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June 20, 2002
Back in the U.S. of A. (Russell)

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Dulles Airport, 8:00 PM local time (1:00 AM body time)

In a scheduling quirk that symbolized our change of countries, our first flight on June 19th from Dublin to London was on a British carrier (British Midlands), while our second flight from London to Washington DC was on an American carrier (United Airlines).

The United flight, scheduled to depart at 4:30 PM, was delayed for almost an hour. At the last minute, a man across from us was asked to get off of the plane with all of his carry-on luggage. His entire seat was searched, as well as all of the seats around his. Several minutes later he was allowed back onto the plane again. We never did find out what happened, but it is obvious that we are getting closer to the American way of travel post-9/11.

Joss' child meal started out strangely similar to another man's low-cal vegetarian meal -- with an appetizer plate of asparagus (we figure that someone messed up) -- but his main course was chicken nuggets, baked beans, and "smiley" potatoes, so it worked out all right. Midway through the eight-hour flight Joss fell asleep, but Cameron stayed awake watching television. (Joss also awoke screaming in the middle of beverage service -- he had had a nightmare.) According to our bodies, it was well past midnight when we arrived, although by the clock we landed at Dulles Airport at 7:30 PM.

(An interesting piece of trivia: as we recounted recently, the trans-Atlantic immigrant ships of the 1840s were required by law to have a 6' by 18" space for each passenger. An Economy Class seat on a modern airline has a width of 17-3/4". So when you fly Coach, you actually have less space than your ancestors did when they immigrated to America on a famine ship. Another reason that we're happy we spent the extra money for Business Class.)

Upon arrival, we were herded as usual through Passport Control, baggage claim, and Customs (no Immigration this time!). For some reason, whenever we're in a foreign country the "residents" queue is always shorter than the "non-residents" queue. Here it was the other way around. We are doomed always to be in the longest line. The officer was very friendly; when he heard we had traveled around the world for a year he stopped to chat with us before passing us through. We were the last folks out of baggage claim, because one of our hard suitcases was nowhere to be found. We had to wait until all of the luggage had come through, then we were about to file a "missing bag" report when we saw it sitting off on the side in a cart -- apparently someone else had plucked it off and left it there. (The zipper had popped open -- probably because it was stuffed so full -- but nothing was missing.) On our way through Customs, when the officer heard we had traveled around the world for a year he stopped to chat with us before passing us through.

We weren't sure whether a taxi would fit all of us and our luggage, so we opted for a "SuperShuttle" Blue Van shared minibus. Everyone on board was genuinely friendly. The driver had retired after 38 years at McDonald's, but as he put it, "My daughter wants to go to law school, and there's no other way to pay for it." Our other passenger was a Virginian woman who had just returned from Ireland and a visit to her daughter. They were both very conversive, and offered us advice on seeing Washington DC (we have no tourbook).

We are staying about nine blocks west of the White House at the Washington Suites, just next to Georgetown University in Foggy Bottom. When we finally arrived and checked in, we discovered a one-bedroom suite with a sofabed in the living room and a full kitchen -- David, our travel agent, had found a perfect accommodation once again. Even better, we found a huge fruit basket from Russell's brother and sister: "Welcome back to the United States."

Looking at the clock, it was 10:30 PM -- 3:30 AM according to our bodies. As we were settling in, Joss threw up. We were back in the U.S. of A.

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"Welcome back to the United States!"


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