Misadventures in the East
by michelle July 1, 2004 (remixed June 19, 2005)
Day 1 - Wednesday
Los Angeles, CA
3:30 AM: My hand, moving in well-conditioned response to the agonizing stimulus of my alarm clock, seeks out the snooze button.
3:40 AM: Again.
3:50 AM: And again.
4:00 AM: I rise in a panic. My husband and I are supposed to be at the airport at 5:00 AM for our 6:00 AM flight to Washington D.C. I am trying to move quickly but the time warp caused by the disruption of my circadian rhythm prevents me from completing my appointed tasks in a timely manner.
5:20 AM: The shuttle leaves the long-term parking area. A quick glance at our Expedia itinerary tells us that we need to get off at Terminal 7.
5:30 AM: Wait! The logo on the itinerary is US Airways, not United. US Airways is at Terminal 1. Why did it say Terminal 7? Why did we think we were on a United flight? Rising tension hurries us off the shuttle and into Terminal 1. We try several times but fail to check in via the self-service kiosk. The line for traditional check-in is frighteningly long and we wonder if there is a way we can cut in front of the bleary-eyed families and random others. A uniformed clerk is asking for those who have e-tickets. We do, we say, but self-service didnŐt work and our plane leaves at 6! Impossible, he says, the first US Airways flight is at 6:30. It says so right here on the itinerary, we counter. He looks. You are on United out of Terminal 7. It says so right there, in small letters beneath the US Airways logo.
5:35 AM: Bursting out of Terminal 1 we hail taxis. This is a no pick-up zone! Go downstairs! We try to get the parking shuttle driver to take us to where he is already going anyway. He shakes his finger at us. No, no, no. We rush the escalator. There are no taxis downstairs! Do you need to go to Terminal 7, too? A stranded comrade with her two children suggests we are better off walking. The five of us hurry over the shortcut across the looping road of the airport, feet moving fast but not quite running. When we are almost there, I take all the luggage on myself and tell my husband to run ahead.
5:42 AM: This flight is closed for check-in.
5:52 AM: We make our way to the gate for the later flight from LAX to Washington D.C.
4:04 PM: Hugs from aunts and grandpas greet us at passenger pick-up. I am eager to get into the air-conditioned van and out of the city-sauna. I am looking forward to seeing the home-in-progress I heard so much about. I anticipate the warm, comforting DC supper and an early bedtime before our road trip in the morning. The Aunty tour director asks if we are hungry. She has packed sandwiches for the eight-hour drive we are embarking upon right now. Not tomorrow. We might stop for dinner, she tells us, but we have sandwiches and drinks and fruit and nuts for the trip.
4:24 PM: My heart beats erratically, following the rhythm of the driverŐs careless careening as she shouts into the cell phone, oblivious to her terrorized passengers, irate fellow drivers, traffic laws and painted lines.
5:30 PM: I inquire about the promised sandwiches. Canned meat and cheese on artisan bread. One of these things is not like the others.
8:00 PM: We have how far to go? And we are stopping for dinner? Yes, there is the restaurant up ahead. It can't be that bad, I say not without irony, it has its own cows out back.
9:15 PM: On the road again. It is too dark to read and there is no radio. Semi-trucks rush past us as we lollygag toward our final destination.
1:30 AM: Grandpa and Aunty will share the king-size bed in the master bedroom, she tells me. My husband and I will share the other bed. His poor brother and the girlfriend, vegetarians, get pallets on the floor of the office in the apartment rented for us.
1:32 AM: The bed is miniature!
Day 2 - Thursday
11:22 AM: Are you two up yet?
11:45 AM: We are informed that we, along with the ten or fourteen assorted family members who also heeded the call to attend the impending nuptials, are first going to breakfast and then on a sightseeing tour of a waterfall. The itinerary was in your packets, the groom, my husband's father, tells us. We received no packet, but we receive now the news that every hour of this day is tightly planned, strictly regimented.
Noon: Where are the bride and groom? Back at the house; they aren't coming. Is there anything on the menu that doesn't have gravy on it, I ask?
5:00 PM: My husband, the vegetarians, and I stage a prison break and explore the downtown area. They have hippies in North Carolina! We stop at the organic bakery and admire the chocolate lava cake.
9:30 PM: I see a firefly for the first time in my life.
10:00 PM: The groom informs me that I am in charge of the music at the wedding tomorrow. Do I know how to work an iPod? I guess I can figure it out. Oh, and the wedding outfits for the boys to wear are in the apartment. I guess I can let them know.
10:30 PM: The brideŐs family head to the airport to pick up the late-arriving cousin from L.A. There is an airport in Asheville and you can get to it from Los Angeles? My glare pierces my husband with the intense rage that comes only from being married. He reads my thoughts and apologizes about the drive, the poor planning and logistics.
Day 3 - Friday
10:20 AM: The loitering Aunty veers onto the highway, rushing in our lateness. Will they start without us? How can they? I am in charge of the music and we have two of groomsmen with us, each wearing their matching, forest green polo shirts.
Lake Lure, NC
11:30 AM: Scots walk down the aisle to MP3 bagpipe music and are married by an Episcopalian from Panama who reads a Navajo prayer.
6:00 PM: Buckets! Cats and dogs! The rain cancels the boat tour. Once more we stage a prison break, this time taking the Marine with us as well.
8:00 PM: Hippies or not, this downtown bar serves beer
Day 4 - Saturday
8:30 AM: We leave on time for the day's planned activity: whitewater rafting just over the border in Tennessee.
9:00 AM: There it is, Exit 15. At least we remembered that much. We lament again the fact that the brochure is nowhere to be found, the little map clearly printed on the back. There are no signs at the offramp indicating the way to the rafting. The groom and the bride, they do not answer their cell phones. Aunty chooses a yonder and heads into it, despite the fact that the vegetarian miss is still writing down the directions, having reached the rafting company. The Aunty drives us into a cell phone dead zone before we get all of the directions.
9:20 AM: Where is the River View Baptist Church where we are supposed to turn right? We have been up and down this stretch three times now. We are supposed to be there in ten minutes! The groom returns our call. Did you cross over into Tennessee? No. This is the wrong Exit 15.
10:30 AM: One tour has left already; it had a few empty spots. The bus left twenty minutes ago for the put-in point. This one is leaving in a few minutes; it contains one empty spot and the rest of our party, relatives of the bride. We convince the Aunty to go without us.
10:40 AM: Rafting guy will drive us to the put-in point to see if we can meet the former tour before it leaves. He narrates our winding route with a history of the area, the trees, the river, the locals.
11:00 AM: We missed the tour.
11:30 AM: On the road again. At least I can add another state to my list of visited places.
2:00 PM: We wander downtown, this time to lunch in a recommended noodle house. The newlyweds join us and we spend an hour talking about potential honeymoon locations.
4:00 PM: Back at the apartment complex, my husband and his brothers mosey to the pool eager for filial reacquaintance. My husband also wants to spend some time with his nephew whom he rarely sees. I tell the newlyweds where we will be. They promise to touch base later to inform us of the evening plans.
7:00 PM: The complex is deserted. We are abandoned for mysterious evening plans unrevealed to us.
8:00 PM: Wine.
9:00 PM: Fuck this place and fuck these people. What the fuck is up with all these plans? It is like a goddamned summer camp. And we haven't spent more than an hour with anyone. What the fuck was the point of coming to this wedding anyway if we weren't ever going to have a chance to visit with family? My sister-and-law and I bond over gripes and complaints with the superiority of outsiders not bound by blood to this brood. She smokes on the balcony while I silently count fireflies and pour the Shiraz.
Day 5 - Sunday
6:00 AM: We have conspired to keep the Aunty out of the driverŐs seat. The keys have been hidden. The vegetarian brother skillfully maneuvers each of us into the proper seating locations in the van and we venture north to the nationŐs capital.
10:30 AM: In a gas station off of the 85, I encounter the second most disgusting bathroom I have ever seen. I use it.
10:40 AM: We continue on in silence; one vegetarian driving, the other napping, as is the grandfather. The Aunty is staring out the window as my husband and I read books; Koontz for him, Eugenides for me.
2:30 PM: With skillful driving and no extraneous stops, the return trip has taken three hours less than the initial one. Our goodbyes are said in the same spot as our hellos. My first trip to D.C. has shown me its highways and its airport.
4:10 PM: I board an earlier flight with a relieved farewell to my husband. He is waiting for a different plane, one that will take him to Canada for business. I am glad to be alone and quiet. I vow several things to myself; promises I will surely keep. I will never let my husband be in charge of making plans again. I will never rely upon my father-in-law to arrange the accommodations. I will insist upon knowing the activities planned. I will never ride passenger in a car driven by a Washingtonienne. I will buy an iPod.
Los Angeles, CA
7:12 PM: I look out over my city as it speeds beneath me: the low green hills and taller brown mountains, the squared blocks and snaking freeways, the blue ocean and the brown air. Fuck the East. I'm home now.