Saturday, August 15, 2009

8-15-09: Travel and Human Nature

I began a week-long trip to my parent's place in Southport, North Carolina yesterday at 4:00PM. I'm still not there, but am (hopefully) through the rough part of the trip down.

It began quite nicely when I left my apartment in Connecticut yesterday afternoon promptly at 4:00PM. The trip up to Bradley Aiport is normally about an hour, and my flight was at 7:15PM. I had plenty of time.

The drive up was, for the most part, a breeze. Until north of Hartford. There was a bad accident on I-91 North just north of the city. I tried to find alternative routes, and did eventually catch a break on one back road. I didn't feel like waiting in the seven mile backup. I ended up making it to the gate (after having my bag randomly searched; I found my laser pointer!) with about 15 minutes to spare before boarding. Phew.

The boarding began a few minutes late because the crew was caught in the same traffic jam. No big deal, as we were all seated in time.

Then the pilot came on the intercom and told us that, during a pre-flight walk-around check, he noticed one of the tires on the landing gear was flat. Apparently, there was only one mechanic who could fix it, and it would take some time. But, we all had to de-plane for this to happen because they needed to jack the plane up. My layover in Charlotte was about an hour. I didn't think I'd make it. But I was in no real rush, so I just called up US AIR and got another flight for this morning, just in case.

Several other passengers weren't quite as patient. The attendant at the gate at one point told people to stop fighting. It was pretty interesting to watch. Human nature in its purest form. No fisticuffs broke out or anything, but people were pretty pissed. To make matters worse, and I think this came from frustration, the attendant went on the intercom near the gate and told people not to get on the plane unless they were flying to certain cities as their final destination, because they wouldn't make their connections otherwise. My destination, Wilmington, didn't make the cut. But I had already re-booked, and figured I could get a free hotel. Then, a few minutes later, the same attendant came on and said "If you live in Connecticut or Massachusetts, and this is your originating flight, US AIR will not pay for your hotel in Charlotte." Puzzling, and disappointing. I had visions of myself possibly sleeping in the terminal in Charlotte.

We took off at about 8:30PM, arriving in good order at about 10:30PM in Charlotte. I ran over to the other flight, only to miss it by about 10 or 15 minutes. But I was in luck. Instead of going to guest services near my arrival gate, I figured "The people at my departure gate probably don't know we were told we had to pay for own hotel." And, that was the case. I got a free stay at the nearby Ramada Inn. After about a 20 minute wait for the shuttle, I arrived at the hotel just before midnight. My flight the next morning was at 7:30AM. I had five hours of sleep to look forward to. But at least I wasn't sleeping at the airport.

So, here I am, sitting by my departure gate in Charlotte, with about 15 minutes before boarding. The plane isn't here yet, but I honestly am not worried. My parents are very internet savvy (well, my mother is at least) and know if it's delayed. If they leave the house when I take off, they'll make it to the airport when I land.

All I know is: I'm ready to begin my vacation.

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