In my mind, I told myself a lovely story that I was safe and sound away from the United States since 9/11. As long as I did not cross that border, I would be fine. I get very nervous at the border crossings and do not wish to deal with customs and exchange. They always seem so suspicious and I in return feel guilty. Even though I’ve done nothing.
And since Sept 11th, 2001 things have only gotten worse.
So I am happy to buy Canadian.
After all, we do not carry guns to town.
A few months ago my employer tells me that she and I are going to Atlanta, Georgia for a seminar. At first I am a bit apprehensive, but I think, ‘Hey, at least I won’t be alone…and she’s been there before…all will be good.’
I decided to put the traveling part of the trip out of my head and focus on what I would be learning at the seminar.
I would be gathering new skills, meeting new people…learning new techniques to be able to help my patients even more than before. I started to feel a tiny bit excited.
Shortly after I found out there would be no one joining me on the trip.
I would be going alone.
I do not feel safe going to the States. I was not being unreasonable.
They carry guns… to town.
‘Oh, you’ll be fine….’
‘Don’t be silly…’
‘They don’t walk around with guns!’
But I was not the only one that did not think it safe. Goose, unbeknownst to me, was also making plans. He arranged to come with me as my traveling companion. On one hand I was relieved to not be going alone. But on the other hand, we would have to pay for his trip. We had to take it out of our ‘vacation fund’ and it wasn’t even a vacation.
So away we went, with our carry-ons and ear buds. Shuffling through security. Fearful of ever-threatening cavity searches. Waiting for hours in chairs that don’t support your back. The wi-fi is free but won’t let you watch Netflix. You buy a bottle of water, because you know they won’t let you bring your own. Only to find out that you have to dump it before you can get through security. So then you buy another bottle on the other side and don’t get to drink it all before you hit the next airport and have to dump it again. It wouldn’t be that bothersome if it didn’t cost more than $5 for a little bottle.
You try to be friendly to the security people to hide your fear of rubber gloves, but they are not in a
good mood and find your smile suspicious.
Do these people look friendly to you?
And why is it that every time you hear, ‘Flight 345 for Denver now boarding’ your bladder becomes full? And the bathroom is down at the other end of the next terminal?
Finally the elderly and the youngerly are ushered onto the plane and settled. The middle-agedly are allowed to squeeze our way down the tiny aisle, our bags hitting every seat and jerking our arms so that we have to stop, dislodge and continue on. We insert ourselves into our tiny seats and look out our tiny windows (hopefully) and then are greeted by our not-so-tiny co-passenger.
‘No, I don’t want to change seats so your husband can sit with you. I paid extra to sit here.’
‘You paid extra….to sit here?’
By the time we get to Atlanta, we are straining our necks to see something…anything. I had never been there before. And Goose had only been for a work conference years ago. Airport, runways, trees, airport, traffic, airport, highway, dead grass, airport, hotel. The international airport in Atlanta is so busy and huge…we drove for 12 minutes to get to our hotel and amazingly enough, were just past the other end of the airport. This was their winter so all plant life was dormant. The vast expanse of the airport was surrounded by industrial type buildings that were all related to or in support of the airport.
We could not sleep. The air felt wrong. The bed was hard. We had to turn off the air conditioning and open the window. There was no screen.
‘What if an owl comes in while we’re sleeping?’
Nothing to see and nowhere to go. So we fall asleep to the blue sound of the TV. Next morning I am in class. When breaktime comes, Goose is waiting for me. When break is over, Goose escorts me back to class. I am not sure exactly why…but hey, he’s normally close to this level of attention at home so I shrug it off as boredom.
Finally on the third day, I leave my class early in order to make our flight. We head to the airport…dragging our bags behind us we scamper onto the extremely fast super speed train that took us from one end of the airport to the other. As we rush to our gate, we look out the windows and see a shuttle van. The same shuttle van that dropped us off ten minutes ago on the other end of the airport.
Once we get through security and settled, Goose decides to explain the short-leash behaviour. There was a biker murdered…three miles from our hotel on Friday night after we arrived. My head started to spin and I felt like I could not breathe. As Goose had been settling in by the fireplace in the lobby on Saturday morning he noticed some big bad-ass bikers enter through the front door. They were all black and huge, tattooed and leathered. One had to duck his head as he came through the lobby doors. Now this alone did nothing to unnerve big bad Goose. After all, he grew up in the core of Montreal. He grew up with black people, and Italian people and all other kinds of people in his neighbourhood. They were rough around the edges, as was he. And some of his best friends as an adult were and still are bikers. I am only saying this to emphasize that he normally would have nothing to be uncomfortable about, seeing big bikers, black or white.
One of them had picked up a cookie at the front desk and looked around as he nibbled. He caught Goose’s eye. Goose firmed up his bottom lip and nodded at this huge man, who simply continued to scan the room. Slowly more and more of the bikers arrived and entered the hotel. When one man came in wearing a long trench coat that did not sway as he walked…Goose decided it was time to retire to our room.
Once there, he searched the internet for the name that was on the bikers’ jackets and tattooed arms. Immediately, the first site showed the murder and that was the name of a local motorcycle club. He did not leave the hotel again that weekend. Nor did he leave my side.
Hearing all of this, I was terrified and felt sick to my stomach. I had no idea what had happened or why. And I did not want to. I was so glad that he waited to tell me. Or I would have had a horrible time staying focused on the class. I would have been worried about him.
But before I had too much time to worry about what could have been, I noticed the television screen over our heads. Political debate for the American presidential candidates. And guess where it was taking place?
That’s right, Atlanta Georgia.
Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton. Two of the most talked about people in the continent at the time. And they were right in the same city as we were.
‘Wow..isn’t that cool?’
‘Umm-hmmm’, Goose mumbled as he flipped through something on his ipad.
‘Wouldn’t that be cool to see Donald’s jumbo jet here at the airport? I don’t even know what it looks like…’ so I google it and see the big dark plane with the large golden ‘TRUMP’ on the side of it.
‘Huh…isn’t that something?’
Then I look up and out the window straight ahead of us. Directly across the other side of the runways, I see it. As big as life. The Trump Jumbo Jet.
It was quite a thrill for us small-town folk from Canada. We used to watch ‘The Apprentice’ years ago and loved to hear Donald say, ‘you’re Fired,’ with such arrogance and confidence.
Yes, he’s a bit full of himself…but I still have to admit, he’s huge. I don’t care for the Royal Family at all either, but if I saw Royal Air Force One our on the tarmac, my heart would definitely skip a beat.
‘Why do you care so much, Mom?’
‘I think to me, it’s the same as….when Dad and I got off the plane in Mexico and I saw my first ever real palm tree…not on TV…not in a picture…but right there… I could see it and touch it…I cried. It’s like that.’
It almost seems at times that the world is so huge that we will never see it all. Our own little world can seem so small in comparison. The Eiffel Tower, Stonehenge, a castle on the coast of Scotland, a giraffe in it’s own habitat…or even a simple beautiful palm tree bursting with bristle-haired coconuts.
When I see something in a picture, some far-away fantasy world or Hollywood style story, it hardly seems real to me. If something bad happens on the other side of the world, I still feel safe …because it seems about as real to me as a movie on a screen. But when a murder happens three miles down the road, it will hit me..hard. That is too close to feel safe.
The best I can hope for is a palm tree three feet away so I can remember reality can have beauty in it as well.