(I'm actually writing this a about a week later. I wasn't awake long enough to do it once I got home!)
I kind of hate that this entry on our adventure is sort of anticlimactic, but really, aren't return trips always a little bit that way?
We drove the two hours to Dublin in the rain and got to the airport almost exactly at the time the tour company said we would! If you ever need to book an Ireland trip for a group, go with Donoghues of Galway! Ask for Desmond or John. They were both awesome!
The airport was packed. PACKED, people. Our group snaked our way through the Delta line, and I swear, security comes out early in the process. Someone was going through, getting some of the info for our trip out of the way early so they could print something for us, but they were asking questions that sounded suspiciously like we were getting screened. What do you do for a living? What were you doing in Ireland?
When we finally got to the head of the line, I tried taking my suitcase to the counter, only to be rebuffed by an incredibly fey Irish Delta employee who "Sorrrrrry, can't help you heeeere. I'm just supposed to help the preferred memberssssssss." Well, OK then! Of course, the next person to step up to the counter was an actor I recognized, even through his Full Incognito Disguise of hat, glasses, and full beard. He was on a show I used to watch, and I liked him, so, you know, fine. He had to get his golf clubs checked. I understand! :)
We got the bags checked (and didn't go over the weight limit, which caused me to break out in a celebratory dance) and four of us headed off to what I learned was the complicated security labyrinth of Getting Back To the USA!
You know, I've complained, and complained bitterly, about going through security in the U.S.A. I don't like taking off my shoes, I don't like having to pretty much unpack my backpack and repack it again while irritated people are shoving past me, and I don't like having to stand in a booth and have an X-ray picture of myself taken to make sure I'm not concealing a weapon in one of my orifices. I can appreciate the situation, as I'd rather not have someone on board my plane have a bomb or a machete, but it is always an irritating process. Now I think I'll feel a bit better about the situation when I'm flying within the US, because that is NOTHING compared to getting back into the United States from overseas.
All four of us had been giving this cardboard ticket that we were supposed to fill out. It was a customs thing, asking who we were, what our boarding pass number was, what were we bringing back into the country and etc. We stopped at a row of garbage cans and filled out our cards. Great. Fine. If it'll make things go faster, then I'm all for it. We pass through the first step of security, you know, that person who checks your ID as well as your boarding pass. We got past him and into the line for the x-rays and stuff. I was wearing boots, which I'll admit was not the smartest move, but I wanted them out of the suitcase because they were heavy. I unzipped them and carried them a ways before I noticed that people weren't taking off their shoes, so I put them back on. By the way, knee high, zip up boots are not easy to take on and off while you're walking. When I got to the conveyor belt, I was asked to take them off again, and I was also asked to remove my iPad from my backpack, which I've never had to do before, but whatever. I'd had to take off my belt, watch and bracelet before stepping through the metal detector and I STILL set it off. One of the gate agents rubbed my hands and around my waistline with a thing. As it turns out, my underwire was what set off of the metal detector and the thing that they rubbed over my skin was testing for drug residue. Apparently I passed the drug test, so I got to grab my stuff, go through, and get redressed. I'm also glad I got to keep my bra.
As we walked through the airport, there were a couple of places I wanted to stop, but I didn't get to because we still had to go through "pre-processing" for customs. We followed signs until we got to a line that terminated in a row of computer kiosks. Steve and I got to go to the same one since we were traveling together, and it turned out that it was a digital version of the cardboard thing we'd filled out earlier. SIGH. Ok, then. It asked us all the same type of questions and then took your picture. Y'all, I wish so hard I could have kept that picture, because it was hilarious. I was too short to reach the square in the middle of the screen where you were supposed to position your face, so I had to stretch way up to get near it, and Steve was looking around me to see what I was doing and ended up photobombing me, and the picture was just weird and hilarious. Once we both got through the line and had a chance to look at it, I swear I laughed so hard I almost wet my pants! So we thought we were done and through, but alas, we were not! We approached yet another series of conveyor belts. We didn't have to walk through metal detectors again, but I had to take off my boots and take out the iPad again. I wonder what they thought I could get from one security line to the next in the airport? I have no idea, but I had to repack the damn backpack again and put on my shoes again. You think we were done? Nope. The four of us who had been together wound up getting split up about this time, and we were directed to go into a new line that ended with yet another gate manned by security guards. By then I was just preparing myself for a cavity search, and really, at this point, the thought didn't bother me all that much if it just meant I could get to the danged boarding gate! We had to go forward one at a time, and the man or woman at the gate we ended up at asked a series of odd questions. The lady in my line took the printed out customs form and my passport, looked me up and down and we had this conversation:
Her: Where do you live?
Her: What do you do for a living?
Me: Secretary (and how she'd know if I was telling the truth? I have no idea because that isn't on my passport!)
Her: What are you bringing back with you?
Me: Uh, sweaters? (I mean, I had other things too, but volume wise, sweaters were the most.)
Her: Did you purchase any alcohol to bring back?
Me: No. (Which is the truth. We'd gotten some whiskey for my brother in law, but Steve bought it and it was in his checked bag.)
Her: Is this your bag? (shows me a security photo of my suitcase.)
Her: Go ahead.
Of course, by this point, I was nervous and probably would have said anything just to get through. She waved me on and I waited for Steve (who apparently just looks more trustworthy than I do, I guess) who didn't have to answer nearly as many questions. From here on out, we could finally go towards out boarding gate. I also finally got to go to the bathroom, which had become very important since security took as long as it did. I was hungry and thirsty by then, but I didn't have any change and the vending machine wouldn't take paper money. There was one tiny Duty Free shop where I bought a magnet so I could get change, but they didn't give me enough coins to use for anything to drink, so I got some chips and made it to the seating area right before we had to start lining up to board the plane. I was very grateful that we hadn't stopped anywhere before we went through the rigamarole of security, or I might not have made it to the plane in time.
We also found out that one of the members of the band had been detained at the last gate. There was never any explanation why, because he hadn't done anything wrong, but they took him back to a security room where they had his checked bag open and searched, and they asked him a lot of questions about the people he'd been traveling with. Apparently they knew every place we'd stayed, every venue the band had played in, and lots of other things about who we were. That's kind of scary. But to be fair, I suppose it's necessary these days, so I won't do more than a token complaint. Luckily the guy made it back to the boarding area in time to get on the plane.
Steve and I were seated in the middle row of the plane, which wasn't as uncomfortable as I'd feared. I kept trying to sleep, but couldn't get comfortable enough, and we were being constantly fed on the way back. We also had an impressive amount of movies to watch, which I can appreciate, but still, we were crammed in a cramped metal tube, flown 8 hours back to the US, and constantly crammed with airplane food. I suppose it could have been worse.
When we touched down in Atlanta we went to grab our bags and I saw that the TV actor had been on our plane! I surreptitiously took a photo of him, but immediately felt like a creep for doing so. The man had just been on a long flight, he was wearing flip-flops, and I'm fairly certain he was on the phone in a panic because his ride wasn't there yet. I won't post the picture online. He doesn't deserve that! I'd make a terrible paparazzi! Steve and I caught a shuttle to the parking area, got the car, and after stopping for lunch (again with the food!) we started home. I had originally thought we'd stay in Atlanta over night, but Steve has a new client and had to be back for meetings on Monday, so we drove home. I tried to stay awake for his sake, I swear I did, but I kept dozing off. I was basically delirious by the time we made it back to Huntsville. Once we got ourselves and and our stuff inside, we went to bed and slept until the next morning.
In the days that followed, I did learn a couple of things. 1) Jet lag is real, and it is awful. I didn't think it was a real thing, but I was exhausted for nearly an entire week, except when I'd wake up in the middle of the night and be wide awake. No fun! 2) This is such a stupid thing, but I did find out that I wasn't allergic to the pillows in that hotel, at least! I hadn't felt well almost the entire time I'd been gone, but I was never as bad as I was that one night. My nose was terribly stopped up, I was so freaking tired all the time, my face broke out, of course, I was nauseated constantly and I was just feeling generally blah. It was annoying, but not terrible. After thinking about it for a while, I realized that maybe some of the medication I'd been on was making me sick. One of my prescriptions had been changed to generic right before we left, and I hadn't been able to keep on my normal schedule of taking any of my meds because of the time change. I felt the same way for a week after I got home and got back to my normal schedule, though. I finally decided that I'd just start eliminating my medicine one thing at a time until I found out what was going on. As it turns out, it wasn't any of my prescription meds at all. Right before we left for Ireland, I started taking a probiotic pill every day, hoping that it would stave off any issues that might arise from the change of food, water, and the kinds of unpleasantness that sometimes comes along with travel. I eliminated that one first, and immediately felt better. My skin cleared up, I was able to eat normally, and I could stay awake. Apparently, I was allergic to something in that OTC pill that was causing every symptom I'd had the entire time! I'd only been super sick that one day because I'd barely eaten, and had really only taken that probiotic! I felt so stupid. It was like someone with a non lethal peanut allergy just swallowing one tiny peanut a day. But at least it was a relief to know what was going on. Live and learn, right?
Anyway, so my Irish adventure is over, and I had so much fun I'd do it all again exactly the same (sick and all.) Now to plan our next adventure!