Saturday, 18 June 2011

Sleepy In Seattle (Airport)

It's almost 5pm when we touch down in Seattle. Or, as my British-synched body clock keeps trying to tell me, almost 1am.

US immigration is blessedly quick for once, with a really friendly guy on the desk, and then I'm left in the airport with over three hours until my next flight. I confuse the staff by wanting to go to flight connections without collecting any luggage, have my carry-on case tested with some kind of mass spectrometer (anyone know what that's all about??) and head upstairs into the terminal building to find a map.

It turns out that I have to take three trains to get from my arrival terminal to the one I need for Portland. I think that's a personal record for connecting flights, although it's quicker than the time I had to take a coach between Gatwick and Heathrow.

If you've never been, let me tell you, Seattle airport is really gloomy with low ceilings and not enough light. When I arrive, it's also almost deserted. I contemplate the coffee shop (Starbucks, of course) but I had three coffees (not to mention a few glasses of wine) on the flight from London. In the end I settle on a seat right by the gate, where at least there's a panoramic window giving enough light to read.

A little silver propellor plane just outside is also on its way to Portland, boarding now. I ask the lady on the desk whether it will be the same plane on the way back, and she says it will. We get chatting about where I come from, and she tells me about her visit to see her cousin in England, which passes a few minutes in pleasant conversation.

Then she closes her flight, wanders off to do something else, and I settle back into my book.

I read a couple more chapters before I'm disturbed a little later by grunting noises from the other side of the gate. I look up... and then down. A man's arm spreads across the ground, twitching a little. That's all I can see of him past the desk. More noises, more twitches. By this point my heart is pounding and I'm praying that I can remember all my first aid. Is he having an epileptic fit or a heart attack? Will I be able to tell the difference?

I get to my feet and walk around the desk. He's kind of curled up on the floor, one leg out, and the one arm I'd seen thrown out to the side.

"Excuse me," I say, not hopeful of a response. "Are you okay?"

He looks up, surprised. "Yeah, I'm just stretching. Thanks for checking."

I'm so relieved I almost forget to be embarrassed. No first aid required. I don't have to come to the rescue, or call for help on the gate microphone.

"Sorry to disturb you," I say, backing off, back to my seat. "I could only see your arm."

He laughs at that, and goes back to his exercise. I pick up my Kindle and check the time. The little plane should be back any minute.


Kim @ Stuff could... said...

Wow you are in the USA! I hope Seattle is ok....

JDaniel4's Mom said...

What a long trip! I hope you have many books on your Kindle.

Stephanie V said...

You had a friendly customs guy? Didn't know that was allowed.

You are amazingly close to Vancouver. No, wait! You're going in the wrong direction. Have a great time in Portland.

Jenny Woolf said...

There's something a little bit wacky about Seattle though on the whole I have found it as drab and gloomy as the airport, never been there when it is sunny!

A Cuban In London said...

That's some long and strenouos trip you're talking about here. Wow.

Thanks for your kind comment on my latest post. You're right, or, should I say half right. Because 'innit' was originally the contraction for "ain't it" which was the shorter form of "isn't it". However, according to what I've been told and what I've read, "innit" stopped applying just to "isn't it" and became the shorter version of "hasn't it", too, as in: "He's got the dough, hasn't he?" ("He has the dough, ain't he?").

Anyway, as a non-native speaker, it's always hard to know what's right and what's wrong. I just go with the flow. :-)

Good luck in Seattle. I look forward to hearing more about your trip.

Greetings from London.

Andrew Cotterill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew Cotterill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew Cotterill said...

I didn't know mass spectrometers had made it into airports. You used to have to do lots of prep in a lab - now just working on vapours! Probably used for detection of specific drugs and explosives.

They are probably using gas chromatography–mass spectrometry which with its two stages gives very accurate identification of molecules present - even if in very low quanities.

Hope you are enjoying your conference. Talk later, Love you much xxx

Anonymous said...

Actually, that time at the gate waiting for a flight - exercise is a great use for it, providing you can do it without drawing too much attention to yourself!

becky said...

LOVE this airport story, Rachel! You're a wonderful writer. Yes, I've been to the Seattle airport...several times. Only for domestic travel though...the weather over Seattle is usually gloomy's not just the airport!

Especially loved the part about the guy exercising :)

Mademoiselle Poirot said...

Oh cool, what are you doing in the States? That "exercise guy" story made me laugh, how funny!

You should definitely try baking that bread for your mum, it's (if I may say so myself) really nice and doesn't hurt my stomach one bit :-) Have a great time in the US, Love from London xo

The Blonde Duck said...

You're so sweet. Are you coming to Texas?

Anonymous said...

Those grunting noises made me laugh! Enjoy your trip!

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog on Lindsay's My Life as a Foreigner and I am completely excited to follow you on your adventures now!

christine said...

How brave to even consider offering first aid!!!!!! Glas he didn't need it.

What bread is Mademoiselle Poirot suggesting you should bake for me? I must have missed a blog, what a terrible mother:( love you x

Rabbit Hole Report said...

You do tell a good tale, Rachel! I hope Portland was adventurous in a good way.

Charlotte said...

That would have freaked me out, too! Thank god he was okay and just "stretching."

But the part that puzzled me the most? That you had a friendly customs guy!

W.P. McNeill said...

SeaTac airport customs is grim, even by airport customs standards. To me it seems to be saying, "Welcome to our drab little country."

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