The gris-gris was the last thing that I truly felt I needed before leaving Senegal. So after my final days exploring Dakar I made sure to give myself plenty of time to get to the airport so I wouldn't miss my flight. I didn't! But... I arrived in New York and found myself herded into a line with people from my flight and a bunch of people getting back from the Olympics in London. After spending a few hours in that line, and borrowing a very confused woman's phone (Who the heck doesn't have a cell phone these days? ...this guy.), I learned that a "storm" was preventing my flight from taking off, the next possible flight would be a full day after my original flight was supposed to depart. I wasn't getting a room because the flight cancellation was weather related. So began my quest of first getting a hold of my parents who were supposed to be picking me up. This meant trying to get some American money, which I failed miserably at and was forced to call my parents collect from a pay phone. Thank goodness they aren't all gone yet. After I got all the new flight information to them I set out on my quest for a way to spend my evening. I was fully prepared to spend a night in the airport terminal, but decided to try getting a hold of another RPCV in New York.
My computer battery had died to the point where I had to plug it in to use it and the plug that works in America was in my checked luggage, which was still checked. A kind Italian woman noticed I was frustrated with my situation and offered that I use her adaptor. I was somewhat embarrassed that an Italian woman was helping an American get the right power adaptor while in America, but I thanked her profusely and began the search. Facebook messages were the first things sent out, then I pulled out my sheet of notebook paper with a bunch of phone numbers I had copied from my phone before leaving Senegal and booted up Skype. After a couple tries I managed to get the phone number of an RPCV who was more than willing to put me up for the night. He told me what to tell the Taxi driver and I was off... hoping they would accept my credit card. It wasn't a far drive at all, and I recognized the neighborhood according to the phone description, I figured I was close enough and was panicking about the ever-increasing price of my cab drive and what would happen if my card were declined, so I stopped the car and got out. My card was accepted, and I was lucky enough to be less than a one-minute walk away from his house. Once there I had my first shower in America and he decided to take me out for a night on the town. So many lights, we wound up in Times Square somehow, I ate some food, there were so many lights, we went into a couple bars, loud music and so many lights. I'm pretty sure he was purposely trying to overwhelm me... I just kind of turned off I think. The next morning was much calmer, we had brunch and then it was time to take me back to the airport.
I made it to my gate with plenty of time, especially since my flight took off a little late. That meant my flight landed quite a bit later. By the time I got off the plane in Atlanta my flight to Chicago had already left. I went to the gate it was supposed to be at anyway, knowing it was gone, and talked to the guy there. He was very nice and said, "Ah, I see you've changed your flight to Milwaukee at a later time."
"I have? Okay."
Milwaukee is a lot closer to home than Chicago anyway, much more convenient. He gave me everything I needed, and I asked if he knew of any phones around that I could use to call the people picking me up. I was planning my next collect call to home when he pulled out his cell phone and let me use it, such a nice guy. I got a hold of my mom, "Oh yeah, that was me," she says. She saw my flight out of New York was going to be late, called up the airline, give them the sob story, and had it all arranged while I was still in the air. It was like magic. When I landed in Milwaukee I didn't even bother looking for my checked luggage, I just went to the customer service counter and told them that it was probably in Chicago. As I was getting that worked out behind me I heard, "do you see him anywhere?" I turned and saw my parents looking at the crowd around the luggage claim right behind me.
I simply said, "I'm over here," and I was back home.