You know, it’s not like that I don’t like BEING in new and different places; it’s just that I hate GOING to them. And coming back—you know, the traveling part. It’s gotten progressively worse since 9/11. I traveled a lot for work that summer, and it was not a problem for me to check in online the day before, and stroll up to security 45 minutes before my flight left, carry-on in hand, breeze through, and still have time to grab something for breakfast on the other side of the metal detectors, swallow my Dramamine, and make one last pit stop before getting on the plane.
Now traveling is something that takes infinite patience (which is slightly more than I possess), planning, and oodles of time. I was up at 4:45 a.m. Friday morning to make it to Beth’s by quarter to 6, so that we could be at the airport by 6:30 for a 7:30 flight.
Once there, we stood in line with 187 people who apparently have never flown before and also were illiterate. (Wot? All those signs directing people to take off their shoes, take their laptop computers out of the bag, and that carry-on toiletries had to fit in the plastic bag you have someone handing out while announcing the contents of all those signs couldn’t possibly be directed at ME, could they?!)
The amateur, clueless traveler is the bane of my airport existence. Haven’t they seen movies? Television? Fox News? For chrissakes, there’s a war on, people—don’t you know that it’s your patriotic duty to walk stocking-footed and half-naked through security? Get with the program! Work with me, people!
We made it out of Tucson “only” 20 minutes or so delayed, but takeoff from Tucson is always a dicey proposition for those of weak inner-ear constitution, and I was more than a little queasy by the time we made it to San Diego. When we landed, our flight to San Francisco was on time. By the time we had grabbed breakfast and found a place to sit, our flight had been delayed: San Francisco was fogged in. Fog. In San Francisco. Who’da thunk it?
We were informed by a helpful pilot hanging out at the desk that Oakland was open for traffic, and there was a flight available, and for a moment, we were hopeful and considered taking that option. And then we remembered that our guitars were in the belly of the plane going to San Francisco (wearing flowers in its hair), and were going to stay there. So our Oakland hopes were dashed. And there was no fun to be had at the San Diego airport; there were barely any snacks. Our only entertainment was calling the airline to find out whom we reserved our rental car with, since neither of us could remember for sure (though Beth guessed right.)
Finally, we got clearance to fly, and on the plane we were treated to exactly 9 peanuts (not even honey-roasted) and a small cup of soda. My dental hygienist gives me more liquid to rinse; it’s probably not worth the effort. Adding to the ambience of this buffet were the numerous tuberculosis patients sitting around us. Note to sick people: Everyone can tell the difference between a covered cough and the cootie-spreading spewing you’re engaged in. You’re not fooling anyone. And we hate you.
Once at SFO, we gathered our bags and guitars and made the trek to the train to get the rental car. I have rented cars in tiny burgs and major cities, and no matter where you are, or whether you reserved the car in advance, it takes at least an hour to get the keys and get the hell out of the airport. Every time. I don’t know why I fill out all that crap online, just so they can ask me again when I’m standing at the counter. And then there’s the inevitable dance of the insurance add-ons:
Would you like liability coverage?
No, I have my own insurance.
How about collision?
How about lost key coverage—these keys are $250 to replace, you know?
No, we’re fine.
How about general damage? The forecast calls for hail…
Medical and ambulance coverage?
No. And now you’re just getting desperate. Pathetic, really.
Loss of fabulousness coverage, in case you go down to the Castro?
No thanks, we’re quite fabulous enough.
Elephant sits on roof coverage?
No. Now give me the fucking keys before things get ugly.
And all this, of course, takes place AFTER I start the conversation by handing over my driver’s license and credit card saying “We don’t need any insurance, just prepaid gas,” which apparently baffled the clerk with its clarity and succinctness. By the time I’m done signing and initialing the rental agreement, I’m pretty sure I should be taking possession of a house.
So we head up the coast, my anti-puking band on my wrist and a bit of Meclizine still in my bloodstream. Beth drives first because I will drive on the curviest part. No stops at the Bennets’ this year, for either of us.
Camp has been held since its inception at an old farmhouse that lives most of its days as a nature preserve. The house is well over 100 years old, and while it has its charms, adequate heating and plumbing are not among them. The only heat source in the house is a single wood-burning stove on the main floor, the heat from which does not reach much past the 2 main rooms it sits between. When I tell you that we could see our breath in our room, and at the breakfast table, I am not exaggerating one iota. At one point, we had our guitars in the room and decided to run into town, but dared not leave our instruments exposed to the cold, so we tucked them in under the two quilts on our bed.
All over the bathrooms at the farmhouse are signs about what you can and cannot do in regards to disposing of used TP and other potential flushables. While the accommodations were not entirely primitive, I confessed to Beth during one of our daily trips to Starbucks that I was overcome with the joy and pleasure of being able to flush toilet paper without a thought in the store bathroom. Deprivation makes you appreciate the little things.
On the way home, we made good time back into The City, and had hopes of an uneventful trip. Others were not so lucky. From our spot at the opposite gate, we watched as a flight that was delayed multiple times was finally boarded. Half the people in line were already on the plane when they announced that the portion of the flight scheduled to go to O’Hare in Chicago was canceled. They were not thrilled. Neither were the faces of those already on the plane who were sent back down the jetway suffused with joy. Turns out, Chicago had been socked with a blizzard, and the airport was closed. And since it was weather-related, the 100 people who seemed to stand in line for another hour would be on their own for getting through the night. Lovely. They sent some to another gate entirely, and then 5 minutes later announced (to whom, I’m not sure, because anyone who would’ve needed to hear the announcement was already at gate 31) that they were supposed to stay at gate 6. 5 minutes after that, they announced that they should’ve been at gate 31. Amazingly, no one turned homicidal—apparently we are all so used to this now that it’s not worth getting ruffled about. Give it a few more years, and we’ll be nice as Canadians.
Because of the Chicago flight mess, our own flight was late boarding and taking off, and we were a bit concerned, as we only had an hour to make the connection in L.A.. As we sat near our sign, waiting to line up, we noticed a briefcase sitting next to the podium. We asked those around us if it was theirs, and someone said that it’d been there awhile already. Beth, doing her patriotic duty as an American traveler, reported the unattended baggage to the gate agent at the podium, who informed her that it had been there awhile and was probably someone’s forgotten bag, but that it’d be taken care of. When we finally boarded, the briefcase was still there. So much for security; $10 says that someone got on board with a 4 oz. bottle of eyedrops, embroidery scissors, and a nuclear missile as well.
By the time we got to L.A., I was tired, out of patience, fighting a nasty allergy attack that had started the night before, and ready to be home. I might’ve been able to self-medicate out of my crabbiness, but would you believe there wasn’t a single Cinnabon store within sniffing distance? So I read my book and willed the clock to move forward.
Finally, it was time to board, and we lined up according to group and number, like ya do. While we stood there, it became abundantly obvious that someone had let fly with an epic SBD of a pungency that evolved from “Jesus” to “I’m going to be sick” to “I can feel my hair falling out.” It was beyond vile, and hung in the air (or what was left of it).
And that seemed to be an apt commentary for the modern air travel experience: It stinks.
Being there, however, wasn’t so bad, and a good time was had by all, as usual. Click here to see the pix.