Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Who Says You Can't Go Home?" - Bon Jovi

Wow, talk about your mixed emotions...

On the one hand, I'm finally getting around to blogging about our adventures when we went to my home state for the holidays last year.

On the other hand, I'm quoting Bon Jovi.

You have to believe that things can only get better from here.

Anyhoo, here's the chronicle of Gilahi & Spouse's Excellent Adventure, starting on Christmas Eve, 2008:

Homeland Security says we have to sit around Reagan National for 2 hours before we board our one-hour twenty-minute flight, so we left the house in plenty of time. Upon arrival, the first thing we did was to check the departure board. We discovered that our flight had been delayed 30 minutes. Not a big deal on Christmas Eve, right?

You know those horror movies where the young babysitter hears a strange sound outside and chooses to ignore it? That's what our flight delay was like.

We do as much as we can electronically to avoid having to actually deal with people, especially people who are having to work on Christmas Eve, so we went to the electronic checkin. We had booked the tickets months in advance and we always, always go straight to the website and reserve our seats. Imagine my chagrin when the little electronic kiosk asked us to choose seats. I was sure we had already done that, but I had no way to prove it. So I pressed the "OK" icon and was presented with a diagram of a plane that had exactly one seat available on it. My wife, being the selfless, giving person that she is, immediately volunteered to forgo the quintessential joys of spending days with my family, go home, open a bottle of wine, and start sending me text messages about which episode of "I Love Lucy" was playing at the moment so that I could take the one available seat. I was so overcome by her generosity that I accidentally assigned the one seat to her, printed out two boarding passes (mine said SEAT ASSIGNMENT instead of actually having a seat designation), and we headed to the gate figuring we'd get the mess straightened out there.

As we were going through security, my wife noticed a penny on the floor and pointed it out to me. I told her that she should grab it, as that might very possibly be the best thing that happened on the entire trip.

This would be the second time the babysitter hears the noise outside.

We got to the gate, only to find that the delay had now been extended to an hour and half. There was no one manning the gate yet, and an employee at another gate told us they only showed up a half hour before the actual flight. At this point, we decided to leave the terminal area and head back up to the desk to get the whole seating thing straightened out. A very tired Delta employee tried to explain to us that the FAA requires all airlines to reserve several seats on flights for people who are handicapped or otherwise have special needs. These seats are opened up just before the flight. He assured us, by virtue of the fact that I had printed a boarding pass, I was guaranteed a seat on the plane although he was unable to actually assign one at the moment.

Since we were outside of security and we now knew that we had at least an hour and a half to spare, we decided to hit a nice, new little wine bar that they've opened in Terminal A. Thus fortified, we went through security a second time and headed back to our gate.

By now, there were approximately 427,332 people at the gate waiting for our flight. I got in line to talk to yet another very tired Delta employee about my seat assignment. After standing in line for 20 minutes or so, I was told that I still could not get a seat assignment, but that they would call me by name before they started boarding.

This is the point at which the babysitter would notice that all the phones in the house are dead.

The flight ended up being delayed by just under 2 hours. Imagine my surprise when it was announced that first class and those in need of special assistance could begin boarding our flight immediately. I rushed back to the desk, waving my SEAT ASSIGNMENT boarding pass, and mentioned in as calm a voice as I could muster that my name had in fact not been called before they started boarding. I was given a seat several rows away from my wife. None of our neighbors would switch seats, so we flew separately. It's only an hour and 20 minutes, right?

The babysitter discovers that her cell phone is also not working.

After many exhortations to please get settled as quickly as possible because it's so late, the fully-packed plane finally backs away from the gate.

And stops.

And sits for 15 minutes.

Then the pilot comes on and says, "Folks, I know it's late and I really hate to be the one to pass along this news, but our right engine won't start. They thought they had it fixed at the gate, but it's not. So we're going to have to pull back in to the gate. Hopefully they can get it going again and we can leave without much more delay."

This does not inspire confidence in me. I have visions of a guy in coveralls with "Earl" stitched across the pocket banging on the engine with a monkey wrench and calling out, "Try 'er now Joe Bob!" Even if this is fixed at the gate, how comfortable am I with this at 10,000 feet?

Astonishingly, we backed away from the gate again within about 10 minutes or so, although there was an odd odor in the cabin. As we're approaching the runway, the pilot comes back on and says, "For those of you who may have seen flames exploding from the back of the engine, and for all of you who may smell something like smoke, I'd like to assure you that this is perfectly normal. You normally don't see this because we're out on the runway in takeoff before the engines are started, but as a test we had to start the engines in the gate, which is why you saw the flames and now smell the smoke. Please sit back and relax and we'll get you Atlanta as soon as possible."

"Sit back and relax?" The babysitter is wa-a-a-a-a-ay past that point now.

As so often happens when I write, this has gotten longer than I realized. I have therefore decided, in the spirit of "Flash Gordon", to make this a 2-part serial. The adventure is not over. Stay tuned.

Coming up next: "Atlanta"

6 comments:

lacochran said...

So, did you die?! Don't leave us hanging.

Gilahi said...

la - You'll just have to wait for our exciting conclusion.

restaurant refugee said...

Even funnier in print than hearing it.

Gilahi said...

RR - Thanks. I should go on the road and try this stuff out before I write it. That's what made the Marx Brothers so successful.

Mike said...

So this is what they mean when they say traveling is exciting.

Gilahi said...

Mike - Yuh. We were so excited we almost just decided to go home.

 
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