Monday, August 2, 2010

Ah, Home... (?)

I've been hearing about a particular phenomenon for a long time and have always understood it in theory, but I finally experienced it the other day. It's the 'Where is home?' phenomenon. Up until now, it's been easy. My family lives in NH, I'm training in DC, I'm moving to Saudi Arabia. But the past week, especially once my UAB and HHE and dog were packed up and shipped out, it's gotten harder. But I had a total moment of panic the other day as I realized I couldn't answer the question posed to me by the United baggage rep.

Here's the story. Saturday started off wonderfully - slept in, packed up, ate leftovers, said my goodbyes to the Oak. Went outside to wait for my airport shuttle. Watched a colleague and his family fit an impressive number of suitcases, two live animals, and himself, wife, and infant into an SUV cab, also en-route to the airport. Still no shuttle. Finally it arrives, 40 minutes late. I get into the shuttle, and there's not enough room for my bags, even though I told them exactly how many I had. It was only when two other passengers asked to be let out at the nearest taxi that I realized this was not going to go well. They were already late for a flight. So we drop them off and pick up the last passenger and get to the airport with less time than I'd like but still enough time to get checked-in and security checked.

Long check-in line. Then they can't process my paper ticket, so they send me to the 'additional services' line. Long line. Unaccompanied minors, deploying servicemen, and off-duty stewards are in front of me with complicated needs. Meet up again with above-mentioned colleague and family trying to safely get their pets onto the plane. I must give kudos to this cat and dog - they were calm as calm can be - totally unfazed by their surroundings or predicament. Very impressive. Baby was happy and quiet as well, and I hear this continued all the way to their destination. Anyway, I get to the front of the line and the grumpy customer service rep. He doesn't want to give me any baggage allowances for being on orders, but a quick call upstairs confirms it's all right. That was the best part of the day - getting two 60lb suitcases checked free of charge.

So I head to security - LONG line. Moves fast, but not fast enough. I finally get through and sprint to my gate, where my flight should be boarding. 35 minute delay. So, my priorities being in order, I sprint back through the terminal and get a 20 minute pedicure, which takes about 28 minutes. Sprint back to the gate and onto the plane with no waiting (never a good sign). I was fine; they just boarded early, and plenty of people came on after me. There was even room for my bag. Flight was easy and uneventful, but the delay meant catching a later bus to NH. So at baggage claim my first bag comes out quickly, but #2 is a no-show. I'm not terribly concerned, as I have some time in NH.

So. I go into the baggage claim area and start the process with the very nice customer service rep. But then she asks the tough question. "Is [address redacted] your home address?" I stare at her. A long time. And then say, "I don't really know how to answer that question." She laughs and says, "I didn't mean to ask you such a tough thing; it's easy for most people." I finally said that while this was my legal residence, it was not my final destination. So she said the bag would be delivered by noon the following day.

And here's the thing:  NH will always be home. It's where I grew up, it's where my family is, it's my home leave address... but it's not my current home, if that makes sense. I guess until next week I don't have a current home, which was what was catching me off guard. I could have given this woman the long version, but she just wanted a yes or no answer. And at that moment I just couldn't provide it.

After 10 hours of traveling, I finally arrived home. My NH home. With my family. And when I woke up the next morning, bag #2 was at the front door.

But the story doesn't end there. My youngest brother and his friends got to our house shortly after I arrived home, and they were awestruck that the airline would drive 2.5 hours each way to deliver this one bag. So they decide to wait up. And wait. And wait. Finally at about 4am they give up, and my brother drives his friends home, probably a 20-30 minute r/t drive. He gets home and finds the bag on the porch. A night's adventure foiled. So close!

That was a very long post when all I really had to say was I couldn't answer the question about home. It was the first memorable time but certainly won't be the last. And I'm okay with that. I just didn't expect to be so caught off guard by such a seemingly simple question.

And... NH is great :-).