Back in Northern Ireland again. How does time zoom by so quickly?
This time I traveled a different route with United Airlines...from Portland to Chicago, and from there to Dublin. It was about half the price of flying into Belfast, and I am heartily sick of the interminable 6-8 hour layovers on my usual route through New York.
Very much in its favor was the 1130 flight to Chicago instead of 0730 into Newark. With a 3 hour layover I had plenty of time to change terminals in O’Hare for the Dublin flight.
Or so I thought!
The inbound flight was delayed half an hour, but we got underway fairly quickly, so with just over two hours layover I was reassured that I had oodles of time. By the time they brought the meal cart around I was more than ready for lunch, and picked out the only gluten free dish for sale on the menu: Chinese chicken salad. The attendant said they didn’t have it, and as nothing else was to be had, I fished out one of the protein nut bars I carry in my purse and made do with that.
When we landed in O’Hare, the pilot informed us we had to stay in a holding pattern until a gate could open up for us. Other passengers had connecting flights too, and some had already missed them. The pilot requested that those with connections be allowed to deplane first, but the passengers completely ignored it. I let a girl go in front of me, who might have made her flight if the rest of the passengers ahead hadn’t been so damn selfish.
My luggage had gone directly to Dublin, so I only had a small cabin case that I wheeled behind me at a fair lick as I emerged into Terminal 1. Following signs that led to the train that bore me to Terminal 5, I made it there, where I had to go through security again. I presented my boarding pass and passport, only to be refused entry by a very young, swarthy officer.
“That’s just a ticket to here…Chicago,” he informed me in a tone that indicated he thought I was an imbecile. “You’re already here.”
“Yes, I know that.” I tried not to sound impatient. “United says I’m booked through to Dublin, but they couldn’t issue seats as the international flight is with Aer Lingus.”
He raised his voice and enunciated. “You’re in O’Hare, Chicago.”
Gritting teeth. “I’m aware of that.”
“Other way.” He waved emphatically towards the outside doors. “Get a taxi.”
“To Ireland?” I couldn’t keep the sarcasm dripping from my tone.
He frowned. Comprehension at last. “Ireland?”
I spoke clearly and slowly as though he were the imbecile. “Ireland...Dublin...flying Aer Lingus.”
He gestured round the corner to the check-in desks. “Aer Lingus is over there.”
I gave up. “Thank you.” Glancing at my phone I saw I had about an hour before the flight left, so didn’t panic.
There was only one passenger up at the desk, so I waited my turn. An American couple, aged about 70ish, wandered toward the desk. The lady gripped a printed form in hand, while her husband paddled behind with multiple bags. They stepped in front of me and went to the desk as the previous passenger left.
That invisibility spell from A Celtic Yearbook must be working again.
The couple began a long, drawn out complaint about the fact that they didn’t have seats together. I rolled my eyes and tried not to stress that I might not make the connecting flight, or that I'd been ignored.
Finally a new clerk appeared. “Have you been helped?” she asked in a pretty Irish lilted brogue.
“No, not yet,” I answered gratefully, my accent suddenly becoming more Irish than it had been in a while.
She quickly got me sorted in my requested aisle seat and I was on my way.
Mr. Security saw me coming. I held up my pass. He lunged forward to study it intently. “Ireland,” he announced to no one in particular, and waved me through to a secondary security station.
I pulled my passport from the folder with all my travel documents, and promptly dropped it all. “Shit!” I hissed, drawing inquisitive glances. I was getting flustered. The man behind me sighed impatiently as I fumbled to gather it all up, and I felt like telling him to shut up. I took a breath, refocused and got through security and onto the shoe-removing, pocket-emptying, laptop-and-toiletries-in-trays part.
At the last second before stepping into the Backscatter X-ray I remembered I’d tucked a tissue into my bra in case my allergies played up. Whipping it out I showed it to the TSA agent.
“Hold it in your hand,” he told me, and I stood with it aloft like a white flag of surrender.
Through at last and on to the gate.
I boarded the flight, found my seat, and as the plane was still filling up, sneaked into the head to run cold water over my wrists and generally try to cool down. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more filthy airplane washroom. The floor possibly might never have been vacuumed since the plane was built.
Business taken care of, I opened the door in the midst of a line of people in the aisle, threading their way to their seats.
“Hello gorgeous, and how are you, this evening?” asked a tall, very good-looking gentleman. Irish accent, face slightly flushed from the effects of some tasty alcoholic beverage.
“I’m great thanks." I couldn't help myself. "But I fell asleep in there," I added. "Where are we?”
He boggled, and then burst into laughter. He and his mates teased me until I got back to my seat. Lots of flirty fun.
The flight was comfortingly uneventful, except that they didn’t have any gluten free meals either, despite me pre-ordering one. Ravenous, I just took one of the available meals and picked out what I could.
Presenting my American passport to the Irish immigration officer was fun. He saw my birthplace as Belfast on the landing card and announced, “You can stay as long as you like!”
Then he queried me about my job as an author, and asked me what I was working on now. Without thinking, I answered, “A screenplay-to-book adaptation about the…” I hesitated. He raised his eyebrows, waiting. “…set in the Troubles in Northern Ireland,” I finished with a laugh, holding my passport over my flushed face.
“Well, you’d know more about that than me,” he stated with a grin. “So, are you on holiday here, or what?”
“I’m here to finish the book, and to visit my Dad. I’m not certain if that exactly comes under the heading of holiday or not.”
“Away wi’ ye,” he said with a wink, and waved me through.
Tomorrow...off to Belfast for some book research! Been so long since I was in the Europa Hotel or Crown Bar that I need to go and experience the...ambience again for myself. (No, really!)
Walking with Dad on Murlough Bay, with the Mourne Mountains in the distance.