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(excerpt 1)


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(excerpt)


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This is kind of a long excerpt. And it ends before the actual plane trip begins. But I thought it holds together well so I didn't want to trim it. That's the cool thing (ok, the dangerous thing) about being my own editor.

Ennui In England

(Excerpt )

It's Monday night, March 1st, and my vacation officially begins in one hour. That's when my friend John and I will pick Denise up at the Philadelphia Airport. She's coming from Florida to see the Liberty Bell, attend a going away party and eat some Indian food. Then we're flying off to London.

In two days, she and I are going on a two-week trip to Great Britain with our other friend, Mark (who lives in Georgia). We'll be renting a station wagon then driving all over England, Scotland and Wales.

But for now the plan is to just get to the airport, pick up Denise and have dinner. And this is when John reveals his little scheme to me. He says, "You know, a couple years ago, when I was traveling with my ex's mother, she couldn't walk very well so we put her in a wheelchair and you know what? They drove us in a big cart around the airports and wheeled us right through customs. There were no lines at the handicapped counter. We never stood in a single line. They ushered our whole party right through."

This interests me. John continues, "You should call Virgin and have them arrange a wheelchair for you."

Immediately I recognize the value of John's friendship. The idea of sitting wanly in a wheelchair and breezing through the customs line is very attractive to me. I want to wear the dark glasses and the scarf around my head. I want people to look at me whizzing by on a cart which goes "beep beep beep" and have them wonder what could possibly have happened to bring me to such a situation.

I thank John for this useful bit of information as we park the car to go meet Denise at her gate.

It's a busy airport and we had plenty of interesting people to watch. One couple entertained us simply by walking down the corridor holding hands while they each used their free hand to speak on their cell phones. John hoped that they were chatting to each other.

Denise arrives looking lovely in a new green skirt and sweater top, dark glasses and long, curly hair. We hug and kiss. She meets John with whom she had chatted on-line and we all set off to retrieve her bags from the baggage claim.

Denise is not a light traveler. And I'm not surprised by this. I've known her for twenty years and we've traveled together on long trips and short trips. Never has she been one to pack reasonably. In the preceding weeks we've argued at least four times on the telephone over whether or not she needed to bring her Water Pick. Because I envisioned that I would wind up becoming the Chief Carrier of her bags, I told her adamantly that she was not allowed pack it. She argued that she just couldn't get her teeth cleaned without it since she now has braces.

"No." "Yes." "No." "Yes." "No." "Yes."

It was a fun argument, certainly, but over the weeks it had grown tiresome. And I was very happy when she finally told me, two days before coming to Philadelphia, that I had talked her out of bringing it.

But she tells us now that she still has managed to require three bags for her travels.

"Three?"

"Yes."

"You can't have three bags. We have to pack three people's luggage in a tiny British 'station wagon'. How are we gonna do that? Two bags per person. I thought we agreed to a maximum of two?"

"I didn't agree to anything. And I had to bring my soup."

Not wanting to make too much of a scene in front of John, I dropped the subject and we proceeded to the baggage claim.

It was I who retrieved her huge, green suitcase from the conveyor belt without killing the adjacent children. Let's try to picture this huge, green suitcase, shall we? Imagine, oh, say... a house. Paint it green. Fill it with underwear and soup. And sit it on a baggage conveyor belt. It's a lot like that.

Her second bag was a pink and purple duffel bag. It's acceptable for a two-week trip but as it contained, among other things, a blow dryer and a water heater, it certainly wasn't demure.

Finally, there is the tiny black wheeled one. It is cute, though too small to be practical, and holds maybe a camera. And some soup.

It is a joyous occasion when I see that the huge, green suitcase has wheels and a handle. My eyes well up with tears of gratitude and I almost want to THANK Denise for her kindness in buying it.

After we load everything into John's car, we head into the city and our goal is the vegetarian Indian buffet called "Samosa" on Walnut Street. John recommended it as a likely place to entertain Denise. He was right. Since she eats a vegan diet now, Indian food is always a safe and tasty bet.

It is on our drive there and at the restaurant where John and I reveal to her our plan of using a wheelchair to get us through the airports quickly. She and I will be a party of three people once Mark joins us for our adventure and certainly any little scheme we can think of to be cunning and deceitful will make for a good story when all is said and done.

So Denise heartily approves of the idea and the more we talk about it, the more it seems like it would be better if she were the invalid and not I. After all SOMEbody strong needs to carry all these bags. And, besides, she has the cool sunglasses.

The three of us have a delicious meal at Samosa. It's one of those where two old friends embarrass each other by telling stories to the newer friend about the older friend which are meant to be "entertaining" and "silly". But they more often than not lead to threatening looks across the table and kicking underneath it.

The next day, Tuesday, the plan is to show Denise the Liberty Bell and my office, have lunch with Ray and JoAnn, check Mark into his hotel with Denise's Very Useful Holiday Inn Discount, and then have people over for a self-thrown-going-away party. Then we fly away the next afternoon.

Since Denise said she was curious to see where I work, we showed her around the I-site headquarters and introduced her to our resident Brit, Ian. He greeted us happily and spoke to me about work a bit more than I wanted to hear on my day off.

Back home that evening before the party, Denise made us some falafel for dinner and as we ate we talked some more about our "cunning and deceitful" scheme for the airport. We thought it would add extra authenticity if we wrapped a blanket around her legs (maybe a nice plaid one) as she rode in her wheelchair. I told her that if anybody asked me what was wrong with the lady in the wheelchair, I would look at them sadly and reply, "She has ennui."