Coming home for Christmas

I came home for Christmas this year.

Usually, when you hear someone say they’re going home for Christmas, you think of someone who’s moved away from their family and looking to return to their hometown for a brief holiday reunion. But my situation is a little different: I still live with my family in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio, but I flew out of state to see my long-distance girlfriend the week before Christmas. On December 23rd, I returned home, just in time for my family’s big gathering on Christmas Eve.

You may ask why I chose to spend Christmas with my family instead of with my girlfriend. This was always something we’d agreed upon. My girlfriend and her family don’t really partake in any major celebrations for Christmas, and she knew my family would want me back here in time for the holiday, so we took a few days just before Christmas to spend time together, then I returned home for the holiday proper.

My girlfriend lives in Denver, Colorado…the Mile High City. When I mention I’ve been to Denver, people often ask me how the altitude affects me. Truthfully, I barely notice it. The only major effect I have to be mindful of is the dry air—I find I need to drink far more water in Denver to avoid becoming dehydrated.

Denver International Airport is an enigma, and not because of the conspiracy theories. The place always felt larger than any other airport I’ve experienced, and the ongoing renovation work in the terminal and concourses has made it even more labyrinthine. Notably, as of the time I’m writing this, Concourse A suddenly dead-ends at a huge white wall hiding away the secrets of…well, probably just mundane construction.

I had a bit of a problem while checking in for my flight out of DIA. I had decided a few days before departing that I wanted to check my bag—to me, it’s worth $30 to spare a little bit of stress in the TSA line and the effort of carrying my huge roller bag around multiple airports. So, upon arriving at the airport, I used a self-service kiosk to check in for my flight, and attempted to add a checked bag.

Once I’d entered my details, the self-service kiosk asked me to insert my credit card. I reached down to the kiosk’s card reader…only to find there was already something in the slot. Without thinking, I pulled out whatever was in the slot.

TRANSACTION APPROVED.

Well, crap. I look at what’s in my hand. It’s an American Express card that was apparently left behind by a previous traveler…and I just charged a $30 baggage fee to it inadvertently.

Thankfully, I was able to flag down an airline employee and explain what happened. She took me up to the counter, where she voided the charge on the “abandoned” card and had me charge it to my own credit card instead. She also took the abandoned card to report its loss to American Express.

One thing I always forget until I’m departing from Denver is how the altitude affects aviation. Airplanes need a longer distance to take off in the thinner air, and accordingly, the runways at DIA are significantly longer than typical commercial runways. This tends to result in a moment where I think “Wait, why aren’t we off the ground yet? …Oh, right.”

My flight out of Denver was largely uneventful. I’ve gotten in the habit of ripping YouTube videos to my PC before traveling, so I can load them onto my tablet and watch them on the plane without the need to pay for wifi. I don’t usually have a lot of downtime to watch videos during my visits with my girlfriend, so the flights offer a nice chance to catch up on my favorite YouTubers’ output.

My flight from Denver had a stop at Hartsfield–Jackson International Airport in Atlanta. Many of my fellow passengers also had transfers at ATL. Upon landing, the gentleman behind me checked his phone and found that his connecting flight was already boarding. I’ve had close calls at airports before myself, but what this guy did next was crazy: As the plane was still taxiing, he stood up and jumped out of his seat to retrieve his carry-on bag. The plane stopped taxiing and a flight attendant came to reprimand the man, noting that the plane would not resume moving until all passengers were seated. He reluctantly sat down and the plane proceeded to the gate, at which point he jumped up as fast as possible, trying to get to the front of the line. I wonder if he made it to his flight.

Any time I’m at ATL, I have to visit Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits. It was a bit out of my way—both my incoming flight and my departing flight were in Concourse A, while Bojangles’ is in Concourse T—but it’s well worth the tram ride and extra walking to get that cajun chicken sandwich.

One thing I found slightly odd about the food service at ATL is that the cashiers always greet everybody with “Welcome to Atlanta.” This strikes me as a bit silly, because, you know…an airport works both ways. While some of the people they serve will have just landed in Atlanta, there are also a significant number of people who were already in Atlanta and are looking to depart.

My next stop was John Glenn International Airport in Columbus. I had a bit more comfort on this flight, because my seatmate spotted two empty seats a couple rows ahead of us and opted to move to give me more room. It’s easy to be self-conscious about being a fat person on an airplane, but it’s nice when your seatmate offers to move to give you more room without acting rude or judgmental.

We landed safely at John Glenn International, where my father picked me up in his Chevy and drove me home. Despite knowing I needed to shower and do laundry, I decided to take some time in my bedroom to settle in. In the end, I still finished everything I needed to do before bed, so I can’t complain.

That’s my experience with coming home for Christmas. Feel free to share anecdotes about your own holiday travels! And I’d like to wish my friends, and anybody else reading this blog, a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.

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