Reflection #3: Making the flight—Israeli style
Last June, less than two months of working at my job, I was expected to herd a group of 35 academics on a fellowship through Israel—a country I had never been to and a culture I was unfamiliar with. I was nervous because it was a massive responsibility and simultaneously both a great chance to prove myself or disprove myself in my career. Why would 35 PhD’s listen and follow me—a young jinjeet–unaccustomed to both country and job? Could my new supervisor put total faith in me?
In the end, the trip went superbly and I only lost my boss and about fifteen professors for a total of about 90 minutes. They eventually turned up.
However, getting to Israel wasn’t so superb.
I was to bring 4 boxes full of swag for the academics. They were to receive these prior to our plane departure from Newark International (we were all to meet there and travel together). This swag included laptop bags, pens, t-shirts, and itineraries. I had a dolly to tote them, but the boxes were heavy and awkward, made worse by my own luggage I had to manage. I took responsibility for these because my boss asked me to and I didn’t know any better. I do now. He’s taking them this year.
My itinerary was to grab a taxi to the train station, leave from Washington Union Station via Amtrak, arrive Newark International Airport, go through stringent security, meet boss (who arrived prior to me), and gather the sheep—I mean professors—to board the plane.
It all fell apart at the train.
I managed to gather all my cumbersome objects, navigate down the escalators, board the train and manage a path to a seat through the narrow aisles, bumping multitudes of passengers along the way. I sat and awaited the “choo choo!” and departure.
Ten minutes. Nothing. Fifteen minutes. Nothing. Twenty minutes, “Attention customers, there are some down power-lines in Baltimore, we are not sure how long we will be delayed….”
Each passing minute, my flight time was quickly approaching. I could either wait the train out and hope for the best, or find another way there.
When an announcement came that passengers could leave the train, I knew I had to find another plan. I ran, sans luggage, to the Avis checkout counter for a rental car. Most flights to and from Israel require that a person arrive 4 hours in advance, Newark was 3 hours away, I needed to haul ass.
I started to book a car but needed to grab my luggage first. I sprinted through the station, to the train, grabbed the plethora of items I was carting and sprinted back to the Avis checkout counter with less grace than an elephant slipping on a banana peel—and to my dismay, a massive line had formed. I started freaking out because the lady had my credit card and my information. I called my mom and was like, “Aaaaah! The train! Tel Aviv! Work! Car! Newark!”
Two nearby patrons heard me say “Newark.” They had already rented a car and were doing the same, skipping the train and hightailing it in a rental to the New Jersey airport. They offered me a ride.
Fortune smiled down. I cut in line, went up to the lady at the Avis desk, demanded my credit card and license back, and tagged along with my newest, best senior citizen friends. I quickly discovered their English was sub par, but they were on the same flight to Israel! The wife was Spanish and the husband Israeli. Oh, happy day!
It took us about twenty minutes to find the rental cars, me carting millions of pounds of awkward luggage and them trusting and following me like I knew where I was going. At this point, after asking countless people for directions and still not finding the car (curse you, Washington Union Station and your maze of parking garages!) I felt my new friends regretted my presence.
We found the lot—after twenty minutes. All our luggage barely fit in the compact car due to my boxes. We skidded out of the garage like we were in a police chase and I was nominated as the navigator. Me. The navigator. The combination of these two terms is rarely seen together.
*Thank god this was before AppleMaps hijacked my phone and I had the best version of GoogleMaps.
DC traffic is a bitch—both getting into the city and out. At all hours. Of all days. This day was no different. But when we were in the free and clear, damn, that Israeli man could drive!
I believe we sustained between 90 and 95 mph for most of the trip. Even when we started to edge onto New York City, we were going about that speed with some pretty sweet maneuvers. That man, combined with my following of GoogleMap directions, and avoiding getting caught for any speeding violations, equaled success.
When we saw airplanes flying low in the sky, we knew we were within miles. We cheered. Conversation wasn’t particularly stimulating, they taught me some words in Spanish and Hebrew, which I forgot faster than instantly, but we all had a common goal which bonded our comradery.
We returned the car without a full tank. Time was a-wasting!
My two best friends didn’t charge me one penny for the rental. After all, we couldn’t have done it without each other. Awww.
I met my boss in the check-in area. I felt like a hero. I think he was impressed. Well, I’ll pretend he was.
I haven’t seen or heard from my friends since last I de-boarded that flight. But I’ll surely never forget them—just their names—or the car ride of my life.
Oh yeah, by the way, we beat the train by an hour. 🙂