Tomorrow, I get to fly the friendly skies, and I'm excited.
I get to visit the airport and witness the spectacle of thousands of people dispersing out into the world. Oh, the places they'll go! Where did they come from? Where are they going? What brought them here? What takes them there? (answer: airplanes. Airplanes do that.)
Check-in is super easy these days. Their friendly staff will keep the lines moving - all I need is my confirmation number.
The views from airplanes are always fantastic. On the first leg, I'll see Manhattan as I land at JFK. On the second... Cincinnati. Cincinnati, Ohio. Yessir, the 'nati. On the third, the fine, familiar streets of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
I'll ride in mild luxury, my mind at ease as the trusty folks at Delta carefully and respectfully ensure that my luggage makes all of its connections. They'll bring me my complimentary beverage, maybe some peanuts or pretzels, and I'll drift off to sleep.
Maybe I'll get bumped up into first class!
Maybe I'll sit by someone famous!
Of course, all of that excitement will come crashing down tomorrow when I confront the reality of flying.
I'll rise at 5:30 am, shower, scarf down some breakfast, and hit the road with Markus and my bags, fight San Juan rush hour traffic to get to the airport by 8. After the check-in, I'll be at the mercy of the TSA agents. (I'm a big, bearded guy. I don't foresee any... problems.)
Once I'm through, I'll wait until we all bum rush the plane to claim overhead bin space. I'll crouch down in my seat - window seat, otherwise there will be people crawling over me to use the potty the whole way to New York. There won't be a lot of legroom, you have to pay extra for that now.
I'll visit four airports, two of which I have no business being in except for the fact the Delta says I can save $74 if I stop there.
The layover in New York is three hours. That's just enough time to go mad in the airport, but not enough to leave it. I'm gonna find some overpriced food court food. Airports have done away with free Wi-fi. I guess I'll bring a book.
If I start at 6 am tomorrow and count my two hours on the road, I'll spend 16 hours traveling, just to get from the Caribbean to the midwest. (For reference: A direct flight from San Juan to Chicago takes about 4 hours.) When I land in Grand Rapids, I'm going to be exhausted.
But you know what? At the end of the day, I'll see my family for the first time in more than seven months. And for that, I would glad endure tomorrow a hundred times.
I'm coming home.