When This Is, That Is

Exploring the world of conditionality

Los Angeles to Mexico City to Oaxaca

imageOur first challenge after landing in LA at 9:00 was to get from Terminal 5 to Terminal 2 and having dinner during our two-hour lay over. After getting directions, we boarded an empty shuttle under the blue sign. We meandered through the maze of LAX, going from one terminal to another, adding passengers at each stop. Finally we squeezed our way off the shuttle at Terminal 2, which appeared dedicated to Aeromexico. Already we had the feeling of being in another country.

Security at LAX is more stringent than at PDX, and both Robin and I got frisked. At PDX we walked through a standard metal detector. LAX offered us the body scanner. You walk into the booth, stop and make a 90 degree turn, place your feet on the yellow footprints, touch your hands together over your head, and hold the pose for at least three seconds. Robin went through first. A TSA agent pulled aside. Another one got me.

“You have an anomaly in your groin area,” he said to me. I told him it was a money belt. He told me I had to take it off. He offered a private area but said I’d have to leave my other things behind—carry on, wallet, phone, iPad, passport, shoes. I untucked my shirt and pulled off the belt. He went through it and gave it back. He said he had to frisk me, presumably to assure himself I had no other anomalies.

For Robin, instead of putting her passport back in the bag she kept it in, she put it in her back pocket. Instant anomaly, according to the scanner.

The four-hour flight to Mexico City was inconsequential but for two things. First, I left my hat aboard. It was a favorite but not irreplaceable. The other just added to the confusion of going through the entry process of immigration and customs.

Sometime during the flight to Mexico City, the attendant handed out some forms. Robin and I were trying to sleep (we didn’t) so neither of us were paying attention when the attendant passed us by.

Once off the plane we learned we had to go through immigration. We ended up in a massive room with a couple hundred other people ahead of us in another of those long snaking lines. At the other end of the room were six or eight circular kiosks, spaced at random. Each had an  agent sitting at a desk inside the kiosk. I noticed that many of the people in front of us, and those coming in behind, had some sort of form in hand along with a passport. I asked an English-speaking person where she got hers. “On the plane,” she said.

Other people, too, were at various counters, filling out forms. I scouted around and found what we needed and got back into line with Robin. It’s difficult to fill out a form while you’re shuffling along with baggage. Eventually we got through immigration with our visas stamped.

Next was customs, with another form. We had to pick up our checked suitcase, which along with our carry-ons, was opened and searched. That done, the suitcase went back to baggage, and we hustled to the gate. When our flight was called, we walked through the door, expecting, as with all other flights, to board a plane. We didn’t. Instead, we boarded a shuttle bus that sat idling at the curb. The bus filled with people and with fumes. After fifteen or so minutes we made it to our plane, parked well away from the terminal.

The sunrise flight to Oaxaca was beautiful, with mucho mountains, including an active volcano. The flight was quick, about half as long as the itinerary said it would be. Around 7:30 a.m. we deplaned onto the the pavement, stepping down an iron stairway. It was cool and partly cloudy. I missed my hat.

Aloft and away

imageWe arrived at the airport about two and a half hours before takeoff at 6:44 Saturday. I like to be early because if there was a problem needing resolution, there would be plenty of time for it. But all went well. On a Saturday afternoon PDX was nearly empty. We zigzagged unimpeded through the stanchions as we approached the Delta counter.

Two attendants vied for our business. Robin and I each had a carry on bag, but we shared a large suitcase to check. It weighed in at 49 pounds, one pound under the limit to avoid a fee. We went through security with the same ease.

Before going through security, we stopped in at Powell’s Books. One of our traditional pastimes while on vacation is reading, but not independently. Robin reads aloud while listen. One of her favorite genres is young adult fiction.

We got a cup of coffee, wandered down Concourse D, then settled in at D5 where Robin began reading “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs. After we boarded and got underway, she read for awhile more before we went into our own worlds: I with my writing, Robin with a sudoku puzzle.

Moments ago I felt the obvious change in altitude as we began our descent into Los Angeles. Seat belt fastened. Ready for the next phase.

Pre-travel, post-nasal drip

imageIt started about a week ago, that feeling of drainage down the back of my throat. Yet my throat felt fine and my sinuses have been clear. I thought maybe it was an early onset of my expected allergies. But yesterday, departure eve, my throat took on a bit of unwelcome scratchiness. Before going to bed I gargled with saltwater. That often helps.

This morning’s hoarseness and catch in the back of my throat did not offer comfort. More salt water. And a trip to Walgreens for something to ward off the encroaching symptoms of a cold. As yet, though, my sinuses are still clear. At least that won’t pose a problem as we later climb to 30,000 feet.

At the moment we sit at home, bags packed, boarding passes printed, and all items on the preparation list checked off. We’re just waiting for the time when Margie takes us to the airport.

Through the past few weeks has flowed, I admit, a subtle undercurrent of anxiety. Not about flying, but just a subtle worry about not being ready. What about this? What about that? And this, and this, and this….? I travel so infrequently I’m not familiar with the overall process.

Just like everyone else I made flight and hotel reservations online. But what if it was a scam and our flights really weren’t booked? What if we got to the airport and at baggage check the nice attendant said, “I’m sorry, I don’t see anything in our system for you.”

I feel much better with boarding passes in hand.

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