Northern California: Day One

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The coveted-by-midwesterners-because-we-don't-have-em In-N-Out burger, animal style.The coveted-by-midwesterners-because-we-don't-have-em In-N-Out burger, animal style.

The coveted-by-midwesterners-because-we-don’t-have-em In-N-Out burger, animal style.

As much as I love going to new places, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to flying. Even if I’m not struggling with a cramped seat that redefines personal space in unbearable terms, the destruction of my eardrums during each pressure shift still makes the entire experience the worst kind of memorable. Still, until Elon Musk finally reveals his ultra-secret teleportation system that we’re not supposed to know about, we’re stuck with it as our fastest mode of travel.

I started my trip to Northern California like I do every vacation: by oversleeping and waking up just in time to take a quick shower and catch my cab. Thankfully, I’d packed everything the day before. The drive to O’Hare International Airport was quick, and the TSA line, though long, moved at a brisk pace. I still had more than an hour to spare when I collected my belongings from security.

Eating at airports is strange, and I don’t think I’ll ever really like it. Everything is fantastically overpriced, the staff is almost always horrid, and your options are severely limited. I wound up just having McDonald’s for breakfast, as my other choices were a burrito or pizza. I rushed through my steak and cheese bagel far no good reason, then headed to my gate.

Boarding and flying were unexciting. I was stuck in a middle seat, which is never fun. I watched a few episodes of Orphan Black and wrote a little. I fired up Elegy for a Dead World and used one of its writing prompts to tell the story of four generations of nomadic space explorers. My seatmate to the left slept most of the trip and yet still found ways to elbow me and invade my space. The seat to my right held either the mother or father of two children sitting behind me; they rotated positions over the course of the trip.

Four hours is a long time to be in such cramped quarters. I was obviously excited to get off the plane and grab lunch. The last time I ate at LAX, I was severely disappointed. Yet again, the airport failed me. This time, I tried a turkey burger at Burger Bar. I asked them to leave off the avocado, which Californians put on everything. The conversation may as well have gone like this:

    I’ll have a turkey burger, no avocado.


A turkey burger, without the avocado.

It comes with avocado.

Right. Can I get the sandwich without it?

I don’t understand the question.

Can the turkey burger be prepared without avocado?

Okay. Seventy-eight dollars.

BRYAN pays. After waiting in line for nearly ten minutes, he is handed a small paper tray with a turkey burger and fries on it. He scans the area for a seat, but can’t find an open table. He spends several minutes wandering while precariously balancing his tray to avoid spilling its contents, until he finally sees open seats at the gates nearby. He sits down, then lifts the bun to discover several avocados worth of guacamole. He sighs and looks back at Burger Bar. There is a sea of people between him and its counter, and the mass of people waiting in line there appears to be so large that it could create its own gravity.

Rather than fight the crowd, he lays the guac-loaded bun aside and eats the half of the burger that isn’t a slimy green mess.

The worst part? I had to go to a separate terminal for my flight to Fresno, and there was a nice-looking simple sandwich place there that, at the very least, would have been cheaper. With more than an hour before the other leg of my flight would being boarding, I sat at a table, plugged in my Surface Pro, and typed up more words. This time, I finished an article for Presstartoplay. While I wrote, my gate changed to one across the way, so I packed up my computer and moved to the opposite end of the small terminal.

I found another table on this side, so I plugged in there. I intended to start playing South Park: The Stick of Truth, but its character creation screen starts with a small child in their underwear. I felt this may have given the wrong person an unsavory impression, so I decided to quit the game immediately. I got a notification that the gate for my flight had changed yet again, again to the opposite end of the terminal. I packed up my belongings again and trudged to the new boarding location. With less than a half hour until we’d get on the plane, I decided not to unpack again and instead played Doctor Who: Legacy on my phone.

The flight from LAX to FAT was great. I still had the usual issues with air pressure, but the seat next to me was empty. I read several short stories in Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning without a single interruption.

My host met me in the lobby of the small airport, and we drove back to her place. She has a very nice home with a fantastic tall ceiling in her living room and a small upstairs balcony to overlook it. Her cats took an immediate liking to me, as animals do. She had to return to work to finish a project, so I took a nap (with the cats, obvioulsy) while she was away. When she returned, we grabbed some food from In-N-Out then headed back to her place. I connected her PlayStation to my home media server, and we both promptly fell asleep on her couch while watching Wreck-It Ralph.

All in all, a good first day.

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