Monday, November 30, 2009

Observations from traveling the monday after thanksgiving

Well...maybe they aren't necessarily related to that...but years ago I promised myself I'd never fly the Monday after thanksgiving again...it was the year that my friend Mandy and I had spent the previous week on a cruise in Hawaii. We flew from Hawaii back to LAX on a red eye Sunday night on United. Landed around 5am I think on Monday. I had a 7:30am flight from LAX to Oakland then on Southwest. I claimed my bags from United, hugged Mandy goodbye, and wandered off to find Southwest Check in. For those of you who know LAX, if member serves its kind of a big U shape, United is at one end of the U and Southwest at the other. I didn't know this at the time, or I would have just walked through parking lot to get to southwest. Instead, I dragged my heavy bags (pre-samsonite spinners days) ALL the way around the U. When I arrived at Southwest, the line was so long it stretched not only through the inside, but outside, and down past the next airlines's terminal. And this was the SECURITY checkline..... I remember a long check in line too... but nothing like the crazy security line. I remember local news was there reporting on the craziness of all the holiday travelers trying to go home. I promised myself that day I'd never fly the Monday after thanksgiving again...

Flash forward...whats probably 5 or 6 years to today. I live in IL for now, so I didn't have to travel to spend the holiday with my family. I did however, need to be in Hartford this week for work....and my regular travel schedule for work is the 6am ish flight out of Bloomington on Mondays (usually getting to Hartford between 12-1pm depending on my airline that day) and traveling back on Fridays (now always leaving at 5:55am going through Atlanta and getting home by noon). So not only did I have to fly today, but I was a rare business traveler in airports full of leisure travlers.

I arrived at Bloomington at 5am, my usual arrival time for my 5:45am departure (small 8 gate airport, easy to arrive late usually). The security line was the longest I'd ever seen for that airport. That said, one smart thing I saw was that the airport had both baggage screeners running, rather than the typical one. That said, the mens basketball team from Norfolk State University was in front of me in line. And one of their players didn't have any ID for some reason (and for some reason didn't seem to think he needed it) and that held up the line considerably.

By the time I arrived at my gate the plane was already starting to board, a first for me. As she called zone's 1 and 2 the mens basketball team lined up...they were on my flight to ATL. She looked at all of them in pity and kept calling for others to give up their exit row and bulkhead seats so the players could stretch their legs. She spent so much time chatting with the guys trying to find them other seats, that she somehow failed to account for 7 other passengers who boarded the plane. Ever been on a plane when they come on and call out someone's name and ask them to ring their flight attendent call button? Thats them checking to see if you got on the plane and somehow they just missed you. Yes, our gate agent this morning was spending so much time chatting with the ball players...she missed 7. Wonder if people could have boarded without a valid ticket and she'd even have noticed?

Finally get on the plane and the two flight attendents prompty start talking about how bad they feel for all the ball players stuck in the tiny seats. Then they go to do their safety checks, which take forever, and come back up front to gossip. Apparently the Norfolk State Men's basketball team don't like to follow instructions. Based on the gossip I overheard from the flight attendants, no one wanted to turn off their phones, didn't understnad what electronic devices were, didn't want to put their seat belts on, didn't want to stow their bags, you name it, they didn't do it. The flight attendants discussion quickly went from pitying the "poor dears" to wishing they'd never boarded the plane. I can sympathize with their frustrations of course....but I'm pretty sure everyone in the first 5 rows could hear every word...not exactly putting them in a positive light.

Get to Atlanta early (I've decided they are building lots of cushion into flight times these days so that even if you take off late you might arrive early because this seems to be happening a lot). Head from terminal C to terminal B (one of these days I'll have both flights in the same terminal...right????). Score...starbucks is RIGHT next to my gate. I'm in line at Starbucks and hear a voice I recognize behind me, but can't place. Turn around briefly...and its a Real World Brooklyn castmate (couldn't remember his name all day, but just googled it and it was Chet - and just to confirm, his twitter does talk about flying home today so I'm sure it definitely was him. After starbucks he headed to the gate next to mine - headed towards NYC - and his twitter mentions traveling home to NYC this morning).

Anyway, we're late boarding the flight to Hartford, and once they start it seems to be taking FOREVER. I'm zone 4 this time, and of course worried there's no overhead room left. Finally get most of the way down the jet bridge and see what the hold up is...they are forcing us to gate check our bags. Now mind you...I don't mind gate checking..I'm a big fan of the planeside valet. However...I like getting my bags BACK plane side. With the forced gate check, you have to claim them at baggage (You'll see why this is a problem soon). Get to my seat...and happy happy joy joy...its a middle seat for the 2.5 hour Hartford flight...okay....2 hour...those padded schedules again! Dude on the left not only hogged the arm rest the entire flight, but somehow managed to spill his arms into MY space the entire time too. Take off took forever...I got nearly 70 pages into "The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World" book that Michelle sent for my birthday. Finally take off, and I break out the laptop to do some much needed work. But of course, dude in front of me wanted to recline is seat. Anyone notice how hard it is to use a laptop on a plane this day. If the person in front of you reclines, there's just not enough room. At least not if you actually want to TYPE anything on your laptop. Gave up on this after just 15 minutes and switched to knitting. Thank goodness I learned how to do that continental style which requires less movement since I couldn't move thanks to mister seat hog on the left.

We land in hartford only about 15 minutes late despite the long taxi time on the ground in ATL. Now I'm off to baggage claim, where I kid you not, it takes 30 minutes to get our bags. Now I get that the Hartford airport is a bit bigger than Bloomington. But its not THAT big. And I've never seen a baggage claim so crowded. I was sure I'd miss my bag because of how everyone was pushing and shoving to get in front to see if their bag was coming. Finally claim my bag and then have to call the parking shuttle.... the place I park at advertising being 5 minutes away from the airport. They have at least 4 shuttles, and are usually running 2 at a time...so explain to me if you can, why it takes 20 minutes or more every time I call?

So that was my day...long...long day. Up early...brain fried (so much I locked myself out of my hotel room within 10 minutes of getting checked in). But I've been wanting to get better about my blogging again...and I figured today's tale would fill up a blog nicely!

Oh..and yes....this really is my home away from home...even though I haven't been here in 2 weeks was greated by name at check in again...and they loaned me an umbrella (which I also forgot when leaving my room) when they ran me a new key to get back into my room.

1 comment:

kristin noel said...

Oh what a mess! I'm glad you made it safely though. We drove home from Michigan last Thanksgiving on Sunday and we will NEVER do that again! It took us longer and it's already a 9 hour trip. Hopefully, you'll soon be settled in Hartford.