I get to Newark airport from King Sauna without a problem. But boarding gets a little hairy, as I quickly realize that the flight’s been overbooked and that I’m in one of the later groups to board in Southwest’s free-for-all approach when it comes to seating. I start working through contingency plans, or try to; I come up with nothing. Eventually I tell myself that my bad luck getting to the sauna is the sacrifice I made to the gods of travel luck—things will go my way now.
My luck hasn’t run out yet, it turns out, and I make it on board, as well as an elderly couple put on standby—themselves beneficiaries of someone else’s bad luck, I suppose. I wonder if I am as well.
I scribble some notes on the flight, read one of the ebooks I brought along on my phone (The Castle of Crossed Destinies, by Italo Calvino; I’m largely unimpressed), and even take a bit of a nap.
We land and I change from my traveling clothes into something more suited for Texas in August. I realize that I’ve forgotten to pack deodorant and apply liberal amounts of some stick perfume from Skin Food, hoping it’s enough to make me borderline acceptable to the public at large.
It takes forever for the shuttle bus to arrive, but I don’t mind. Noah (my host) and Elizabeth (his girlfriend) don’t finish work until 16:30 anyway; my flight arrived at around 13:30. The more time I spend waiting at the airport for transportation nonsense to sort itself, the less time I spend waiting at the recommended coffee shop by myself. That feels too much like waiting for a date.
Nonetheless, the bus eventually comes and I probably still have 45 minutes or so to wait for my hosts at The Hideout. I settle in with an iced hibiscus tea, fruit, and free wifi, then text Noah to let him know I found the coffee shop okay. The rest of my wait bounces between talking to friends on Google hangouts, reading ebooks, and doing sudoku puzzles.
Noah and Elizabeth find me without a problem. I peel myself off the cafe chair and reluctantly hug Noah (“I’m probably really gross.” “It’s fine.”). We stand around and decide what to do for food, since Noah’s hungry and I’m a low-key guest who can go along with almost anything. They decide on a basement sandwiches and beer place. (Something I notice across the weekend: every food place in Austin is an all-purpose food place, serving cafe fare as well as beer and wine.)
At the sandwiches-and-beer place, the group next to us are arguing, good-naturedly, about how far it is to one destination or another. It isn’t until I bite into my veggie sandwich that I realize I’m hungry. For the first few bites, it’s like the subtraction soup from The Phantom Tollbooth: the more I eat, the hungrier I get.
Of course I’m hungry. For the past twenty-four hours I’ve survived on beer, tea, digestive cookies, and a banana.
We finish up and return home so I can drop off my bag and so Elizabeth and Noah can change into more comfortable, less work-y attire. A poster has arrived while they’ve been gone, a gift that Elizabeth bought for Noah (a new map of the United States that is, for some reason, the best map ever; Noah tries to explain but I fail to grasp the import), and I take the opportunity to segue into their gifts, which mercifully have survived the long journey. Those mugs were easily the most fragile thing in my luggage, and I could only hope that I had been careful enough with them across an ocean and half a continent. (The accompanying tea is much less delicate, at least.) But things survived intact and I breathe a sigh of relief.
Clothes changed and gifts exchanged, we head into town for Geeks Who Drink trivia. Our team is disqualified because we have too many players, so our second-place victory (or third? enough to win some money) is only a moral one, but a win we take nonetheless.
Back home, Noah and I watch Okja. (Speaking of Bong Joon-ho!) He’s genuinely unimpressed with the movie, while I’m neutral enough on it that I would watch it again.
After that, it’s midnight, and going to bed can’t be delayed any further, even if I’d like to sit up with some tea and talk for hours. I fall into bed and conk out for the first real night of sleep I’ve had in 48 hours. I have the first dream that I’ve had in weeks, though when I wake up I don’t remember any of it.