A Metro North train slices through the Connecticut morning fog, the clickity clack of its wheels rumbling underneath my feet.
I am starting a six-day journey that I’ve dubbed “Christmas in Florida” simply because I’ll be spending Christmas Day — not to mention two days before and three days after — in the Sunshine State, alone, on my own.
Part business, part pleasure; the cost incurred solely by me because, well, that’s the way it is in the newspaper business these days.I will admit there is a huge tax write-off that is a nice addendum to the journey, but that joy won’t be felt until April .. and with my on-going battle with the IRS, if at all.
I could have stayed home for Christmas — a holiday I haven’t really celebrated in almost 10 years.
But I figured, why not give myself a Christmas present for a change — something other than a pair of jeans, or socks, or a book, or a new car.
So here I am. On a train, heading to New York City, where I’ll hop in a taxi and make my way to John F. Kennedy Airport and fly south.Train journeys are nice. I’ll actually be taking a train home from Florida, a 24-hour trip which you’ll get to read about somewhere down the line if you are open to such punishment as reading my words on a regular basis.
But it can be annoying too. A woman sitting across the aisle from me is doing something with her phone and it is speaking to her. It’s not Siri. It’s something else, but the woman is older than me and undoubtedly new to technology.
The phone to speaks to her, but it’s also speaking to everybody within ear shot.
This woman needs headphones or ear buds, if anybody is looking to give a cheap Christmas gift to the elderly.
I got annoyed enough to pop in my own ear phones, so I have the Howard Stern show in my ear, even as I type this.
If I was chewing gum and rubbing my belly, I’d really be multi-tasking.
But I digress.
So why would I change my Christmas routine of spending the holiday alone at home and go on the road for the holiday … alone.
Well, for the past 10 years, I’ve worked each and every day Christmas Day. That, perhaps, was my gift to my employees — Christmas Day off so they could spend time with their family.
Once a decade, I can put myself first, right?
Part of this journey is to attend and cover the St. Petersburg Bowl, a college football game featuring the University of Connecticut and Marshall University.
Part of it is also to dip my toes into the Gulf of Mexico, something I’ve never done before.
Part of it is maybe to see the Chicago Bears face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an NFL game I would never see otherwise. It is also something I’ve never done before.
It’s also just to do something different; something my move to Connecticut nine-plus years ago has allowed me to do a lot of.
Six days away from the 203, six days away from the office, six days away from home.
The journey begins.
- • •
There are three places in the world where the voyeur in me simply loves to be.
A subway. A hospital. An airport.
It is here, in these three locations, where so many different walks of live come together in one place and co-exist with the same common goal.
Also, each and every place also has role players whose job it is to make sure things go smoothly in each and every press.
But next time you’re in such a place, just look around. See the people. Picture their stories.
On the train ride to NYC I told you about the lady who didn’t know anything about speakers and her phone was, on occasion, talking to her.
Some ass-hat who sat in the seat directly in front of me turned around and rudely told her to shut off her speaker.
Two people from two walks off life coming together in a single moment in close proximity to me.
One, just a simple asshole; the other, an old lady, who I noticed as she got off the train used a cane to help her walk away, back to her own life.
Any taxi ride in NYC is bound to be an adventure and I was lucky enough to get an airport ride on my first request.
I had heard some taxi drivers hate the drive from midtown Manhattan to the airport and simply say no.
Usually, in the past, I go the cheap route and take one of those $16 buses that shuttle people back and forth, but all I wanted this time was convenience.
I got it, chilling in the back seat of a ride that barely had to struggle with traffic. My cabdriver? Pakistani, but a nice enough of fellow who got me from Point A to Point B safe and sound.A $52 cab fair with a $10 cash tip.
God speed and safe travels, my dear driver.
The Jet Blue terminal on the JFK Airport campus is right across the street from the infamous TWA terminal that you can Google and learn about.
When I signed up as a Jet Blue member, I signed up for something above low level and I was whisked into a shorter important person line that got up to TSA screening quicker.
Once there, I had to wait for close to 20 minutes before emptying my pockets, taking my jacket, shoes and belt off, removing my laptop from my computer back and ferrying them through the best in modern technology in something as plain and simple as a bus bucket from a restaurant.
It’s the old and new coming together in the present.
Flying used to be easy and fun. Not anymore.
Nerves get frayed. Eyes roll. Heads hurt.
I was one of the lucky ones today.
I made it into the terminal where a whole new world awaited.
Gone was the frustration, and suddenly everybody was looking for their gates, getting prepped for the moment they would take off and find the sky.
I found my gate easy enough. Gate 1.
Then I found food.
Cream of broccoli soup and a chicken BLT from a place called “5ive Steak.” Oh, and a Stella Ale.
The soup was delicious, the sandwich was a piece of bacon above average, and Stella — well Stella is like that friends with benefits that you can always turn to to feel good.
With my belly fed, I went back to the terminal, checked out the sites, checked out the people and found a computer/iPhone/iPad cluster station to take a few minutes and sit down and write some more.
My flight is still more than an hour away, so what a way to kill time.
To do the same thing I do at work every day.
There’s a woman sitting three rows over me. She’s cute. Mid-20s, brown and white ski cap on her head, a flannel shirt on.Where is she going, I wonder? Denver? Alaska? Or since we’re sitting right outside the Raleigh-Durham flight leaving at 3:20 p.m., is she headed for Carlolina, where nothing could be finer.
We’ve caught eyes a couple of times, but not in that way.
I do wonder if she’s thinking the same thing about me.
Where is he headed What’s his story?
Mine is likely more boring than hers. At least, I’d like to think it is.
Maybe she’s flying to Las Vegas to meet a long lost lover and they’re going to elope much to the chagrin of their families.
Maybe she’s flying home for a Christmas that may be happy may be miserable.
Maybe she’s just going on an adventure like Iam.
No rhyme. No reason.
Everybody has a story in this airport right now. Everybody has a destination.
They sit, they walk, they think, they talk.
I sit and I watch them and think about their stories. Obviously, I just make them because I’m simply too chicken shit to go over and ask them what’s going on.
I’m one hour before wheels up now.
Maybe time to wander over to gate one and hang out for a bit before boarding.
There are more people to watch. More stories to make up.
God willing, I’ll see you in, Florida.