July 16th, 2001


Night Flight, Part I

I spent the weekend in Wrightsville Beach, NC with my mom. It was a glorious weekend of sun and beach and ocean and beach and being near the ocean and I can’t believe I haven’t been to the ocean in so long. The weather was perfect, I got some sun (and a little pink in a few places) got to frolic in the waves…it was great. I flew to Raleigh to meet the moms on a $100 round trip deal from Midway airlines, which is well worth the cost of admission, since it’s really not that much more expensive than driving down there, and the ease of travel alone is enough to make up the difference--I was reminded of this while running errands at 3:00pm on Friday as I drove on the overpass above Southbound 395 and saw that the Friday-afternoon-flee-the-city traffic was already backed up to my exit. Hell is driving in 6 hours of traffic on I-95. Yes, it is. But I tell you this because the most interesting parts of my weekend revolved around my flights. Why is it that everything that’s worth talking about happens to me while I’m en route somewhere? Why can’t the destinations be as noteworthy?

Friday night, after dinner and a few beers with my brother, I am dropped off at the airport. I check in at 9:30 for a 9:50 flight, and ask the girl at the counter if I have time to go to the bathroom. She checks her watch, looks at me with a scrunched face and says “yyyyeah, I guess you’ll have time”, so I rush to get ready and diligently take my seat to await departure. 9:50 rolls around, no boarding announcement. 9:55. Now no one is at the counter anymore. 10:00. 10:05. Finally someone returns and I go up to the counter and ask “What’s going on here?”
The guy looks surprised and says “What do you mean?”
I said, “Well, the flight was supposed to leave 20 minutes ago. What’s going on?”
“The plane just got here. Ma’am.”
“What do you mean the plane just got here? Why didn’t you tell us?”
The guy fumbles for a second and comes up with, “Haven’t you heard the announcements?”
“What announcements? You haven’t made any announcements”
“uum, yeah. I made several”
(I actually said this) “Listen sassy, don’t get pissed at me because you’re not doing your job.”
And he walked away.

I returned to my seat and started listening to a conversation that a guy behind me was having about a similar situation that he encountered with the same airline employee, however this guy’s story had an interesting twist. At the part where I called the counter-guy “Sassy”, the cellphone guy said “I’m a regional manager for this airline here to check things out. Now tell me again why you haven’t made any announcements”. Apparently the counter-guy figured that since the plane was “on it’s way” then there was no reason to alert us. We’d be on it soon enough.

I turned around and asked cell-phone-guy if he was serious or he was just saying that he was a district manager to get a rise out of the other guy. He gave me his card and confirmed that he was actually who he said he was, and said he would be delighted if I registered a complaint because not only would it back up his report, but the airline may compensate me in some way.

Everything after that went fine. I was in a great mood thinking that I might get some coupon from the airline. The flight was great, and what’s best, short. When the captain made an announcement that we’re about 54 miles outside of Raleigh, so we’d be landing in about 10 minutes, I almost cried. Every time I see that sign on the highway that says the same thing, I know I have almost an hour left. Aah, the wonders of air travel.
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Night Flight, Part II

After a wonderful and sunny and swimming day or so at the beach, it was time for me to fly home. My returning flight was at 5:40. I arrived shortly after five and checked in, and behind the counter on the little display that says what flight, what gate and when was a little notice that said, “If you are able and willing to take a later flight, we will compensate you. Please see an associate for details.” So I asked my nearest associate when’s the next flight and what do I get? She said that if I waited for the 8:20 flight, I would be given a voucher for a free round trip ticket anywhere the airline flies that’s good for a year. It took me a little while, I mean, I did kinda want to get home, but hanging out for a few hours could mean free ride back here, free time avoiding the stress of driving…so I decided to go for it.

Shortly after I got the voucher in hand, I asked a different associate for a map of where the airline flies. She gave it to me and said “you know…we’re probably going to expand our destinations in a few months and may even include a destination that’s over water”. I asked, “A certain Hawaiian destination?” and she smiled and gave me a knowing nod. Now for backstory for those of you who don’t know why that’s such a super-bonus: GirlDale is going to be moving to Hawaii in the winter. I have been talking a pretty big game about how I am going to go visit her when she gets settled in, but tickets are almost a thousand dollars. But maybe price won't have to be an issue...

Not quite sure what to do, I went to the smoking lounge for a cigarette and found a USA Today Weekend section from Friday lying around, so I read it, then I sat at the gate and stared out the window for a while. Then the flight got delayed to nine, so I decided it was time to start drinking.

I bellied up to the nearest bar (not the smoking one, stupid me) and ordered a beer. The accountant from Maryland at the bar struck up a conversation with me about how the baggage-throwers at the Myrtle Beach airport dropped his bag that just so happened to have a bottle of Absolut in it, shattering the bottle and soaking not only his bag with vodka but all of the other bags they dropped in that same spot. Another guy who got bumped off the same flight as me and the accountant came by and told us how he and his family started reading Lord of the Rings ( * ) and how he was so enthralled in it that he’d rather go read it than talk to us. Three beers and a healthy buzz later, it was time to board.

I took my seat and moments later a small high-school-age-looking girl took the aisle seat beside me, folded her arms across her chest and fell right asleep. After the beverages were served, she woke up and started telling me about how she’s actually a college graduate and works as a lobbyist for the anti-Canadian timber importing group or something like that and we chatted for a while about college and how easy it was for her to pick up a double major in communications. She told me that she had spent the weekend in the hospital where her boyfriend’s grandmother was dying of a stroke. The grandmother was 98-years-old, hadn’t lost a bit of her mind, but she was mostly blind and almost deaf, so as sad as it was to see her go, she hadn’t been cheated out of life at all and it was pretty much just her time. The uplifting part of that was the grandmother’s final words were a crack about how dumb her grandson’s girlfriend is. Atta girl. Go out swinging.

I’m not usually one for long chronicling tales of my day-to-day existence, but it was a good weekend. And tomorrow is the “Offsite Interactive Meeting”, so I’m sure I’ll have something to talk about on Wednesday.
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