Saturday, 18 June 2011
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.