As I give my husband and son farewell hugs and finally tear myself away from the comfort of their presence, a cold knot of anxiety forms in my stomach. I smile bravely and wave from the rope-course that is security's introduction to their world. Like snaking through a line at an amusement park, but there is no ride at the end of this exercise. Just a serious looking TSA agent who approaches their inspection with as much rigor and enthusiasm as a CSI agent. I know I've forgotten something but I don't know what. Not because I'm prescient but because I always forget something. I'm not too worried about it because I've learned that just about anything I need can be bought once I'm on the ground again.
About then I realize that my cell phone charger is in the bag I checked, and somehow my phone appears to need a charge. Didn't I charge it last night? I'm sure I did, yet the low-battery icon is showing in the upper right corner of the display and its presence is an inarguable indication that my minutes will be limited. No worries. I'm getting to LAX too late to be chatty with the folks living in CST. I'll just make a quick call to my darling letting him know I'm safe in LA. By the time I get to the Taipei airport I won't be interested in using my local AT&T minutes or the overpriced international minutes. We can rely on e-mail or Instant Messaging during the layover. By the time I get to Shanghai I'll have my China Mobile phone activated. (Note to self: need to give hubby China Mobile phone #). When I get to Kunshan I can plug my AT&T phone in and recharge it so it's ready for the trip home…and I have almost 2 weeks to take care of that triviality.
The anxiety in my belly is inevitable because I've turned into a homebody and these trips always force me to accept that I'm not in control. There are so many factors at play that defy my will it's humbling. I kinda like living my life under the pretense that I have some modicum of influence – don't we all? Fortunately, I've committed myself to a prayer challenge as part of Advent this year, and as part of AirPrayer (check it out – a great ministry offered by a friend). I began to pray for everyone around me – fellow travelers, agents, airport employees…no one is exempt. I'm a praying fool. I feel peaceful as I allow my focus to shift from personal concerns to a general sense of wellbeing. I imagine prayer dust surrounding me like a cloud, spreading as I walk and talk and project good will at everyone in sight.
The flight to LA was uneventful. I finished a paperback and started another book. My seatmate had his headphones on and read the newspaper. Eventually he put his paper aside and became engrossed in his own book. I considered interrupted his flight to explain AirPrayer but in the end, I just went on spreading prayer dust. "God, bless this young man next to me. He seems to have a bit of a cough. I pray that he is well soon."
I will say that I charmed the flight attendant through nothing more than apparent good will. There's something to be said for the spreading of prayerful blessings. "God, bless this flight attendant."
At LAX I get to disembark and leave the main terminal, walking over to the International terminal. There are an overwhelming number of people and languages and cultures and luggage. It's crowded no matter the hour. As I enter I paused to appreciate the sights and sounds, and to send out a cloud of prayer dust. An agent at the door asked if I needed help. Maybe because I was one of the few anglo faces. Maybe because I had a stupid beatific look on my face. Either way, I smiled and said, "No, I'm fine," and went on with my business.
I maneuvered through all of this with my new carry-on luggage (one wheeled suitcase and an uber-bag which holds my purse and laptop). As I waited in line to get my boarding pass I chatted with the traveler in line behind me. While chatting, I turned my phone on. And the silly thing got hung up so I turned it off. And it got stuck on that. So I pulled the battery out and put the battery back in. And my fellow traveler interrupted my consternation to point out that the next ticket agent was open. At which point my bag dumped over. As he tried to retrieve it my purse and sunglasses fell out. And so, I got to juggle bag, suitcase, sunglasses, purse, and passport.
And all of this isn't the point of the story! Once inside the International terminal I sought out food. It's well past dinner time and I'm hungry. I end up in the same overpriced, crowded restaurant I enjoyed 2 months ago. Perfect. I pick out a salad and order a glass of wine. As I go to pay I realize I have my trusty Discover card. No problem. But…I remember that on the last trip I brought hubby's VISA card because, well…China doesn't really seem to know about Discover. They know about VISA. Ruh roh.