We only got to the airport 6 hours early.
Better early than late, of course, but I don’t think I’ve ever checked in and gone through security a full 6 hours early. Talk about having time to kill… I needed an arms dealer and a warehouse full of explosives to carry out the bloodbath necessary for this wait.
We got to our gate, 45B, and it was crowded with people waiting to board a flight ahead of ours. I pictured them safe on the ground at their final destinations, knee-deep in their vacations, before we would even board our plane.
We sat at the next gate over, adjacent to ours. There were plenty of seats. We figured we could just shift over to our actual gate sometime in the next few hours once it cleared out.
Within about 12 seconds we were ready to take a walk. Find a snack, some drinks… maybe some window shopping.
My 75-year-old Greek father-in-law stayed sitting at the gate. We surrounded him with our carryon luggage and set off to explore what Dulles Airport had to offer.
The Tequilery, a small bar that served Mexican food. Dan’s Tap Room, a restaurant/bar that looked to have basic American fare: burgers, grilled chicken salads. A kiosk selling countless items printed with USA and America! Even shot glasses, nail files, towels, and toilet paper with the White House logo printed on it. How ridiculous. Who would want that shit? Even if you gave it as a gift, would anyone really think you stayed at the White House? Seems to me that commercialized crap like that does as much to soil the alleged sanctity of the office of the presidency as anything Bill and Monica might have done after a late-night pizza.
On we walked, passed a magazine shop with a Starbucks in it, a small Borders bookstore, and your other basic airport/pseudo-mall offerings.
Outside, the rain continues to pour down for the fourth straight day. It seemed like it had been raining for weeks. Between the rain and the waiting to board a 9-hour flight, I felt like a giraffe or zebra waiting for Noah to give me the “All aboard!” onto his ark.
Got a slice of pizza, sat around, took a walk, sat around, went for drinks, sat around, took another walk, stood around cuz we just couldn’t sit anymore.
At some point, I went for drinks with my brother-in-law. He ordered a rum and coke, and I got a Jack Daniels and ginger ale. For the extra $2 we both upgraded to “doubles.” So our $8.50 drinks had almost as much liquor in them as what a regular single drink should. Pretty soon the father-in-law shows up. If there were 2 things he could sniff out in an international airport, it’s a bar and his sons.
He’s an Ouzo man of course, but most American bars, especially these small airport/mall joints, usually don’t have Ouzo. So in restaurants he usually gets beer. Budweiser is his brand. Not Bud Light, or Select Ice Draft or anything, just “Gimme one Budweiser,” he says.
But now, here, in the midst of a 6-hour wait… after driving 2 hours in the rain from our house to his son’s hotel… after sitting in the hotel restaurant/bar for a 2-hour lunch that featured 2 Budweisers for him and the worst service known to man… after all this, and an 9-hour flight ahead of us, Budweiser wasn’t gonna cut it.
“You have cognac?” he barks quickly in his accented English.
The waitress says, “Sure, Courvoisier or Hennesy?”
“It no matter, just make-a for double!”
We drank our drinks and watched Spain and France play World Cup soccer, tied 1-1, and tried to pretend to recognize tripping fouls and show mild excitement if/when the ball neared the same zip code as the goal.
The waitress came back around and asked dad if he wanted another drink. He declined and she gave the clichéd flirty-waitress smile and said, “Oh well, I tried…” After she walked away, dad commented that she had a beautiful smile. He’s 75 years old. Tired. Impatient. But he still knew when a cute waitress had a nice smile.
On our way out, he even went so far as to stop her and tell her how beautiful her eyes and smile were. When guys half his age or younger pull that shit it’s usually somewhere between sad and desperate, and not far from creepy. But when he did it, it was as cute as her smile.
Back at Gate 45B, we were still serving out our sentence as other inmates began to fill in the seats around us. Outside, the rain pounded the runways and the sky darkened.
Soon we’d be taking off and joining the rain, clouds, and darkness up in the sky. Obeying that little light that tells us when we could unhook our seatbelts… about 362 passengers and a large crew would crowd onto this big plane… this giant tube with engines and wings… and trust the physics and technology that most of us don’t understand and hope we can safely sail 50,000 feet above the ocean and cross the whole damn thing.
Next stop: Munich.