Sunday, the last day of bunny_hugger's visit, started out necessarily a touch early, that is to say before noon, because she had to check out of her hotel. The hotel she had chosen to stay in didn't offer a real buffet-style breakfast, just the little continental kind, but we hadn't seen that either. We also had by this time started taking the long way around out of the parking lot because there's this speed bump in front of the hotel end and my car's shocks have been, sometimes, taking that terribly hard. The long way around, going about one of those restaurants that I only set foot in for my senior prom or confirmation dinner that clings to the side of hotels like this for economies I don't understand.
We also had for the first time since New Year's Eve a schedule, or at least a specific deadline: her plane flight, leaving LaGuardia and boarding at 8 pm. Given the desire to be checked in and recorded as present an hour early, and allowing for natural buffers against unexpected traffic problems --- I'd never driven to LaGuardia before and haven't made the trip in decades unless you count being to Shea Stadium to see the Mets lose (I seem to be bad luck for home teams; they didn't even win in 1986 when I went to their games, and that season they went 460-2 in the regular season) --- that implied arriving between 6 and 7, and that implied leaving where we were around 4.
So we had a little time for lunch, and maybe another activity if we were going to be reasonably quick about it. We do kind of encourage one another's lingering tendencies. I'm actually not positive just where we stopped for lunch; I believe it was one of the diners we'd visited on our first trip, one by a river and with fine views of personal boats out the windows except that these were all folded up for the winter this time.
As for a lingering activity we chose going to The Book Garden, that used book store I keep talking about. We had visited here before too, but that was very close to their closing hour and we barely had time to read all the greeting cards and look at a few books including one from the mid-60s that showed all the state capitols as they existed at the time. Now we were there so early that we had abundant time after reading all the greeting cards and getting a few candies from the square-headed Tom Servo-esque candy machines in front. Sadly, the book of state capitols was gone (it vanished sometime in October, I believe), but we had the time to delve deep into the back shelves. They still had plenty of copies of Alan Dean Foster's Quozl.
This bookstore was one where, ages go, I'd found a copy of a book describing Popeye's first fifty years, which I sent to bunny_hugger after reading it myself. I'd deeply enjoyed a library copy when younger, but she'd owned and lost one, and I was happy to replace it. They haven't got a fresh copy of it back yet, but they have got a fine trade in hardcover copies of the Franz Joseph Star Fleet Technical Manual. They've also got copies of those novelizations that came out in the 70s for TV shows because they weren't able to sell episodes back then and needed a revenue stream somehow. Anyone can have a Star Trek adaptation from James Blish's pen, but how about Mission: Impossible? Well, then, Get Smart? General Hospital? Welcome Back, Kotter? Room 222? You can see how dangerous these adaptations can be.
We did end up eventually in the humor section, where I've looked over the collections of comic strips so often I don't even really see them anymore. It's a minor personality flaw. But I was able to find one of the Bloom County books which came up because the reruns of that strip online have included strips we'd never seen or didn't remember seeing before, or which had been altered for newspaper publication. Also really surprising was to discover a copy of Marvin strips in book form. You remember Marvin, dimly, as being as much of a Garfield rip-off as it was possible to make except with a cranky, unlikeable baby as the centerpiece of the strip. It's still there, somehow, but the book collects the earliest strips from when it was at its freshest, and even features an extended sequence at back telling ``the legend'' of how the strip came into being. We didn't buy it, although I'm starting to feel like I may need to buy the book just to spread the completely forgotten story. Maybe.
Eventually it was really time to look to the road, and we drove east a bit to get to the nearby Wawa, to refuel and to get extra-sweet tea and Mallo Cups. This is the Wawa where bunny_hugger had the unfortunate little accident of unintentionally stealing a fountain iced tea back in July, but they didn't seem to recognize her and we paid properly and have the receipts to prove it. And we were getting hungry so we stopped by the nearly adjacent Burger King for cheesey tots (and in my case a veggie burger) and more drinks, the better to get ready for a multiple-hour drive.
Driving wasn't particularly eventful, although I only really knew my way up to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. We were able to spend the time talking about one another, and how we felt about the week, and what we would do in following weeks, and all the things we have to think about. That's not to say all our talk --- then or ever --- was all insular observations of each other. We had a good number of perfectly accessible conversations about, for example, the new Doctor Who and how it compares to the old and what's this stuff about The Doctor having a daughter now all of a sudden. (She hasn't see the episode revealing her, but I was able to assure her it didn't conflict with anything obvious from original-run canon. Also that I think that episode, uncharacteristically, had a cool premise that got developed great and then fell apart at the end even if it felt great, and that it has a backstory that doesn't actually stand up to scrutiny. But it had a lot of cool parts.) And we talked about other things, such as Sapphire and Steel, another British science fiction drama, which is about time-travelling agents fussing over temporal anomalies, which makes it markedly different from every British science fiction drama ever.
The major difference, starting from central New Jersey, in going to LaGuardia airport instead of John F Kennedy is that you go up the western side of Brooklyn and Queens to get there, rather than hugging the southern coast. Had bunny_hugger been leaving from Kennedy we would have had a fair chance of glimpsing what's left of Coney Island, and their great Ferris wheel, but all we could do on this route was note that maybe it's somewhere in that direction as we make a turn down one of the many complicated routes where ten Interstates come together, swap pairs of genetic material, and separate again into Interstates of different but very similar numbers. I was a tiny bit distracted but mercifully she was able to read the Google Maps directions and assure me that we probably weren't too far along the wrong route. It is the kind of thing that makes me think perhaps a satellite navigation system wouldn't be a completely wasteful trifle.
Although I went through a couple of stretches where I really could have used some ``reassurance signs'' --- the superficially redundant identification of just what road you're on --- we were actually on course and even on time, and so got to enjoy the lovely nighttime view of the eastern side of Manhattan, with features like that big old bridge thing that goes from lower Manhattan into Brooklyn, or some of the skyscrapers we had walked around or through the day before. And finally we got through enough of Brooklyn to reach a region that left me feeling completely lost and in an unrecognizable urban expanse, which meant we were just outside LaGuardia.
LaGuardia airport opened long, long, long ago, back in the days when airports were thought of as places ordinary people would want to go even if they didn't have to fly somewhere. As a side effect then of not just the Transportation Pretend Security Agency demand that everything go through sluggish and unpleasant lines while random things are screened, there aren't many interesting places or even simply convenient spots to sit down in the non-quarrantined areas that a person who hasn't got a ticket and boarding pass, such as me in this case, can get at. There was a Dunkin' Donuts and that would have been a good place to sit, except that they were closing as we were getting in. We had entered on the lower level, for arrivals, and knew that somewhere above there would be departures where bunny_hugger should check in, but the only stairs we found took us to the Dunkin' Donuts and a quarrantined area where we were prohibited from entering without having checked in and been screened, and nowhere to go to check in. It turned out past the Dunkin' Donuts stand, as if afraid to announce its presence, was a good-sized hallway leading to the check-in counter. One wonders if the fine people at LaGuardia have heard of ``signs'', which are a popular and labor-saving way of conveying information about the locations of important items.
We did find the check-in counter and while bunny_hugger checked in I grabbed Northwest's fliers for its frequent flier club. The fliers point out how you can book flights online, and the thing that caught my eye was the web browser shown doing this was very clearly using Internet Explorer. On the Macintosh. The Pre-OS X Macintosh. I'm not sure if it was System 8 or 9, but it was certainly that era. I can't explain why this amused me so.
We did have some last time together, sitting in the only decent spot for us --- on the lower level, outside baggage claim, looking out and sometimes getting a burst of cold air from the automated doors sliding open, occasionally in response to someone trying to walk through them. That time passed all too quickly, but it turned out we didn't even properly have that much time: bunny_hugger learned after she got through the first screening line that her flight was at 8 pm, and boarding started a half-hour before that, and while we hadn't waited to the last minute we had waited almost as long as we possibly could. She got to the plane in time to be among those last people they're holding off on closing the door for, though I don't believe she was the last.
For my part I waited around, as is my habit. I'm not really comfortable if I can't wait until after the plane has taken off and had a fair chance to turn around in case of immediate trouble. And there was not much to do after that except to drive home.
I was less confident in this since I'd inexplicably failed to print out reverse directions and it can be challenging in the midst of a twelve-Interchange merge and emerge to locate one's spot and reverse the flow of directions correctly, but I was also aided by my confidence that if all else failed all I really had to do was keep driving south and I would eventually run out of Brooklyn, from which I could get to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and Staten Island. From Staten Island even if I get lost I just have to keep heading west and eventually I'll reach New Jersey, with many options for getting home: the Turnpike, the Parkway, and Route 9, for example. While I was none too confident that I knew my way, I did know that I couldn't really get irrecoverably lost.
So, naturally, I didn't get lost at all and had no trouble navigating my way back. Getting to the Verrazano was the only really unsure part; from that part I knew the way thanks to driving my parents to and from Kennedy and from my own trips there. While I was getting tired --- and thirsty --- after all this driving I didn't actually stop for anything until pretty near 10 pm, which saw me none too far from home again. The timing of this incidentally corresponds not too badly with when bunny_hugger's flight, approximately, finished, which should settle something for all the people who say it's really faster to just drive out a thousand miles than take a plane what with all the hassles of airport-ness. I got home safe and sound to a house already asleep, and I got to sleep before too long myself.
The next day I got an e-mail from my brother, talking about how he'd liked meeting bunny_hugger, and how my father was speculating about whether I'd run off to Michigan. My father, apparently, was speculating that since he hadn't seen or heard anything from me in a while then perhaps I was just gone altogether. Perhaps I should have woken him when I got back home, but I was filled too much with how happy I was. And before long was the e-mail that she'd got home safely.
Trivia: In the original design for LaGuardia airport, passengers had no need to enter a terminal. They could instead take the Skywalk and walk up to their planes. Source: Naked Airport, Alastair Gordon.
Currently Reading: 1939: The Lost World Of The Fair, David Gelernter. The heck? From an Author's Note at the start: This is a history book, but the characters are made up. The words they speak reflect long discussions with many people who remember the fair; in some cases, my characters speak actual phrases ``from real life'' verbatim. You're making up people to deliver the verbatim reminiscences of the real people you actually interviewed? You're not writing your memoirs here, David. You should stick to stuff that actually happened.