It was a long journey, much longer than it was supposed to be, but I finally made it to Atlanta.
I know I previously posted about how I don’t really have a “home” anymore but it’s hard to describe how I felt when I arrived in Los Angeles Friday. Or was it Saturday? What time was it? I’m so confused.
Anyway, when I walked the long walk from the plane to the immigration lines, I could feel something lifting me up, something driving away all the fatigue and headaches of an overly long journey. I was almost giddy, Even in my mental numbness, I opened up to the immigration officer, a perfect stranger.
“How are you doing?” I asked. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the U.S.” We carried on a short conversation. “Been gone 19 months,” I offered without being asked. “Oh, in Indonesia,” he replied.
It was one of those moments when you want to start chanting, “USA! USA! USA!” I didn’t, but I wanted to. Probably had a huge smile on my face. The fatigue was gone, if only for a moment, but I was refreshed.
There is nothing like that feeling. It soon went away, as my last post described.
Awoke from my wooden bench about 4:30 am when the Delta terminal started to come alive. People were already checking in. I had my boarding pass so I entered the gate area and found a McDonald’s, where I ordered pancakes and sausage and coffee. At the gate, I found free Wi-Fi and sent the previous post, and then we were boarding.
It’s quite different watching Americans board a plane, especially now with the limits on carry-ons that resulted from the charging of checked bag fees. The boarding was orderly but driven by constant reminders by airline staff about allowable in-cabin baggage, which often didn’t sit well with passengers. It was so different to see a plane full of bules instead of Asians.
The plane ride was quiet and I reflected a bit on my journey and my upcoming visit. I had finally made the last airplane-related leg of my journey. Only tasks left were to hopefully retrieve my luggage in Atlanta and rent a car. And I also needed to find a hotel room since the one I booked, and paid for, was for the previous night. The fun had not ended, as I was soon to learn.
The Atlanta airport seemed familiar, yet strange. I have walked its corridors dozens of times, but still there were things I didn’t remember. I figured out quickly, however, where my bag might be once I arrived at the baggage claim area.
The baggage services area is located at the far end of the carousel area on the south concourse. There, five employees were talking with one another when I asked the question I had been contemplating on the four-hour ride across America. “Do you have my bag?”
One of the stafferes disappeared behind a door, reappearing a minute later with my lost suitcase. A good start to the day. Next it was off to the rental car area. The news was not so good there.
My reservation had been cancelled, of course. It was going to cost me a lot more now to rent a car for my stay. Double as much. I first went to Advantage, where my reservation had been made. Then to another rental company. then to another. Then, totally frustrated by the sticker price, I went to Budget. there price was the same, so I decided to just rent a car to get to Asheville, turning it in at the airport the day after I arrived. I would figure out later what I would use for transportation in Asheville and how I would get back to Atlanta May 9 for the trip back to the other side of the world.
It was a strange feeling driving a car for the first time in 19 months, but somehow I managed to get to I-85 on the north end of Atlanta. Unable to find the hotel where I had booked a room for the previous night (and already paid for that room), I finally stopped at the Garden Plaza Hotel on Peachtree Industrial Road. The room rate seemed fair so I checked in, calling Bill to pick me up as soon as I got into the room. It was already about 5 and the party was to start at 6:30.
At this point, my eyes were shot, having enduring three days of travel with maybe 10-12 hours of sleep total. But my energy level was high. Bill arrived and we headed off to the clubhouse, which had been rented for the evening for “the guys.” It was a great night of food, laughs, harrassment and poker, with me constantly nodding off to sleep while the game went on, and someone at the table asking if I was alright and wanted to call it quits. “I’m fine. Just resting my eyes while you play.” Interestingly, I managed to win often, even in my stupor, until we called it quits sometime about 1 a.m. Billy got me back to my hotel safely. My head hurts this morning.