My flight from Philly to Dallas did not offer a movie. And I was too excited to focus on reading (I had packed The Golden Notebook in my carry-on). So I found myself analyzing things in my life that I had been intentionally avoiding for the past few weeks, mainly because I knew that over-analysis would only lead to unnecessary angst/guilt and irrational decisions. By the time my flight was taxiing to the gate, I was angry at myself and a few choice individuals. I contemplated making some potentially regrettable phone calls.
But wait….I was on the way to SOUTH AMERICA! Stupid boys, crappy friends, and ill-advised conversations were forgotten, as I changed into my “comfy” clothes for the overnight flight to Buenos Aires. Oh, you know…leggings, my sweet old lady flight compression socks (I SWEAR they help), a grey fashion t-shirt, moccasins, and (of course) a navajo print sweater. Yeah! FASHION!
I performed time-killing (yet essential) exercises: tooth brushing, face washing, and hair braiding. A visit to the ATM. Forcing myself to drink water. I inventoried my carry-on half a dozen times (I was super paranoid about losing my passport, thanks to that little experience called “Losing my driver’s license at SXSW 2006”).
And then it was time to board the flight. I couldn’t stop smiling as I listened to the boarding announcements in both English and Spanish. I spent a few minutes at the gate trying to decide which of the passengers were true Argentinians . Some tell tale signs included nice leather boots, blingy designer sunglasses, skintight jeans verging on camel toe (for the ladies) and baggy-yet-tailored pants (for the men). I tried to appear blase as I flashed my passport to a harried American Airlines representative. But my attempts at coolness were replaced by unbridled excitement as I actually stepped on to the plane.
I was going to Argentina! All of the hand-wringing and ticket shopping were paying off! At least a dozen times in the past few months I had told myself, “I’m not going to be able to go to Argentina.” As if to make myself feel better, I would add, “But maybe I can go to Portland instead.” But it was really happening. Luggage was checked. Gluten free meals were ordered. Reservations were made. Yeah!
Sleeping was a priority, because I planned on leaping off the plane and skipping through Buenos Aires all day on Sunday. No rest for the wicked! I took some homeopathic jet lag medication (I highly recommend this stuff, Jet Zone, because it really prevented my usual travel headache AND it made me feel very relaxed). I followed it up with a dose of valerian root. I should have stopped there…but then the blonde flight attendant (with a charming southern accent) took a liking to me. She showed her affection with several airline bottles of wine. I couldn’t say “no!” The passenger across the aisle from me had just guzzled SEVEN cocktails. If he could toss back booze with such abandon, then certainly I could drink three tiny bottles of wine. Ordinarily I don’t track the alcohol consumption of strangers (really), but he piqued my interest when he ordered four little bottles of vodka right off the bat. “Wow,” I thought. “This seems like the kind of guy I generally find myself dating. I had better keep an eye on him.”
At one point, while watching a stupid “romantic” movie, I might have eaten a couple Benadryl tablets. And so, within an hour, I was ridiculously wasted. The movie was forgotten. I shuffled off to the bathroom to take out my contacts. I practically fell into the sink. I found myself staring at my hands and saying aloud, “These are really my hands! This is what my hands really look like!” Yeah, loaded for sure.
Suddenly dawn sunlight was seeping through the edges of the window next to my seat. I was wrapped in a blanket and my silicone earplugs were tangled in my hair. I smelled like booze. The large screen at the front of the room indicated that we were just above Uruguay. We were landing in less than hour!
The descent was bumpy. No, no, “bumpy” is an understatement. It was horrible! Imagine the sheer terror of Space Mountain combined with a dizzying rapid succession of somersaults. I was fairly certain that I was going to be sick, as I felt my stomach leaping into my throat over and over again. A guy across the aisle from me (not the champion drinker) started retching. The cabin filled with the acid stench of vomit.
Some fun facts about me:
- If I see someone crying, I will start crying myself.
- If I hear someone vomiting, I will start gagging.
- If I see someone vomiting, I will definitely throw up.
- If I throw up, I will start crying (and muttering my catchphrase “I can’t believe this is happening”).
I jammed my earplugs back into place and buried my head under a blanket. There was no way that a great day in Buenos Aires could begin with puking red wine and quinoa (part of the gluten free dinner) into a tiny paper bag. But the turbulence was worsening. And I was aware that someone in the row ahead of me was also throwing up. Babies were crying. A passenger behind me was muttering a prayer in Spanish. My body was tossed back and forth with intensifying force, forcing me to grip the armrests with all of my white-knuckled might.
“Please don’t throw up,” I whispered to myself. I quickly added, “Also, I’m going to be really pissed if this plane crashes on my big, exciting trip.”
My ears popped and popped and popped some more. We were nearing the ground. I was afraid to lift the blanket from my head, lest I see aisles overflowing with vomit and dirty napkins. I would wait it out. I stayed calm by imagining that Moe $$$ was traveling with me. My head was filled with a slideshow of travel photos, all including my svelte black cat…wearing a sassy red scarf. If only it were more socially acceptable to travel with feline companions.
And then we landed with a screech/thud/piercing grinding sound. Everyone burst into grateful applause and whistles. I may have shrieked, “Oh, yeah!”
Tomorrow (or Thursday, because I have to help my dear friend Emily pack for her move to NYC): I discover the magic of boozy coffee, I meet new friends, and learn to tolerate the incredibly slow service in Argentine restaurants.