The queue at Chicago to get through Security was long and not swift too move, personal patrolled about barking instructions to what they clearly perceived to be the obdurate cattle stood all about them. The signs were poor and unsurprisingly some visitors had the air of the perplexed about them, though all were clearly equally welcome. The one with the dog was not small and found it objectionable that other people of slighter statue were queuing in their designated queuing location in such a way as to prevent the dog and her girth to pass with immediate ease. You get this at the smaller airports in Europe, were bored security officials congregate around the one flight of the afternoon too inspectionise most profusely the aliens who so clearly need to be most earnestly scowled at and probed. At the busy airports where the thousands visit, the attendants often seem either friendly or simply utterly detached, both are preferable.
If this approach has ever led to the successful singling out of a wrongen, then despite the apparent simplicity of many dedicated wrong doer, I would still be most surprised. With great power comes great responsibility … young apprentice … and these people had some responsibility too, you could tell, they had uniforms and an aggrieved tone.
By the time we reached the passport and documents inspection point we had gone past the boarding time of our connection, nervous energy about missing the flight past, that outcome seemed clear enough. To chap in the passport bit was actually friendly and we passed through to the bit where you pick up your luggage and get asked whether you’re a farmer … the man in front confessed to keeping some chickens but was none the less aloud to pass through this bit without additional review. Neither of us keep chickens and though I do have Cockatiels I don’t farm them in any way, it would be a niche industry. We were also allowed to pass on through. Directly afterwards we were asked to hand over our bags, two queues that we were told were to the same ends, transfer flights… perhaps we would somehow be catching our connection after all. Perhaps it was the flight and early start, it was not the question, we had both encountered inquiries about fruit and food matters on previous trips, what made it memorable here was the earnest divulging of chicken. With more clarity it’s a fair point, when on the spectrum of: occasionally encountering a pet, keeping ants, wondering through farmers fields because you live in a rural way, having a pet, keeping a number of beasties for a hobby, having a green house, seeking to become self sufficiency, production for sale, through to industrialised land based production.. where on this array of randomly selected milestones does one formally fall into the category of farming… this fellow for one was clearly unsure, best to ask.
Transferring across the terminals was easy at Chicago, a monorail that went from one to the next, until back through security we went and on to our gate. We were the last two I think, I still had my seat but Mitch had had has seat reallocated and they seemed to be engaged in some seat discovery at the desk. The flight to LA is not a short one, I was a little surprised to find this internal flight was being operated by an aircraft that might have been owned my Easyjet and Ryanair back before they both established themselves and opted to invest in an up to date fleet, the well aged 737, the Boeing of choice in the 90s and now largely found seeking refuge among charter airlines or developing nations. Not that unusual to be seen, just a bit unexpected on such a long flight for such a well established airline.
Jet airways had operated one of these out of Nepal but it was newer and came with cinema entertainment systems and was generally quite nice.. Jet Airways were really very good actually, the flight back to Italy from India while all but empty was also a very new, very comfortable flight, with totally functional entertainment system and assorted movies to choose from – Jet Airways, Big Tick.
You could pay for some films on the credit card swipe system but given everything I wasn’t inclined, it may have been a fine collection of silent movies with a couple of talkies thrown in …that wasn’t it, the movies were new enough, some of them had even been sufficiently well resources to warrant a full cinema release, like WIFI at a remotely decent hotel you expect it (there was free wifi at the basic hotel we occasionally stayed at in Kathmandu) and paying for it seems somehow wrong.
Beneath the sky was very clear, large green fields sprawled out beneath, I napped, when I woke the same shapes were still there in every visible direction, I woke again some time later and similar shapes had become browner. It was quite the expanse down there, an expanse filled with apparently very little, an occasional hut, shack or house seemed to be present, it was hard to tell from this distance, little more.
I had another friendly person alongside me on this leg of the trip, this time a middle aged chap who lived somewhere north of LA up along the coast, probably somewhere we’d be driving past. He had a thing about artichokes, apparently they were a big thing in the area, he told me about how farming was a massive thing for California and about the lack of rains and massive droughts that recent years had brought that was one thing, that and the artichokes, the ski resorts and traffic issues surrounding driving into down town LA, these were the main topics of recollection.
Beneath there was what looked like dessert, red, orange, brown, the dry ground with cuts carved into it. I couldn’t really tell what was caverns and depth and what was just lines forged in the landscape but it made for quite fascinating viewing, there was even an unexpected river and lake at one point amongst the long dry apparent nothingness.
We arrived, Mitch’s bag arrived, mine did not.
A particularly unhelpful baggage area attendant proved particularly unhelpful.
I headed to the United desk.. rifling about for signs of my baggage receipts, finding a bunch of stuff and handing it over..
They were quite helpful and told me my bag was following along and had been loaded on the next flight, rather tired by this point I inquired how one had made it and the other not, when they’d been handed over together, she didn’t know but took no offense, none had been intended. I couldn’t get it and somewhat bye the bye without hope that they could really explain had just shared my bemusement at what had occurred. In the scheme of things this was pretty good, an hour or so and the flight would arrive, meant not too long to wait until the bag would make its appearance in LA.
We set of in search some Tea, an effort which proved greater and a tea that proved more elusive than you might reasonably expect. Into terminals we went, questions were asked of people but no coffee shop was seen.. one chap thought there was a workers café down the drop off road a way and across, we never found it. It was hard to fathom, this was the USA home of commercialising things how were they not set up to cash in the captive airport audiences even in the departure areas… by now we’d gone upstairs away from arrivals, still nothing.
The Terminal we’d arrived at was the last, all in a long straight line it seemed, it was grotty, the most grotty of each that we visited but the whole place was rather tired looking and grim. Somewhere three or four terminals later we found it… a Starbucks – UK tax avoiders, specialists and chiefs along with Amazon – you may take our money but you will never contribute to our freedom, well being and education and thus our broader economic prosperity and happiness – thanks for that.
They do though have tea, not good tea, but actually it was alright and the chicken sandwich thing actually seemed to have whole juicy pieces of chicken in it, it was really pleasant surprise, really very nice … the tax avoiding bastards … very nice
As I write this I am sat in departures at Zurich airport – and someone is cycling across the tarmac out there, across from Terminal B to Terminal A – gently slowly peddling their way across .. the weirdest thing, well perhaps not but on the scale of thing unexpected things to see while looking out the giant windows of Zurich its on there.