Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Adventures in Aviation

Funny how one can fly on a regular basis for years with no major hassles and then have a single trip make up for it all.

For starters, a bomb threat at Hobby Airport delayed my outbound flight to Chicago Midway on Friday. I didn’t know at the time why we were delayed, though. I was just perplexed and had to read about it in the paper after the fact.

On the way to Chicago I was pretty anxious about making my connecting flight to Hartford, but the flight attendant reassured me that the other flight was delayed as well. Okay, so no need to worry about missing my flight, but, “The other flight is delayed by an hour, too,” just isn’t reassuring, somehow.

We landed with no problems and my cousin Charles met me at my gate. We had plenty of time to get him a sandwich and visit a bit before boarding. The flight was uneventful, Charles kept me entertained with some really crazy stories about his mother’s childhood in Argentina, and we made up a bit of time on the way to Bradley Field, which was nice. My uncle met us at the airport and a weekend of family stuff ensued. More on that in another post, if I can think of a way to make it sound at all interesting.

It was the return home on Monday where things got really weird and where I was especially grateful for having gotten everything I needed into a couple of carry-ons.

I spent the morning making copies of old photos and hanging out at my aunt’s library in Simsbury. By 11:00 I was famished, having completely forgotten to eat any breakfast. My aunt and I had some very nice salads at a little deli and I picked up a couple of granola-fruit-brownie type of things from their bakery on the way out. I was only going to get one as a dessert, but my aunt suggested I get two, “Just in case your flight is delayed.”

Thanks for jinxing me, Aunt Susan!

She got me to the airport a bit after noon, with plenty of time to get checked in for my 1:45 to Philadelphia. The line for security stretched for what seemed half a mile, but I coped with the boredom by trying to place the other people in line in their appropriate geographical areas based on dress. This was the result of a discussion Susan and I had over lunch about how Southern women were much more dressy than Northeastern women. I figured the madeup and manicured blonde with the matching metallic gold sandals, belt and purse was either Southern or from Los Angeles, while the girls with no makeup and hoodie tops were almost certainly New Englanders. I didn’t get a chance to actually query any of these people, so I’m not sure of my accuracy, but I did correctly guess that the short, dark and obviously foreign Latinos ahead of me in line would be taken off for additional searching and questioning.

Racial profiling? No, you don’t say!

My flight to Philly was delayed by about an hour due to bad weather along the eastern seaboard. So I spent my time chatting with a fellow Houstonian—a football coach from inner-city Milby High School. He was very nice and could talk about just about any topic. Then he went off to go do something, leaving me in charge of his bags. I wouldn’t have accepted this assignment from just any stranger in an airport, but every instinct I had was coming up good on this guy so I moved his bags closer to mine and settled in to read my New York Times. I’d had a bit of a time getting my NYT, which was odd. I would’ve thought they would be ubiquitous in Connecticut. Maybe it was the front-page story about airport delays that made them scarce that day.

Coach returned for his bags as they started boarding the plane and it seemed like a pretty normal flight until we got close to Philly and found out there were storms in the area. Although the frequently warned-of turbulence never developed, we circled the city for over an hour before finally getting clearance to land.

By now it was exactly time for my connecting flight to Houston to leave, but it was pretty clear that no one was going anywhere because everywhere you looked were planes just sitting on the runways. It was one big parking lot out there.

No one could tell us when the Houston flight was leaving, but flight congestion was so bad that our gate wasn’t even available—all the seats were taken up with people going to Orlando, which was the flight ahead of us out of that gate. So I wandered off in search of food. After pushing through crowds of stranded travelers and waiting in a long line, I finally acquired a Greek salad. Okay, it was sort of Greek. It had feta cheese, but it had only ordinary black olives instead of calamata, so I had a small issue with it. It was good though, and trying to find a place to eat it in that over-crowded terminal made for an interesting and distracting challenge.

I finished my wait by visiting with Coach some more. He had found another Houston coach to talk to and was sharing his 1970s Southwest Airlines reminisces. Wow. I knew they were edgier back then, but these were some really crazy stories! I had the impression Coach was no slouch himself back in the day, either. Funny to hear of such wild times from such a sedate-looking older gentleman. Anyway, after what seemed like at least fifty pre-boards, we ordinary folks were finally allowed to board the plane. Then they queued us up on the runway and let us sit on the tarmac with all the other sheep. For two hours.

Two HOURS.

I was already low on magazines and quickly ran through everything I had left in my bag, the in-flight magazine and a ten-page article on soybeans that my father gave me last week. I played a few hands of solitaire, ate the Connecticut blueberries I had planned to take home and was generally grateful I had brought food and water with me because they can’t serve anything until the plane is at cruising altitude.

At one point the captain announced we were second in line to take off, but then we were mysteriously shunted off to the side and the pilot killed an engine. Our flight path toward the south was blocked by new storms, apparently. I began to wonder if I would ever get home. I’m not generally prone to claustrophobia but it was getting hard to just sit there, not going anywhere, while a pre-school’s worth of children shrieked all around me and Snorey sawed away behind me, fast asleep and oblivious to it all.

What a shame I’ve never been able to fall asleep on a plane.

Finally we were allowed to take off and once again, the lack of turbulence made me wonder what all the fuss had been about. Well, I’d rather they be too cautious than the alternative.

It was well after 11:00 pm before we finally got to Houston. I had called Dan a few times from Philadelphia to let him know he should check with the airline before coming to get me, so he hadn’t been waiting all this time. We threw my bags in the car and headed home. On the way he told me the cat had missed me terribly but the bunny seemed unmoved by my absence, the little ingrate.

So I’m glad to be back, glad that my summer travels appear to be over and I can settle back into a schedule. I went to the gym Tuesday, ran a few errands and spent a lot of time sleeping, so I’m rested and ready for the August madness of fiscal year end, followed by the fall bike ride series and a few races, illness and injury gods permitting.

It’s good to be home!

Recent Workouts
Friday: 5.25 mile run on bayou trails
Saturday: Rest day with a bit of walking in Lexington, Massachusetts
Sunday: 2 hour run on rail trail; went from Cheshire to Hamden and back
Monday: Unscheduled rest day-- got home too late to run
Tuesday: 1000 meter swim, 1 mile run (brick), ab and lat work, 45 minute bike - Spinervals 3.0 Suffer-O-Rama

3 comments:

Flatman said...

That's a pretty rough trip...glad you made it back in one piece. I heard about that bomb scare at Hobby...

bunnygirl said...

It's like I told my husband about the return trip, in terms of total time spent on airplanes and in airports, it was like an international flight, only without the bad in-flight movie and without ending up anyplace interesting.

I just wish I'd had more magazines with me.

Wil said...

Yikes, sounds like quite the ride. VERY glad that you're back!