Ma Kettle Goes to the City


The day of my big trip to Cambridge, New York finally arrived. I drove my aging Subaru under the evening stars to the Pensacola airport for an early departure flight.  Let’s start out be saying that I’m not a seasoned traveler.  My bag was packed several days in advance, a suitcase too small for all the eventualities I imagined I’d need.  The night before the trip it became obvious that half the contents of my house wouldn’t fit into a small suitcase and a backpack, not to mention an additional lunch bag filed to bulging with treats in the allowed three ounce containers.  The camera, beading and all but one crochet project stayed home.

The airport check-in proceeded as I expected, utter chaos even with help from a US Airways employee. My Florida Driver’s License was lost.  It had fallen to the bottom of my backpack, necessitating that I dump out all the contents to find the license.  Be aware the computer check in machine prints slowly.  I walked away not realizing there were more tickets waiting for me.   This was a modern-day scene from an old Ma and Pa Kettle Movie.  My name is Bumpkin, as in Claudia C. (Country) Bumpkin.

Fate was kind. Somehow I managed pre-check status and was diverted around the long security line, no shoe removal, no felony arrest hands in the air and pat down. But Security took a long time looking through my backpack’s contents on the x-ray screen.  She was probably incredulous that so much junk fit into a small backpack.  I pity Security opening my suitcase because then they’d have to spend a few precious moments trying to close it, probably wondering why someone would pack old hiking boots along with nice jeans and jerseys.  Little do they know I don’t mind donkey drool on my clothes but draw the line on donkey shit on my new shoes.  Trust me.  This story all ties together eventually.

Flying gives one an opportunity to see a microcosm of American humanity. Everyone, from passengers to employees, was helpful, respectful and mature. People were not screaming, yelling, or rampaging as is endlessly reported on the news.  The Pensacola, FL, Charlotte NC, Albany, NY, and Pittsburg, PA airports ran like well-oiled machines.

In the Van Gee (aka Murphy)’s Law of Traveling the gate where my plane lands is always the farthest point in the airport to my connecting flight. I stepped into the stream of foot traffic, people leaving their flights walk on the right, people entering to the left, an unspoken rule.  Most people were seasoned fliers, and skillfully wove through the crowds to their connecting flights.  A few people circled in place, caught in a whirlpool of confusion.  Many times I’ve been in their shoes.  Years ago, in another airport, in frustration I rode one of the electric shuttle carts to the outermost rim of the airport’s universe, only to find out that the service was not free.  I swear, in the dictionary under naïve you’ll see the notation, example: Claudia.

From Charlotte to Washington DC another crowd of fellow travelers and I respectfully put ourselves under the skillful hands of US Airways. As we prepared to land I could see the WA monument and the Capital building in the distance.  The sight gave me goose bumps of patriotism.

Into every adventure a little bit of levity must fall. The flight attendant advised us on landing that if our connecting flights were gates 23 and above we either had to take a shuttle or leave the building and go through security again.  Screw that.  Where’s the shuttle?  A dozen of us loaded into the van located outside.  I kid you not, the driver went all of 150’ and deposited us at gate 23.  We all laughed.  It was a nice day for a walk but for some reason this service was mandatory.  For once my departing gate was close, number 25, no long hikes through the airport.  I settled down and waited for the connecting flight, which was in three hours.

The nice thing about are their low prices. The bad thing is if you want to save a few pennies you can opt to go through two to three different airports, changing planes each time.  The moment after I paid for my ticket online and printed out the receipt I woefully realized the trip to New York would take 9.5 hours, with a three-hour layover in DC.  Should I visit the White House and tell Michelle, who is requiring sugarless food in school vending machines, that when I was a kid we didn’t even have vending machines?  You either packed your lunch or bought a school lunch (which was nutritious and there were no choices other than “take it or leave it”.)  Or maybe I could visit Barry O and tell him to put away his golf clubs and join the real world of governing the US.  But, no, I’m ATNA (all talk no action) so I stayed at the Reagan International Airport until 3pm.

Three hours gave me plenty of time to stress about my next adventure, which to most people is a no brainer. Over the last forty years or so I’ve driven stick shift, aka standard, cars because, because I love listening to the gears and the interaction with the machine we call an automobile.   At Budget Auto I’d have to ask what gear to start the car (park or neutral) and remind myself not to do anything with my left foot.  Driving a car with an automatic transmission is too mindless, maybe that’s what bothers me.  It didn’t hurt to ask Budget if they had stick shift cars.  The young staff members made me feel  like I am a hundred years old.  I had asked for a horse and buggy in an age of jets and hybrid cars.  My chariot, a red Ford Fiesta, awaited me.

To Be Continued…

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