Sunday, January 13, 2008

STRAIGHT TRIPPIN: Taking the Chopper

Welcome to my blog. I guess you could say that I'm an avid blog reader, but I've never indulged myself so far as writing my own. Well, here I am and here you are. Enjoy as I regale you with my first tale of heliocopters, jets, and homelessness...

A few weeks ago I hopped a JetBlue flight out of JFK for the weekend. For that JetBlue flight, I was taking a pretty early departure and still had to work some of the day. Enter US Helicopter, running a special which seemed tailored for me.

The day of, I was at work until 2pm with my looming 3.45 JetBlue out of JFK. JFK...rhymes with FARAWAY. My bright orange luggage and I dashed down to the Wall Street Heliport, and into our waiting corporate chopper. 8 leather seats and 2 pilots...all with overhead reading lights. On top of that, the heliport is flat on the East River, so when we did one of those nose-down charging-straight-on takeoffs, it was practically into Governor's Island. We came around over the shipping lane, over Brooklyn (so low I could practically hear people cursing in their towncars, stuck in traffic on their own way to JFK), and we set down at the Delta Terminal. I had no time. I RAN out of the Delta Terminal, onto the Airtrain (it's a good thing I can navigate JFK like it's my job), through security in the JetBlue Terminal, and discovered that not only was my flight boarding, but at the very furthest gate out in the auxiliary terminal. I suppose that's what I deserve for flying to Ohio.

My zippy orange luggage was still up for some sprinting, so we hightailed it to the transfer bus. There, two people chatted: "how efficient was that? We were just...," and I exploded. It went like this: "YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT EFFICIENT?! I WAS ON A HELICOPTER NAY TEN MINUTES AGO." (Occasionally, archaic terms slip into my working vocabulary). Time sort of stopped, as I hadn't really thought before making such an exclamation. And then all 6 or 7 of us on that transfer bus were immediate best friends or something. It was like, tell your craziest rushing-to-a-flight story hour, except it was only 3 minutes. We parked at the auxiliary terminal, and I had to apologize for ending our conversation because I had to RUN! And I verily shot into my gate and into an EMPTY plane. I sat down, caught my breath, looked around, and thought "hey-this is going to be an awesome empty flight." Come to find out that I had boarded during the time set aside for the elderly and small children. Yea, I'm cool.

Now as I reflected on that experience, I was drawn to wonder at why I love airports so much. But I understand. It's because I've made many places of transit (not just airports) my home for some nights on the road, but not like a vagrant. a vagrant. I can pinpoint the top two sleeps I've ever had in my life: 1- on the floor at Fiumicino Aeroporto, with my brother because he had a flight at 7am and we got to the airport at midnight. 2- in the Euroyouth Hostel in Munich, in one of the 12+ bunk beds they have in one large room. I return to those heavenly beds every time I'm in Munich, despite having 25 bedfellows. Screw the Four Seasons.

So Airports, yes. I've slept (very well) in Roma-Fiumicino, Roma-Ciampino, London-Heathrow, and at every backpacker's rite of passage: London-Stansted, which really makes for the best story. I had dragged my friend Jack to Europe, she had ruined her ankle in Venice early on but didn't think about it until Dublin, and we spent the last night camped out under the main Stansted Departures board. Before settling in to sleep, I foraged for food among the newstands and returned with like, 7 flavors of "crisps" heretofore unknown to the world. Jack wasn't into my prawn cocktail crisps, nor was she all about the maple sausage ones. So I passed out under the Departures Board, on a sea of empty snack-size chip bags, and drifted into lightly salted dreams.

At Heathrow I was alone, and returning from my time abroad, and I learned something. If you have two 26" piece of luggage, you have yourself a bed. I am NOT about to pay something like 70 pounds sterling to sleep 5 hours in a MARRIOTT for chrissakes. So there I was, maxin and chillaxin on my samsonite mattress, when something like my guardian angel made me look at a little crack in a temporary wall. LO AND BEHOLD! The SWISSAIR LOUNGE!!!!! You better believe that I shimmied through that space in the wall like I was a mouse, and spent a lovely evening sprawled on a couch like it was my god-given right. (Pardon the many similes).

Do you know what? I like blogging about this. I could never blog if I'm depressed or anything, because who wants to read THAT?! I sure don't. I want to sit back and reminisce about the 6th time I had a stopover in Salerno, and spent like 4 hours carving those itineraries and dates into a column while waiting for my connection. After all, my life is like a moving walkway. And here I could launch into an extended metaphor, but from that I will save you.

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