The Incredible Three-Day Return Journey Adventure™

Why, hello!  It’s me again.  Wouldn’t you like to know where I’ve been 😉  Well I’m not going to tell you.  It’s a secret and I know your imaginations are a little more creative and interesting than reality.  Let them run free. Let them dream up situations of my imprisonment by camouflage cerulean underwater aliens who abduct girls named after seasons.  Let them fantasize that I’m really a camouflage alien and had to return to the depths of the sea for my decennial disguise touch-up.  Let them imagine that I have not simply been overwhelmed by my new job and 18 credit course load and my adorable six-month-old puppy (and a few crazy nights…) this semester.

It isn’t really that I haven’t been writing.  I have been writing.  The things I have been writing, however, have not all been nice, pleasurable, enjoyable things to read.  You wouldn’t have liked them.  Not unless you really love negative whiny rants about how life’s been…conditioning me a little more harshly than the uszh.  I don’t think you’d even want to read them if you did.  They’re a little cliché.  Let’s just say that it’s been a tough adjustment for me and be done with it so that this doesn’t turn into yet another rant.  Mmk, sweet.  Alright.  Now, to begin.

You guys haven’t even heard about The Incredible Three-Day Return Journey Adventure™ yet, have you?!  Well, maybe I should tell you all about this Incredible Three-Day Return Journey Adventure™ because it’s much more entertaining than a recount of my most recent weeks battling natural disasters and racing through the rain on my little red motorcycle (I named her Betty.  It’s original.  Go away.)  So, without further ado, then,

The Incredible Three-Day Return Journey Adventure™

Recounted none too concisely by Autumn Standing

So, if you remember, I was sad when I left.  I didn’t want to leave.  Argentina was amazing.  Fantastic.  Stunning.  Marvelous.  Incredible.  Life-changing.  Argentina was hard.  Depressing.  Hopeless.  Somber.  Dismal.  Life-changing.  Argentina was eye-opening.  Shocking.  Unbelievable.  Overwhelming.  Astonishing.  Life-changing.  I really don’t think I can describe it.  It’s just not fair to ask someone to describe an experience like that as a whole and people who do it should stop.  “How was Argentina?” they say with feigned interest.  “F***ing boring.  I sat around and ate this weird caramel stuff a lot while people pretended they couldn’t speak English (aka they’re stupid.)  Got fat.  Came home. Am getting more fat. Not doing that again.”

It’s all I can do lately to keep my alien laser vision from destroying these types of people with my glare.  Don’t ask me how my year abroad was.  Please.  And, as a future reference, you should probably avoid asking me how my regressal to the USA was as well.  Don’t test my willpower.  You don’t wanna see me break.  I don’t want to see me break.

Anyhow, my host family drove me to the airport and helped me carry my bags in.  I was loaded down with a giant suitcase, an even more giant suitcase, my overstuffed backpack, a guitar, and what would be a purse but was stuffed so full with excess accumulated junk that it had to share space on my struggling shoulders as a second backpack.  I was wearing almost the exact same thing I’d arrived in.  That didn’t fool anyone though, it was clear that I’d changed more than any of us could imagine.  My ever-worried host mother took charge and we followed her like the mama duck she was.  We barely caught up with her as she got to check-in and started demanding answers from the poor airline rep lady.  After I checked both suitcases, she gave me a little ticket that told me I got to pay SEVEN HUNDRED AND FORTY NINE PESOS  ($125 USD at the time) for their safe arrival across the bay (my first connection was in Montevideo.)  Seven.  Hundred.  Fifty (almost.)  Apparently, Argentina is so cocky that they just assume Uruguay is an extra appendage of their already sprawling country (get it?).  Eh.  Uruguayan.  Argentine.  Same thing.  That meant that my flight wasn’t considered “international” and they were going to charge me extra for my bags (although, to be honest I had over 100 pounds of shit in those two bags…so maybe they weren’t being TOO irrational…)

But seriously, I was not prepared for that.  I was so overwhelmed with anxiety about coming back though and I had abandoned all of the fight within me.  With me ready to give up, we went to the window and my host mom demanded more answers.  She signaled to me to be quiet, play dumb.  Speaking a flurry of Spanish she whirled her way to a manager who told us that she couldn’t do much, but maybe a discount.  I pretended to sniffle, but my heart wasn’t honestly in it.  I was saving my tears.

The manager ended up comping all of my bags, and, as I shed real tears at the security checkpoint hugging my host family goodbye (I’m seriously getting a little emotional about it now even), my host mom left me with some of the least powerful-women-will-rule-the-world-someday-feminist, most valuable advice I’ve ever gotten, “Cualquier cosa, llorá.”  This roughly translates to, “Whatever happens, cry.”  I would not have survived my trip without this golden advice.  No joke.  No exaggeration.  Fine, maybe a little exaggeration, but not much.

Going through security I was reminded of the warmth of the Argentine people who I miss so much now.  People immediately started handing me Kleenex in line and asking me questions trying to cheer me up.   I know Argentina has a reputation for being superficial but I have yet to meet such a population of genuine people.  I was alone going to my gate though, and I sat down to write in my journal about my fears, anxieties, and also my pure contentment at all that I experienced, a feeling that still subtly surprises me on occasion.  I couldn’t write anything.  I didn’t want to cry again and try to figure out what kinds of tears my eyes were making.  So I just sat there and stared blankly at my journal, pen to paper but no ink.  I stared…and stared…

I’d actually been sitting there a while.  Too long…  I stood up and dressed myself with the guitar, backpack, and former purse and waited some more in what looked like a blob-line forming near the gate.  When I asked someone for the time I grew increasingly nervous to hear my flight was departing in 10 minutes.  As I poured over my tickets for something I must have missed, a time, a gate number, something, I overheard an announcement about my flight.  Last call.  But the line wasn’t even moving!

I did a strange crawl-run to the front of the line under the weight of my bags and asked about my flight.  The lady didn’t even grant me an answer.  She flew into action, picking up the phone and spewing Spanish into the receiver.  South American Tip: Gate numbers on your flight tickets are tentative.  Probably all numbers are tentative.  Nothing is set in stone until it’s had time to fossilize, accumulate millennia of sediment and return to the surface via tectonic force.  TIA.  I had to ditch my flip-flops and run through Jorge Newberry airport with fifty pounds of gear, my guitar twanging slightly with every leap.

When I arrived they smiled lackadaisically, sent me down an escalator, and moseyed me onto a creaky bus already more full than the midmorning 152 on Santa Fe.  It was departure time.  Then it was five minutes after departure time.  Then it was fifteen minutes after departure time.  Then and only then, did the bus engine drudge into life and drag us along through the dark mist of the night towards our plane.  I knew I wasn’t going to make it.  See, I’m an idiot.  I thought I was so clever.  I saved $300 USD going through several different airlines and creating all of my connections on my own.  Autumn the travel expert.  My itinerary was as follows:

Buenos Aires, Argentina–>Montevideo, Uruguay:  Aerolineas Argentinas

45 minutes layover

Montevideo, Uruguay–>Miami, Florida: American Airlines

1 hour, 20 minutes layover

Miami, Florida Atlanta, Georgia–>Denver, Colorado: Delta Airlines

Hooray!  I rock for building badass itineraries and being a super saver.  FAIL.

In Uruguay, they do consider Argentina a foreign country (surprise!) so yes, you’re required to pass through customs and declare things and all that jazz.  I was doomed before I even got on the plane.  I should have given myself more time.  Dumbass.  To make things worse, as I was trying to curb the tears brought on by leaving and my nerves about missing my flights, I was sitting next to a gem.  I have seriously never thought that these people actually exist outside of novels and exaggerated portrayals I’ve seen in movies, but there she was, in the flesh, sitting right next to me.  A hybrid person.  A cross between the most hyperactive Labrador retriever you’ve ever met, a nearly electrocuted hummingbird, and a human being.  She was what would happen if every single thought in our heads were audible—an explosion of ideas, noise, movement, chaos.  Like if you boiled down every single smell in the city and put them in an enclosed bedroom, then placed someone in the middle and asked them to describe how they felt.  Instead of words coming out when that person opens their mouth, she would come out.  She didn’t come with a warning sign.  She didn’t need to.  I’m convinced that it would be impossible to not notice her if she was sitting next to you even if you were in a coma (potential cure? Or death wish? More on this: never.)

Well, clearly I survived her.  I don’t like to be mean, she wasn’t an awful person really.  It’s just that, if there were ever a moment in which I really wanted to be alone with my thoughts, look out on the lights of Buenos Aires and say goodbye in silence, it was now.  Tough luck.  This chick would not shut up.  She was from Washington and was thrilled about finding a fellow Statian.  Apparently she had decided that the US had become frighteningly corrupt, that our way of life was pure devilry and we were all doomed.  She’d sold her entire life (she was about 35) and was going around South America to explore potential cities to grow roots in.  Normally I could have mustered up some enthusiasm and humored her with a conversation (not that it was very two-sided anyhow)…but I just wasn’t in the mood.  Even with only minimal polite response from me she was satisfied to keep babbling.  I could feel my stiff skin under the dried tears on my cheeks and fresh wet ones trying to make their way out but her constant assault of chatter caged them in and held them prisoner.  Thankfully the flight was only an hour or so.  I basically ran away from the flight attendants trying to welcome me to Uruguay and had to consciously keep my heart from beating through my rib cage waiting for my bags.  I grabbed one of those cart things (which are free in South America), put my life’s possessions inside and shoved it as fast as I could towards customs.

The security officer told me I should make my flight no problem but it only offered me slight relief.  I still headed straight to the info desk when they let me free.  The lady did not look hopeful, picked up the phone and told me that I had missed it.  The plane was still on the ground, but they had made last call a minute ago and were closing the gates.  I begged, I pleaded.  But she just shook her head.

So I cried.

Maybe it’s shameful.  Maybe I should feel guilty, but I was exasperated.  Tears came much easier than they had in front of the last airport’s help desk.  She told me I’d have to wait until the next flight left from that airport at 9 PM the following day (It was around 8:45 PM.)  I managed to get out that I didn’t have anywhere to go between sobs and she finally told me that two girls from American Airlines would meet me upstairs and talk to me.  I trudged through the empty airport still clinging to a sliver of hope that maybe they were going to wait for me.  I hadn’t stopped sobbing.

The upstairs check-in was fluorescently bright and deserted except for two janitors who tried to hide the pity from their faces while they mopped around the empty queues.  As I was waiting, and because I was already hiccuping through tears, I decided to read the letters and look at the pictures my family and friends had given me.  I hadn’t had time on the plane because of Pollywantacracker.  They broke my heart.  I was officially between two worlds and I didn’t want to give either up.  The janitors had mopped their way up to me as I was finishing the last letter and asked me if I was ok.  I told them about trying to get home and having to leave my other one.  They told me that American Airlines were really nice and would probably set me up in a hotel room and help me with anything I needed.  That’s not what I wanted though.  See, my entire US family was waiting at home (the Colorado one) for me.  My brothers had flown in from their respective homes, I was going to see my niece and nephew; even my cousins, aunt and uncle were going to be there.  That is really rare for my family and I didn’t want to miss a second of it.

I felt like I waited ages but finally the two girls from American Airlines caught up with me.  They were around my age.  They listened to me, realized that I was pretty much at fault (although I had insurance on my ticket, they weren’t responsible for another airline’s delay and even if it weren’t delayed I would have probably missed that connection.)  It was looking to be about $600 USD to change my flight and there was only one per day at 9 PM going to the USA because they were a small airport/airline.  I was desperate.  I cried a lot and they were very patient with me.  Both of them were amazing.  They soothed me and told me not to worry, that they’d figure something out and help me as best they could.  I did not want to pay for a hotel and was a little freaked out being stranded in an unknown country at night.  One girl let me use her phone to call my mom and let her know that I was ok, just marooned in Uruguay with $6 USD in my pocket.  No big deal.  She shouldn’t be worried or anything.  One of the American Airlines girls even mentioned paying for a hotel room for me herself but I wouldn’t have accepted.

Eventually, they worked it out that I could stay in the lobby where pilots stay in between connections on occasion.  There were couches, TV, free coffee, bathrooms, etc.  I was cozy and comfortable but I slept fitfully.  I woke up on the red pleather couch at eight AM feeling like I had slept off a bad cold.  I couldn’t sleep anymore though and well…free coffee.  Good thing I had all that practice sleeping in plazas, bus stations, hard hostel beds, tents, hammocks, even sitting up.  First things first, I used the free Wi-Fi to post pathetic Facebook statuses (and talk to all of my concerned family around the world; Otto was particularly supportive and surprised that I’d yet to break my electronics), bought a cereal bar, drank some coffee, and started to wonder how I was going to spend the next eleven hours.  I had to surrender to the reality of the situation.  I was not going to get home today.  So I chose to look at the bright side.  Free night in Montevideo, Uruguay and one last chance to explore a new city before I went home.

I decided to woman up and not waste my day.  I looked up a map of the city and found some sites I thought might be cool to visit (I didn’t end up making it to any of them really though haha.)  I went and asked the front desk how to get to town and they explained the bus system to me and exchanged Uruguayos for my dollars.  They looked extremely skeptical and I could tell they were a bit concerned about my plans to go gallivanting around the city on my own but, determined, I loaded my purse with the essentials: thermos, mate, rain jacket, camera and my $3 remaining, and set off into the main airport.  I stopped by the tourist office, grabbed a map and asked for suggestions on where to go before I left just to reassure myself that I was a totally capable adult tourist and such.  I was actually excited as I pumped up the volume on my music and stepped out into the overcast day in Uruguay.

The bus arrived in ten minutes and I confirmed with the driver the route I was planning on taking.  I followed our route along the tourist map and debarked about an hour (30 km/19 miles) later in the heart of the city.  I made my way to a big plaza and sat and stared at some statues for a while.  It was a chilly day so I decided to go get some hot water and make use of the mate I’d brought.

I stopped at a little kiosco and the lady happily filled my thermos for free.  She talked to me while the water was heating about how she’d had a thermos just like that one to bring to work with her, same color even!, but that it had broken after only two months so she’d opted to get a jet-broil contraption.  She was very chatty and happy and only contributed to my sense of optimism about the day.  I also bought some cookies from her to go with my mate.  She wished me suerte as I left and warned me once more about the thermos (although it’s still in good working condition…)

I pulled out my map and navigated to a more secluded, smaller plaza where I sat on a bench, made my mate and stared at some more statues thinking about the strangeness of life.  It didn’t seem like the city had many residents.  It was largely empty despite being a Saturday.  I hardly saw anyone at all except for a few Asian tourists.  That was ok though, I was reveling in the peace and quiet and really enjoying being by myself.  It was a new feeling to me knowing that I didn’t know a single soul (the American Airlines girls don’t really count) for hundreds of miles.  I felt grown up and independent.  Self-sufficient.

After plenty of statue-staring and self-reflection, I walked down a nearly deserted street market to a building that was like an indoor food fair.  The place was the size of a super Walmart with fifteen or twenty different restaurants just randomly slewn across the warehouse floor.  There were no walls, tables just set up around the collapsible bar areas for each restaurant.  Imagine a crowded indoor mall with no walls and mingling smells of delicious food filling the air around you.  It was full of laughing customers, buzzing waiters, conversational friends, energetic, happy children and a complete contrast from the gray peaceful day I’d walked in from.  I felt like Dorothy when she walks out of her house into Oz and everything’s in color.

In a way, I feel like this whole experience was a kind of cumulative test of all of the skills and things I’d learned abroad.  I mean, really, imagine how I would have reacted a year ago to all of this.  I didn’t know Spanish, how to navigate an airport, a city, how to find the good in such a strange situation and be spontaneous enough to go with the flow.  I was shy around new things then, I wouldn’t have asked for help, known how to rely on my fellow human beings.  The entire scene would have been completely different.

I dove into the sensory chaos that was the food fair and began my search for something vegetarian I could get with the remaining Uruguayos in my pocket.  Navigating my way through the maze of crowds and tables I kind of felt as if I’d shrunk.  Like I was looking up at everybody, kind of like a little kid lost in a mall but I wasn’t looking for my mother.  I felt totally comfortable.  I parked myself on a tall bar stool at one of the mobile bars and ordered a cheese and onion quesadilla.  It was delicious but not much of a meal and I felt unhealthy so on my way back I bought an apple from a colorful old man at a fruit stand.  He smiled a lot and even washed my apple for me before sending me on my way.

During the twenty block walk back to the bus stop I saw very few people.  There was a group of young guys playing soccer a ways away, which I tried to discreetly film before their ball came flying my way and blew my cover.  I meekly tried to kick it back and seem nonchalant but my total lack of athletic skill made me blush.  The guy who came and grabbed the ball winked and smiled at me before booting it back to the game.  I only had to wait ten minutes for the bus after I arrived at the stop.  I realized it was the only running vehicle I’d seen during my whole walk!  The city seemed totally deserted today but it was exactly the atmosphere I’d needed.  I had a few more cups of mate on the bus looking out at the passing landscape but feeling introspective. I even managed a five-minute nap before we arrived at the airport right on time.

The girls met me in the lobby about an hour later with worry lines on their faces.  They had not expected me to venture into the city and they looked like relieved mothers even though we were around the same age.  I definitely felt a strong older sibling vibe from them and it made me adore them all the more.  They handed me a ticket and I winced prematurely asking them how much it would be.  Their dimples crushed the worry lines as they told me they’d convinced American Airlines to comp my ticket (although I still have a feeling they might have paid some.)  They even got two of my bags checked for me.  I couldn’t believe how generous these two had been and I felt so blessed.  I had them write their emails and information in my journal and promised them two big jars of Nutella upon my return (I don’t think they quite understood that Nutella was more of a European thing but I would have done everything in my power to bring them a star from the sky if that was their request.)

They personally accompanied me to the boarding gate as if I might somehow manage to screw things up again (don’t worry, I’d already missed my flight from Miami to Denver…) and they hugged me goodbye.  I felt really close to them somehow and sad to be leaving so soon after everything that we’d been through together in the last 24 hours.  The plane ride was uneventful.  I slept mostly and spent the rest of the time not looking forward to dealing with Delta Airlines while savoring my remaining few nibbles of the last alfajor I would have for a year.  I started to get excited to see my family again but I knew that because of my delays everyone wouldn’t be at the airport like I’d imagined.  No running hugs L  I tried to pace myself with the daydreams so that I wouldn’t disappointed at the gate but it was hard.

I didn’t pee once on the airplane.  This is totally relevant because I had downed three bottles of water on the plane and two of those complimentary orange juices and it was the only thing I could focus on when I got off in Miami.  For some bizarre reason the people who make international airports don’t herd you directly towards the toilets right when you exit their planes.  They should really just include directions to the restrooms in their spiel about what the local time is and all that.  It is ten times more important in my opinion.  And it would have been highly useful because, for some reason.  I got my bags in record time (bathroom break should have occurred before this!!!) and then suddenly I had over 100 pounds worth of luggage to attend to.  I was drained and I honestly could not carry all of it.  I felt ready to burst. Even though the two suitcases had rollers, they were too big and bulky to balance behind me with the guitar and the giant backpack + overstuffed purse on my back.  I could barely reach around those things to reach the handles.  Walking was another endeavor entirely.  Hunched under all that awkward weight I couldn’t make it more than two steps without my coat starting to slip off my waist or my guitar banging up against the corner of the bigger suitcase.  My bladder hurt and I couldn’t even get away from the luggage carousel.  People were buzzing around it like flies around a light bulb claiming their treasures and I felt totally overwhelmed in the middle of it.  I couldn’t move.  I reluctantly left my luggage there and ran towards the carts where any spirit I had left dissipated.  SmartCarts were $5 USD.  I had twenty Uruguayos left.  I just stared at the little box asking for my dollar bills and tried to hold the lump in my throat.  I cheated and left my luggage unattended long enough to pee.  I couldn’t handle it.  I didn’t even care if anyone stole my things or if the whole airport went into lockdown because my guitar might have nitroglycerin in it or something.  It didn’t though.

The bathroom was like my locker room at halftime.  I gave myself a pep talk (yes, audibly, because I needed it that much.  No, it’s not weird at all) and Rocky Balboa marched back to my luggage.  The physical space it took up was just plain bigger than I was.  I think I expected someone to see me standing next to it and offer to help…but none came.  When I finally got in line to go through customs there were about sixty people in front of me.  I ended up sandwiched between two Arab business-looking middle-aged men and what looked like a whole high school of Brazilians with lime green shirts snapping pictures of each other and falando Português.  They seemed so happy and my spirit wavered.  The pep talk wasn’t a very solid foundation to be balancing all this STUFF on.  When the line moved, it moved one person at a time and eventually I just shrugged everything off my back into a messy pile on the ground.  Every five people it moved I would make three, yes three, trips dragging my various bags up the spots in line.  We stood there twenty minutes and not once did anyone help me.  One of the guys behind me carrying nothing but a briefcase picked up my jacket and handed it to me when I finally made it to the top of the line.  For some reason I wanted to slap him.  He was just handing me my jacket but I had absolutely no way of grabbing it.  Every single slot I had for holding something was occupied with the job and I wasn’t about to grab it from him with my mouth.  So I had to set everything down and re-suit up.  It was ridiculous.  There were security guards walking around, people managing the line and they all just stared at me blankly with nothing in their hands as I struggled to limp to the window in one single drive.

I’m glad the customs officer stuck to the basic dialogue because if I’d said more than three consecutive words I would have cried.  I found solace on a bench in the main terminal and made a fortress with my things.  With one foot touching them I tried to stretch to the nearest airport employee and get his attention like a beached whale.  I asked where Delta was and felt awkward as his English words hit me.  It felt like I was in a foreign country.  I was more stranded here than in Uruguay.  Delta was in G.  I was in A.  I could faintly make out B down the corridor over 200 meters away.  This was going to be impossible.  People were coming and going all around me in every which direction.  The sounds they were making sounded so much sharper and abrasive than the flowing Spanish I’d grown accustomed to over the past year.  I slumped down and briefly contemplated crying again but I didn’t want to use up the last of my luck before talking to Delta.  Instead I took a deep breath and propped myself up with resolution again.  I cased the area.  There was an abandoned cart six benches down just outside the automatic doors.  It tantalizingly flashed and glimmered in the sunlight.  I had to have it.

I took off my flip-flop, purposefully left my luggage unattended and made for the door.  I looked suspiciously around before darting through the automatic door, smoothly dropping my flip-flop into place to keep it from shutting and curling my fingers around the bar of the cart.  As I stepped back through the door with my new prize I got a few weird looks from travelers but I had escaped the security radar.  Piling my things into the cart I made the trek over to Delta airlines at “G”.  No one talked to me while I was in line as I tried to mentally script out what I was going to say to the representative when I got up there.  I told him everything as rehearsed about The Incredible Three-Day Return Journey Adventure™ and tried to look sad, which was really easy but totally lost against his shield of a scowl.  He told me that it would be $1300 for a ticket from Miami to Denver, even though I had missed my flight because of a connection.  I begged, I pleaded.  But he just kept repeating the same thing.

Finally, he told me that if I wasn’t going to purchase a ticket then I’d need to move on because other people were waiting.  I knew it was time to bring out the water guns and it was coming easier to me with all this practice.  His face didn’t change.  He was stoic as ever but instead of shooing me away he wrote a number on a card and told me they might be able to get me a 20% discount or so.  I was freaking out.  Surely there was some way but I trudged away with my cart and my tears to the payphone across from the masses in line.  People stared at me because I was crying.  They had looks of pity but just kept on staring.  Luckily I was able to find two quarters in my wallet and, luckily, that was worth one phone call.  I fed the payphone and picked up the receiver.  It ate them.  Both quarters.  Hungrily.  And then it asked for more.  I couldn’t believe it.  Those were my last two quarters! I didn’t have a US phone.  I was totally helpless now, almost angry with the way that I had been treated here (or not been treated.)  I felt cold even as the Miami heat blasted in through the automatic doors as more people came in to leave.

I literally put my face in my hands and slunk to the floor.  Those fifty cents were somehow the biggest loss I’d experienced.  I was so unhappy, sad, and upset in that moment I can’t even describe it.  Yes, I was being dramatic, but I had felt a change in my atmosphere from the moment I’d stepped off the plane onto US soil and it wasn’t opportunity.  No one was going to enable me here.  People had things to do, places to be, money to make.  I wasn’t being independent and self-sufficient in Uruguay!  I’d gotten through because of the genuine kindness and heart of the people there.  I had never been alone in South America.  Not truly.  Everyone was rooting for me.  Everyone cared.  It wasn’t like that here.  You don’t get a free pass just because you’re a pathetic foreign girl who can muster up a few tears.  I don’t know if I’ve ever felt that truly alone and ignored.  It was absolute disheartedness.  But then!  A glint of silver caught my eye on the ground! Was that?  Yes.  A quarter.  A single quarter.  Now I understand the expression, “Life can turn on a dime.”  But this was a quarter.  Fifteen MORE cents than a dime.  It was tails but I’d take it.

Even now writing this, I am almost ashamed of how I was reacting over losing my fifty cents in the payphone, pounding the coins back button with the heel of my hand like it was the only thing that could save me.  You have to understand the unmitigated amount of emotion that had flowed through me in the past 48 hours.  I was a mess.  Unfit to deal with a situation like losing my last 50 cents.  I scoured my bags.  Emptied my backpack and in the depths of the depths I found one nickel, two pennies, and two of those life-turning dimes.  This time I fully read the directions on how to use the payphone and, of course, kept my distance from the hungry deceitful one I’d used before.  Turns out, you can dial 1-800 numbers for free anyways and I ended up getting my money back after the phone call.  I was in hysterics after it shot me my money back and people stared for a different reason this time.

Apparently the universe was not against me quite yet.  When I called the number and punched in all of the menu options (that had, of course, recently changed….), it gave me my flight information and a code to print out my ticket… it didn’t sound right and I was a bit confused so I navigated through ten minutes of menu to talk to a real person.  He told me my ticket had been successfully changed at no charge.  My tears had worked!  And this time they’d saved me $1300!  I was leaving at three pm today to finally go to Denver!  If that wasn’t the world’s most dynamic emotional rollercoaster (besides maybe “Story of an Hour”) I was about to lose my remaining 52 cents.

So…what to do with the six hours left until my flight?  I think I had satisfied my thirst for adventure and quickly ruled out exploring Miami…not that I could leave my luggage unattended anyhow.  I got all dressed up in the bathroom and was painting my nails on these weird Y-benches in the airport when I suddenly woke up on the floor.  Yup.  I woke up.  I didn’t fall asleep.  My body literally just shut down mid-fingernail.  Luckily I didn’t spill any on my dress in my narcoleptic lapse but it definitely was a wake-up call (pun intended.)  I decided that checking my luggage would be safer and coughed up the $60 bucks to check them before roaming through security and falling asleep outside my gate.  I would have one connection in Atlanta still but I wouldn’t even involve getting off the plane.

I charged my computer and napped a little outside the gate but only when I was 152% positive that my plane would indeed be leaving from that one and not any other one and I was exactly where I needed to be, bladder empty, ready to go.  Even though I planned on continuing my nap once on board I ended up sitting next to another lady.  Only this time she was pleasant and even remarkable.  She was the type of woman who tries to retire but simply can’t because she’s too interesting and restless.  She was a Myers-Briggs proctor and industrial psychologist.  We talked about life a little and the big transitions we were both going through.  She was an ISTJ (Introversion Sensing Thinking Judging); I am an ENFP (Extraversion iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving, the complete opposite.)  We talked about the strengths and meanings of all eight of the personality characteristics and it was the perfect conversation I could be having on my journey home.  It was really relevant to my other journey, the personal one, you know, about discovering myself? and time flew by (I’m just pumping out the puns today, huh?)  She was only going as far as Atlanta though and we were so engrossed in conversation that I nearly forgot to ask her name as she left.  I can’t remember it now and it isn’t in my journal. L

I touched down in Denver at around five in the evening, the summer sun still proudly shining over the Colorado mountains.  I was oddly numb to all thoughts and emotions.  I smiled at the beautiful scenery but didn’t feel home.  I didn’t feel much of anything except exhaustion and I didn’t want to.  I remember having the most basic of thoughts, which was a conscious decision.  I was too drained to feel anything right then and I reinforced the dam in my mind against that whirlwind of emotion I should have been feeling as I mindlessly stepped off the escalator and scanned the crowd for my mother.  She wasn’t there, even though I’d messaged her the flight details.  I made my way down to baggage claim, allowing little cracks in the dam as I methodically stacked my luggage next to the carousel.  No mommy.

After fifteen minutes as the last few passengers trickled out, the dam was breaking.  I felt like crying again, but I didn’t.  I thought I hadn’t allowed myself to picture the running hugs and cheesy airport reunions, but apparently I had and this wasn’t it.  I finally went to the lost luggage office and borrowed the phone.  I called my mom.  No answer.  I called my brother.  No answer.  I called my other brother.  Nothing.  I called my brother again.  Voicemail.  The receptionist told me to make sure I was entering an area code.  Yes, I was entering an area code.  My heart tried to console me with stories about how maybe they were trying to surprise me, that hands would suddenly cover my eyes with my brother’s voice, “Guess who?” playfully echoing behind me.  I even turned around just in case but they weren’t there.  I waited a few more minutes and stared at the clock before trying my mom again.  She answered and told me to go outside.

I feel guilty now about how I felt in that moment but I was angry and upset.  I stood outside on the sidewalk in my dress and heels with all my bags for a full five minutes before she drove by, backed up, and parked, getting out of the car to give me a big hug.  It wasn’t a running hug.  We hugged for a long time before she helped me get my bags in the trunk with my dog.  Sanchez didn’t remember me really.  He was, of course, happy to see me, but it wasn’t a spectacular reunion and somehow I felt disappointed by that too.  I tried to mentally argue myself out of being unhappy but I felt tears coming again.  I think I was just so emotional by everything that I didn’t know what else to do.  I didn’t cry though and I kept up my smile.  My oldest brother, Cody, had already gone back to the hotel with his girlfriend and my niece and nephew.  I’d see them tomorrow.  And Ryan, my other older brother had gone to stay with his girlfriend in Fort Collins for the night.  It would be just me and my mom in Loveland tonight.

I know it’s selfish of me but I couldn’t help feeling hurt.  I guess my homecoming was such a big deal to me that I expected everyone to build their schedules around it even though I’d been delayed by two days.  I didn’t want to have this night colored by how frazzled I was though and I, once again, hit the emotional override and decided to be happy and relax.  I pushed all of those thoughts and emotions into a mental compartment marked “Junk to be dealt with after recharging” and began to recount The Incredible Three-Day Return Journey Adventure™ of the last three days to my mom on the car ride home almost robotically.  I was home after all.

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About Autumn Standing

I love words; my name is made up of real words, even. I am studying Global Tourism and Spanish with a minor in Business Administration at Colorado State University but this year I chose to study abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. That's why this blog was born--to keep my beautiful family and friends informed of my whereabouts, thoughts, accomplishments, and mistakes.

Posted on February 28, 2014, in Spring Semester, Travel and Study and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Hola Autumm. Llegué acá por casualidad desde google a la 1:00 de la madrugada, ahora son las 4:10! me leí todo tu viaje, me enganché y se me olvidó el mundo. ahora estoy emocionado como si acabara de leer la saga de Harry Potter. Solo queria decirte que me conmovio profundamente tu increible experiencia. Sos una mujer admirable.
    Sin conocerte, siento que te conozco. Te mando un abrazo desde Argentina, mi país y tu país hermano, que supiste retratar tan bellamente en este espacio y que siempre te va a dar la bievenida.

    • Wau Hernan, muchas gracias por leer y por tu lindo comentario. Ya volví hace unos meses y estoy disfrutando de tu pais de vuelta. Es diferente porque ya estoy trabajando y viviendo en un contexto más permanente pero sigo siendo tan enamorada de la gente argentina. Me hacen sentir en casa, y por supuesto, muy bienvenida.

      Un abrazo grande!
      Autumn

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