So there I was, after some of the most boring days of my life between Christmas and new year, I finally got the go ahead from my aunt I was supposed to visit at the other end of the continent to take the flight. This was when my holidays were getting over the day of my flight and when I was supposed to start my research work from the next day. I should have been back home by now from my visit I sighed, but for starting now, I had only myself to blame given my reluctance to buy tickets for earlier dates what with the high prices. I stood to lose one week of work and money but I had always wanted to make this trip for years and there was no way I was going to miss this chance.
To give you a sense of why this trip was so, erm, so absolutely memorable:
On the way to the airport, I realized I forgot my tickets back home, something not unusual when I am going places. Luckily we had enough time to go back and get them.
My connecting flight to Newark was delayed – I had to catch my flight to the west coast from Newark. – They offered me an Amtrak train ticket to the Newark airport instead. I agreed, though I did feel sick for having to go in a train when I loved traveling in a plane and had paid for it, (or rather had my aunt pay for it). Turns out the train was heavily delayed too – I had to wait for quite some time before I boarded the train. My date with troubles was just starting off here.
I MISSED my airport stop in the train to Newark and went further ahead. I foolishly went to the restroom without realizing that my stop was so near – by the time I came back to my seat, my senior co-passenger had that totally worried look on his face and he had me scurrying towards the exit . I rushed out with my bags only to have the train door close on my face. I had missed the stop.
At the next stop, I just didn’t know how to get back to the airport and was worried about splurging more money to do so, or rather, wanted to get back on track paying as little as I could.I finally found an information kiosk but they were of little help.I believe there was this obvious anxious look on my face seeing which a girl who was at the scene approached me and said she was going to the airport too and I can join her, and that she knows the train route. She turned out to be friendly and helpful. After helping me buy the train ticket back to the airport, we went together in two trains and had a nice chat along the way. She was from Chicago and was catching the flight back home after spending Christmas and new year with her folks near where I live. She was surprised I wasn’t from Oregon and I was actually starting my trip to Oregon when the holiday season was ending.
- Inside the Newark airport – Another round of confusion – where do I go now ?? I didn’t know where to go in the Newark airport, and was walking all around the airport trying to figure it out – We finally got to the terminal, and she rushed towards the queue for the security check, asking me to follow her but I went around the airport trying to confirm from people that I had to enter the same line for my destination too. I lost her here and then lost my way like a small child- I was misguided by some of the security personnel there who had me go to a different floor. I finally found where I had to go, went through the security check hoping I wasn’t treated differently thanks to my different appearance and Muslim faith. It was, by God’s grace nice and easy and I recited a prayer of thankfulness to God.
Boarding CANCELLED ! – Just as I was at the gate, in a queue, waiting impatiently to board the plane, quite tired as I was waiting for a long time – I got to the gate much quicker than I thought I would –and since it had been a long day already journeying by train, a security officer came by and asked the flight staff to stop boarding, had people seated in the plane to come out. I was like, what in the world is going on???
Airport EVACUATED !! It’s a SECURITY SCARE !!
There was a massive crowd jostling to get out of the airport, from the secure area – I could never recall seeing such a crowd even in the Indian railway stations, leave alone an airport. There were television screens in the airport and some people, including me stood watching CNN to try to understand what was happening – CNN would only say it was a security breach and therefore a security scare that was the reason for the evacuation in the Newark airport.
The emergency siren was on for hours together in the airport – it was freezing cold outside, so there was no way anyone was going outside and people were seated on the floor all around, there was little space to even walk. People were even sitting and sleeping on the belts and the computers where they check-in bags. I myself finally sat down behind a computer used to check-in luggage, plugged in my mobile phone to charge and also plugged my laptop on to a power source there and started playing Fifa 2009 to kill time. An Indian lady in a saree sought help to contact her daughter who had dropped her off here and also contact Continental to change her flight, so some time went off trying to get help for her and chatting with her. As is so usual with Indians, she was not satisfied with my first name, and went on asking for more information until she confirmed which religion I am from – I have always believed Indians tend to be extremely racist, and race, skin color, religion decide a lot about how they interact with people.
In the middle of the night, the siren finally went out , there was a general sense of relief and everyone applauded for nearly a whole minute. By now, thousands people were outside and all of us were made to go through a security screening again, but they were thoroughly professional here and made it real quick.
8. Flight CANCELLED ! Finally, after a long wait, I went near my gate to find that my flight was cancelled. With no idea where to go now, I had to call my aunt late night there – she had to pick me up when I reach there and I was concerned since she had to get to work early morning too. I found an information desk, but there was a line nearly a mile long here and by the time I reached my turn, I went through five calls from my aunt and three hours of wait. They gave me an UNCONFIRMED ticket for the next flight five hours later. I didn’t ask them to give me a hotel ticket since I was dead tired and didn’t want to give myself any chance of sleeping too much and missing the next flight. So, off I went, near my gate and slept on the floor for sometime. I hate eating non-desi food with the halal issues, but had to continously make do with that for nearly two days.
Luckily, I got a seat in the next flight and made it safe, sound and in one piece to Portland, to be received by my aunt’s sister.
I never told my parents anything about what I went through – even during my phone calls to them during all of this, I acted as normally as I could despite being half dead with hunger, lack of sleep and fatigue.
Looking back, I felt it only served to make my trip memorable and fun – I had a great time in Portland after that – went sight-seeing, ate outside, been to a theatre for the first time in my life(seriously) to see Avatar in an Imax, and had a real family feeling after a long time.
9. I lost a lot of pictures I took in the process of transferring them to my laptop, forever!
Leaving behind a few of the not-really-good pictures I could retrieve from my simple mobile phone camera.