As I waved good bye about a thousand times to my parents, and grandmother who also accompanied me to the airport, I didn’t feel nervous. Here I was, about to fly the coop, to go 5000 miles away from the only place I ever made roots in. Every few moments the line would move forward, and after every few steps I was able to take, I would turn and wave good bye again. At some point, I was standing at least 50 ft away from where my family was standing and where my carry on was being checked. I could see their faces, and of course their waving hands, and I would wave back completely oblivious to what the TSA agent was doing or saying to me.
“This can’t go with you on the plane.”
Said the agent, rudely interrupting my desperate wave to my folks, she held a sun block spray in her hands.
The TSA wants me to get a sunburn. Those bastards.
“Can you give it back to my parents, please?”
Little things like that were bitter sweet, on the one hand they were annoying moments of things going not as planned at the very start of a long and difficult journey until I arrive back in NY again, but on the other hand, these kinds of things delayed my leaving by a few moments more. A few moments to look around, at my family, and at myself from the inside and out in the context of my own familiar city.
Yes, I was nervous. But, I was lucky enough to not realize it at the time. Its the kind of nervous feeling you have that stays in the background of your thoughts, inside I felt more of a subtle adrenaline rush than anything else. I say subtle because I couldn’t have been aware of it anymore than of my nervousness.
This rush of adrenaline kept me energetic and moving, and allowed me to go through two 6 hour flights and a 5 hour wait in London without even noticing that I’d left home. The flight to London was amusing, I heard so many accents I always wanted to imitate but never had the advantage of actually hearing in person. There was a Welsh accent, a Scottish accent, and of course the sophisticated London accent. I didn’t learn how to do any of them, but I did learn that I would never want to date a woman with a deep Scottish accent.
The passenger next to me was a middle aged English man, and everyone on the plane had a “stick to your own business” attitude. There was 0 conversation. I heard relatively little discussion, other than an argument one Englishman had with a religious Jewish couple with a baby, I don’t know what about. The flight was a big contrast from my flight to Israel from London.
But before I could get on my second flight I had to kill time with a long nap, some snacks, and time admiring the famous London fog. I’d read about it in books, seen it in movies based on those books, and now I was breathing it as I walked outside the airport. Eventually, came time to board my flight, but first:
“Have you gone through the procedure?” asked the late 20s early 30s EL AL Security lady…
I figured, “well this is going to be a piece of cake”. Given the reasons for my flight, I’m the least suspicious character you could ask for. But El Al security felt otherwise. Three rounds of interrogations from three different agents later, I was sitting in a room with only three walls, without shoes on, and an EL AL agent was slowly and thoroughly taking all the items out of my carry on and inspecting them. She wasn’t even looking in my general direction, just to see if I’m acting fidgety about what she is doing. They were really going through all my things.
In time, another man and a gal would join me. I hoped I could spin this into a conversation with the gal later. And the plan actually might have worked when she came out of the room some time after me, and sat down next to me in the waiting area, but alas there was no English on her part and I hadn’t switched to Hebrew yet. It was an important moment for me, because its one that would repeat itself a lot in Israel.
On the plane, I sat next to two people, an Israeli man in his late 20s to mid 30s and his mother who probably didn’t speak a word of English so she kept silent. From the beginning, the man introduced himself to me and wanted to know a little about me. I fell asleep on the run way, only to wake up to find we were still on the run way and the Israeli man volunteered to tell me “We’ve been here an hour.” He wasn’t complaining, he was just informing me as to my surroundings. Nice guy.
When we reached Israel, I finally had a second chance to see the country from the sky. I chose my seat wisely when I booked the flight, the left side of the plane is the side you get to see the country from. I learned this the hard way on my birthright flight. The Israeli friend I’d made left me his contact info, and we parted ways after picking up our luggage. The reason I mention him is because there was a warmth about him that I have been noticing in many interactions I’ve had with Israelis. Whether I am at a Superpharm (big pharmacy chain here) or a bar or a grocery store, there is a warm atmosphere between people. Of course, jerks and cheats exist everywhere, watch out for them.
Oh and about my luggage. If you are the type to put locks on your luggage, don’t bother. When I got mine back, all the locks were gone, or still on but broken open. And the knife I brought with me from NY, to help with cutting tasks in the army, was gone. I guess “they” found it. Some lucky serial killer, who works for airport security, must be having a fun time with it.
Finally, I was outside the Israeli airport and got picked up by my distant relatives with whom I would stay for two months (until my draft date). They have two bedrooms, and when I lay down on my new bed at 4am Israel time, I had only one thought “WTF HAVE I DONE, I was just home and in my own bed, and now my life is way different.”
Lets hope different is good.