Over prepared and consistently early travelers that we are, the alarm clock buzzed at 4 a.m. Why wake up so early for a flight that does not leave until after 9? We live in New York City. To save money, we had planned on taking the hour-long subway ride out to JFK. Total cost: $15.
Of course, in the wee hours of the morning, met with the reality of total darkness and a nest of warm blankets, we decided that sometimes saving time is worth more than saving money. After paying the $45 flat rate to JFK plus the new taxi taxes and tip, the cab ride to JFK came in at about $60.
Through the relatively short security lines and onto the Delta terminal, we decided to browse the airport shops and find some tea. I ordered a grande green tea from Starbucks, and James found a big salad at Balducci’s. Finally settling into the faded blue pleather seats at our gate, we took in our surroundings and anticipated our upcoming flight (well, actually, I did most of the anticipating). On our way to Mexico City for the Society for Ethnomusicology conference, we were not surprised to see the gate full of familiar faces. That certain sense of anonymity that comes with airports and traveling was all together obliterated. I chatted with a friend from grad school and gradually finished my huge cup of tea. Just as the plane began boarding, the tea caught up with me. Expecting that we would be stuck on the runway for 45 minutes, I took my seat on the airplane, crossed my legs, and held it in with all of my might. However, the airplane literally backed out of the gate, turned around, and took off. That never happens. Especially not at JFK. After we reached 10,000 feet, I tore off my seat belt, jumped over the person next to me, and raced to the bathroom. Respite!
The direct flight was relatively uneventful. Remembering the almond butter and jelly sandwich that I devoured on my last Delta flight, I was really looking forward to lunch. This time the only healthy option for two hungry vegetarians was a cheese, fruit, and cracker dish. Major complaints about the fruit. A couple grapes, two dried apricots, and 2 walnuts. We were not happy.
After 5 hours, we passed over the Gulf of Mexico, neared the city, and caught our first few glimpses of the surrounding mountains.
The plane slowly descended through a layer of thick smog, coming in for a smooth landing. Hundreds of passengers stretched their tired limbs, grabbed their belongings and were herded off the plane into a long, snaking customs line. We were required to fill out a swine flu questionnaire, and after being deemed healthy, we passed through what I call reverse security. Normally, you pass through security when you arrive at the airport. Now we were passing through security as we left the airport. As I reclaimed my bags and headed toward the main part of the airport, one of the security guards yelled out to me in Spanish. Not knowing Spanish at all, I gave her a confused look. Apparently, there is a button that you need to push after you pass through security. If the light turns green, you are good to go. If the light turns red, your bags are rummaged through by even more security officials. My light turned green, and I was cleared to enter Mexico.
We debated taking the subway to our hostel, but settled on a cab instead. Cab that morning in NYC–$60. Cab that afternoon in Mexico City–a little less than $20 bucks (which we then split between four people).