Tuesday, March 8, 2016 was an occasion for all day intercontinental travel for me from Linden, Guyana, South America to Memphis, Tennessee, USA, North America. Travel that I make between the USA and Asia is more dramatic and takes more days each way than travel between continents in the same hemisphere. However, the investment of time and the wear and tear nevertheless are significant enough.
Brother Nigel Milo, my Guyanese partner and host, and I departed his home in Linden at about 7:30 a.m. (Guyanese time, which is two hours ahead at this time of the year than CST in Mississippi). An hour and a half later, he dropped me off at the international airport. While I lumbered inside with a checked suitcase, a carryon (roll-on) bag and my computer briefcase, brother Milo parked his car to wait and to make sure that no snafu prevented me from flying out. Two and a half hours ahead of the scheduled departure, I had time on my hands, so to speak; yet, that’s much more to be preferred than to be running late.
Finally, my Surinam Airways flight was ready for boarding. I climbed the steps at the back of the plane; frequently overseas in smaller venues and even in similarly small US airports, passengers climb a staircase wheeled to the airplane fuselage. I was directed to the rear entrance because it was nearest my seat selection, on the aisle two rows from the toilet. One other person chose the same half row of three seats in which I was sitting, providing a comfortable empty space between me and her window seat.
The flight was uneventful, which is always a good thing. I flew Suriname Airways because it is the only airline offering a direct flight between Guyana and the United States. Four and a half hours later, we landed in Miami, six hours prior to the scheduled departure of my next flight to Memphis, TN. I opted to fly American Airlines since it is the only airline offering a direct flight between Miami and Memphis. Surinam Airways, though only flies their route between Guyana and the USA twice weekly.
Unfortunately, the two airlines are not partners, which means that going to and coming from Guyana, I must retrieve my luggage and drag it to the next ticket counter. It felt as though I walked from Guyana to the USA by the time I ambled what surely must have been a mile-long maze from emerging from the jet way to immigration. Using the U.S.’ Global Reentry program when I eventually arrived at immigration, a kiosk afforded to me permitted me to avoid the queue and exit to recover my checked bag. That’s when the fun began, not receiving my bag for well over an hour from the time the plane landed. The good news, though, was that the suitcase did make the trip with me, unlike sometimes before on stateside as well as overseas trips.
Despite being TSA Prechecked (i.e., vetted by the US as a trusted traveler), Miami does not offer that service. Yes, I had to get in the snaky line like everyone else and jump through all the same hoops as unvalidated travelers, except I didn’t have to take my shoes and belt off. I was startled and concerned momentarily when my laptop computer did not emerge from the x-ray belt with the rest of my belongings; I was fearful that my mobile office had found some mobility that wish that it had not. Somehow things on the conveyer got out of order by a few items; all was well.
On side note, wearing my back brace, which has no metal in it, caused me no difficulty in security checks in either Guyana or the USA. I didn’t try to wear my wrist brace on the way back, which does have metal in it, since wearing it on the way down to Guyana cause some brief issues during security checks. Wearing those braces during long, tiring days, especially when traveling and lugging baggage around is preventative; at other times, after I am already hurting, they and some pain medicine are part of the solution.
There was no Burger King in the terminal in which I found myself in preparation for the final leg of my flights home. Still, I was able to find an airport-pricey burger joint and devour some beef. I hadn’t eaten much, and I was hungry. The rest of the world to which I travel largely eats chicken as well as things less familiar to me; I have given up trying to find a cheeseburger in Guyana because the meat is either as tough (literally) as shoe leather or has an unfamiliar taste, like it didn’t used to go, “Moo.”
Most of the remaining time was idly spent waiting at Gate D60, Door 2 for my 9:34 p.m. departure for Memphis. Finally, we boarded a bus, which took us to a parked regional jet, and once more I scaled steps pushed up alongside of the fuselage of our plane. Back in Guyana, for no more than the dozen of us flying, we would have been crammed into a single engine turboprop. As it was, everyone has a seat to himself except for a couple who chose to remain seated together anyway. Per usual, I had my aisle seat two rows from the restroom.
On the taxiway headed for the runway, we stopped. Anticipated bad weather in Memphis and a backlog of aircraft landing and taking off there, forced us to hold in place for about 20 minutes before flying away from Miami. Amazingly, despite being delayed from leaving Miami, we still arrived in Memphis nearly half an hour ahead of schedule; we made up time in the air – what a tailwind we must have had. Yes, we did experience some very turbulent weather; the last two times returning from an overseas trip to Memphis netted the same weather welcome.
My daughter Rebecca faithfully received me at the luggage carrousel. She is always a wonderful sight for a lonely, wandering hearth. Besides that, she carries of the heavier bag for this old man! By midnight we were at her home, and after reuniting a bit, she turned in for the night by 1 a.m. In my case, after showering, I went to bed for the night at a little before 2 a.m. CST (or about 4 a.m. Guyanese time). I was tired, and I wonder if I will ever feel refreshed again.