Saturday, November 20, 2010


Getting to LaGuardia by 5:00 am has been a bit of an ordeal: after completing a trickier than expected problem set for First-Order Logic, I had about 30 minutes to shower, pack and call a cab to Union Station. Fortunately, being away from home for seven years has taught me to travel lightly—thanks to a collection of necessities at home*, there was little need for me to pack more than my laptop, a few books, my favorite jeans and an extra pair of shoes, which conveniently fit into a small black carry-on. (I'm also taking home a few pairs of shorts and three summery polo shirts, which, tragically, will not be required in New England until mid-May.)

*I've found it efficient to keep at home an abridged but sufficient wardrobe of basics—enough to wear for a week or two during most of the year—in order to avoid hauling back everything from socks to underwear to that cool tee that would be nice to wear during break but could probably stay at school. Dear boarding school/college student/anyone else who travels home regularly, if you're not already doing it, it's worth the few extra bucks. Seriously, there is no need for your socks to rack up frequent flier miles.

After shoving everything into my carry-on, I found my cab downstairs and made it to Union Station in time to catch 11:38 pm train. The train arrived at Grand Central around 1:30 am, leaving with enough time to purchase and have one bite out of the worst potato knish I've ever tasted. I then found out that the $9 Grand Central-LaGuardia airport shuttle I had planned to take doesn't operate at night, requiring me to adjust my plans.

Figuring that I still had a few hours to burn, I decided to take the 7 to a bus terminal in Queens near the airport. While waiting for the bus to arrive, I noticed a sign across the street that read "清기와 Korean Restaurant." What really made my face light up was the accompanying "Open 24 hours" indication. Walking in, I was greeted by a friendly pair of Korean ajummas who quickly brought over a cup of barley tea and a decent spread of banchan. Despite knowing that I would be enjoying amazing home-cooked Korean food later that day, it was hard to resist digging in. (My main order, sundubu jjigae (spicy tofu stew), wasn't anything special. But hey, when I'm getting that much red pepper at 3 am in an unfamiliar neighborhood of Queens, I'm not too picky.) Incidentally, being the only customer at that hour, I had a very engaging conversation with one of the ajummas about her living as a recent immigrant in such an ethnically diverse part of town. Professor Syrimis would have been proud.

Around 3:30, I crossed the street and hopped on the bus headed to LaGuardia, not realizing that there is a miniature rush hour of airport staff, flight crew and TSA personnel in the neighborhood around the airport at that time. As a result of stopping so many times to pick up more commuters, what would have normally been a 10-minute drive took over half an hour. (Not that I minded—it was actually kind of interesting to watch airport employees interact with each other outside of the grind of the airport, and arriving at the airport sooner would have just meant more time sitting in front of the flight gate.)

I also found out that LaGuardia's security line opens at precisely 4:30 am—I just spent about 25 minutes in the security line with other early morning travelers being stared at by (and having nothing to do but stare back at) uniformed TSA employees who, despite being fully prepared, are not allowed to let anyone through the security checkpoint before 4:30.

And thus supremely sleep-deprived, here I am, sitting in front of my gate in Terminal A. I do find it somewhat strange that traveling the 67 miles between New Haven and New York has taken longer than my flight to Houston will take. But at any rate, there is now only one mode of mechanized transportation between me and balmy, Texas-blue skies. Definitely reason to give thanks.