With the LVC over, and no hangover this morning, I woke up cheery. We all spent the morning packing, checking the drawers, the bathroom, under the bed, for lost socks, a misplaced book, Jennie’s visa paperwork (don’t wanna lose that), before heading downstairs to get some breakfast from Starbucks. I got a “cheese Danish”, which was actually a custard filled sweet pastry. What is it with America and sweet breakfasts? We were in no rush this morning. Jennie didn’t have to leave until about 10.30, and we had about an hour to kill.
We sat in the lobby, eating and nursing our coffee, and watching a procession of happy LVCers heading out to enjoy their day in California, or travels across the states. Eventually, we brought our bags downstairs and checked out. Daniel and I left our bags at the desk, to pick them up later. We didn’t have to leave the city until the afternoon. Jennie put hers in the back of Thomas’ car, and we all piled in. Tom dropped Daniel and I at Nutsinee’s place around the corner, where we planned our day, and then whisked Jennie away to the airport.
Nutsinee, Daniel and I decided that on this last day in LA, we had to try an In ‘n’ Out burger. We hopped on the metro over to Allen station, and walked around the corner to the burger place. The sun was out, the air was warm, and the city was quite quiet.Jenne had told us how to order. There’s some sort of unwritten menu that you have to order from. I got a “number one”, when asked onions, I answered “grilled”, and added “fries well done” (on Jenne’s suggestion. The food itself was very nice. Maybe the well done fries weren’t that good for me, but the burger was very nice. A very good show, California.
After hitting the burger place, it was pushing towards midday. Daniel and I had decided to take public transport back to the airport, partly for seeing the city, and partly for the cost difference (~$20 vs ~$70). This, however, meant leaving a little earlier, but neither of us minded. So from In ‘n’ Out, we returned to the hotel to gather our bags and head out into the city. Nustinee came with us as far as Union Station. From there, she went on to Thai town to pick up some snacks etc. Daniel and I caught the airport flyer bus from the station there. The bus took about 45 minutes, but Daniel’s very good company.
When we got to the airport, Daniel knew his terminal, but mine wasn’t printed, and my phone was in “just in case battery saver” mode, so I got off the bus with him, and went off in search off my own terminal. That, eventually, meant terminal 6, which thankfully wasn’t too far from terminal 2. LAX is a much smaller airport than I would have thought it to be.
I arrived to my gate with more than two hours to spare, and the long week was catching up with. I used the time to talk to my family back home, and to read some more of The Princess Bride. *Bing Bong* “Would passenger Brynley Pearlstone on Alaska Air flight AB-XYZ please come to the desk for a message.” I was half way into a very messy (and somewhat disappointing) burrito (I know, burgers, burritos, but that was the last food I would get until I got home at about 11.30 than night). Anyway, the point is that I had been mmoved into an emergency exit row, so that a family could sit together. And that was fine by me. Those rows get extra leg room. Bonus!
Fifteen minutes later, when it was time to board, I made a bee–line for my seat. Given the position half way down the plane, and the extra 2 feet of leg room, the area right in front of me was a perfect passing point for passengers and stewards who were trying to get to their bags, or to the toilet. After about five minutes of constant lap traffic (giggity), one of the stewardesses leaned in and said “Thanks for being so understanding, we’ll get you something!” and mimed a drink, with a wink.
Just before the flight left, I think right before the doors got locked,a stern looking olderr woman took the vacant seat next to me. When approached by the stewards, she flashed a card on a lanyard, and the stewards seemed to understand. I didn’t catch it just then, but she was obviously somebody important. Maybe an air marshal?
When the drinks trolley came around, the steward who had offered me a cocktail asked what she could get for me. Naturally, a G&T was on the cards. The gin came in one of those miniature bottles, which for no real reason, I decided to holds on to. It looked cute. The servings aren’t as small as you might think. It made for a very strong G&T. The whole flight up to Portland only took about two hours, and by the time I was done nursing my drink, one third of that was already done.
When the food cart came around, the woman next to me got first pick of sandwiches. I decided it was time to ask. “I saw you flash your card earlier, but I didn’t catch it, what is it that you do?” She is a commercial pilot, flying for UPS. That makes sense. She asked what I did, and I told her accordingly that I was an astrophysics grad student. I knew that our two fields had a crossover. I had heard about a telescope that had been mounted in a Boeing 747, so as to escape some of the effects of being on the Earth’s surface. “Oh, you mean SOFIA?” she replied. She had worked at the same institute where SOFIA was operated! It was a nice moment. We chatted some more for the remainder of the flight, but it was only a short hop.
I had about an hour at Portland airport, but it was too late to call home this time. I made straight to my gate, found a seat, and settled in with my laptop. Portland airport seemed very pleasant. The air wasn’t oppressively dry as it was in California or Richland, it was temperate, the greens and browns of the décor felt earthy. It made me want to visit Oregon state.
When it was finally time to board, I walked out to find another dinky prop plane. I think I kinda prefer it to the big jet engines. When a mother and baby sat next to me, I initially did the internal eye roll. Perfect. But after chatting to the very friendly mother, the girl behind us and the man in front, the baby seemed perfectly happy and even excited to be on the plane. She didn’t sleep at all for the 45 minutes that we were in the air, but she didn’t make a sound either.
Just prior to take off, after the aeroplane safety dance, the stewards announced that they had a complimentary local beer on this flight. It was, apparently, my lucky day! It was only a short flight, but in that time, I was offered a refill of my cup of beer. The mother next to me was good conversation, as we tried to work out what settlement constituted the lights that we passed over.
When we landed at Pasco at about 10:40pm, I knoew that everybody who I would normally ask for a lift, Darkhan, Vinny, Evan, Nutsinee, were all either still in LA, or visiting other places for the weekend. So I called a taxi, and rode home in the back. On arriving at the apartment, I didn’t even try to unpack, I just went straight to my room, put my phones on to charge, and lay in bed.
It was a quiet end to a very busy week. I knew that I’d have to come down from the social high of the conference at some time, as well as recuperate for some time. I knew that in the next week, Vinny would leave to Eugene, Darkhan would visit Kazakhstan, and would move in somewhere else when he returned. I knew that a week later, Hang would leave too. It felt as though very soon, Richland was going to be very quiet. For better or for worse. But thatt was to come. Right now, bed called.