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A short day’s journey into night

July 5th, 2009

We are in Antwerp. Daughter and Boyfriend fed us breakfast — bacon, eggs, juice, and croissants with soft cheese. It was our second morning, and our second breakfast, of the day.

It started with a dear coworker, Emily, taking us to McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas at 6:30 a.m. Saturday. Eleven hours of air travel later, plus a stop at Dulles, we were touching down in Brussels, 7:20 a.m. Sunday, Belgium time, 10:20 p.m. July 4th based on our Las Vegas clock.

Even before the start of our flight, Jeanne got into the shopping mood, finding an open gift store that had just the pendant she had been looking for, a charm of a Bichon.

Loading was delayed because the Airbus 320 had been cooking in the morning desert sun like some Dutch oven prior to our loading as its first trip of the day. The back of the plane was a sauna.

One of the flight attendants joined her colleagues at the front of the plane while the final passengers were taking their seats, and I could easily overhear her complaining: “I’m dripping sweat! I’ve already poured three cups of water out of the bag of ice and it’s only going to get worse. We got three extra bags of ice put on board but we’ll be lucky to end up with half of it.

“And the pilots? They’re up there with their own air conditioning. We shouldn’t be taking this! They shouldn’t have loaded the plane until we said it was cool enough. It’s still too hot back there!  And the pilots, they’re going to want some cold drinks? Oh, I think they can forget that!”

One of the flight attendants didn’t seem to be doing much work. I asked another attendant what was up. “He’s not feeling well,” he said. “The plane was real hot when we got in, and it got to him.”

As soon as the flight was in the air, one of the attendants sat down in a passenger seat and pointed two air funnels at his head.

The plane slowly cooled and the flight was uneventful.

At Dulles I happened across a duty-free shop. Bingo! Two bottles of Scotch and one of Drambuie. I’d be set for our vacation, and then some.  Jeanne thought it was appropriate, each of us scoring before we even got to Europe. “My pooch and your hooch,” she said.

We transferred to a Boeing 777. Among the passengers were dozens of retirees — including a handful of Las Vegans — headed  to Antwerp for a 16-day riverboat cruise. It sounded like fun, if a bit tame. Maybe in three weeks we would wish for tame.

We never experienced complete nightfall.  To the north, the horizon remained a ribbon of soft red, from sunset until sunrise.

Neither Jeanne nor I could sleep. I was mesmerized by the video screen’s display of flight data: flying at 37,000 feet, 560 mph, outside temperature 59 degrees Fahrenheit below zero.

We’re not in Vegas any more.

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