Saturday, April 09, 2011

Leaving Las Vegas

I was so tired last night...  I shrugged out of my smoky clothes (because you can't walk through the casino without it sticking to you) and fell into bed.  Lights out at 9pm on a Friday night in Las Vegas.  Yeah... I'm lame. 

I gambled about $60 and walked away with about $30, so I lost half what I gambled.  Not my best outing, but truly, I'm reluctant to spend much time in the casino since they reinstituted the smoking there.  My nose and throat have been itchy ever since I arrived.  It definitely made going to bed early much easier.

5am saw me sitting outside under a canopy waiting for my shuttle to the airport.  It was dark and windy and deliciously cool.  There was a freshness to it in spite of the dryness which is so unusual in this place of heat and smell.  I could have sat there a long, long time, but my shuttle arrived and whisked me away to the airport.

The flight out of Las Vegas was uneventful.  My seatmates crossed themselves upon takeoff, then leaned against each other and slept all the way to Atlanta.  After having flown back and forth a few times over the years, I've noticed that the flight to Las Vegas is always like a party in the air.  People talk and laugh and socialize.  The flight back is almost always subdued.  Quiet.  No one talks and a lot of people sleep.  Whether it's because they've worn themselves out, are hung over or just depressed, I don't know (as I never join in whatever it is that does this to them).  It's good for reading.  I finished "The Shack" which was wonderful and a whole blog post in and of itself - but probably on my other blog as it will be quite introspective and spiritual a post.  And I started "Next" by Michael Crichton, which messes with genetics and the messes that creates.  It was a lovely, uninterrupted reading time.

Atlanta is when things got interesting.  We arrived from LV early and I had almost four hours to wait for my next plane.  I had a leisurely lunch at Popeye's and wandered the airport for a bit before settling down in a nearly empty gate and opening my computer.  In Las Vegas, where you have to pay for everything, the internet at the airport was free!  Not so in Atlanta.  I could buy an hour's worth for $4.95 or 24 hours' worth for $6.95.  I bought the 24 hours' worth, since I was pretty sure I'd be on for more than an hour.  Turns out to have been a wise move.  About an hour before my next flight, I discovered that my gate had changed, so I walked down the corridor a bit to the actual gate, which had a tiny seating area.  I wasn't sure if they changed us because the flight was so small or possibly the plane.  Fingers crossed for the flight, since it takes smaller planes longer to get places.

At a little after 5pm, we started boarding.  It was a smallish plane but full.  The seat next to me was the last to be taken by a lovely, panting black girl.  She'd just flown in from SanJuan, Puerto Rico and had to run to catch this flight.  She wasn't booked on it, but wanted to get home sooner rather than take the last, later flight.  We chatted for a few minutes, then settled in to our flight attitudes.  I got my book out and she put her headphones on in preparation for listening to music once we were above 10,000 feet.

The ride out to the runway was uneventful, but then we stopped and stayed there for a while.  And then we turned around and went back to the terminal due to a mechanical issue.  We deplaned and sat in the gate area for a bit waiting for our delayed flight to get back on schedule.  It never did.  In fact, it was cancelled.  We were directed to the gate across from us to book on the last flight out to Tallahassee and I was last in line (I guess someone usually is - this time it was me).  The next plane was supposed to leave at 7:45 and was in another terminal.  When I finally got up to the desk, it was 7:40.  Then I ran.  Hopped the train, ran up the escalator and to the gate.  Hoped I wouldn't have  a heart attack because I couldn't catch my breath when I reached the gate where it looked like a million people milled about.  This was so not going to work!  And yet...  it did.  Breath recovered, I got to the doorway, passed through and found my seat halfway back.  A man sat by the window;  I was on the aisle, and there was a seat between us.  From the number of people at the gate, I knew that seat would soon fill, and I hoped it would be someone tiny.  Then they closed the door and no one else came.  I could relax, spread out, and enjoy my flight home. 

As we approached our gate in Tallahassee, the flight attendants asked that we stay in our seats.  One of our fallen soldiers was on the plane and we needed to let the honor guard off the plane first.  The lights were off and everyone was silent as the Navy guard moved down the aisles in their dark blue uniforms.  It took us a minute to move after they'd exited the plane.  Most of the passengers left the ramp and turned left towards the corridor to baggage claim, but about 20 of us turned right and lined the windows looking out to the plane and the service area around it.  We stood silent as the long white hearse backed up to the luggage belt.  When the honor guard raised their arms in salute, we put our hands over our hearts and stood witness as the body was unloaded, rolled a few short feet to the hearse and put inside.  As the door closed, the guard lowered their salutes and we lowered our hands to suitcase handles and belatedly followed our plane-mates to the baggage claim. 

Just outside the security area, my guys stood waiting.  As I approached, my trying-to-be-reserved and nearly teenaged son jumped up and down, then ran to hug me.  It was a big hug that nearly cracked my ribs, but so wonderful!  Darling Man's hug was no less fervent, and we all held hands as we walked to claim my bag. 

There's nothing like being back home and amongst those who love you.  And it doesn't matter if you're dead or alive - there's no place like home.

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