The adventure really began when my brother-in-law, Nick, dropped me off at O’Hare. We weren’t really sure which terminal I was supposed to go to, but we figured that because there were five, dropping me off at three would be a lucky bet. We were wrong. Nick gave me a hug, drove off, and I began my great journey of self-discovery by wandering around the airport for a good fifteen minutes like an idiot. Life lesson: when in doubt, just read a sign and ask am employee.
Skip ahead several hours. I’m getting on the plane. The flight attendant greets me with a warm smile and a, “Welcome aboard.” I giggle like a stupid tourist because her dialect is thick and beautiful. My assigned seat is close to the bathroom (good news) but in the middle (bad news). A bald stranger sits to my left, watching “Oceans 8” on the tiny TV in front of him. To my right is am empty seat. It's only a matter of time before both the bald man and I must rise to make room for the third member of our trio. I’m not too terribly cramped, but I also have a six hour flight ahead of me. I dread the idea of being stuck in here like sardines.
Luckily, I hear a passenger ask an attendant a question a few rows ahead of us. Something to the effect of, “Are we taking off soon?” The beautiful lady clad in a smart green pencil skirt and matching blazer informs my fellow traveler that everyone has boarded and they’re doing final preparations.
I eye the empty seat next to me. The blessed window seat. God has smiled upon me this day and said, “Deanna, the person who was supposed to sit there isn’t going to sit there.” So I scoot on over, giving myself and the bald stranger plenty of elbow room and stare out the window. Like a stupid tourist.
The plane seems to taxi forever and then it finally takes off. Chicago looks golden beneath us. A million tiny torches. I smile. The plane rises and the land disappears from sight.
Cut to a few hours later. I have fallen asleep (I did take two sleeping pills before getting on the plane) and have awoken with a stiff neck and a rumbling tummy. And then I suddenly ask myself, “How long have I been asleep?” The last thing I remember is the overhead announcements telling us that it was free to move about the cabin and then watching a flood of people run towards the bathroom. Now I’m watching as my bald companion (I should stop referring to him simply as bald…there is more to him than his hair style)…my Oceans 8 companion…handing his empty dinner tray to an attendant. I missed the free beverages and pretzels! I missed handing out dinner! I missed eating dinner!
My midwestern nature takes over and I tell myself, “Well, you missed your chance. The attendants are very busy and they aren’t going to make a new meal just for you.” (I don’t travel a lot, okay?) But, still…my tummy rumbles. I make the choice that if this really is my journey self-discovery, I need to start with not being afraid to ask for the things that I need…let alone paid for.
I tentatively hit the call button. My anxiety begins to slowly take over and I picture the bothered look on the attendant’s face…her perfectly crafted red slips get very thin and her eyes narrow. I picture her lovely lilt reprimanding me with a, “I’m sorry, ma’am. But you had your chance. Dinner is over.” And then all the passengers will turn and look at me, their lips just as thin and their head shaking. “How dare you.”
Of course, nothing like that happens. The attendant walks over, and I explain that I was asleep during dinner and if it was possible for me to get it now.
“Absolutely,” she says, “Chicken or beef?”
I should tell her that I’m a vegetarian and ask if she has any non-meat options, but I’ve just climbed a really big mountain already so let’s take things one step at a time.
I order the chicken but wrap it up in a napkin and just eat the rice that comes alongside it. And the delicious “Emperor’s Shortbread” (kind of like ice cream or custard with caramel on the bottom.) Well done, Deanna. You did it. Good job.
I turn on “Solo: A Star Wars Story” (everyone is right; there needed to be more Donald Glover.) And then I fall asleep again. And then I wake up to the sound of the attendants telling us that we’re getting ready to land. My eyes dart out the window and I watch with great anticipation. All I see are clouds and ocean, but I want to be ready. I want to see Ireland. Once again, my face is pressed against the window (like a stupid tourist) as I feel the plane begin to descend. And then all at once, the ocean becomes a shore and the shore becomes a beach and this goes on until I’m looking at farms and highways. They look like Wisconsin farms and highways (aside from the fact that the cars are driving on the wrong side of the road), but deep in my heart I know that they aren’t: they’re Irish farms and highways.
And now I’m sitting here enjoying a latte with some of the most beautiful foam I’ve ever seen (no, I didn’t go to Starbucks). My hostel doesn’t allow check-in’s for another couple of hours, but right now I’m just enjoying watching people exit baggage pick-up. Some of them are running into the arms of loved ones and many are just going about their business.
But it’s not just regular business.
It’s Irish business.