US Tour 2003
Larry had the upper hand this morning, we'd argued earlier
in the week about getting up early but today it was essential that we
did so there was no discussion on the matter. Up at 5 and out by 6 and
so began a day of moving and waiting. Travelling has a reality and experience
of time all of it's own.
6:20 am 81 degrees F
It's the ladders that impressed me
Larry dropped me off at the airport, we've had a good two
weeks of forming, storming and norming. As he drove off I mouthed the
words "thank you" to him, but as with most airport good-byes
they are distracted by the practicalities of slotting in to the system.
Exactly at the kerb side where Larry had pulled up was the check in desk
for domestic flights, so I handed over my ruck sack - always with a fear
that it'll be the last time I ever see it - and asked to be taken to my
gate by wheelchair. Within a moment I was whisked away by a woman who
was new to the job and this was only her second day. If she hadn't told
me I'd of guessed because within about a hundred yards she started to
get out of breath. It's funny what a lack of oxygen can do to one's perception.
I knew something was wrong when she started going on about how many airplanes
there were out of the window. "Wow look at all those planes! I've
never seen so many. My God there's just so many, have you seen so many
planes before?" ..... "We're in an airport" I said, artly
to reassure her and partly all the other people walking close by. I wanted
it to be quite clear that the one with the mental problem was not me.
I was a bit tempted to play along. "Air planes, I love air planes,
yeoooooooooowwwwwwwww" Then laugh in an excited and loud manner.
But she was only trying to cope with a lack of oxygen. This theory was
further reinforced when she said after about 3 minutes of pushing that
we'd already covered a mile. "That's amazing" I said.
Once we got to our gate I had 2 hours before our plane was
due to leave. I tried to read but I was distracted. You see, as Oscar
Wilde once said, "I can resist anything except temptation",
and I love watching people.
A sign had come up saying that 4 volunteers were needed.
I was a bit worried that this may be alluding to cabin crew or worse the
pilots, but it was actually asking for people to give up their place on
the plane because they'd over booked. In return, those who gave up their
place would get a 1st class flight in the late afternoon and would be
given an unrestricted flight voucher worth $300. Within a short while
the young man next to me was on his mobile phone. "Hello sarge, it's
private *****. My flights been canceled and I can't get back until 1 am
tomorrow. Yeah they've overbooked the plane and there's no room for me."
Meanwhile over the tannoy there's an appeal for further "volunteers".
After he got off the phone I asked him if he thought his "sarge"
heard the tannoy and he felt he hadn't. So much for vigilance.
View from the plane. In the desert water dispersion dictates the shape
of fields not land availability.
Well I thought it was interesting
Today things ran to plan. I got to Atlanta, found the
Greyhound bus office, booked my ticket and waited. While in the office
I got talking to a couple of women who were catching the same bus. Well
it was their kids who introduced us. "Hey what happened to your arms?"
little Doug asked. I explained, his mother apologised and I said it was
ok and then the conversation turned to other things. This family was travelling
to the same place as me.
This was a family feeling the repercussions of the war.
It's easy to forget the sense of abandonment that is a force's family's
lot, but for me it permeated every moment of being with them. The boy
in the orange T-shirt below seemed to take a shine to me, showing me his
toys, talking about his dad, showing off a coin/medal his dad had given
him. His mum and I also seemed to click, she had obviously spent those
long nights alone reading and taking in the world and had plenty to say
too. How people look at me and wonder at how I manage was how I looked
at her. For me the idea of coping with 3 kids by myself with hardly any
regular emotional support scared me. The other woman in the picture also
had a husband in Iraq, and he had had enough and wanted out, much to her
There's a camaraderie in travelling with people. Even
if I'm driving on the motorway at night and someone drives near me for
while they'll often wave or flash their lights as they or I start to exit.
And so it was, with Doug and his family, that we became travelling companions
for tonight. Doug sat near me on the bus and chatted, eventually I told
him I had to sleep. He said he'd try to sleep too, so I closed my eyes
and drifted off. When I woke up I carefully looked down to see if he was
asleep. There to greet me was his face looking up at mine, he smiled,
said "hi Simon", put his arm around me and gave me a hug. When
he let go I thanked him. I was torn between a feeling of worrying what
people mght think and a part of me that felt for the little mite. I had
not known my father as a child and recognised his yearning.
As the journey drove us further South the night came down
upon us. We passed through towns which seemed to be mainly made up of
churches and chappels. A woman in a seat a few rows ahead of us started
loudly preaching to another man.
The woman (shown above, reaching for the light), started to get a bit
frenzied, that was until the driver turned to her and said "Lady
enough!" to which she said "Well I guess this is your bus so
I'd better do what you say. Amen praise the Lord!"
A couple of the the other passengers repeated "Praise
the Lord", so I said "Praise the driver"
As we drove further and further in to the Bible Belt the
air grew thick with religion, so thick that it became hard to think.
At one point the driver got pulled up by the police for speeding.
Police man: "We just got you comin down that road at 72 miles per
Driver: "Well I just let it roll down that hill"
Police man: "so you just let it roll down the hill?"
Driver: "Guess I did. I know it was a bit fast"
Police man: "It's a 60 miles per hour limit here"
Driver "I realise that but I didn't think I was going 72 miles per
Police man: "Well I'm gonna let you off this time but watch yourself
Driver: "Thank you officer"
Police man: "O.K. Take care"
The driver drives off slowly while mumbling "fuck off" under
You see it's the same scenario whatever part of the world
The religious woman says "You were lucky, God blessed
you just then"
The driver turns around with that "And you can fuck off too"
look on his face while saying "sure".
After 5 1/2 hours of driving with only a couple of short
breaks along the way we arrive at Savannah.
Here we have to wait an hour for a bus that'll take us to Hinesville.
There's something about bus station waiting areas, they are communal but
often a bit threatening too.
This one had a few local people getting angry over a suspect deal that
wasn't going well,
while at the same time the ticket office clerk kept coming out from
the information booth to buy sweets from a machine for the kids.
I didn't think that getting my fancy cameras out would be a good idea
so instead I tried using my phone camera. On the news was a report of
a woman who'd been raped and had managed to photograph the rapist and
his car registration with her phone camera. The rapist was arrested within
hours of his attack.
When we got to Hinesville, Amalia, my half neice, was
waiting at the bus stop for me. We could see each other and waved as the
bus pulled up. I got out and we hugged each other. I told her I wanted
to say goodbye to my travelling companions. I gave them all a little cuddle
goodbye and to Doug I said "I'll always remember you, I might not
remember your name but I'll always remember you."
We said goodbye and went our ways.
Amalia and her partner Jim drove me to their place. It
was late, so after a quick drink and a short chat it was time to sleep.
Tomorrow I shall tell you Amalia's story.