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Safe Home

June 27, 2008

From My Roof

corey says…I am home…safe and sound and have a fair amount to catch up on here on the blog.

Pat and I left Liza’s cottage on Wednesday morning and picked Tony up along the way. Traffic through Limerick wasn’t bad. However, construction was very heavy. Still it was nothing compared to what we’d probably face on the M-50 trying to get to Dublin Airport. We arrived at Shannon Airport at 9:30am. There was no line at check-in, so we were able to just walk-up.

Since we all bought our tickets at different times and weren’t scheduled to sit together, we decided to forgo using online check-in and ask the agent to help us get seats together. For online check-in, you can visit within 24 hours of your flight and print out your boarding pass…then you only have to go to the “baggage drop off” desk where they check your passport and give you your customs forms. If you have access to a computer and printer the night before you leave, this can be a very nice time-saving feature.

Being at the airport early meant we were, we were checked-in and heading up to the cafe for some tea within ten minutes of entering the airport…that’s one more reason I love flying out of Shannon!

I tapped into the airport’s FREE wi-fi (another benefit of flying out of Shannon), and we all enjoyed a bit of breakfast. It wasn’t long before Liam and his guests arrived. We chatted for a bit, but Duty-Free shopping was calling Pat, so we bid our farewells and headed through security.

Over the years, I’ve been reminiscing the “good old days” when all flights left Ireland via Shannon…now, most fly to Dublin before heading out over the Atlantic. I’ve learned to accept the one hour Dublin layover…we didn’t have to get off the plane and just had to watch the Homeland Security people ransack the plane before the Dublin passengers boarded.

Well, this time we went our usual route to US Customs…Tony showed his boarding pass to the agent standing in front of the snaking rope path leading the customs officers. I was a few steps behind. I was halfway to the agents when I heard Pat talking to one of the agents. I turned around and saw they weren’t letting her through. Ends up, we don’t clear Customs in Shannon any more…the guy guarding the line must not have even looked at Tony and my boarding passes.

We were directed through a side door to Gate 6. As we passed, Tony and I eyed the nondescript door to the Lounge. One trip on account of Tony’s now lapsed Gold Circle Club Membership, we both had the chance to go in there and sip cocktails and eat biscuits before our flight.

Before we could get to Gate 6, we had to go through the usual carry-on inspection. At the other gates they used to have three of for people go through all the luggage of all the passengers. At this gate, they had one person. That meant the line just to get to Gate 6 was snaking back out to the departures hall. We watched as passenger after passenger had their newly purchased water bottles confiscated.

We finally made it through the line…the weary guy doing the inspection managed to crack a joke about the volume of candy bars I bought in Duty Free. I surprised he had the energy for a joke…I appreciated that he was still smiling after having to look through every single bag AND refuse people’s pleas to keep their water and soda.

Our Duty Free liquor purchases were waiting for us right at the gate, and because of the long bag check delay, it was time to board. On we went with no ado.

When we landed in Dublin, we followed the flight crew’s instructions and gathered up all our belonging and prepared to deplane. Once the doors finally opened, there was a quick announcement, “For those passengers traveling onward with us to Chicago, please remain in your seats.” A part of me hoped this meant we wouldn’t have to deboard, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen…no had stamped our Customs forms yet.

Once the Shannon to Dublin-only passengers cleared the plane, another announcement made asking us to get off the plane and follow the signs to US Customs. Unfortunately, several people had returned their luggage to the overhead bins and had to pull it out again…we knew better and hadn’t done that.

We all got off the plane and traveled down the maze of hallways. When we reached the stairs, I was going to ask an Aer Lingus rep if Pat could take the elevator. Just as I was approaching him, he got a call on his radio and disappeared. Pat opted to grab the handrail and walk down.

Everyone got into the long, snaking line that moved relatively quickly…we were all just getting tired of lines at this point. The Customs Agent asked me particularly more questions than I usually get asked…How long was I in Ireland? Why was I there for that amount of time? What kind of work do I do that allows me to be in Ireland that long? What is my occupation? Was I bringing any alcohol or tobacco? There were at least two more questions. The agent asked them in a very conversational tone…which made her sound more nosy than official, but I guess she was just trying to make it less intimidating.

On the other side, the gate area was a mess of people. The left side was filled to the gills with a flight to Boston; the right side was Chicago. The men’s bathroom was situated all the way in the back of the Boston side, the women’s on the Chicago side. There were only enough seats for about an eighth of the people, so I was happy to see young people giving up their chairs for more mature travelers.

I was quite familiar with this area. Two years ago, when a “suspicious package” was found on my flight, this is where they “detained” me and my fellow travelers for three hours. That was quite a trip…we were in the air two hours when I noticed we had land below us…then I recognized the shape of Lough Derg…we were back in Ireland. I knew something was up.

We were almost to Dublin before the pilot announced that a suspicious package was found in the plane. The first class passengers, where the bag was found, had to be relocated to different parts of the plane and the pilot and flight crew assured us that it was likely nothing, but they were required to return to the airport.

As we landed, the runway was lined with firetrucks and police cars with their lights flashing. They chased us down the runway, and we were quickly evacuated using outdoor ramps and packed into awaiting buses.

It was quite an event…and after three hours, they deemed that a Shannon to Dublin passenger had forgotten their unmarked bag. Folks, please make sure you have your name clearly marked on all your carry-on luggage.

A while later the announcement was made that all passenger from Shannon carrying a reboarding card should approach the gate. We did so, and our names were checked off the flight manifest and we we passed through to a little room just outside the boarding ramp. We waited and waited as things got tighter and tighter in the tiny room.

Finally, we were invited to walk up the stairs to the ramp. The people ahead of us were almost on the plane when the Customs agents sent them back down the ramp toward us. Crammed again. About five minutes later, we were allowed to board. Finally, we could relax into our seats.

The rest of the flight was as expected. I really like having the in-flight entertainment in the seatback in front of me…I was able to watch the movies when I wanted. I ended up watching three of them this trip.

I felt a bit of climate shock when I got of plane in Chicago. Humidity was high, but thankfully, the temperature was only 80 degrees. There have been times I’ve gotten off the plane in August at 98 degrees with 98% humidity…ugh!

Our friend Dana picked us up, and that evening I was in my own bed.

Last night, I was welcomed home with some fireworks…Milwaukee becomes the city of festivals in the summer and the giant music festival known as Summerfest kicked off last night. I climbed to the roof of my building to watch the fireworks. It was very peaceful…however, with fireworks in Milwaukee about twice a week during the summer, I knew I needed to enjoy them know because it wouldn’t be long before I found them a nuisance.

Back home, I looked back at my day in Ireland. In the morning, Pat and I were invited to Liam’s to enjoy breakfast with his guests. I made my almost famous Trinity Eggs, and we had a very nice visit. Then I dropped Pat off with Anna Mae as I headed over the Liam’s cousin Mary’s.

I love going to Mary’s, so I was pleased that I was squeezing in one more visit. Although she knew I just ate, she had a full meal ready for me. Then she sat me by the fire where she fed me crisps and whiskey. Then there was a full tea with sandwiches and dessert. Then there was another tea with desserts and biscuits…all this in the course of five hours. I practically rolled down the hill when I left.

We had a great chat. Her son Tim was there as well, and he continued to tease me that I must have been “up to something” in Cork to get such a cold…he figured I must have been participating in Spencer Tunick’s group nude photo shoots.

Afterwards, I picked up Pat, returned to Liza’s to do a little packing and then headed back to Anna Mae and Mehal’s for our final goodbyes with them. It was a very nice visit that ended with some watery eyes.

This Week’s Photo Album

My Ireland Expense Report

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