Getting from there to here a la chaos

It’s been ages since last blog post–I apologize to my avid fans–but as I’ve committed this time to recanting adventure, I feel the time away will soon be forgiven as I now “write” this wrong.

Currently, I am sitting in a lecture at Tel Aviv University in Israel (this means I’m not paying attention as some things do not change). It’s somewhat surreal to be here, never knowing in all my travels that I would ever make it to this part of the globe, and not really ever caring if I did. Now that I’m here, I know what a great opportunity it is and in this ever-changing world, realizing how significant it is that I am in Israel and knowing that it might not be so easy again.

Today’s glorious story is about getting to my Middle Eastern location. I don’t mean the purpose as to why I’m here, which is for work (yeah, work travel!), but the continual disaster that is my travel life via planes, trains, and automobiles. I always end up at my desired location but never in a fluid manner.

Quick synopsis of travel disasters: missing flight but getting bumped up to first class via tears and not having to pay (first class made up for stress); losing ticket at Heathrow; misreading the day on the ticket for departure; freak snowstorm in Scotland allowing me to stay an extra week and miss a poetry exam (that was an awesome disaster); car breakdown(s); countless missed flights and one where tears saved me again; lost luggage; hurricane flight that required me to hold the old man next to me for dear life; so many delays I can’t even count; and more, but it hurts to remember them all (emotionally and physically).

But I can add the following to that list! I was destined to leave Washington Union Station via train–my favorite mode of transportation! Choo choo! I would arrive at Newark International Airport to meet my colleague and 26 Academic Fellows. I was cautioned that going through the security for Israel is quite detailed and lengthy (no lie) so it was important to get myself and my 26 sheep–I mean Academics–through flawlessly, meanwhile making sure no one missed a connecting flight prior to the Tel Aviv flight, or forgot to leave from their lecture halls, homes, or tweed-elbow patched closets.

However, the Academics were not the problem in the end. It was me.

So, Washington Union Station. I have too much baggage for one little person: 3 boxes on a dolly, suitcase, backpack, purse, and pizza. I managed to navigate through the station from the taxi. I managed to get all my crap on the train. I was settled down and ate my pizza, salad, and cheesecake. Totally had cheesecake. I had time on the train to get my self situated and nourished before departure.

Announcement: “There is a disabled train on the tracks in front of us. We don’t anticipate this being a long delay. We will keep you posted.”

10 minutes later: “aksjflajldfskjlasdjas” Loudspeaker is broken and I can’t hear.

20 minutes later: “The train is still there, it should be moving along quickly.”

45 minutes later: “It looks like it could be a little bit longer, feel free to get off the train and walk around.” This is never good because that means there needs to be time allotted for passengers to get back on the train.

60 minutes later: “There are downed wires and a power outage out of Baltimore. No trains are leaving Washington, Baltimore, or Philadelphia. No estimated time of repair.”

Fuck. So this gets me into bitching and quick thinking. Called my supervisor to inform him I may be late or never arrive. Tried to find alternate routes of transportation. No buses. So quick, quick thinking. Rent a car. So I run to the car rental, run back to get my luggage, I come to the desk and it isn’t ready and now there is a line. I’m freaking out and sweaty from running to and from the station platform navigating Union Station with a million boxes and a million people aimlessly walking around. I can’t find the elevators so I manage on escalators. I am waiting, waiting for the lady to give me my car keys and my credit card and license. She informs me she has to run everything again because other customers came after I ran to get my luggage.

I’m standing there sweating profusely and hiked my shirt up inappropriately, but didn’t care, and a man comes up to me and says, “Are you going to Newark?”

Me: “Yes!”

Him: “Would you like to come with me and my wife?”

Me: “YES!!!”

They had already rented a car. I snatched my credit card and license and with my inappropriate shirt hiking introduced myself to the wife. She spoke no English and the man spoke broken English. Interestingly, I asked where they were going, and they said Israel. We were on the same flight! Oh, life, you crazy.

It was up to me to locate the car rental cars because they are NOT clearly marked nor are they easy to access. So after running around different levels of the parking garage with our cumbersome luggage, I ran downstairs and asked for directions from the car lady. Then we still went the wrong way, all the while the clock ticking in my head, and eventually we found it. I look like a crazy person to the most understanding of human beings, but to two people that don’t know me and are sharing a 4 hour car drive with me, I think I look like a bad decision.

We found it, managed to get all our luggage, even mine, in the car. I got shotgun because I was navigator. Oh, iPhone, how did I ever get on without you?

Already it seems like a disaster in the making when I said I was the navigator. But I managed. And they were happy to have me and honestly, strange as it seems, without my badass navigation skills, I don’t think they would’ve found Newark International Airport. We didn’t get lost and my wonderful iPhone (thanks, Santa, for the Christmas gift) never faltered.

I think the Israeli man, originally from Argentina, was a race car driver at one point because we went over 90 mph most of New Jersey and Delaware.

My funk nails. The woman loved them.

We chatted in broken English, Hebrew and Spanish, I showed the woman my funky nails, we shared anxiety, and we shared the joy of seeing the first airplane in the sky near Newark.

We did it! And even though there was no time to fill up the tank which means there’s a fee the gas per gallon is doubled, there was time to get our luggage together, take the Airtran to our Terminal, and make the flight.

I’m so grateful for that experience, for meeting those two people so randomly and for them accepting my wackiness and welcoming me, be it a bit nervously, into their car trip. It was so important I make the flight; this is a work trip in which I have ALL the information and materials. Where I need to shine and outdo anyone’s expectations (thus far I am doing this) and prove I’ve earned my health benefits and non-profit pay. It’s important to my work, but most importantly, to me.

So far the rest of the trip has been great–no one lost their luggage, no one missed their flights (or trains), no one has been lost (at least yet). I have rallied the Academics in the only way I can, with pizzaz, occasional flightiness, but ultimately, no one can believe this is my first trip to Israel nor my first time organizing this program. The trip is young, and I can still falter, but my quick thinking and innovativeness and expert experience at travel disaster has made me excel the same. So what else may happen, I’ll take that with me.

Nice other side benefit, a seat between me and the other passenger on the plane. Awesome flight. And the nice couple who helped me and who I helped didn’t charge me a penny, no matter how I insisted, for the car. The train eventually left, three hours late. If I had stayed, I would’ve missed my flight.

So to cap off the day, last night I drank a froofy drink on the beach with some of the Academics, watched the ocean and a couple maul each other, and dug my feet in the sand not really understanding just where I was in the world, but also reveling in the moment of where I was in the world.

(I enjoy the beach more at night as the risk of sunburn is considerably less.)

Here’s to a great trip, some photos, and purchasing Israeli tourist goods made in China. And I guess growing as a person and in my career…

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