Christmas Vacation 3: Tampa Landing

I suppose that I am a creature of extreme routine. One of my other requirements when traveling, along with finding and listening to local radio stations, is to eat from a non-chain, local restaurant. Do you know how hard this is getting to be these days?

Saturday morning arrives, and we lazily slide into the day. We have already decided on a place the previous night: a Greek spot who’s name I unfortunately am not able to recall. The online menu indicates a delicious-sounding pita wrap called Chicken Showarma, with garlic sauce.

We step outside, and I am relieved that there is no rain. However, the sun still chooses not to appear. It just refused to show up while I was there.

We take the short cab ride, and arrive at an echoy building that seems to be pretty much otherwise unpeopled. I put my hearing aids into t-coil mode so that I will be able to understand what is being said without the acoustics getting in the way.

We are escorted to a table by a kind woman named Cynthia. I and the other guy order the chicken showarma, and she gets a veggie wrap, understandably preferring a healthier choice after Friday’s frivolity.

The sandwich is as good as I felt it would be. The bread has a rewarding crunch that compliments the meat’s softness. There are also some vegetables, peppers, and that sauce inside. I wash it down with a glass of good, strong lemonade.

I am impressed by this, and by the overall level of service we receive here. I don’t know if they offer dessert, but whatever the case we opt not to eat anything further. Cynthia tells us to wait inside while the cab comes, and lets us know when it arrives. There is a little aggravation as the cabbie assumes that Cynthia would know where we were going, but this matter seems to be quashed relatively quickly.

Once back at the apartments, I go in with her to meet a cat that she says she acquired because he kind of adopted her.

“I was outside, and I heard him meow,” she said. “He rubbed up against my leg and began to pur, and I had to take him in. I was gonna give him to the humane society,… but I got too attached to let him go after a while.”

He began to pur even as I stroked his fur. Very cute.

I finally get to sit outside in the nearly 80 degree day, no coat or sweater and a short-sleeve shirt, to take in more of my book. Is this what caused me to then catch a common cold once I got back home? Probably, but it was still worth it.

She has one of her friends come to take her to a Family Dollar that is within walking distance. I hadn’t realized that Family Dollar actually sells some light groceries, although I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, as an NPR story noted that nearly all stores are trying to be a little of everything to capture an increasingly fragmented audience.

They get me a delicious bag of smallish cookie-looking things that are covered in chocolate and pretty good! She also gets a box of cereal for Sunday morning and some soda to eat with what we have at night.

I give up on my quest for sunshine once she returns, going back to the guy’s apartment in which I was staying to catch the last of UNC’s bowl game, where they steamrolled the University of Cincinnati in Charlotte. I then just drift until dinner time, nibble on the leftover pizza from Thursday night, play a game of Farkle within the Dice World iPhone app with her, and bed down pretty early. This is because she has a headache, and he has come down with a stomach bug. I count myself fortunate that I don’t seem to have caught that yet.

Sunday morning departure comes pretty early, at 7:40 precisely. Before that though, my bag of toiletries grows legs and disappears. Given that none of us three has working eyes, I don’t even begin to try and relocate the darn things again. The Super Shuttle’s arrival windo had been 740-7:55, and they get there at the beginning of said. We bid adieu, and I am off.

Going To Carolina, Not in My Mind Audio

The flight leaves at 10:10 AM, and this time I am boarded first. I believe that is because I have the preboarding sleeve, whereas I’d had my new friend print the pass at the check-in kiosk back at RDU. I forgot to mention that that involved a harrowing search through my endless plastic cards for my ID, which I finally, happily, located.

I choose the second seat back from the first row of coach, and settle in. A couple sits beside me, the woman right next to me telling me that they are bound to see their grandkids in smalltown Wake County. They will return the next night. I get coffee this time, and am surprised that it is hot and tastes fresh.

This flight has WiFi for $8, which I feel isn’t worth it for an hour and a half flight, and free TV offered by the Dish satellite company. You are supposed to be able to watch this programming on a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet, but I can’t actually get the TV to work. The woman beside me finds it hard on her iPad as well, but she hadn’t initially realized that if airplane mode is on, she’d have to enable WiFi to access the Internet. We do enjoy viewing the flight tracker, which tells us how high we are, quickly we’re going, and much time remains. It even gives the current heading. It kind of feels like having GPS.

She tells me that she works for the largest clinic on the west coast of Florida, supporting, I think, 125 doctors. She and her husband also have a nice place right on the water.

Yeah, I don’t do cold weather,” she says on one of the reasons their stay in North Carolina will be so short.

“Where are you from originally,” I ask.

“Connecticut.”

Her husband keeps insisting that he wasn’t looking forward to it either, leading her to try and convince him to just suck it up it for a bit.

And Now We Land (Audio)

This is the first flight I’ve taken since the regulations regarding when electronic equipment can be used, and so I decide to capture what to me are interesting sounds of the coming in and going out. I wish I had left it rolling a bit longer when we touch down, so that perhaps I could have captured the welcome message from the flight attendant. My seatmate says there is a fairly steady rain falling as we make contact with the runway.

By the time I get off though, the rain has largely ended. A perky agent assists me to baggage claim, where it takes a minute to gather my things. Once I do though, we make our way towards the sliding doors, and I slide into the waiting cab with my driver. How convenient that is. She’s the kind of person to whom I only need to occasionally say “uh-huh,” and she’ll keep chatter rolling along. That’s fine with me.

And that largely ends my trip to Tampa Florida. I think this trip showed me that I’ve gained some ability to network, and am a bit better at getting myself where I want to be. Without a doubt, my iPhone certainly has done a lot to improve that. As we make our way into 2014, I think I may have another trip already taking shape. I’ll be back with more on that though once it fully develops.

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