Sunday, March 20, 2005

Airplanes, Booze and Teenage Drivers

Arrived in Seattle last night after a travel day that started horribly, got a bit better through the introduction of free alcohol and ended in an adrenaline rush.

By the way, in response to my request for anyone with Seattle area gallery knowledge, I've received three emails from local Seattlelites willing to share a beer and a walkthrough of some of the area's galleries. I went to art school here in the 80's but haven't been back here since 1993.

Anyway, I arrived at Dulles yesterday morning at 6:30AM, a little over two hours before my 8:43AM flight to Seattle, only to find the airport packed with families and kids all heading south for the spring break. Although one would figure that the airlines would have by now the a priori knowledge to predict this surge, they hadn't, and it took me nearly two hours just to check in and another 45 minutes to go through security and take the bus to the gates.

Of course I missed my flight (gate C1) and then I had to go to Customer Service (gate C22, on the other side of Northern Virginia), where there's another huge line.

While waiting in the line listening to horror stories about missing ship's movement for all the families going on cruises, I removed my new glasses to clean them, only to have them come undone, and one lens falls out and that miniscule screw disappears into the carpet of Dulles' floors.

Using the camraderie that had developed between the suffering passengers waiting in line (sort of an Airport Stockholm Syndrone, which I've dubbed Airport Stick-it-to-them Syndrome), about four or five of us got on our hands and knees to try to find that tiny screw so that I could attempt to put my glasses back together.

And through a miracle of someone in tune with quantum mechanics, the screw was found and glasses repaired by someone with a lot more finger dexterity than I.

Eventually I make my way to a Customer Service Representative, actually feeling a bit sorry for the hell that these people must catch on a daily basis. I tell her so, and she smiles and tells me how her throat is already sore from talking, and so I hand her a stick of gum, which will have a huge payoff for me later.

As she listens to my story, she taps into her keyboard and with the intensity of a doctor peering into an X-ray, and spends at least ten minutes tapping and searching.

"Mmmm," she says, sounding more and more like my medical analogy.

"What is it Doc, uh I mean miss?" says the patient worried.

"Well.... want the good news first or the bad news first"?


"Bad news first," says I bravely.

"The only available flight doesn't leave until 5:45PM, but the good news is that they have one seat left."

Seven hour wait.

"I'll take it," I respond.

I thanked her and ticket in hand I now proceed to finish a couple of books, write a huge review of the Corcoran Biennial (which I had intended to do this week anyway, but I forgot the catalog at home, so unless the Corcoran can FEDEX me one here at my hotel, it will have to wait until I get back for publication) and eat crap food all day.

When finally the boarding takes place, to my surprise I discover that my sore-throated angel has upgraded my cheap seat to first class on a cross country, non-stop flight.

A bottle and a half of a good Sonoma Merlot later, I arrived, tired and boozy, to a gray, rainy and fresh-smelling Washington state night, where my daughter Elise picked me up and immediately revived me thanks to the wonders of the adrenaline charge caused by being driven at night, in the rain, by a 17 year-old-driver.