smiled and looked at me coyly, saying, "I can't do that."I told her that my children are not allowed to say 'can't' because it's over used and badly misunderstood. Five minutes later she brought the near full bottle of wine. I did not drink it but gave it back near the end of the flight, telling her that she had passed the test with flying colours and would graduate with first class honours.
By the time we landed in Miami the fun of flying had become too much and the nearly two mile walk to immigration sobered me up literally and figuratively. Then the shock. We heard the news of the US Airways plane that had crashed into New York's Hudson River earlier in the day. Thankfully, everyone survived and the pilot was being hailed a hero. We then had the odd juxtaposition of that news being followed by the live broadcast of President Bush's farewell address. A man came and sat next to us, with the introductory "That's terrible, what happened in New York". Without hesitation, we both put him straight and said that it was indeed wonderful: no deaths, few injuries, lots of stories of how terrible it could have been. Don't make a tragedy out of a drama. He got the point.
Then on to DC. I slept all the way. I wished that I had slept longer as I felt the sub-freezing temperatures hit my face. But, quickly, we were driving into the city and walking into the home of a good friend who will host us for the next week.
I hope that I do not have to say why I am in DC. I really want to be part of the celebrations on January 20, and for once really know where I was on a particular day. I am really very excited and also grateful that whatever else seems hard to achieve, trips like this never seem hard.
I am going to 'multitask' by linking this to my little DC Inaugartion 2009 blog, and vice versa.
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