Today, Tuesday November 18 is my day off: A day of relaxation and rest. It is a day on which, by its end, I will feel calm and ready to face the next set of challenges. Happy Tuesday!
Yesterday I had discovered that The Millennium Hotel in Minneapolis has a guest coin-operated laundry, so my first job is to get two loads into the machine before breakfast.
For once the restaurant is not serving a buffet breakfast and I am treated to full waitress service and a menu. It is a lovely treat and the food is delicious. The orange juice is freshly squeezed and the coffee rich and tasty.
I can’t linger too long though, as I have to be back in my room at 8.00, to take a telephone interview over the phone. The call is coming in from James Rana, part of the set up at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, where I will be performing in December. James and I have chatted each year that I’ve performed at the University and the interview has become a tradition in its own right.
We talk for ten minutes or so about all sorts of topics, including Charles Dickens’s strange habit of re-aligning all of the furniture in hotel suites, so it faced a certain way. I expect he stipulated ‘no green M&Ms in his dressing room’ too.
After the interview is finished I swap the washing to the drier, before returning to my room and getting down to a little admin work.
On December 20th I am performing A Christmas Carol in my home town of Abingdon. Liz and I are producing the evening ourselves and ticket requests are starting to come in, so I nave to liaise with Liz about that.
I also do a little preliminary research into finding a rehearsal space in which Jeffery and I can work on ‘To Begin With’ next February.
After an hour of office work, the phone rings again for a second interview, this time for a newspaper in Lincoln, Nebraska, where I am headed later today.
I retrieve my laundry and frustratingly discover that Id left a single sock in the washer. Back in my room I carefully lay it over one of the desk lamps so that it can dry before I have to leave.
Once all of my early morning commitments are done I settle into a session running through ‘The Signalman’. The words are there, but a bit approximate and muddled, so it is good to be able to work on them.
As midday approaches I get my cases packed (which isn’t a great effort as I have hardly unpacked them) and go to the lobby to meet Kathy, Jeffrey’s assistant, who is taking me to the airport.
As I check in I come across a new phenomenon: the self tagging of bags. At a little monitor I put all of my details in (as normal), but then it starts to print off the baggage labels. Suddenly, after much whirring and chattering deep within the machine, a tongue-like strip of paper is rudely stuck out at me.
I attach it to my case, and repeat the process for my second piece of luggage. I appear to be left with two sets of small stickers with barcodes and as I don’t want to be responsible for not having any costume in Lincoln, I go to the agent to check I’ve done everything correctly.
They will be asking the passengers to pilot the plane next.
Minneapolis/St Paul Airport is a large, busy, international one and is well provided for in terms of shops and restaurants. Once checked-in, I have a bite of lunch before browsing the many stores.
I also look for opportunities to take a memorable black and white photograph to submit as my final day’s entry into the black and white challenge. People look at me suspiciously as I shoot close-ups of various mundane things.
Airports have changed in twenty years. The book store is almost deserted, whereas they used to be full of people getting something to read to pass the long hours at the gates and in the air.
I remember that in 2001, in the immediate aftermath of 9-11, airports insisted that you arrived three hours before flight time. It was during that year’s tour that I first discovered the Harry Potter novels and read the first three, one after another.
Now the bookstore is almost redundant, with the ability to watch movies or listen to audio books via a phone or tablet.
Another symbol of the change in travel is the proliferation of little charging posts: podiums at every gate area with power outlets and USB slots. All of these posts are surrounded by travellers, making sure that everything has enough battery life to get them to the next little post, in the next city.
Maybe it is because I have recently been in the old west, but the charging areas strike me as a modern equivalent to a frontier town’s water trough at which all of the horses take refreshment before carrying their owners onto the next city.
After I have mused my way through the airport, I return to my gate and get ready to board for the short flight to Chicago O’Hare airport. It is another of those days where I am flying away from my end destination. Lincoln is slightly south west of Minneapolis and I am flying to the south east, to pick up another flight to bring me back again. Travel in America is strange.
Our airplane is an Embraer E175 and the crew proudly explain that it is the newest plane in the fleet. It is certainly very bright and airy and there is so much legroom compared to my Spirit Air flight of yesterday.
As it is a new plane I think I should pay closer attention to the safety briefing and I wonder: ‘why does the bag on the oxygen mask not inflate (even though oxygen is flowing), and why is it there at all if it doesn’t do anything?
The weather is still bitterly cold so the plane is sprayed with de-icing fluid before we taxi to the runway and depart.
It is only a short flight and soon we are breaking through the clouds, emerging over the coast of Lake Michigan.
I have a two hour layover at O’Hare and it is so busy. There are crowds in front of the big screens trying to find details about their connections. The restaurants have lines waiting to be seated. All of the device-charging points are surrounded by clones of the people in Minneapolis.
Actually, now I think of it, my phone could do with charging and I am soon supping from the same trough.
The winter weather is causing considerable delays, as the planes being de-iced are blocking the gates for incoming flights. All through the terminal I can hear agents apologising for the ‘late arrival of the incoming craft’; ‘we will get you out of here as soon as we can’; ‘there is a gate change, your flight will now be departing from….’
There are a lot of disgruntled passengers moving from gate to gate. My flight alone moves from F6b, to F5, to F2c, to F2b. And there we all wait.
Flight time comes and goes: no plane.
The crew is there in their leather fliers jackets: no plane.
The gate agent is there trying to keep us up to date with progress: no plane.
My layover extends pass the four hour mark.
I could probably have driven from Minneapolis to Lincoln in less time than the journey is actually going to take me (and think of all the line learning I could have done!).
At 7.20 the little regional jet finally decides to put in an appearance and we get to board at last. The flight attended announces that we are ready to go but still we sit at the gate: five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen pass and still we don’t move. Would you believe that there is nobody to retract the jetbridge?
It is just one of those days and at least I have no show today. Relax: it doesn’t matter.
The flight is OK, and we finally make it into Lincoln at a little after 9 pm.
As I walk out through the secure area and back into the real world, the day starts to improve, for there is a gentleman, with a kindly face holding a board: ‘Gerald Dickens’. I could give him a big hug.
My contact for the event in Lincoln is John Clinton, a close follower of my blogs and a great fan of the show. On following my adventures he has worked out that I haven’t been met at an airport all through my trip, and thought it would be nice for me to see a friendly face: how right he is!
My event tomorrow is at The Williamsburg Village Assisted Living community and John has put the whole idea together. He has come to the airport with Michael, another part of the team. Together we walk to the car rental desk to pick up my car.
This car will take me from Lincoln, to Omaha and then on to Kansas City, so I am looking forward to a nice comfortable vehicle that can become a friend. Hertz car rental only have a tiny, boxy Kia Soul.
OK, it will be fine I’m sure. ‘I will need a GPS system with that’
‘None of our vehicles have a GPS system and we don’t have any units here.’
Somehow I have to make my way across the Midwest unaided: it is another reflection on how travel has changed. I will have to use a map.
There is a possibility that some of the cars being returned tomorrow may have GPS built in, if I call I may be able to swap. I hope so.
We find the little Soul, which is bright red and rather sweet. The boot isn’t large enough to take my cases so we have to flatten the rear seats.
John gets into the passenger seat next to me and navigates me through downtown Lincoln, pointing out some of the sights to me, including the historic State Capitol building towering above the skyline: ‘A monument to Viagra’ is how John describes it.
We drive to Applebee’s restaurant and Mike joins us there. Over a simple and welcome dinner we chat about tomorrow’s timetable, the tour so far and the history of Lincoln. Mike asks if we had come downtown and had I seen the ‘Prairie Penis’? Lincolnians are very proud of their phallic State Capitol.
The other major venue in town is the football stadium and when it is full on match day (as it will be on Saturday), it becomes the third largest city in Nebraska, holding over ninety-thousand people. Only Omaha and Lincoln itself have larger populations that that.
After dinner we drive to the Landings at Williamsburg Village where John shows me to my room, which is large and comfortable. There is a lovely vase of flowers on a table (oh, yes: John definitely reads the blog,) and a basket of goodies to take with me on the road.
We make arrangements to meet at breakfast and say our goodnights.
Today was my day off: a day of relaxation and rest. I am exhausted.