Last time on 3.5 Weeks
Our intrepid adventurers had seen a space ship and gone to the beach in San Diego and were off to the airport after only a few hours sleep...
San Diego to Dublin - 26 May 2010 through 27 May 2010
The thing I left out of last time was that the result of the phone call to United Airlines was that servalan" and I couldn't sit together, that we should have called long before. I couldn't select United seats from the Aer Lingus website, and I couldn't log in to the United website with my Aer Lingus travel info; I kept assuming that it was a timing thing, so I waited until later... until I ran out of later. On this call he gave us together seating for our return flight, but put us a couple of rows apart on the first leg (to Chicago).
San Diego airport was pretty uneventful. I got a breakfast sandwich and coffee for "wow, it's early" (in order to get to the airport by 6:50am (8:50am flight) we had to leave at right about 6am, because we wanted to leave time padding for dropping off the car at Enterprise) breakfast, and she got... um, something similar from a different location.
до свидания, товарищ (do svidán[i]ja, comrade) aka San Diego to Chicago
On the flight from San Diego to Chicago (where we weren't sitting together) the half-row in front of me and the half-row to my left were made up of Russian professors who had been at a conference in San Diego (the full details of which I learned around the time we were landing). I had noticed the person across the aisle from me speaking (what I had assumed, correctly, to be) Russian, and so when the flight attendant was telling him to fasten his seatbelt at takeoff and he wasn't responding I knew that it was him not understanding English. She sort of angrily reached down and latched it for him. His eventual tact was to just shake his head no at her whenever she looked like she was asking him a question. When she would get to the person in the window (bilingual) he would have taken off his headphones, said something (like "hot tea") and then the first guy would repeat it. This, of course, annoyed the flight attendant even more.
I had sympathy for the guy, and so when I was having some of the beef jerky (that angel_grrl had given me as a present when dropping us off at Sea-Tac) I offered him some with the universal gesture of offering (he declined). When I was putting in headphones to listen to the in-flight entertainment and it wasn't working he looked at me and said "music? (pause) broke" (they enabled the audio a few minutes later). Upon landing I pulled out my phone and went to translate.google.com to convert something "I'm sorry the flight attendant was rude to you and not very patient with someone who doesn't speak English" into Russian. Not wanting to attempt to pronounce anything written in Cyrillic, I simply handed over the phone. He looked confused until he saw the message. Then we had a few rounds of "say something while miming", with occasional help from the bilingual. He pulled out a 10 Ruble note and gave it to me as a present ("Present. Russian Money.") and I was feeling a bit awkward (what sort of equivalent present do I give back? Or is that just "thank you for trying to help make this flight suck less?")... but having given me a present he seemed satisfied to just sit back with a smile and take a break from conversing. (I took the opportunity to look up Russian for "thank you" (spasíbo), which I had planned on just using when we got off the plane, but instead ... )
After a short break (we were on the ground for a while, and since we were the back row we kept this up for most of disembarkation), he decided to explain his visit by pulling out the conference program guide, finding the page with his anglicized name on it, and handing it to me while pointing (all I remember is he's an Associate Professor of Economics). He asked something like "why San Diego?" and I pointed to my wedding band and said "to get married". He responded in Russian in a questioning tone (I presume "married?") and I shrugged, pointed again and said "married" (yes, I know it wasn't the smartest of moves, but I didn't have anything else at hand). He turned to the bilingual, asked a question (with the same word I didn't understand), and then the bilingual asked me "you just got married?". Upon affirmation of this, my Russian friend started digging through is pockets while talking to the bilingual. I got the summary of "He's looking for a coin to give you as a wish of happiness and wealth in your marriage", and, of course, a coin. It was 5 more Rubles. I thanked him again, and since we were now about to be able to leave, I whipped out good-bye (do svidán[i]ja) and found my wife in the terminal. Later, when we were situated for our flight to Dublin I thought to look up the exchange rate on my phone. 15 Russian Rubles (post-reform) is less than 0.5 US Dollars (right now it's about 47 cents). I felt better, that he gave me 30 cents for making him smile :)
Fasten your seatbelts aka Chicago to Dublin
Inside Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) we were hungry (it was 3pm local time (12pm from our originating timezone), and we weren't taking off until 6:15pm local), and instead of eating in the terminal we arrived in we decided to get into the international area and then eat. Okay, so we leave the secure zone to get on a tram to take us to the international terminal. Clearly we have to go back through security now, which is a bit of a pain... but even more so is that it seems there's not really any food past the security checkpoint in the international terminal. So instead of any of the real(ish) restaurants in the domestic area we have our choice of fast-foodish restaurants outside the security gate. We had agreed that what we wanted was a good Chicago-style pizza while in Chicago, but as a compromise we had cheapish (quality) personal deep dish. Without really thinking about it I had gotten a Diet Coke for the caffeine boost, and then I realized I had to finish it before going back through security (or to just throw it away). She wanted to go into the duty-free store for some browsing anyways, so I just finished my cola beverage while wondering why anyone would really want to buy a Bulgari watch when my Citizen watch is so much better, and much cheaper.
We got lucky, actually... the extremely long line had completely vanished by the time we finished lunch+browsing, so we walked right on through to do another 2 hours or so of waiting. Rather than parking at the gate, we decided to walk around the terminal... which we found out was only about half in use. Instead of going and crowding it out in the middle of the occupied area we grabbed some floor space in the unused half and I fought off sleep (though had an alarm prepared, just in case) while relaxing on the ground (it's around here that I actually looked up the Ruble to USD conversion rate). Two uniformed members of Chicago PD started walking toward us at some point, and as we were the only ones in that half of the terminal I actually thought it was -toward us-, but they had also apparently decided that spending time in the unoccupied half was better.
About 20 minutes before boarding was set to start we wandered over, mainly to check that our gate hadn't changed and we got to be in the crowd of people for "if you haven't yet checked in at the desk for Aer Lingus flight [whatever], please do so now" to get our customs cards. And then a few more trips back to the desk to ask for clarifying questions on the cards :) Filling out those cards is when we first learned that addresses in Dublin are a bit weird (from an American perspective). The legal address for our hotel was "Morrison Hotel, Lower Ormond Quay, Dublin 1, Dublin Co.". No wonder the Royal Mail in the UK gets letters addressed to "Steve near the baker", they don't seem to believe in addresses.
The equipment itself for the international flight was nice. The seating arrangement was 2-4-2 and we were on the left-two. I spent a while playing a game that was a bit like Solar Jetman while servalan showed her mastery of Hangman. I think that the seatbelt sign was being turned off for 2 or 3 minutes at a time every 15 minutes, followed by another "the captain has turned on the fasten seatbelts sign in response to reports of turbulence ahead". When the seatbelts sign came off for more than 3 minutes we went to the back of the plane to stand for a bit, and we got kicked out maybe 10 minutes later because the rear was "a work area", we had to go to the center crossover. No worries, though, because the pilot flipped the fasten seatbelts sign back on and we sat down.
The seatbelt sign stayed on through drink service and dinner, though there had yet to be any of the turbulence they had warned us about. I was reasonably pleased with my food, my spouse less so. But that's okay, she gave me her cheesecake and I gave her my roll (and she picked at her chicken dish, while I ate the entirety of my beef dish).
The captain still didn't show any sign of turning it off, so I flipped through the movie catalog and decided to watch The Men Who Stare at Goats. The plane had the annoying dual-mono headphones jack (but my Quiet Comfort 2s came with an adapter for that), but that meant splitting audio wasn't easy and so we could watch the movie "together" we then spent 10ish minutes making it through 2 minutes of film by trying to coordinate the video. I finally found a use for an XBL party, and sure enough I couldn't use it. In the end I think I did a pretty good job, given the delays in processing time. Anyways, the movie was kind of meh, making the coordination effort less satisfying in the end.
I floated between Hangman, the Solar Jetman-like game and reading for a bit while they kept doing the schizophrenic transitions of the fasten seatbelt sign, and eventually decided to do what practically everyone else was doing: sleep. And just as I was about to nod off they turned the fasten seatbelt sign back on, and did the PA announcement that I had come to hate so badly. Feeling sort of loopy I decided nothing too serious, and started Planet 51 from the kids movies section (it was very cookie-cutter, but not bad). The light level in the plane started changing, and I opened my window to find dawn over the Atlantic Ocean", eventually followed by a breakfast sandwich on a croissant (far less impressive than dinner). servalan started 2012 and barely finished it before landing because they kept coming on the PA (which paused the movie) to talk about stuff we didn't care about. Meanwhile, I was enjoying the flight status screen, which kept telling us things like that we had yet to move.
We landed at Dublin at 8am BMT after waking up at 6am PDT (from 3 hours of sleep), a difference of 18 hours (during which I didn't sleep). So when we landed I was ready for bed, at the start of a brand new day. Oh, joy.
While the missus was wranging up some euros by playing the ATM game I wandered over and asked the information desk if, perhaps, our hotel had shuttle service (it did not). A cab was going to run something like 35 euro, I think. But we decided that since we were going to be staying in Dublin for a few days, maybe we should buy a bus pass. We saw the sign, then asked for "two of the 25 euro bus passes" and the lady was confused. She asked where we saw that price, because people kept asking for that price, even though it was 26 euros. She came and watched the sign scroll back to that page, said something like "whaddya know?", and charged us 26 euros anyways. Since we never used the bus we should have just paid 7 euro per person for the airport to city centre fair, but that was something we learned on this trip :).
A nice, friendly person told us what bus route we wanted to take, where to get off, and pointed things out to us on a map. Here's where we learned that in Dublin street names last for about 2 blocks, which is why you can just be "Morrison Hotel, Lower Ormond Quay", it's a pretty reasonable identifier. So we got off at the right stop (yay!) and wandered down the street with our suitcases in tow trying to find the hotel. We passed something that looked like it might, possibly, have been a hotel, but it didn't have any good signage so we kept walking. The road changed names, so we went back to the maybe-building. Tried to open the door, it was locked. Tried to open another set of front doors... locked. As I'm looking at the doors willing them to open someone walks up on the inside, points toward the side of the building, and starts walking back that way.
To be continued...