Sunday, September 18, 2011

Flight woes

So I boarded my plane in San Diego on Friday around 3PM, and had a plane change in Dallas for my return to Reagan National.

Around the time that we were supposed to arrive in Dallas, I noticed that the plane was doing the racetrack flying thing that they do when they are circling the airport but not landing.

20 minutes later the pilot announces that Dallas airport is closed because of rain and lightning. It seems it has been around 100 years since it rained on Dallas, and ahh... anyway - he says that he expects that we'll get the green light to land in 20 minutes or so.

Half an hour later he announces that we will need to land in Killeen Airport because the plane is running out of fuel.

We land in Killeen, where we notice that there are a lot of other airplanes on the tarmac... waiting. The pilot comes back and says that all those planes are waiting to refuel, and it seems like there's only one refueling truck at the airport. He points out that the huge plane to our left is the same model as ours, and that we're next after them.

He continues to advise that the fuel truck can only load 5,000 pounds of fuel a trip, and thus we will need three trips (and so will the guy who's before us). A little while later the fuel truck shows up and begins to fuel the big plane who is before us in line. We start a game to time how long it takes to fuel - soon we notice that it has been 20 minutes and the truck is still fueling our neighbor.

The pilot comes on and tells us that (in case we haven't noticed) that the plane to our left is being fueled and that as soon he's done we're next. He says he expects that to be 20 minutes or so. The whole planeload of people groan, and someone shouts "bullshit!" As my fellow passenger to my left notes, it has taken over 20 minutes for the first fuel load, and since the pilot said each plane needs three loads... well... you do the math.

A few minutes later, the fuel truck departs and goes away, presumably to reload and come back for part two. To our surprise, another fuel truck shows up and begins to fuel us.

"I thought he said there was only one truck in the airport," someone notes. But the fact that apparently our pilot was wrong, is good news, as we're sucking up the first 5,000 pounds of fuel now.

Soon we notice that our neighboring plane is lighting off and moving away. "Looks like that guy decided that 5,000 pounds was good enough for him to get to Dallas," someone notes.

"Someone tell our pilot," suggest another passenger.

20 minutes later, our fueling truck departs and our pilot announces that as soon as everyone sits down, we can take off for Dallas. None of us mention that he had said (several times) something about us needing three trips to fuel up... after all this is good news, and his math hasn't been very good so far.

A fellow passenger has been listening to my tale of woe about missing my connection to DC, and she has checked the web and notes that my flight has been re-scheduled to depart at 10:56PM (original departure was around 9PM).

As we prepare to take off, it is around 10PM and we're told that the flight will take 25 minutes and we'll be at the gate at 10:39PM. Looks like I'm going to make my connection.

As we approach Dallas again, once again I notice that we're doing circles around the airport, and we actually do not land until 11PM or so - more than an hour for a 25 minute trip.

And, after we land, as I had already figured out, we're told that all the gates are occupied and we'll have to wait on the tarmac until gates open up.

An hour later, almost at midnight, we get a gate and disembark.

I stand on line to get some info on what to do next... I figure that I'm sleeping at the airport tonight. Soon the lady at the counter notices the long line and informs us all that she's closing, but that we can go to any other line for help.

I switch lines, and begin to scan the horizon for shorter lines. 20 minutes later, the same person who had been at the counter is still there and there are 4-5 people in front of me.

I notice that several counters away, a new service agent has opened a desk and there is no line. The Japanese guy behind me has noticed the same thing, but by the time he's reached for his huge carry on, I'm already ten steps ahead of him and bolting (more like hopping on one foot - more on that later...) for the open counter.

It is now almost midnight, and I ask the nice American Airlines lady when the next flight is, expecting her to say 6 or 7 am. "We have a flight leaving," she looks at her watch, "in a few minutes..." She notes the look of despair on my face. "But there are still boarding." She begins to punch numbers in to get me a ticket.

I thank her profusely, and get my ticket and groan when I see that I have to take the rail to another terminal, and then I'm bolting/hopping to Terminal A. Have I mentioned that my right foot had been killing me - for some mysterious reason - since Thursday? A really scary intense pain on the top of my foot that had me limping like an old man...

I arrive at terminal A, and limp run to my gate, which is of course the farthest one away from the rail terminal. When I get there, I note the large crowd awaiting to be board and breathe a sigh of relief, as I haven't missed the plane.

It is then that I notice that this flight is going to Dulles, rather than National. Did I mention that I had driven my van to the airport and left it at the parking lot at National Airport? So I'm heading to the wrong airport.

Oh well, I figure, at least I'll be in the DMV, and maybe I can share a cab to National from Dulles to pick up my van... I'll worry about my checked in luggage later.

An hour later, after the crew shows up, we finally take off. While we're taxing to the runway, I smell vomit and an alarmed flight attendant begins to bring bags to the guy sitting behind me. The poor bastard is clearly either suffering from food poisoning or from a massive hangover, as he throws up multiple times during the flight, especially five minutes after the attendants bring him Ginger Ale and crackers. It could have been worse: I could have been sitting next to him.

We land at Dulles around 3AM, and of course, nearly everyone's bags are missing, so a huge line forms to report the missing bags to the one bleary-eyed attendant on duty. The huge line is moving very slowly when a guy tries to cut in front, and soon a near fist fight is taking place in front of me, with a female Army general almost kicking this jerk's ass in front of us. I decide that I can report the missing bag on the phone and decide to grab a cab for National.

Soon I get to the huge line waiting for taxis, and of course, there are hardly any taxis around 4AM, so it's moving slowly. The same Army general asks if anyone is heading to National and wants to share the cab with her. Soon me and another guy join her and we're heading to National and I'm praying that the $25 bucks that I have left in cash in my wallet are enough to cover my share. The fare turns out to be $64 for all of us, so I'm safe.

I hobble over to the parking garage and begin to look for my van. To my horror, my system of remembering where my van is parked has failed me, and 45 minutes later, I'm still looking for my van and my foot is really killing me.

I give up and head to the exit gates to talk to a parking attendant and see what I need to do. As I limp to the exits, I continue to click my remote.

And then I hear my van and see it, about 50 feet in front of me, right by the exits, and nowhere where I recalled I had left it (on the lower level, by the other exit). But I don't question this complicated issue dealing with chaos theory and quantum physics and head to my van, fully expecting a tire to be flat or the battery dead.

But it all fires up OK, and soon I'm on the George Washington Parkway and heading home with a gorgeous view of Washington and once again I note what a beautiful city our capital is.

I get home around 7AM, completely exhausted, crash on my bed without waking up Alida, and smile as I hear Anderson begin to awake and he shouts: "Mamma! Mamma! Find Dadda!"