After 4 days sailing over 300 miles without my boat's autopilot, I arrived in Miami drenched, drained and dragging. Quite possibly the 5 hours of sleep over the last two days of the voyage had left both me and my Mystique battered, rattled and bedrangled. So I decided to scrap my original plan to drive 1600 miles from Florida to Maine after my solo sail. Both of us were too beaten up for a long car drive. So in changing my transportation from boat to auto to plane, my proposed 6-flight from Miami to Portland, ME instead turned into 27 hours of detour, delay and delight.
After 50+ days communing with Nature's nature living on my boat in the Bahamas, any kind of travel off the sea was going to feel odd. So rather than jumping in my car and racing northward, I gave myself more time to recuperate and prepare for air travel. I had been alone on a boat for close to 2 months and I thought human diversity would challenge my serenity.
However while traveling to Scotty's memorial service in Maine, I reminded myself to travel light by taking little with me, staying light-hearted and being light in whatever life had in store for me. Not unlike the sea, I let the sea of humanity wash over me and move me to my destination. I reminded myself to be light by staying present, by suspending human judgments, luxuriating in the journey and not being attached to any outcomes. This was the personal practice I needed to see if I had indeed changed my perspective from the assault before my voyage.
Here are some moments and observations from these 27 hours traveling from my boat in Miami, Florida to Charoltte, NC to Wasington, DC to Brunswick, Maine.
- I'm grabbing a bean burrito and sipping a lemonade at Taco Bell near the security checkpoint at the Miami airport when a blond boy, maybe 4 years old, says to his mother he has to go to the bathroom. For some reason, the mother seems inconvenienced and impatient, and scoldingly tells the boy, "You had your opportunity. If you can't hold it, I'm going to put a diaper back on you." The boy seems totally perplexed, shrugs his shoulders and raises his arms in the air as the mother walks away from her baffled boy.
- During my flight delay I sit next to a young black musician who is playing his guitar without any sound. Hearing the music in his head or improvising, he practices in silence for close to an hour. When he leaves, an Hispanic mother and her 21 year old daughter sit down beside me. The daughter is on her cell phone for close to an hour with her girlfriend. Cussing in English and Spanish almost every sentence criticizing her boyfriends' behaviors. Her mother says nothing about her daughter's foul language and, in fact, joins in on the conversation. Finally the mother and daughter fall asleep against each other in their seats next to me. I might have moved if there had been any seats available.
- After waiting 4 hours for the delayed flight from Miami to Charlotte and listening to the American Airline Latino service attendant request over the loudspeaker: "Passengers needing to make alternative flight connection, proceed to the service desk." It appears as if I have missed my connection to Portland. I ask for information regarding my flight situation. The attendant, a black man probably not older than 30, explains that I have indeed missed my connecting flight. I ask him why my name was not called. He tells me because there were no other flights to Portland so I could not be rerouted. I asked him why those customers who had missed their connections were not informed. He said the system automatically addresses those with possible alternative flights first. So, I asked him why those of us who could not be rerouted were not so informed. I thought that would have been the courteous and considerate gesture. He looked at me as if I had asked him how I can catch the next flight to the moon.
- As I sit 30,000 feet above southeastern Florida, a sun-glassed, dark-hatted, dark-attired, incognito woman sits to my left on the aisle seat. The seat between us is unoccupied. As I make a phone call to cancel my hotel reservation because of my flight delay, I ask her, "Would you by any chance have a pen or pencil I could borrow?....She hands me a pen without uttering a word.
- Almost zen-like, the white female service attendant seemed oblivious to the chaos: an alarm sounded, a screaming child wailed, music playing, people yelling as I asked her for assistance for an overnight accommodation. Within minutes, she had helped me. I asked her how she stayed so focused. "It's so easy, " she said." She then asks me to stand aside so she can calmly assist the next customer - the woman who had to tell her frustration story again.
- While I'm in line for the customer service desk, just behind me is a 30ish, black woman traveling alone complaining out loud as if she's speaking out loud to an imaginary someone next to her about the horrendous and "frustrating" day she has had traveling. She can not help repeating and emphasizing her hellish experiences. Then I realized she apparently had some microphone hidden in her hair. Because she repeated her woes, I wasn't sure if she she was relaying her travails to one person multiple times or 3 separate monologues or trying to tell everyone in earshot at least within a 20-foot radius around her. And I then heard her tale once again at the customer service desk as I waited for my hotel info to arrive.
- While I'm in line at the customer service desk, a Pakistani (?) father scolds his 2-year old daughter and demands she behave and quiet down as he dangles her by her right arm as if raising a squirming monkey from its cage. She screams more as he lowers her and then straps her into her stroller. Watching her husband's frustrations passively from the opposite wall of the airport corridor, the girl's mother dutifully watches over her young son.
- While waiting for a shuttle bus, I hear a black, middle-age woman in a wheel chair next to me exclaim "I do not trust anyone." Impatient that she had waited close to 20 minutes, she stood up from her chair as if to urge the shuttle's arrival. Her attendant urges her to sit down, but she refuses. The van arrives within 5 minutes.
- The only van with Ramada Inn clearly printed on the side pulls to the curb within an hour after I had called for a pickup. The driver, a grey-haired black man probably in his sixties, announces he is here to pickup Clarion guests, and somehow seems insistent that he wants Clarion customers. He asks if I called. "Yes, I say over an hour ago." He reacts as if he questions the time. I show him the voucher with Ramada's phone number. The other three people also say they are going to Ramada. As if he denies our destination, he explains how Clarion is part of the hotel. Then he starts to repeat the explanation because he seems to think we did not understand him. More volume would somehow help our hearing. Many in the van interrupt him to explain we had heard him and that his repeated explanation is no concern to us.
- The wheelchair woman who now seems suddenly quite ambulatory takes a seat next to me in the shuttle. We speak briefly, then 30 minutes later we encounter each other at the Ramada Inn dining room bar counter where I am ordering a BLT around 9:15 PM. She says she has had a long day, flying from her home in Montego Bay, Jamaica to Pittsburgh to Charlotte. She then decides it is too late to eat and leaves.
- I'm now onboard my 3rd and final flight - a shuttle flight from DC to Portland, Maine and noticed a young woman in front of me in row 14 B who has just opened a thin worn, paperback novel entitled Memoirs of My Melancholy Whores. She then turns the book and glances at the back jacket cover to read the book's review. Her left hand plays with her hair and she then turns back a page and rereads. This masterpiece is the 2006 Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature by Gabriel García Márquez.
- While awaiting on the tarmac for an incoming plane to land, I can see the Potomac River at the edge of the runway and the Washington Monument standing prominently to the plane's left. The woman to my right is reading Enslaved by Ducks a story which tells how in ten short years Bob went from living a blissful, pet-free existence to becoming the harried caretaker of ducks, geese, turkeys, parrots, parakeets and rabbits. He never realized that he was an animal person until he inadvertently became one. Interesting!
I arrived in Portland at 12:32 on Friday in plenty of time for - Harold Scott's sea burial near Bailey's Island, Maine