05 August 2006

Air Travel, Cup Style

1. Wake up at 4:30 a.m. for a 9:35 flight, because you’re just too damned excited to sleep. E-mail, blog, monitor airport parking situation, watch and read the news, close the suitcase, and leave at 6:45 for that 9:35 flight. (Airport is, on weekends, less than a 30-minute drive from the Cup’s cupboard.)

2. Go to Starbucks for the morning’s triple grande nonfat latte. Glad to see that the bald and beautiful Luke is barista’ing, so get in a quick preflight flirt. Favorite barista and cocktail buddy Marlene is there, getting her pre-workout espresso; enjoy chat about weekend plans, personal dramas, and Judaism. Pull out of Starbucks at 7:25.

3. No traffic this Saturday morning, so zoom through town and to the airport. Pull into excellent space, on the end, at the airport park ‘n’ ride by 7:50; get on bus at 7:55.

4. Bus stops first at south terminal and Delta ticketing, this being Deltatown. Everyone gets off but you. Airport looks quiet, slow this morning.

5. Bus takes you to far end of the north terminal and AirTran ticketing. Where 37,812 people are lined up for curbside check-in. A seasoned traveler, you scoff at their ignorance. You never check bags; you’re a carry-on traveler who uses the automated kiosk.

6. Step inside. Another 53,972 people queued to check bags with AirTran; strange that the other airlines have no crowds. Scoff again at naïve travelers, because you’re about to kiosk it and move on.

7. Step up to kiosk terminal at 8:05. Swipe card, type in confirmation number. Your reservation can’t be found. Try again. You still don’t exist. Step to another kiosk. Find that the other kiosk is also stupid. There’s a nice ticket agent behind you, checking in carry-on folks. You ask what’s wrong; he asks which flight and airport. “Oh, ma’am, that flight is overbooked and we’re having problems in D.C. today. I can get your boarding pass.”

8. Walk dejectedly to end of line, like Charlie Brown or the “Arrested Development” cast in that Charlie Brown-inspired episode. Queue up behind the 27 people you just inwardly scoffed for not using kiosk. Now inwardly whimpering.

9. Reach ticket agent at 8:55. “Ma’am, why did you get in line? I would have printed your boarding pass for you when you asked about the problem.” Curse the good manners your mama instilled in you and the 45 minutes you just wasted.

10. Dash to security checkpoint. Panic when you see the 163,478 people in front of you. Queue up in fastest-moving line.

11. Security officer on a power trip stalks up to man just ahead of you, and orders your group through a door to a new line. Whimper that your flight leaves in 25 minutes. Hateful, unfeeling officer with ‘tude shrugs her hateful, unfeeling shoulders with ‘tude and walks away, probably giggling wickedly. Begrudgingly queue up behind other traveling lemmings.

12. Whimper as you watch other travels zip through lines, while you stand and stand and stand. And panic.

13. Line finally begins to move. Irritation boils as people ahead of you wait until they get to belt to empty pockets into bins.

14. Sandals already tucked into briefcase and baubles in purse, stroll through metal detector with non-metal confidence. No ding. It’s 9:15. You’ll just make it.

15. Get to end of belt. Another security officer, this one with less ‘tude and a hint of a kind smile, waves you over. Your bags have been randomly selected for a full search. Whimper again that your flight leaves in 20 minutes. Security officer comments that you’re carrying quite a lot of baubles for so few outfits. Inwardly scoff that men just don’t understand how bauble selection ties so closely to that day’s mood.

16. Security officer then notices laptop, which must be booted up. Whimper again, because laptop takes two or three minutes to boot up, thanks to all that damn virus and wireless protection software that takes for-f*ing-ever to load.

17. Security officer announces that you’re not smuggling pipe bombs or puppies or pomegranates. You get to go to your gate … on concourse C.

18. Grab train. Foot taps in beat with your whimpering.

19. Train stops at C. You OJ it off the train, running up the towering escalator. Trip forward, as you’re wearing a long boho skirt (not the best skirt for running up that hill).

20. Continue the OJ’ing down the concourse. Run up to gate … just as the doors close. Throw yourself against glass, pounding your fists like Benjamin Braddock, shouting “AirTran!” Plane sits there, mocking you with the same ‘tude as that security officer.

21. Walk down to next gate, ask if they can call the stew and open the door for you. After they wipe away the tears from all the laughter, they point you to customer service, where you can book another flight.

22. Queue up. Again. You’re the only person in line, but the guy getting serviced is irritated and won’t be moving soon. A nice customer service guy walks up and tells you to come with him, he can help. Glad to see that tears still work on some people.

23. Next flight to National is at 1:45. There’s a 12:30 to Dulles, but you’re a seasoned D.C. traveler and know that National is most convenient for your friend. Book the National flight. Nice AirTran man mentions that there’s wireless throughout the concourse … so at least you’ll be able to blog and e-mail during your four-hour wait.

24. Worried because you’re trying to make it to a gallery in Reston to see Renae’s photograph hanging on the wall. Call the gallery; they’re open until 5:00 p.m. Relax and call D.C. friend.

25. D.C. friend is shocked to see your name on caller ID, since you’ve never missed a damn flight in your life. (Well, except for that time when you and Dan went to San Francisco, and you’d left your driver’s license at home, and had to drive back home to get it, necessitating a rebooking for later that day. And Dan didn’t even get mad. A saint, that one.) Give friend a very longwinded version of your last 90 hellacious minutes. He adds fuel to the fires of hell, mentioning that Dulles — with that flight leaving 75 minutes before the one you picked — is just 15 minutes from the gallery. Whimpering returns.

26. Slump into gate chair, bags at your feet, and settle in for four-hour wait. Find that Hartsfield plays great music — “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” “With or Without You,” “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” "The Way We Were." Because gate now feels like home, you feel no shame in singing along.

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At 8/05/2006 01:11:00 PM, Blogger Marni said...

I was wondering how you could be commenting on Pug's Life when you were supposed to be in the air... NOW I see.

At 8/05/2006 01:15:00 PM, Anonymous Judith said...

I think of the lyrics "caught between the moon and New York City" as airports and flights...and the continuing lyrics, "all that you can do is fall in love" have sure worked for me in the past! Try it!

Turned on my cpu for first time today just as you closed off - sooo, advice is meant to be!

At 8/05/2006 01:18:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

MARNI: Yes, I've posted two columns when I should have been muching on those seven airline pretzels. Not a good morning. But, as I've always said, if it makes for a good story later ...........

JUDITH: Always good advice from a great (I don't care about the challenge when it comes to relatives) aunt.

At 8/05/2006 02:12:00 PM, Blogger barista brat said...

oh man!
i feel your pain! thankfully the music is good. hope that next flight is fuss free and you make it to your destination with no added headaches.

At 8/05/2006 03:15:00 PM, Anonymous Glassmeow said...

Think of all the good flight karma you built up today! Man, you sure had a morning! I was lucky and breezed through getting to airport (a mere 10 minutes away at 3:40 a.m.), got rockstar parking right next to a bus shelter, no line at check in (United doesn't have kiosks at PDX and I don't have an internet connection nor a printer at home), had time to blog and flight was okay 'cept for surly flight attendants and a captain (or co pilot) who kept really grumpily telling people that the seatbelt light was still on.

In Chicago now. Warrenville, actually, at a Bux 'cause I couldn't remember where the new hotel is. Yay Mapquest! Usual hotel for this event was booked.

Have a great time in DC!

At 8/05/2006 03:41:00 PM, Blogger Old Lady said...


I like Hartsfield Airport. It's fun to shop in. I missed a flight to Chicago once due to weather from here. Everything was closed. It as not fun then.

At 8/05/2006 04:23:00 PM, Blogger Dale said...

I hate airport woes but your post really was quite breathless and vivid Beth. Sorry about your troubles, hope you see the photo on the wall in good time.

At 8/06/2006 10:08:00 AM, Blogger Jeremy said...

I've found that you are treated with almost regal speed if you starting voicing your displeasure louder than everyone else. And if you throw in the ocassional, "I've got a gun and I'm gonna shoot e'rybody!" they tend to take you to the VIP terminal and find all of your information in minutes. Give it a whirl.

At 8/06/2006 11:21:00 AM, Blogger Jamey said...

Hope you'll soon be able to look back on this and laugh. That way, I'll feel like I'm laughing WITH you instead of AT you. :o) I'm sorry for all your stress but, as usual, when YOU tell the story it sounds exciting!

At 8/07/2006 09:30:00 AM, Blogger Beth said...

BRAT: Made it. Landed. Have been having fun ever since. Now, let's just hope I make the flight home this evening ...

GLASSMEOW: Did you have fun in Chicago? Love Chicago.

OLD LADY: It was the only p-fruit I could come up with sitting at the gate. I love alliteration. And, sadly, since I had all carry-on luggage, I wasn't free to roam the groovy shops, not even the $10 watch store (dammit).

DALE: I made it to the photo on the wall 15 minutes before closing. You'll see a photo of me and the photo on the wall tonight or tomorrow.

JEREMY: CLark Howard taught me to be nice but firm. Yet I was nice but wimpy.

JAMEY: Luckily, I found the humor in it once I booked the next flight. I live by the motto "At least it will make for a great story later," which helps me let the anger and frustration go. So laugh away, dear cousin.

At 8/07/2006 01:07:00 PM, Blogger gizmorox said...

That is teh suck. I find that no matter how much stuff they actually contain, airports still manage to be boring as hell. I hope the wait goes quickly for you!

At 8/07/2006 08:02:00 PM, Blogger Anomie-Atlanta said...

Just reading this post made me feel stressed and tired. I'm glad you made it.

At 8/08/2006 01:31:00 PM, Blogger Coaster Punchman said...

I agree with anomie. I am a mess now, although your story started out so nicely.

BTW, in case you didn't already know, there is a bus you can take from Dulles that drops you at one of the Metro stations.

At 8/08/2006 02:14:00 PM, Blogger Grant Miller said...

You really should stop smuggling pomegranates.

At 8/08/2006 08:32:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

GIZMOROX: Luckily, the WiFi in the terminal helped me stay entertained.

ANOMIE: Made it, and had a great weekend.

COASTER PUNCHMAN: I knew that about Dulles, but my friend always insists on picking me up. He's all into manners and such.

GRANT: You're right. I'm going to get caught one day.


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