Tag Archives: Air Travel

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This is a series of posts about Belize and Guatemala that starts here.

I was on the plane ready to take off for my big wilderness adventure.

After the gate agents’ repeated threats, no one’s carry on was taken away to the hold.  I settled into my seat with the New York Times crossword puzzle, relieved to be seated next to an elderly couple who were reading paper books.  Hurrah!  No screens in my face or endless cha-Cha-cha-Cha of someone’s music leaking out of their ear buds.

I had grabbed a couple extra newspapers at work and kept out a Sunday edition, which I expected to absorb my attention all the way to Belize City.  In case you aren’t a crossword geek, the NYT puzzles get harder as the week progresses. Saturday is the hardest, but Sunday is super sized and also very difficult.  I had been pretty pleased with myself when I’d managed to finish it the previous Sunday.

Oh. No.  I somehow now had last week’s puzzle—the one I’d already solved. I must have picked up a duplicate version at work by mistake.

“Ooh, Sunday,” commented the man next to me.  I didn’t tell him I’d already solved it.  I filled it in at lighting speed and I could feel him looking over surreptitiously; probably thinking I was a genius.  Well, let someone think that, for once, I thought.

Done with the crossword in 15 minutes.  Two hours to kill with nothing to read but the in-flight magazine, which featured a story about John Legend. I had heard of him, and I didn’t even know why because I couldn’t name any of his songs.

I glanced across the aisle and the man sitting one row ahead of me was readying pie charts for a presentation of … a merger? … of two companies called Dermocell and Norodaq.  Undoubtedly they make pharmaceuticals for problems I don’t know I have yet.  His wife and kids were sitting next to and across the aisle from him and kept interrupting him to ask him questions.  I wondered where they were going—it was too early for spring break.  Maybe he was taking them along on a business trip that happened to be taking place in Orlando.  He seemed utterly uninterested in anything but his pie charts.

The flight attendants came by to offer snacks and drinks.  I could hear the closest one six rows away, “Coffee, tea, soft drinks?  Pretzels, nuts, yogurt balls?”

Yogurt balls?  They had said something during the announcements about “exciting new snacks.” These must be them—I started to feel excited.  Yogurt balls sounded intriguing.  She progressed excruciatingly slowly down the aisle, repeating her snack and drink mantra.

Finally, I got to request my usual Diet Coke and … yogurt balls.  She looked at me funny but handed it over. It was just a yogurt bar!  Then I heard her answering another passenger’s question after she’d moved on, and realized she had an eastern European accent which rendered “bars” as “balls.”

Still, yogurt bars made a nice change from nuts and pretzels.  Nature Box was the brand.  I looked at the ingredient list, which took up most of the wrapper.

Rolled Oats, Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Greek Yogurt Flavored Coating (sugar, palm kernel oil, nonfat dry milk, Greek yogurt powder [nonfat milk solids, cultures, lactic acid, natural flavor], lactic acid, soy lecithin, natural flavor), Rice Crisps (rice flour, rice bran, raisin juice concentrate, honey, salt), Chicory Root Fiber, Organic Cane Sugar, Almonds, Glycerin, Sunflower Seeds, Apples, High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Cinnamon, Natural Flavor, Sea Salt.

For Christ’s sake!  Six sweeteners?

Anne, you will not be a purist.  You are on vacation, I told myself.

It was delicious.

Sun! Heat!  We walked down the wobbly stairs from the plane, crossed the tarmac, and joined the long immigration line.  Fortunately there was reading material to keep us occupied, in the form of warnings about Zika and Chikungunya.

At the glass booth, the usual serious-faced border agent asked, “What’s the address of your hotel?”

“I’m with a tour,” I said. “The leader has the address.”

“No entry without an address,” she huffed, and turned to the next person.

Carry On and Keep Calm

This is a series of posts about Belize and Guatemala that starts here.

We would be moving around a lot on this trip, so I was determined to take only a carry on.  This was a good call because if I had brought my regular bag I would have been trying to cram it into the back of a van with the 10 carry ons of my fellow travelers, and I would have lost the unspoken competition for who could travel with the least stuff.

Checking the baggage restrictions, I was remembered that the free checked bag on international flights doesn’t always mean “international.”  I went to Canada a few years ago and they wanted $50 to check my bag.

“But this is an international flight,” I protested.

“No,” said the smiling ticket agent.  “Canada isn’t international.”

I think Canada might have something to say about that, but I had no choice but to fork over my credit card. I have to give Delta credit for clarifying things.  Instead of using the term “International,” they now list the fees by regions—checking a bag to Central America would be $25 each way.

I hadn’t traveled with only a carry on for years, so standing in the security line I suddenly had a start—I had been so focused on packing the right rain and sun gear that I’d forgotten about the limit on liquids and gels. Crap!  As we inched forward I took out my cosmetics bag and triaged the confiscatable items.  Obviously, toothpaste, then the wrinkle-reducing miracle face cream, then sunscreen were priorities. I could jettison the bug spray, shampoo, and five other gels and liquids I was carrying if forced, but I quickly distributed things among my carry on, purse, and vest pockets, thinking maybe they wouldn’t figure out they were all from one person.

I went through, no problem.  Should I feel good or scared about that?  I choose good.

The Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport used to be the headquarters of Northwest Orient Airlines, which became Northwest, which became Delta, which moved to Atlanta where labor is cheaper.  It’s still a hub, but now we have this sprawling infrastructure without the cash flow to support it.  When people describe an ostentatious new house as, “cold and cavernous like an airport hangar,” that is not a compliment. MSP is pretty much like that—gigantic, soulless, with moving walkways that go forever, off-white walls that need new paint with billboards that proclaim, “America’s Leading Source for B to B Online Storage Solutions, in White Bear Lake, Minnesota!”

The main terminal used to be named Lindbergh, and the charter terminal was called the Humphrey.  The names were changed a few years ago to the scintillating, “One” and “Two.”  Charles Lindbergh was an anti-Semite who thought Hitler was on to something, but he was also the first person to make a solo flight across the Atlantic, which was a big deal in 1927.  Hubert Humphrey fought anti-Semitism as Minneapolis mayor in the 40s, and became Vice President under Lyndon Johnson.  Parents used to have to explain who Lindbergh and Humphrey were, which provided a little civics or history lesson while waiting at the airport. One and Two don’t pique any curious questions, but I guess they’re very, very clear.

There is Gate G, where the international flights depart.  They must have gotten a grant to redo it. It’s stuffed with shops and bars and there’re sparkly tile and mirrors and colored lights.  And of course the ubiquitous iPads at every seat—because for about five minutes five years ago, that was the state of the art thing to do—force people to order lousy food on them instead of from a real person.

There, I’ve had my say about MSP.  My opinion was reinforced when I connected through Atlanta.  What a beautiful airport.  I had to walk from one end to the other.  Some people might complain about that, but I am always glad for an opportunity to get my blood pumping.  There were all sorts of artworks and tributes to historical figures on the walls—none of which I read but I like to know it’s there.