Monday, Sept 20th, 2010. 7:31pm, JFK International Airport, New York, NY.
This has been a surprisingly productive, fast-paced, successful day to top off a most nightmarish week from deepest, darkest rings of hell.
This morning I woke up in my cozy Towson apartment at 9am to wait for a call from my private Visa expediter, Amin, in New York City. After 7 days of a desperate game of Cat and Somebody-Get-Me-The-Freaking-Mouse-On-The-Phone, I ended up having to pay an EXORBITANT amount of extra money to RE-apply for my International Student Visa, unsuccessfully drive to NY & back to BEG for their help last Thursday, only to then hand everything off to Amin to have it processed in a very hasty and pissed-off manor. As we were blatantly told by The Gatekeeper of the British Consulate General’s Office, the Visa processing staff just does not give a shit about you unless you follow their every direction (many of which they completely fail to give you, and even seem to HIDE out of spite), or pay someone else a shit ton to do it for you. At 10:30am today, Amin called to say he finally had my Visa in his hands. I assured him I would catch the next Amtrak and meet him there on my way to JFK.
...I almost caught the next Amtrak. Missed it by about 3 minutes, but ended up making $33 of my original ticket price back for the swap in times. Said an unfortunately panicked and rushed goodbye to Adri so her car would not be towed from the unloading zone, and so I wouldn’t miss my second train. Probably better that way, as neither of us had time to blubber and slobber and weep all over each other about how terribly sad we’ll be to not see each other until Christmas. She is my verybestfriend. Thank goodness for Skype. Made my way onto the train, and called my bank & creditors to alert them that my forthcoming international charges would most likely not be fraudulent and that I am actually going to the UK this time. For real. ....Seriously.
I hadn’t originally planned on flying solo, as I was supposed to be in the UK a week ago with my family to tour Ireland before I needed to move onto campus. My family actually went without me. (I told them to. No sense in canceling FOUR plane tickets and hotel reservations when three can still have a perfectly delightful Irish vacation.) Besides the anguish of knowing I missed out on drinking in Temple Bar with my little brother, and showing my mom the most photogenic spots, and watching my dad do his Anal Retentive Family Vacation Mode bit, it hadn’t dawned on me how incredibly fucking impossible it was going to be for me to carry a year’s worth of luggage around by myself. So of course, as I exit the train at Penn Station, minding the gap, pulling a suitcase on top of a suitcase, with a duffel bag, backpack and ukulele strapped to my back, I make it triumphantly to the escalator and exhale as it- *click click FWOMP*. Stops. Dies, with about a million steps left to go. I think I laughed quietly, deliriously. You can’t make this shit up, kids. This is how my WHOLE week has gone. Thankfully, the kind man behind me picked up the back of my suitcases and helped me have a heart attack the rest of the climb up.
A Red Cap luggage helper man flagged down a delightfully chatty cabby named Amer, who was happy to take me on my little adventure to the FedEx building where my passport awaited me. Amin met us out front, placed the golden ticket in my hand, apologized for all the trouble (of which he held no fault, but still, understood how excruciating the whole process had been for me) and Amer and I were off to JFK.
It started to feel real. That stupid little sticker with a terrible mug shot of my face had stressed about 5 years off my life expectancy, and now I had it in my hand, and it was finally happening. We drove through Queens, past a telephone line with old school Sega Genesis controllers thrown over them, as though to claim that hood for the most gangsta of gamers. (1994 REPRESENT.) We also passed a large, beautiful cemetery completely COVERED in broken trees from the bizarre tornado that ripped through New York last week. I struggled to recognize whether it was the cemetery where my grandfather is buried, but it was impossible to tell under all the leafy carnage. I hope someone cleans it up soon. I wish my grandfather was still around for me to call and say farewell to before I board my plane. I made sure to call both my grandmothers.
Around 6:00pm I wobbled into JFK with my Mountain O’Crap on Wheels and checked in. An employee by the ticket kiosk asked me what my instrument was, and I told him it was a ukulele. “Do you play it, or is it just for show?” he asked. I told him that I actually played it, to which he verbally patted me on the back with an “atta girl”, and I smiled, trying to figure out why on Earth someone would carry around an instrument for show. Especially while dragging around another 500lbs of their worldly belongings. ....For show.
My new favorite baggage check lady in the whole wide world took pity on my Exhausted Face, and Penniless Student Status and only charged me for 2 of my 3 bags, saving me a whopping $140. Bless her. Bless her right in the face. Security was an alarmingly seamless experience. I didn’t even get the full-body glaucoma test like I did last time I was in an airport...just rolled right on through with my totally rule-abiding carry-ons. Since then, I’ve located my gate, perused the duty free shop, smeared some exotic lotion samples on my weary hands, and re-hydrated. I may need to re-re-hydrate soon. It’s been a long day. I haven’t been able to connect to any of the “free” wi-fi networks in the airport here, so I’m going to have to wait until I get in the air and hope for better luck on the plane. I really do love flying. I’ve just spotted an “Xpress Spa” to my right that boasts “Massages & Manicures”, so I might go have a peek in there. Y’know....just to kill time.
But seriously, guys..........it’s happening. I’m going to grad school. I’m going to live in Cardiff, Wales, in the unbearably charming UK for an entire year, completely submerged in theater, art & music, and I’m going to come out of it with a Masters Degree. As soon as I land, make my way through Customs, and step onto British soil, I may finally allow myself to be insanely excited about this.
...I may collapse first....but when I regain consciousness, OH BOY, JUST YOU WAIT.
Love, peace, fish & chips,
(Ps. Special super extra awesome shout-outs to Steve & Adri, who were my own personal superheroes & verymuchneeded moral support this week. Also Lesley, for cooking me delicious food, twice.
Newer bloggery coming soon.)