I Am Returned From MCO

I no longer work for the Internet. Instead, I work for the Airplanes. As part of this switcheroo, I had to fly to Orlando for a few days of paperwork and orientation.

I spent the whole time at a commercial campus outside the airport, never getting a good chance to visit Orlando properly. I brought the wrong charging cable for my phone, so I had to conserve battery power, which left me little to do in my off-time but to walk in circles around the campus jogging path. That wasn't so bad. The weather was mild, and I got a chance to see many new kinds of birds, including several varieties of egrets, dark black glossy ibises, and even a pink tuchused shovelface.

The trip to Orlando was relatively painless, but getting home was rough. I got an early start because I figured hanging out in the airport might be more interesting than milling around on campus. It wasn't. The spare time worked to my advantage, however, because a TSA agent decided to search through one of my bags quite thoroughly. My camera looked sketchy on the X-ray, but as long as they were in there, they may as well look at everything. I was in no rush. As the first agent inspected my tin of Altoids, toiletries, and many lens wipes, a second agent wandered back upstream on the conveyor belt to find my shoe. The lost shoe was his fault. We were all good about it.

I reserved a lovely window seat on the plane, the good kind where it lines up well with your chair, so you can look right outside without having to lean forward or crane your neck over your shoulder, but I traded places with a guy so he could sit beside his wife and five kids, rather than directly across the aisle from us. He spent the entire flight staring at his iPad and only once or twice spoke to his family. His wife and a couple of the kids were sick, and it wasn't just them. Sniffling, sneezing, and coughing were coming from every direction, and me in an aisle seat all of a sudden.

After a few hours of flying through the sky like a pink tuchused shovelface, we landed and deboarded in EWR. I then walked 15 minutes (in the cold) to the Amtrak AirTrain (i.e., the shuttle) station, followed by another 20 minutes standing around (in the cold) until I reached the actual train station. Aside from the cold, the only company to be found there was a homeless person with a blanket draped over their head for privacy and another man watching pornography on a cell phone. Perhaps he, too, will someday learn the blanket trick. I hung out with them for about 40 minutes (in the cold) before the Amtrak No. 175 to Home arrived right on time.

The train was packed with people far too sick to be out of bed, let alone crammed into a commuter train. The coach cars were at capacity, with standing room only. Fortunately, I had reserved a seat in business class, so I didn't have to fight anyone for a place to sit. Things got even better when, shortly after we pulled out of the station, the business class lady in the seat next to me stumbled her way to the café car to top off her buzz, leaving me with both seats to myself for the rest of the trip.

When I was finally back in the Big Philthy, I was far too tired and cold to walk the two miles home as usual. Instead, I grabbed a cab from 30th Street station. My driver somehow managed to attentively watch a movie on his cellphone for most of the ride. The phone was propped up on a ledge behind the steering wheel where the speedometer and gasometer lived. He slumped ridiculously low in his seat to view the screen while peaking over the dashboard occasionally to see the road.

Here's where you probably expect me to ask the driver to stop the car so I can get out. I did not. I was ready to fall over and vomit tired. And it was cold outside. No, it wasn't that cold, but I couldn't be even a little cold at this point without losing my mind. And, most importantly, he was somehow doing a great job of watching a Bollywood song and dance number while navigating heavy city traffic as the theaters let out. My morbid curiosity needed to find out if we could make it to my apartment without a wreck — and we did!

Even with no notable delays, the trip home took roughly eight hours. I'm spending the weekend quietly recovering at home, taking it easy in a soft quarantine, as I will myself not to get sick. I'll get back to you in a few days on the anecdotal efficacy of 3M N95 masks in preventing airborne respiratory contagion.

The National - "Apartment Story"