Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Toy Planes

I don’t sleep on planes.
I’m a face sleeper. Not only will I need Botox because of this, I can’t handle an upright position. Since sleep isn’t happening I settle for ignoring those around me, especially if I’m flying with family, and/or screaming children. In order to facilitate this, I have my personal item. No, not the first personal item that was so heavy the straps almost broke. My second one contains a book, a pillow, ear buds, thick socks, a drink, and an eye mask. If you check the fine print, as long as you don’t cart on Bleach Volumes 1-379, these items don’t count towards restrictions. With hours to kill I meander through the airport and look at the exhibits.

The vases weren’t as cool as the one they had the last time I flew out of there---I love sci-fi stuff, so I took a million pictures back in 2009 of the exhibit---yet all we have at Sac International is a lovely Chili’s Too “exhibit.” I board the plane in the last group, which I think is a joke. Do you know who should really board last?

The first class passengers.

Don’t you hate how they look at us, like we’re nothing but petty pathetic peons who don’t deserve to share the same airspace as them? Sure, in an emergency landing they’ll be on rafts instead of huddled on the wings, yet they look so smug I’m tempted to scream, “Might I remind you the people flew first class, too, and where are they now? Oh, yeah, that’s right, it no longer exists, just like American job security.”

But I’m too classy to do that.

Settling into coach, I took off my faux feather earrings, wrapped them in the 3 toilet seat liners I lifted from SFO, and waited for something to annoy me, which didn’t take long at all. Instead of finally reading Devil in the White City a whole year after no fewer than 3 librarians recommended it to me, I’m so nauseated by the constant movement of the plane that I give up and put on my eye mask. Big mistake. My eye mask is just a little too tight, something an ophthalmologist wouldn’t recommend, but hey, it was free with purchase. As we near our late landing at O’Hare, the flight attendant begins reading off the list of connecting gates. Mine is not read. Looking at my printout I discover I only have 20 minutes to get off the plane and get to my gate. Bringing the paper up front, American Airlines give me a reason to write yet another letter to company head quarters.

The flight attendant doesn’t know how to read the ticket.

That’s right. This nincompoop (and I don’t say that lightly) tries to convince me that the time on the ticket is actually the date (“It’s June 6, 2005? Really?”) and that my boarding time is 6:50. To which I ask, “How can board at 6:50 when my flight leaves at 6:20?” Instead of arguing with her, I race off the plane into Concourse H and latch onto the first person in an airline uniform, who correctly directs me to Concourse K. Problem is, I can’t really see. Everything past 15 feet is blurry, meaning I’m walking, as fast as one can in heels---they were easier to wear than to pack---and hoping its in the right direction since I couldn’t read the signs. I shouldn’t have worried. Being so late meant I could have simply followed the voice. That’s right, I am so close to missing my flight that my name is being paged. Badly, of course, but paged none the less. I ‘m limping as fast as I can thanks to the earlier ankle injury, and when I get there they grab my bag, place a valet tag onto it, hustle me into the plane and shut the door.

Having booked a completely different flight, I was assuming I was going from one big plane to another plane. OMG, nothing could have been further from the truth. This was some American Eagle you-should-have-flown-Southwest-teeny-tiny itty-bitty 34 passenger plane. The plane was so small it looked like a 747 gave birth to it. While I'll admit to dreaming about being in a plane that small, the dream involved me owning it and having my own massage room, not sharing the space with 33 other doomed people as we fall smack dab to earth. The flight attendant aboard told me they had changed my seat assignment and, “You’re now on an exit row. Should you not be able to perform your duties we can reassign you.” Which made me think, “Exit row? Can I exit out of it now and board a real plane?”

Of course not.

I strap myself in and start my inner dialogue which went something like this:

“I’m going to die!"

"This plane is made of tin foil and Betamax parts and I’m going to die!"

"They'll have to use dental records to identify my crispy corpse! Let it be quick and easy!"

"Maybe I should buy another drink. Then it really won’t hurt when we crash. Or maybe I’ll even survive. In car crashes drunks always survive after ruining everyone else’s life. Didn’t they have a crash where one person survived? Wait a minute, I should have cleaned my house! Now everyone is going to know I haven’t straightened up since I signed for a short sale. Short my inner thigh! How was I to know it wouldn’t close by now? I gave them a June 24th deadline! This is horrible! People are going to pick through my belongings at a garage sale and offer fifty cents for my cashmere sweater that retailed for $150. I should have written an extremely detailed will. Stephenee always liked that sweater. I should text her and let her know she gets first dibs on my clothes, and Amy can have my books since she's my only non-library friend who actually reads, and April can have my exercise DVDs, and Margaret can have dibs on any accessories my mother doesn't want, and no, she can't send my things to my oldest sister because she has no taste at all. She draws her eyebrows into a near unibrow. How many times have I explained the side of nose, corner of eyebrow equation to her? At least she's not as bad as that one woman who looks like her brows take after McDonald's golden arches but it's embarrassing to be in public with her! And what’s my mother going to do? Who will tell her how to use the remote when she insists its plotting against her? Who will stop her from answering the phone when annoying people call? If she goes to live with any of my brothers they'll tell her to get rid of all her stuff because, "There should be white space. A man needs somewhere to rest his eyes." Don’t they understand that if we didn’t want something we wouldn’t have bought it in the first place? I'm glad I didn’t leave them any money. You can have all the white space you want with my $0 contribution to your net worth. What am I saying? I don't want to die! Oh lord, please don’t let me die! How unfair it would be to die when I haven’t even had time to enjoy my life post student loans!”

About 5 minutes later I realize I’m getting hot. My calf is against the emergency exit door, and it’s hot outside, therefore I’m hot, and after studying the seat in front of me I realize it's simply a floatation device and there’s no parachute attached. Then we hit turbulence, the captain told us to stay in our seats and I started thinking:

“I’m going to die! For the love of God, please, someone get me off this plane! I shouldn't be able to tell the weather by feeling it on my leg! If you let me live I promise to be nice to people and eat green stuff other than parsley and Jello and clean my house...or hire someone to clean it, and I'll lie more because telling the truth all the time is plain mean, just let me live!"

Suffice to say, we landed safely.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

You can have the best laid plans, but if an airline is plotting against you just forget about it.

At noon I jumped into a Blue Van 2 hours before my flight to DC for the ALA conference. Remember back when you could arrive 30 minutes before a flight with a Big Gulp while your family stayed with you at the gate while they left their car parked out on the curb? I remember being fed real food with real utensils and even getting invited into the cockpit. Today you go the airport prepared to be strip searched, your drink confiscated, your carry on bag packed to the gills and your "personal item," i.e. big-bag-o-stuff, almost breaking from the weight of everything in it. You used to have 2 carry on bags and a personal item. Now if you want to bring a laptop you'll need to place panties in a manila envelope and slip it in your case. I skipped the laptop and took a real bag because I like stuff and I like choices. Yes, I took 5 pairs of shoes with me on a 6 day trip. By day 2 I'd already worn 4 pair.

But back to the story at hand.

I arrive at Terminal B early. If you haven't been to Terminal B it's because you booked on a better airline. Terminal B is an after thought. Terminal B is the equivalent of thinking you're giving birth to 5 kids and they find another kid in their during deliver, meaning you're in such a scramble to find a name the kid ends up stuck with Epidural or Invitro. Complete. After. Thought. No massage bar. No cute stores. That's Terminal B for you.

I slide through security with my bag-o-liquids was still inside my bag-o-stuff. Yes, the official packing program lecturer says you're supposed to get liquids on the other end of your flight, but she's white. The rest of the world can buy conditioner at the airport kiosk. Blacks have to go to shall I put it...questionable side of town to get products, meaning I spend the night before a flight squeezing shampoo into Barbie sized bottles. Anyway I get through, I have lunch, some nice miscellaneous military man heading to Mississippi pays covers my tab (how thoughtful!) and before we even exchange names we get the news...

The flight was canceled.

Yeah, my thought exactly.

An AC unit broke, meaning they'd have to fly at a lower altitude, meaning if they did so they'd hit a mountain. (BTW, what a pleasant thought to put in the minds of passengers who are about to fly over mountains, thank you very much.) They sent us downstairs to the counter. Too bad they didn't tell the poor woman behind the counter what was going on before they did so. While she was staving off a panic attack my fellow passengers were saying things like, "It's always American Airlines!" and "I knew I should have taken Southwest!" Then a woman passes out the airline phone number as we stare at her because how fast can we really get through to a live person when there's 180+ people calling at once? And what good will it do us when they hadn't officially canceled the flight? So after they cancel the flight we call and are all told, "Oh, we are so sorry, and we'll get you on the same flight tomorrow," which, in airline speak means, "Didn't you learn life sucked way back in kindergarten?"

I'm ready to burst into tears, knowing I can't do anything unless it involves a time machine and booking on Continental instead, when I get a great idea and call back and ask, "Is there anything leaving SFO to DC?"

"Which airport were you going to?"

"Whichever one that has a plane flying to DC."

"I can get you on flight 1522 to BWI tonight. It leaves at 11:45 pm."

I do a mini happy dance, run out the airport, and catch a Blue Van to Amtrak following a call to the KP desk for their number in which I am told, "you really need to get an iPhone!"

I arrive, meet some nice people, take the train to Emeryville, the bus to the Ferry Building, and taking the Embarcadero station BART to SFO.

I get there, bash my ankle with my carry on bag which weighs about 300 pounds, and head up. I go to the check-in line, slide in my card, and outcomes something unexpected...

A notice saying it was too early to check in because my flight wasn't scheduled until the following night.

This is about when the internal meltdown started.
Ever dealt with a screaming toddler and when you go to pick them up they lift up their arms, slide out of your hands, and start bawling on the ground? Just pouring their little 2-year old hearts out on the carpet you just steam cleaned because, "Mommy says I can pee in my pull up!" and no matter how you try to convince them that not letting them watch Dora the Explorer/eat chocolate cake/pry the electrical safety cap with a fork is not the end of the world they're still upset?

That was me.

The person behind the counter said, 'We're not supposed to do this, but you came from Sacramento, so I'm going to put you on this flight." I had to stop myself from screaming, "WTH? Your fellow employee booked me on the wrong flight but you risk getting in trouble for fixing his mistake? What's wrong with you people?" Instead I just told her what anyone in my situation would tell another person.

"I need a drink."

Honestly I could have had a massage instead. A massage is therapeutic. Alcohol, on the other hand, can get you into a bit of trouble. But a 30 minute massage at SFO runs $80, versus $10 for a drink. I'm frugal. I had the drink. While I'm certain the whole restaurant heard me screech, "What do you mean you're out of Mojitos?" and "What do you mean you're out of chocolate cake?" I settled for a top shelf margarita and a vanilla cupcake. As one fellow librarian put it, "A margarita massages your insides." I felt a lot better after I swallowed half in one gulp before slowing down.
All was well.

At least for the moment...