Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Airports and Other Adventures

So Saturday evening I dashed home from Wordstock, kicked off the darling vintage-y heels, and packed a suitcase.

Now, I’m an airport fretter. I’m not scared of flying--I love to fly. But I’m the one who always wants to leave for the airport four hours ahead of time. In case of, you know, traffic jams. Or long lines. Or no spots in the economy lot. Or who knows. (You know you’re a champion fretter when you don’t feel you have to come up with specific scenarios. You just know something will happen, and if it’s an invasion of killer bees that shuts down the interstate, you can still turn to your partner and say, “I told you!!”)

But that Sunday, for some reason, I was zen. Dogs at kennel at 8 AM. Plane leaving at 9:57 AM. Plenty of time. Besides, we were already checked in for our flight, thanks to the wonders of teh internetz, as they say on LOLcats. What could possibly go wrong?

And at first, it all went so very, very well. We dropped the dogs off at Stay (is that not the best name ever for a boarding kennel? The folks who run it, Kim and James, are fabulous. Our dogs didn’t give a rip that we were leaving. They know the way to the play yard, and they were all, “Come on, Kim, let’s go play! Let’s play, Kim! Now, Kim! Kim! Kim!” Not one little whine, not a single mournful look. “Yeah, whatever, see ya. Whoo-hoo, Kim! Play!” Ingrates.)

Off to the airport. Lovely spot in the econo lot. Less than two minutes to wait for the shuttle. Disembarked at United and found, in the middle of an otherwise empty airport, the Line From Hell. But no problem, right? We’re already checked in. All we have to do is check our bags. YOU MUST CHECK IN 45 MINUTES PRIOR TO DEPARTURE, the sign warned. Yawn. Magic of teh internetz. We’re golden.

Got up to the counter. Self-help computer terminal won’t check me in. See a United representative for assistance, it says. It is, I kid you not, forty-four minutes to departure time.


Am directed to a second line. Get up to the counter for the second time. Am informed by a very nice, extremely harried United ticket agent that I have missed my flight.

Missed my flight? The flight doesn’t leave for thirty-six more minutes! But, no—wait for it—

“Your bag wasn’t checked forty-five minutes prior to departure time,” the agent tells me.

That was the unforeseen circumstance, the fret I should have been fretting. It’s not good enough that the actual live PERSON checks in 45 minutes prior. The BAGGAGE has to check in, too, and unlike the actual, live person, the magic of teh internetz DOES NOT COUNT.

The sign neglected to mention that part. Also the part about how you can no longer fly separately from your bags, as in, Can’t you just let us trot onto this flight and the bags can follow us later?



I fly a lot, and I’ve never run into this before. Maybe because I rarely check bags—I’m a carryon girl. But we weren’t the only ones, that morning. It seemed like half the line missed the same flight for the same reason. So if you were on the Portland to San Francisco at 9:57 AM on November 9, and your supposedly full flight had a bunch of empty seats and you were able to stretch out in luxury…you’re welcome.

The ticket agent (and she was really a lovely person, sweet as could be to us, although you know that part in The Fellowship of the Ring where Bilbo Baggins lunges to take the ring from Frodo, and his face turns, for one instant, wicked goblin-like with fangs? Whatever supernatural talent that is, this ticket agent has it. Some other passenger tried to skip the second line and sneak in directly behind us, and I swear the agent got ten feet tall and bared a mouthful of shiny danger. It was scary. I almost got back in line again) got us booked on another flight, WITH bags, to Colorado Springs, and all was rainbows and puppy breath, and we were happy, especially since we then had time to get coffee and lemon poppyseed scones.

Can I just say? Colorado Springs is DROP-DEAD GORGEOUS. Pike’s Peak, the Garden of the Gods. Sunshine. Three hundred days of sunshine a year, those people get. They get as many days of sunshine as we Portlanders get of overcast and rain. I can’t think about that too much, or I’ll get depressed.

And the wildlife... We saw at least a dozen mule deer grazing in people’s front yards. A most beautiful fox scampering across a pasture.

And coolest of all, this fellow:

The person we were with said that in 35 years in Colorado Springs, he’d never seen a bighorn sheep on the side of the road like this. We watched him for several minutes, until he jumped the guardrail on the far side of the highway and meandered, safe, to the creek below.

We visited for 4 days, then headed back home…only to find our own wildlife up to shenanigans while we were gone.

This is Seamus O’Leary.

This is Seamus O’Leary’s fat lip.

Stay tuned.

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Blogger Melissa Marsh said...

I am just like you! Want to be to the airport at least two hours before my flight leaves. When I went to England, I thought I was good - flight on time, etc. Except after I'd waited for an hour, they found something wrong with the plane. And it delayed us by two hours. This was from Omaha to Chicago. Keep in mind my connecting flight to London was in Chicago! I thought for sure I'd miss it - but I made it just on time. I was literally RUNNING through the airport. I became one of those people whose names they call on the loudspeaker in that nasally, really frustrated voice:
Melissa Marsh, your flight is boarding. Melissa Marsh, we are waiting for YOU."

So I made it on the plane. Last one to board. Figure I was gold. Until THIS plane had problems. We sat there for another hour.

Airports. Always a joy.

12:54 PM  
Blogger Jen Robinson said...

I'm the same way, too. Not nervous about flying, but a fretter about things going wrong. I travel all the time, and am still this way. Because the more you travel, the more chance you have for something to go wrong!

I love Colorado Springs! I was there earlier this month.

3:02 PM  
OpenID lisanowak said...

I fret about everything. If worrying was an Olympic sport, I'd be a shoe-in for the gold.

But once upon a time getting to the airport in advance was one thing you didn't have to fret about. I remember catching a flight from Charlotte to Portland back in around '93 and I literally got to the airport five minutes before the plane took off. I caught the flight no problem, and so did my bags. Those were the days.

As for the weather in Colorado Springs, if I had that many sunny days at my disposal I'd never get anything written. Rain (at least in winter) makes me feel cozy. I snuggle down into my writing groove and feel at one with the words.

By the way, that cat looks like trouble.

4:20 PM  
Anonymous Walter Rowntree said...

GREAT airport story! And I loved the reference to the Bilbo transformation.
I absolutely adored Garden of the Gods in CS. There's a lion and tiger oh my rescue facility a dozen miles east of CS that funds its operation by selling used medical equipment, so I was out there off and on several years ago when I was equipping my new hospital. Most of their revenues went to buy dead horses (which on a per pound basis are dirt cheap, according to the caretaker) that they would toss into the pens on a daily basis. A very strange business this big-cat rescue.

8:04 PM  
Blogger Christine Fletcher said...

I'm glad I'm not the only first-class fretter out there! As my sweetheart has found out, logic only goes so far...because it's the stuff you CAN'T anticipate that nails you, every time. And thus a fretter is always justified.

Melissa, that must have been frustrating having the loudspeaker person sound annoyed when it wasn't even your fault! And then to sit on the tarmac another hour after all that...grrr.

Jen, I perfectly understand that logic--sure everything went great last time, but that means THIS time it's bound to go wrong! That's champion fretting technique right there.

Lisa, I too remember those days well. In fact, I stopped flying a certain airline many years ago because every time I checked in more than an hour early, they lost my bags!

Walter, GOTG was jaw-droppingly beautiful. The whole area is just lovely. (and yeah, big-cat rescue/sanctuary/what-have-you is definitely a strange business...but as long as people insist on breeding tigers in their backyards and other people insist on buying them as "pets," it's a business that will be unfortunately necessary. (Can you tell I'm adamantly against private ownership of big cats?)

1:29 PM  

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