written Saturday 3 July 2004
The move. I'll suppose you think I can't do the move.
Packing your stuff is Not Pretty. Pictured is my NL apartment--the entire apartment.
First rule of moving: before the movers arrive, separate everything you don't want them to touch, put it in a place where they won't even go. This is upstairs. I didn't tell them there was an upstairs. Experience teaches: if they see it, they might pack it.
The dining room table where I wrote most of Downwind of Amsterdam.
The packing went well enough: most things going to storage until my Illinois apartment is ready, other things going by air to meet me in the hotel room after a week or so. A few things go with me on the plane--all of which have to fit in a suitcase, small box, and laptop case.
On my last day of work, after everything is packed, my colleagues make me a going-away gift. Something, you know, small, easy to take on a plane.
I love them, they are nice--and really big and heavy. I go looking for a bigger box for the plane, but a Belgian comrade takes pity on me and offers to ship them to my new US office. Also saves me adding them to what I'm carrying by hand all the way to the train station. Bless her.
I close the office down. I will miss the view, and the large window that actually opens, and the fiercely demented shriek of the scholekster on the next roof.
Now, I've already turned the car back in, and it's not raining too hard, so I open my umbrella and walk out. I can't help strolling through the bike stalls, but Wim must have driven today, instead. I walk roughly diagonally across Bussum, to dinner and then the train station. Much of my last walk through my home town is along footpaths between houses.
It's Friday evening. Saturday morning I fly. Things happen quickly now. I make notes for this blog over a delightful dinner at Archibald Schimmelpinck's, then I stroll toward the train station and give directions to a driver who stops to ask, I take the stoptrein to the next station, where my hotel sits. I want to take a last stroll through the heather and woods across Fransekampweg, but there's no time. I drop asleep.
Nine hours later I lug my stuff out into the rain, to Bussum Zuid station, and haul my things piecewise across the overpass. I wait for my train.
It rolls up and stops. There's no time to look up to the Dutch sky for the last time. I rush my things aboard--even harder than the bicycle was. The doors close, I stack my things out of the way.
At Schiphol, KLM have lost their minds. They completely changed their check-in system, but not only have they failed to put signs up telling anyone what to do, they have not even trained their own people. They all stand around looking at each other, and the passengers are trying to extract boarding passes from machines that don't work, then they go to the counter but get no boarding pass or understandable answers, either. They list two sets of rules on baggage weight, but the attendant at the entrance doesn't know which one applies to me. She tells me I can check the box at the counter, but the counter help insists she was wrong: I must check the box in at a different counter across the airport.
Then there are about 500-600 people waiting to get through 6 passport-control desks. It takes an hour. I have enough time before my 10:40 flight, but when the third obese American passenger pleads with me "I have a 10:00 flight, can I cut in front of you?" I simply respond, "Would you just get your fat ass out of bed earlier, next time?" All the Americans are shocked; the Dutch passengers nod--one applauds.
This the jet we are all waiting for. It is named the "City of Orlando", which makes me break into laughter. Isn't Orlando where this blog started?
The flight is long, but there are tricks to make it endurable. I wear ear plugs. I bring reading material. I try to watch the movie (groan). I catch a few winks. I simply sit and endure, reminding myself that this is better than, say, listening to Pam (an ex-coworker) whine, or hitting my thumb repeatedly with a ball-peen hammer, or seeing one more picture of Paris Hilton (or of her skeleton, whichever it is they're showing).
My first US meal. A chicken burrito and--keeping my promise to Larry--a large Coke.
And on to the hotel, my home for the next 5-6 weeks. And yes, this is the same hotel from which we packed my stuff last May.
The room could be worse. Pictured is the hotel-room desk from which I type this right now.
This international travel thing is really survivable with a little practice. When you're schlepping luggage and boxes, or fighting with idiot KLMers (I repeat myself), or answering really stupid US Customs questions, or phoning to wake up the rental-car bus drivers, it seems like you'll never get there. And then you find yourself alone in the hotel room, stuff stacked on the floor. It's quiet: all that rush is somewhere else.
I have two more posts planned, and then we'll be done here. To all of you who have written: thanks for the kind words.
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