You will notice that this post will not be accompanied by original photography. More on that later.
I embarked upon my return to my native land last Thursday morning at 0900 when I set foot onto the Chicken Bus and set forth towards Guatemala City. I had been coached on the finer points of bus travel in the City: keep your bag close, pay attention, and don’t sit too close to the driver. With all of these things in mind, I left the comfortable safety of Maribel’s watchful eye and began a one hour bus ride that looked something like this. Without noteworthy incident I was deposited outside of the main shopping center where I hailed a cab, and we engaged in the formalities of discussing the fare. It went something like this:
Me: How much does it cost to go to the airport from here?
Guat Cabbie: Q60.
Me: Clearly, sir, you are debauched. It’s not worth half that.
Guat Cabbie: Ok, ok, Q45.
Me: I apologize for the state of my Spanish, perhaps you did not understand that I refuse to pay more than Q30.
Guat Cabbie. Ok, sorry, Q40.
At this point I began to walk to the next cab, which incited my Guat Cabbie friend to capitulate.
After a brief cab ride to the airport I checked in with relative ease (carry-on only) and proceeded towards the security checkpoint. Upon arriving I was informed that I had not yet paid my security tax and was redirected to the currency exchange where I was relieved of 20 Quetzales so that I may be more effectively degraded and inconvenienced in the name of air safety.
With that out of the way, however, I was pleasantly surprised by the cleanliness, quiet, and free WiFi in the GUA terminal, and began to mentally prepare for my reintroduction to American life. Travelling in this 3rd world country had, up to this point, been very hurried and chaotic, but without incident and generally not an unpleasant experience. It wasn’t until I began to fly domestically within the United States that the quality of my travel experience declined.
I should mention now, that I hate flying. Perhaps I should have read Ryan’s account of how to enjoyably fly on a budget before leaving, but I did not. I think that it is degrading, uncomfortable, expensive, and it brings me into intolerably close proximity with a demographic with which I generally decline to embrace, that is, the American public, especially those flying to or from Houston, TX. I have an uncanny knack for sharing a row with the most loquacious and obese customer on the flight; such that the age old “Arm Rest Cold War” is frequently rendered moot by my neighbor’s corpulence crossing that plastic Rubicon into the seat for which I paid. This said, I will continue my epic.
Upon boarding my flight from Huston to Denver my legally sized and carefully packed carry-on was snatched from my hands by a stewardess who informed my that there was no longer any room on the plane for carry-on luggage. I refrained from asking her if this development may have been a direct result of her employer inducing exorbitant checked bag fees and quietly removed my laptop and book from my pack with an acquiescent smile. I asked her if my bag would be available upon disembarking the plane, and she replied that it would be available in baggage claim in Denver. My final destination was Wichita, KS. I related this issue to her and she made the appropriate changes by writing “Wichita” on the tag and sending it below the plane. I decided that I would probably never see that bag again.
My middle seat on this flight was flanked by a very nice old Guatemalan lady, and a young American man living for the time being in Antigua. Neither of them had the slightest respect for the ancient law of “if I’m wearing headphones it means I don’t want to talk to you,” clearly detailed in Hammurabi’s Code. I answered a question to the old lady that I work with a Canadian (not my choice), which induced a 35 minute soliloquy of every story that she could relate having to do with Canadians, Canada, or quizzically, Geoffrey Rush. The young man went so far as to invite me to dine with him in the concourse, and incessantly tapped my foot with his. The affronts to my dignity continued on the next flight when I was wedged between a man large enough to necessitate re-stowing the hold of our 737 and an individual without the wherewithal to appreciate that it is entirely unacceptable for a grown man to play video games in public.
Upon my ultimate arrival in Wichita, I was surprised to find that my mis-checked bag did arrive, and to my chagrin had apparently been run over with a plane. The bag was ravaged, as well as several of it’s contents, appropriately, only the expensive ones. The bag, coat, camera, and cell phone which fell victim to a force powerful enough to crush my toothbrush into six pieces totaled several hundred dollars in damage.
In the end, I was made partially whole by my airline of choice, as they were forthcoming with an admission of fault and check for very nearly the cost of replacement. I will, however, continue to drive whenever feasible, and frequently when it’s not.