Erik Attends Viable Paradise: Day 0*

In my convoluted travel itinerary to get to Martha’s Vineyard without flying directly to the island, I forgot one important fact:

Travel is exhausting.

Let’s start with the, um, start.  My flight was scheduled to leave at 9 AM from Tampa International.  I give myself two hours to pick up my ticket, get through security, and find my gate whenever I fly.  It’s always seemed a bit excessive, given how close some of my friends cut it when they fly.

Here’s why it isn’t.  Say you booked your trip through Travelocity, and they changed the reservation after paying.  Say the Travelocity API doesn’t communicate effectively with the United API.  Say the United Airlines flight database doesn’t understand why your flight destination doesn’t match your final destination because Travelocity’s API was too stupid to tell it properly how to change a flight.

You won’t find out from the email notification of the change.  You won’t know when you try and fail to check in online.  You’ll only find out when you get to the ticket counter and a United representative has to be called aside to schedule you for another flight because your itinerary is completely borked.

It only cost me ten minutes of frustration this time.

I don’t know if it’s a screw-up on Travelocity’s part with their fast-and-loose reservation changes, or United’s API for not being able to process flight changes without manual input.  Regardless, I’ll be booking flights directly from airline web portals from now on.

Layovers are exhausting.

I landed in Newark around 11 AM in Terminal C.  My connecting flight was scheduled to board from Terminal A.  Now, changing terminals at most airports will be a chore to begin with.  (It was hell at Houston International — that airport is built entirely on design anti-patterns.)  Newark, well, Newark has buses that run between terminals.  Buses.

Well, it does beat walking.

Also: the Earl of Sandwich front had run out of tuna, but the newspaper stand across the way still had dozens of tuna wraps and sandwiches in stock.

Most exhausting of all?  Prolonged fear.

My faith in this whole enterprise threatened to break when I arrived in Boston Logan International.  The airport’s nice, or all of 500 feet that I saw of it before getting out to the parking structure.  Just beyond the baggage carousels is an enormous bus corridor.  There are stations for scheduled buses (such as mine, the Peter Pan), public transit, parking shuttles, and car rental shuttles.  And there were many, many buses.

Bus, after bus, after bus, after bus.  It was like they left the parking garage, circled around, and came back in the same way.

I nearly boarded the wrong one.  Unbeknownst to me, Peter Pan also operates buses for tour groups.  When a Peter Pan bus stopped in the bus corridor, I followed a gaggle of elderly men and women who swarmed around the bus as the driver stowed their luggage.  I attempted to get in line to have my luggage stowed as well, when a tall, thin man in his fifties stepped in front of me and informed me that the bus was solely for a group going to the cruise ship.

The Peter Pan bus was unlabelled.  Regardless, it was not my bus.

Every bus was Not My Bus.  A Peter Pan bus passed the stop and continued on (not my bus).  A green-and-white bus approached from a distance, but when it came closer I saw the livery was for Alamo (not my bus).  A dozen buses from other companies stopped at the scheduled bus stop, took on passengers, and carried on, spewing exhaust behind them (also not my buses).

And then, another Peter Pan bus arrived.  In the windshield was the label “Wood’s Hole,” where I would take the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard.  This was definitely My Bus.

Boston’s road system is heavily stratified.  After we left Logan, we immediately passed through the Big Dig before ascending to an elevated bus terminal.  Outside my window, beyond the support beams of the terminal building, I could see skyscrapers and brownstones that towered above me and continued below me for countless stories.  It felt very much like Metropolis.

Past the bus terminal, we followed the interstate into suburban Massachusetts, then the county roads through sleepy hamlets that look like fodder for Family Guy.  The houses began to take on that familiar New England architectural style, with wood shingled walls, victorian ornamentation, and grey-and-white color schemes.  Finally, after the road shortened to two very narrow lanes, we arrived at Wood’s Hole and pulled up to the ferry dock.

I expected the ferry from the movie adaption of The Lord of the Rings.  I got something that would take cannon shells to sink, a Constitution-class ferry with TVs, a restaurant, and observation deck.  Well into the afternoon, the sun setting behind us, the ferry left the mainland for Martha’s Vineyard.

When I arrived at the island, the sun had set completely.  I couldn’t see any features along the shoreline, apart from the lighthouse lantern and lit windows inside summer homes.  As I disembarked, two young men held a sign on the dock marked “Viable Paradise.”  I almost wanted to ask, “are you taking me to Hogwarts?”

The two staff members introduced themselves, and they took me in their car and drove mt to the Island Inn.  They said that dinner was nearly ready, cooked by one of the instructors, and that half the students had already arrived.  The Island was especially congested due to Columbus Day weekend traffic, as the tourists from the mainland attempted to have the last bit of fun on the island before winter arrived.  Martha’s Vineyard may be home to the summer residences of the rich, but it’s as big a tourist attraction as Daytona, Florida.

We arrived, I got my room key and stowed my luggage, and arrived at the party already in progress.  In the span of ten minutes, I met five or six authors I admire, two editors who work at my favorite publishing house (and whom I’d like to impress), my student roommates for the week, as well as a fellow student and pen-pal I’d been in touch with shortly after being accepted.

The chili was excellent.  Someone brought s’mores, and my fingers got coated in a chocolate waxy film that doesn’t wash off well.  I got to know my roommates and the instructors better.  Someone, who I won’t name, told one of the instructors that I wanted to sing a sea shanty while riding the ferry, the wind ripping at my face, and all I could remember was “A Whale of a Tale” from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  I think I’ll have to learn something called “The Greek Bent Over.”

And then there was the poker, which was so delightful and funny, and made me come to accept the instructors, people I truly admire, as flawed but passionate human beings.

There’s more in store tomorrow.  I can’t wait.  But God I need to sleep first.

*Why day 0? Because I’m a programmer, and we count from zero.

Edit: I removed the names of my fellow students for their privacy.