Sometimes when facing the unknown, it’s best to start out with a bad hangover. That’s not a rule I live by, but rather a situation I’ve found myself in many times before. My first flight overseas was on the tails of a party night out. Cleveland was good to us. No fights, no lost wallets, no tears. We made it back to the hotel in one piece with an extra 6-pack of beers we never drank since we all passed out dreaming about our early morning flights.
Getting up in a hurry to a blaring alarm clock and repacking for my first trip to Europe, while brother and sister take turns puking in the bathroom, was a classic goodbye in style. We left a lot of things behind in that hotel room, some cheap cosmetics and dirty underwear that somehow conveniently wouldn’t fit in the suitcases, 5 imported beers and some greasy pizza boxes.
Little did I realize at the time that all the commotion of calling a cab and making flight checks from our cell phones was going to be the last American interaction with hospitable service personnel I would have for over a year and a half. We rode together in the cab minivan to the airport a few miles away. I realized how sick my brother an dsister were from the shots we had drunk the night before when I saw their faces tighten with agony in the few short minutes it took to get to the drop off point for US Air, Continental and Delta.
I was flying to JFK, New York to catch my connection to the UK later that night. Theresa and Ben were on a flight to Denver together and then Theresa would go to San Francisco to get home and Ben would catch a bus to Steamboat Springs where he would spend the rest of the summer bartending and studying for his real estate exam. Theresa told me about that flight to Denver later. She couldn’t stay out of the bathroom on the plane. The stewardess asked her what was wrong with her and she just said “Tequilla.” Everybody knows.
I was on a different sort of trip. I wasn’t going home. I was going somewhere new. To a place I had never been, with no home, no job and no friends. I was on my fantasy dream trip. I got up as the loudspeaker in the waiting area of gate B12 New York to Dublin announced boarding had begun. We slowly formed a line near the entrance to the plane.
The different people, who look like they are going to Ireland caught my attention. I am half Irish, so I notice the lady who looks like my Grandma just ahead of me with dimples in her porcelain delicately wrinkles cheeks as she hands the airline attendant her ticket and sparkly blue eyes blinking up from her white fedora hat as she winks at me.