Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Taking Flight

Today started at 4am. The following is not for those who have a low tolerance for kvetchery. ;-)

My flight to Calgary (through Northwest) for the World Fantasy Convention was supposed to leave Dayton at 7am, connect (with a long layover) in Minneapolis, and then get me into the city at around 1pm local time. Perfect, says I: plenty of time to sleep it off.

Even the best plans do not survive encounters with the airline industry.

Plane boarded on time, everything normal ... but then we sat. Captain announced that they had called maintenance to check something with the navigation computer. Took them forever to arrive. Then they ... turned out the lights briefly. Finally, they deplaned everyone, stating that they needed to fully shut down the plane and restart it.

(So I'm thinking: planes = computers?)

They offered to reschedule people who had close connections. I had a three hr layover, but I was concerned about the international part of it, so I got in line to at least ask my questions. Good thing - when I was three people from the front, they announced it had been outright canceled.

So I'm not leaving until 10:10. (I coulda slept in!) I'm going ... through O'Hare, via United. Aaaaack. The first connection to Calgary is overbooked, so instead of roughly the same layover, it is about four and a half hours.

Note also that I've had a nasty cough since Monday. I am ninety percent sure it is allergies because it has not evolved, but I can just see people looking at me thinking, "Plague carrier!"

So finally boarding the plane to O'Hare, there's a slight delay. (... oh what are the odds it happens twice? I'm thinking.) The captain explains that the plane is something like a teeter-totter and they need to balance out the weight in the back.

The usages for your planes are limited only by your imagination.

Note that by this time I've already read a hundred pages of Monstrous Regiment and none of the planes has taken off yet. I have been awake six hours.

Hurrah! Finally take off. Arrive in O'Hare ... early. Discover my departure gate is directly next to my arrival gate. (That it later moved sadly lessens the irony.) The less said about trying to eat at Johnny Rockets there, the better.

Had some random conversations with people, including a woman who had just come from Calgary and told me it was balmy. Oops, says I with the heavy winter wardrobe.

Sidebar: Sprite Zero on first plane, milkshake and pink lemonade in O'Hare, ginger ale on second plane, pom-e-berry smoothie in Calgary ... I am a drinking fiend.

Upside: I was in an exit seat on the first flight and economy plus on the second, so did have a little more room.

Flight is almost forty-five minutes late departing. I have now passed the twelve hour mark. The guy next to me is a little too big for the seat. (I am ashamed to say that I was maybe a little too obvious trying to squeeze into the corner.) Meant to sleep on this flight, but there were a pair of babies on board.

Now, I do not have mixed feelings about crying children on planes insofar as I hate them. What I have yet to decide is whether the restaurant rule should apply - if they can't behave, don't make the other fifty people around you miserable by eating there (or taking the plane). But taking a plane isn't always a luxury, so maybe that's not fair. I blame my crabbiness.

Silver lining: by the time I reached Calgary, it was sunset. Some really ethereal views - mist pouring down the mountains struck with sunset, and then bleeding down into a landscape that looked as if it had been airbrushed in pastels.

Turbulent descent. The route to customs apparently circles four times around the exterior of the airport and is designed to make dirty foreigners work for their vacation. By now I am so tired that I can barely talk. Customs agent does a double-take when I say I am a professional harp player. I am vaguely gleeful.

Arrival - hurrah! I wait on pins and needles to see if my luggage somehow made it off the Northwest flight. There it is, neat as a pin. I do a little dance. No, seriously. I did.

I get to the shuttle service and find out I can't get a return ticket (oh well) and that I have yet another 45 mins before I can board said shuttle. I flop around the terminal.

... bizarreness highlight of the trip, a very old Irish traveller noticed I was sitting in my uncomfortable-looking cross-kneed position and stopped to ask me how I did it.

At this point, I forget I stuck my shuttle ticket in the pocket and flip out, run to the lady to explain ... and then find it again. Boy, am I glad I am not going to see these people again.

Shuttle-ride was interminable. I swear the guy drove around the same blocks sixty times, stopping every two feet for lights. Finally tumbled into my hotel, eighteen hours portal to portal, 4:30am (EST) to 8:30pm (MST).

... okay. Sleep now.

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