It can be a painful interlude, or a happy one: being in-between. Today I find myself between "away" and "home." The conference I was attending in North Carolina ended midday Thursday. I had decided to leave myself some wiggle room just in case there was a lead I wanted to follow, so I arranged my flights for a Friday morning departure. If nothing came up, I'd still have an interlude: a place to be, to be autonomous, but with options. Yes, I've learned to like staying in hotels. Cable television. Plenty of hot water. Places nearby to explore... and minimal chores, tasks, or pressures.
So I enjoyed my extra time in Charlotte. I made a few connections and had a few conversations that might not have happened if I'd been rushing for an afternoon flight. And had dinner out, caught up on some email, took a bath, watched TV. Still had to get to bed early since my wake-up call would come at 4:00, but it was nice to be relaxed.
Little did I know I'd have another interlude as well. My trip home was bound to meander; United honored my frequent flier miles but would only be able to take me home in fits and starts. When one of my three flights was canceled I ended up with another night in a hotel. This time in Omaha, Nebraska.
Some of the other travelers were not so pleased with this gift of time. They had weddings to get to, or dogs to feed, or were just fed up with being on the road. Almost everyone in the rebooking line at the ticket counter seemed frustrated to be there. They got on their cell phones (as we were encouraged to do) and tried to work out satisfactory plans with the people who work at the call center. Then they got off and complained to one another about how stupid the call center workers were, summing it up with a complaint about having to talk to a "foreigner," someone who clearly "did not speak much English!"
I felt ashamed to be an American. How could you seriously believe that if someone has a different accent from yours, he doesn't speak the language or doesn't know what he's doing? And are you sure the ignorance or intractability is on the other side of the line, and not your own? My companions in line also expressed a belief that they were talking to people in India, perhaps not realizing that the likelihood of this was decreased by the fact that it would be 2 am there.
At any rate, this anti-India sentiment motivated me to be extra-nice to any Indians I might happen to meet while in United's care. I made friends and had a far-ranging conversation with the Gujarati man who drove the hotel shuttle and later dropped me off downtown for some sightseeing; I also chatted with the Patel girl at the front desk.
If you ever have the chance to explore Omaha, NE, I'd encourage you take it. There's a fun, funky downtown with lots of things to do within walking distance, interesting shops and restaurants, and a well-reputed zoo and gardens not too far away. Omaha prices are better than Denver's, too. This weekend the world's second-largest indoor rodeo, too, yeehaw! I saw a good number of cowboy-hatted individuals walking in the direction of the stadium. But I skipped that, still needing to retire at a reasonable hour to catch my morning flight.
Interlude over. I'm on my way back to Denver.