Memoir 1

Am I Getting On This Plane?

Here is another sample rough draft of a memoir #1 essay. Work, play, and travel while Bipolar 1 and ADHD made for quite a varied life. And airports make me crazy.

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It is December 1988 and the end of my first round-the-world. I was flying back to California with mixed feelings. After a year and a half of travel, I was ready to visit with friends and see my family, to add to my bank account for my next trip.  But I didn’t want to lose myself again in the mentality of the United States in the meantime.

My first international trips to Europe had a tremendous impact on me, exposing me to a different way to live. I loved the “life on the streets” vibrancy of outdoor cafes and food stalls. Community and culture. Varied architecture, museums, pensions, and homestays. People in Europe lived with each other instead of within walls. I could be an individual and discover my own self, not someone’s idea of me.

Attempting a serious work-life, trying to climb an unobtainable ladder to “success” in the United States, removed me from this “joie de vivre” and the joyous existence I had found in exploration and the pursuit of new.

Could I keep any of my adventurous spirit when I returned home?

I would find out soon, but first I had to get there.

My last country on this long trek around the world was Turkey. And it was winter. Cold! Snow in the interior. Cool along the coast. Not the perfect time to travel through the country. I had been in tropical climates the entire time, and I landed from Egypt attired in shorts and sandals. There was snow on the ground. Clothes had to be bought. A jacket, socks, long pants and sweaters. After wandering around the world in flip-flops and light loose clothing, this new bulk was unwelcome. I’ve hated wearing winter clothes ever since. They make me claustrophobic, bound up, restricted.

After five weeks in Turkey, I was finishing my trip with TWA flights from Istanbul, via Frankfurt and Detroit. And had gone into their offices several times to change my dates, moving them closer each time. This must-have triggered something in their system. When I got to the counter I was pulled aside and taken to a room. There they searched my purse, backpack, and me.

Every little thing I had with me was strewn about the room. Pages of my journal scrutinized, my packet of travel memorabilia, bits and pieces of paper and trinkets I gathered over the last few months, lay scattered on the table. Each item of clothing had hands inching over them, feeling along the seams. I was in my underwear. My passport meticulously looked at, page by page. Questions about where I had traveled, what I had done, and why I was in Turkey bombarded my mind.

And I was elevating! I had already been experiencing waves of emotions, highs along the coast, depressions in cities. So they primed me to let loose those mixed-up feelings and frantic, unfettered words spilled forth.

I don’t like airports. My mind can’t filter all the sounds and movements. I stress that I have left some key item behind, constantly checking and rechecking to make sure I have not. But not trusting my mind and looking again minutes later. To an airport official, I must seem agitated, which I was, suspicious even. That is not the way to proceed through an airport.

Add to this nervousness my flip switch when confronted by anyone with authority. Their voice becomes the teacher in Charlie Brown. A “wah wah woh wah wah” making no sense to my overloaded brain. If I can’t recognize what they are saying, I can’t respond correctly. And I enter my out-of-body fishbowl. At that point, I am revved up, pissed off, and certainly not pleasant. I get myself in trouble at airports.

Still, in the room with the agents, I looked at my watch every few seconds. Emphatically imploring them to let me make my flight.

They waited till the last minute; the overhead announcing a last call for the gate.

Released, I hightailed it out of the room, ran through the airport, boarded my flight, and gave a sigh of relief as the doors closed. Two more flights and I would be home.

It wasn’t that easy.

Unbeknownst to me, my backpack had been flagged. I was told to step aside in Frankfurt, questioned because of the orange sticker on my boarding pass. Again I had to run to the gate. My luggage remained in Frankfurt.

I arrived exhausted in Detroit and had to pass through customs. No luggage arrived at my port of entry. I had a brief window to catch my flight to San Francisco, where my brother was to pick me up. I missed the flight as I talked with the lost luggage department. It was there that I found out about the flag.

The next flight I could finally get on arrived at SFO in the early morning. There were no cell phones then, no way to alert my brother, so he waited. Pissed off. He barely talked to me on the way to our parents’ house. My arrival at the ungodly hour awakened my parents; they weren’t thrilled either.

My beat-up backpack arrived days later.

Welcome home!

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