Getting My Ten Cents Worth

Dearest Rachel –

I probably shouldn’t do this, but boredom – and the ability to move about – can cause one to make some, let’s say, questionable financial decisions.

Of course, they weren’t particularly big deals, especially in comparison to all the spending that I’ve been doing in the last two days (not all of it under my control, and much of it covered by insurance, but still). But it does leave me questioning as to whether I should’ve bothered. I go to all those Christmas markets back in Basel and never buy anything, but here in the airport, sure, why not? It’s just weird, and a little bit out of character for me; at least, I think it is. I’m not sure that I like the idea of a constantly frivolous, spendthrift version of myself.

And this is not to mention the fact that I already have a carry-on, in the form of my backpack. I really shouldn’t add to my burdens by buying more stuff here at the last minute. But five idle hours is more than enough to send me looking for something to do… and shopping is pretty much all there is for now.

I find myself tempted by the foodstuffs (no surprise that, I’m sure); a variety pack of Gouda cheeses, and some fairly large chocolate bars (labeled ‘Tom’s Chocolonely,’ so you know it’s caught my attention). On that latter, they even have a sale if you buy three; I get six. Look, when am I likely to find Belgian chocolate back home?

At least, this stuff can be used up in short order: I’ll break into the cheese as part of our Christmas celebrations, and the chocolate, I’ll distribute to the girls and Daniel when we meet for pizza (and I’ll still have a couple left to give to Joanna and Will for Christmas). I’m still not sure whether that’s going to be this evening or Thursday.

As I pay for this load, I’m asked if I need a bag, for an extra ten cents. Again, Europe. I consent, and the clerk puts the cheeses in a paper bag, rolling the top shut, and sealing it with tape. Just as I’m wondering how that’s supposed to work, she brings out another paper bag, slides the chocolate bars in, and repeats the sealing process. Finally, she brings out a colorful plastic bag, and places both plastic bags inside.

Well, I can’t say I didn’t get my ten cents worth. Not much you can get with ten cents these days, even if they’re euro cents.

On to more immediate concerns and desires; the fact that I haven’t eaten since waking up. Wait, no, that’s not quite true. They’d handed out sandwiches again on the Cityhopper flight: the attendant referred to them as ‘cheese salad,’ which I’ve never heard of before, and given my thoughts on meat and egg salad, I would find concerning. If nothing else, it’s doing a disservice to a dairy product that never did anyone any harm.

But I had set aside my distaste for the name and gave it a try this time around, and found it reasonably palatable. I think they add the ‘salad’ to the name simply because there are greens in the mix: either chives or green onion, or both. I’m not even going to begin to guess the cheese – whatever it is, it’s sharp and spread on the bread, rather than being a slice or two laid thereupon. It’s actually quite thin compared to the bread, reminding me of the comparison of life to a crap sandwich: the point being that, the more bread you have, the less you have to deal with the crap.

Cliché, I know, but these things become that way because of the grains of truth they enclose, like an ugly pearl.

Anyway, that was tolerable at the time, but hardly satisfying – just the fact that I very nearly forgot about it while I’m relating this to you should be indication of that. And like I said, the layover at Schiphol is five hours; that’s certainly plenty of time to get hungry again.

It may even explain why I bought all that food for souvenirs.

At any rate, there’s a little quick-serve stand at the head of the terminal, and I take a look around as a fellow in front of me tries to pay his tab in American money. It’s not that the clerk has a problem with the dollars as such, but nobody in such a small-scale establishment is going to accept a $100 bill. Even back at home, you couldn’t spend fifties or hundreds at a fast food place and not get at least a weird look, if not outright refusal. I’m guessing this fellow has come back from the States, is on a layover of his own, and is trying to dump what to him feels like Monopoly money. The poor (wow, that’s not really the word for him, though, is it?) devil is going to need to get change from elsewhere.

Once he gets sorted out, finally using a credit card instead to pay for his snack, I step up. Grabbing a soda (the flavor is labeled as ‘cassis,’ but it looks – and tastes – like grape to me) from the fridge, I request a sausage roll; you know, on of those baked goods I passed on at the Co-op yesterday.

For what it’s worth, it turns out that a sausage roll is nothing like a hotdog. For one, the outside pastry is flaky and light, as opposed to being a solid yet fluffy bun. For another, the sausage is… well, let’s just say it’s ground up so that it’s almost unrecognizable as meat, and certainly unrecognizable as to what meat it is. It still tastes okay – or maybe it’s just the fact that hunger really is the best seasoning.

I barely finish before the announcement comes that boarding is about to commence. To be sure, they’re starting with parents of small children, and then going by zones (as is customary, I’m listed in zone four), so there’s no need to rush.

At the same time, it’s not a huge crowd waiting to go in. I find out later that there are but eighty passengers on a plane that I’m guessing seats some two or three hundred. I imagine I’ll have empty seats around me to stretch out on.

But at first, I’m snug up against a young couple who’s making their way back to their home in Chicago after a month of visiting family in India. Despite my first guess, it’s not a honeymoon trip – they’ve been married for six years – but it’s a trip they’ve been saving up for in terms of both money and time for a long while. I can appreciate the latter in particular; we would never have been able to take a month-long vacation back in the day. The accounting cycle would never have let me, at the bare minimum.

I still wish we could take advantage together of the opportunities we have now.

Still, I shove those thoughts back down, wish them well, and let them know I’ll relocate to an emptier section once we’re airborne.

From there, there isn’t that much to comment on. Without wi-fi, I simply find myself rummaging through my library of books – I hadn’t gotten to any of them during this entire trip, I’ve been so focused on keeping you up-to-date with what has been happening. So I’m not really doing much throughout the remainder of the flight except reading this or that. And eventually I can feel the pressure in my ears that says we are descending.

It is long before we land, and as we taxi I attempt to text the folks to let them know I am in, to which they respond that they’re already here and waiting in one of the more distant parking lots. Indeed, between disembarking and customs, they call me twice to find out where I am, only for me to have to admit I’ve not gotten my suitcase, let alone stepped outside to figure out where they are to pick me up.

Picking up my suitcase is easy, but finding my way out is surprisingly hard. There’s almost as much crowd control rope after the baggage claim as before, but eventually I find my way out, call them, and ride back to the house, where I barely have time to grab something for a snack (good thing the girls preferred Thursday – that, and the fact that Daniel continues to fight off his own symptoms; hopefully by then, he’ll have recovered a bit) before collapsing in the rocker/recliner and not waking up until a quarter to ten (which would be just before five, ‘my’ time).

Clearly, I need some more sleep before I’m really back. At least, I got my ten cents worth from the trip.

Daniel hugs me – tightly – and I’m gone. See you in my dreams, honey – I hope.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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