Published on Tuesday March 18th, 2008

New York and back is a lot of travel in 59 hours. I was forcibly reminded of my loathing for JFK airport, long taxi rides, Midtown traffic, Delta’s egregious overbooking policies, overpriced airport “food,” the last row of seats before the bathrooms, leg room sufficient only for hobbits, pungent seatmates, in-flight movies, and the wealth of literature on a) strategies for amassing money; and b) strategies for ceasing to care about amassing money, both of which seem to be favorites among American airline passengers. NB: I am the most appalling serial offender when it comes to reading over people’s shoulders. I cannot not read text within my field of view. It doesn’t matter if it’s the cereal box or stock market reports or golf tournament results or the CNN parade of daft and/or shocking headlines. I can’t help myself. All my airplane companions are probably blogging at this very moment about rude people who surreptitiously read their books, magazines, and newspapers.

The good news is that I got to see many friends and relations, as planned. Once President Bush finally stopped holding up traffic at JFK for his exit from the executive helipad, we were able to stop spewing carbon emissions over the poor innocent Pennsylvanians and land our craft. Fortunately, my beloved former coworkers never leave the office before six, so they were still around for a nice catch-up chat. And the Spiders waited for me, although Lisa was calling my husband to make sure I had, in fact, left for New York that morning by the time I blitzed into The Point. Having eaten only a bagel at 7 a.m. and some disappointing stale peanuts, I lost little time in stuffing my face with a delicious pecan bar.

Gastronomically, this set the tone for the weekend. I subsisted on almost nothing but sugar, fat, and white flour for the next 48 hours. I knew the bridal shower was going to be trouble when Marika and Saxton’s neighbor (who threw the party) sent me out to help her daughter pick up NINETY scones and FOUR DOZEN éclairs. Forty people were coming to the shower. And the tables were already groaning under tiers of assorted cookies and sweets. The shower was a beautiful success, but we and the host family were all dying for salad and protein by the end. We spent the evening lolling on the couches amid the heaps of presents, somehow still drinking champagne with our Greek salads and some leftover rice and beans.

So as it turned out, Mr. G. was happy to learn, there was no bachelorette carousing at all. Marika and I may have gotten a little wanton among the discount designer jeans at Loehman’s, a cheapskate’s heaven which just opened about a block from my old apartment. (Guess what else opened a block from my old apartment? A new Jacques Torres chocolaterie. Given that his chocolate factory, where you can watch them actually making the chocolate, is across the street from my former office, this could have been deadly indeed.) Anyway, I came home with two pairs of Chip and Pepper jeans for the absurdly reasonable sum of $71.98. (Okay, this was partly because the sales clerk wasn’t paying attention and charged the second as a pair of lacy undies. And I was talking to my brother and didn’t notice until later that I’d signed for less than I was expecting to. I’m not really experiencing all that much guilt about not having done the honest thing in taking them back to correct the error. Had it been a little store with a direct connection to the designer, I would have done. As it is, well, we all made a mistake, and I scored a nearly free pair of jeans that come with a tag proclaiming that I have a sexy bum. Moreover, I’ll be back for more. I dread shopping for pants, and this experience was painless as can be, even after my anti-svelte sins of the prior day. (All that butter just lubricates the food so it doesn’t stick to your hips, right?)

I was a prize idiot on the way home. I decided, after the incident with the jeans, that I could afford a cab to the airport rather than the A train. (The cab nearly didn’t make it. It stalled regularly in the slow traffic, and my eyes were smarting from the smell of roasting clutch by the time we reached JFK almost an hour later.) I forgot which airline was supposed to fly me to Seattle at 4:30. This meant I had to negotiate the warren of TSA checkpoints going from terminal to terminal. At one point the arrows directed me down a series of deserted hallways, across a parking lot, up a sketchy back stairway, and into a wall. I retraced my steps and found another route. This one brought me sidelong into an empty maze of cordons for the security queue. Happily, I could see the Delta self-check-in area just on the other side. But a fellow in a uniform told me firmly that I could not simply duck under one of his black seatbelty barriers. I’d have to go around. Later I spent half an hour waiting in line for a cold and greasy slab of pizza (you won’t believe me, but this really was the least of available evils), and then found I didn’t actually have a seat on the plane. Only due to the lateness of a connecting flight did I eventually manage to board. (Sorry, would-have-been Norfolk-JFK-Seattle travellers. I appreciate your sacrifice, even though no one asked you.) And then, you know, six hours crammed in with the sweaties and wealth philosophers nine inches from the toilets. By the time I got off in Seattle I was so dazed that I wandered straight into the men’s bathroom. Didn’t even realize my mistake until there was a dude of the masculine persuasion using the sink next to mine and giving me a disapproving look. Scared a fellow on his way in, too. Oh well.

There was knitting accomplished on this trip. I’ll show you soon. Oh, and Theft, by Peter Carey? Great book. I pretty much snorted it like 288 pages of literary drugs. I inhaled it so fast I had to buy Ian McEwan’s Atonement in the airport on the way home, movie poster jacket and all.

9 Comments to “Whew”

  1. Veronique Comment Says:

    What a whirlwind, cosmopolitan life you lead!

  2. Daphne Comment Says:

    I’m the same way with text: it automatically forms words so how can I not read it?

  3. Michelle Comment Says:

    I was worse on the way back from Minneapolis: I started reading the conference panel paper my seatmate was writing.

    Travel mishaps aside, it really sounds like a wonderful trip!

  4. kathy Comment Says:

    Sarah, you will absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Atonement.

    Reading it would be much more pleasurable if you didn’t see the film (and that supremely gorgeous to-die-for slinky green dress) because you would know the unbearable twist, but you will love the book nonetheless. I bought it for everyone in my family for Christmas and handed it out early in anticipation of the soon-to-be-released film.

    Ach, and flying in this post 9/11 era is soooooooo disappointing and such a pain, isn’t it?!?!?

  5. Celine Comment Says:

    I do that exact same thing with any text within a 10-foot radius. Commuting as I do with a metric ton of lawyers each day, I am disturbingly familiar with real estate law in Washington….

  6. Seanna Lea Comment Says:

    I will read everything in my vicinity, which would make sense if I was having the sense to pick up the free papers and read my own copy instead of that of the person next to me. I don’t because the writing and editorializing are truly horrendous, and I don’t want an additional copy floating around that they can point to in their circulation statistics.

  7. Debby Comment Says:

    Yes, plumbing manuals, cereal boxes…I have no discretion at all. If it’s there, I read it.

    What a shame that travel is so unglamorous these days. I’m waiting for the private jet services to really take off (sorry) so that ordinary people can afford some decent leg room. Glad you made it home safely!

  8. Meg Comment Says:

    Oh I’m so happy you’re enjoying Theft. I thought it was brilliant. Carey’s latest book, His Illegal Self, has just come out and I’ve gotten my hands on a mint condition library copy – but my husband got to it before I did! Hopefully I’ll get it off him next week…

  9. Katie Comment Says:

    Yikes, in all it sounds like you had some rough cross-country commuting. Glad you didn’t resort to reading the vomit bags (I’ve been there) and I am happy you eventually arrived home safely.