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June 20 – Departures and Arrivals
Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia, PA

An unremarkable flight but for the fact that it left the ground twenty minutes late and arrived twenty minutes early; and, much to my relief, there were no propellers on this particular puddle jumper. Due to the late takeoff and projected early arrival there was no offer of drink.

I had arranged to meet up with a friend who lived near the Philadelphia airport for a visit before my flight left; a three hour layover would give us plenty of time to catch up, we thought. Little did we know that the domestic flights terminal and the international terminal seem to be located in different hemispheres. After a 45-minute hike (during which I alternately cursed my carry-on bag, which was so weighed down with clothing, camera and lenses that my right arm was going numb, and my "mutant purse from hell" shoulder bag, which frequently leapt from shoulder to wrist without notice) I finally spotted my departure gate down a long corridor.

I searched faces in the crowd as I walked and had, during a quick visit to the ladies' room thought I heard myself paged, but the announcement was so garbled, I couldn't be sure. I stopped at a snack bar and (stupidly, I thought soon after) bought a bottle of spring water and a ginger ale. Now I had two more things to carry. I shouldered my burdens and slogged on.

By the time I arrived at my gate I was resigned to the fact that my friend and I had missed each other. As I stood studying a monitor that displayed departure and arrival gates to verify I was in the right place, I heard a soft voice. "Skell?" My friend was sitting right in front of me with her two sons, and I hadn't even seen her. One of her sons wasn't feeling well so we had a quick visit and she was off on her way home.

Settling in for a bit of a wait, I spoke briefly with two kind women who travel to England on an annual basis to visit their mother. They were very helpful in quelling my nervousness about going through Customs on the other end. Frequent travelers, they laughingly told me that they knew the secret to clearing Customs quickly: If you don't want to be stopped and have your luggage examined, don't wear a hat. Apparently hats are only worn in airports by shady characters. Further brief advice was imparted, for which I thanked them before they returned to animated personal conversation filled with "remember when"s.

I took out a book and stared non-seeing at the pages, sipped my ginger ale and sucked on a Life Saver – a bit of a sugar fix to keep me going. I knew as soon as I was aboard the flight to Manchester I'd be fed a real meal. I was looking forward to a nice glass of wine and hopefully, a long, much-needed rest.

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