Full disclosure: I’m posting this the day after I wrote it.
I’m on the plane. Here’s how I got here:
The initial stages of my journey to the airport were smooth. Dad and his girlfriend arrived a bit late but still with plenty of time. We went to lunch, collected my luggage from the apartment, and took off. I had three suitcases – a small one, a medium-sized one, and a large one. Dad commented that my largest suitcase was ridiculously heavy. I scoffed.
As we navigated out of DC and onto the Dulles Airport access road, black clouds rolled in. Dad drives a pickup and my suitcases were in the truck bed. I closed my eyes and prayed.
The rain began to fall when we were five miles from the airport. We pulled to the shoulder and Dad and I attempted to cover the suitcases with a plastic tarp. As soon as we let go of the tarp it began to blow away. We abandoned that plan and pulled under an overpass to wait out the storm. The rain continued for about 20 interminable minutes and finally tapered off.
We were back on our way, still with plenty of time. We pulled up at the departure area and Dad helped me carry my (only slightly sodden) bags to the South African Airways counter. He snapped a few photos, hugged me goodbye, and was on his way. I thought I was home-free.
When it was my turn to check in, the agent informed me that my largest bag was 5 kilos too heavy to check and my smallest suitcase was 8 kilos too heavy to carry on. Oh dear. I had studied the confusing SAA online baggage instructions at some length before packing, but apparently not well enough.
There was a way forward, however. I could transfer 8 kilos of stuff from the largest bag to the smallest bag, and check all three bags. There would be an overage charge and an extra bag fee.
I spread out on the floor in front of the counter, unzipped both bags, and frantically searched for heavy items to transfer from large bag to small. Photo albums, boots, high-heels, shampoo, jeans. Fortunately my small bag is expandable. Sports bras, socks, and shoes flew everywhere; I began to sweat. (I wasn’t alone either – there were two African guys nearby playing the same game. We smiled at each other and soldiered on.)
When I felt satisfied with my redistribution efforts, I zipped up the bags, hefted them back onto the scale, and held my breath. The check-in agent smiled with approval. I was triumphant and barely cared about the $200 charge.
I collected my ticket and headed toward security. Only then did I realize my suitcase lock was in my pocket. Oh well. I made it to the gate just in time to board.
Another thunderstorm hit after boarding so we took off 90 minutes late. I’ll be sitting on this plane for 19 hours rather than 17.5. Oh well. This is more than compensated for by the fact that I have an empty seat next to me. JACK-POT.
I’ve got my bottle of water and glass of South African red in hand. Soon it will be time for dinner and my Ambien-induced stupor. Cheers.
We land in four hours. So far this flight hasn’t felt nearly as horrible as it did the last time I took it. I haven’t experienced any feelings of murderous rage yet. I guess you just need to be emotionally prepared for the agony. The extra seat helps too.
I got three or four hours of quality Ambien sleep before we stopped at Dakar for refueling. Then we took off again and I had a breakfast of soggy French toast, read for a while, and dozed some more. I tried to watch Avatar but for some reason I hate watching movies on an airplane. Now I’m rocking out to Robyn on my iPod and watching the little plane creep along the African coast on the flight map.
I expect time will slow down considerably now that I’m so close. I haven’t focused too much on this aspect of my story, but my boyfriend and I haven’t seen each other since I was last in South Africa, exactly eight months ago. We’ve been to hell and back since then, and there were many times when it seemed this day would never come. Now it’s here. He’ll be waiting for me when I walk out of baggage claim (hopefully with three intact suitcases).
I just don’t know what to make of it, really. Stay tuned.