Tuesday, August 7, 2012

More Travel Tales of Woe

Looked Even More Impressive from the Air!
As I had shared with you, the past weekend was another trip to Virginia Beach, perhaps the last for some time. But this was a most pleasant occasion, 'twas my granddaughter Little Bit's Second Birthday! And there would be a party. Of course the party was aimed at the younger set, kids about Little Bit's age plus or minus 2. (A long and tedious way of saying from newborns to four year olds!)

However, though being of advanced years (well 59 ain't too old I guess), I still am very much in touch with my "inner child". If you're thinking that sometimes I act like a two year old, go to the head of the class! The party was awesome, the kids (and myself) had a great time. Though it was over far too soon, it already has a place in my favorite memories.

Even though the airlines and the weather conspired to make the weekend a miserable experience. Ah, yes. The weather and (ahem) the airlines. I'm sure theirs is a difficult job, with few rewards and lots of stress. And I must admit, I added just a tad to one poor individual's stress. T'weren't his fault really, he was just a target of opportunity. Sometimes I tend to strike out at things with all the logic and clear vision of a pissed off rhinoceros.
That's Me Without my Glasses and My Navy Ballcap
But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Friday, the day I was outward bound, dawned clear and glorious. Got myself to the aeroporto with time to spare, a leisurely check-in was expected.

"Sir your flight has been delayed approximately 13 minutes."

"And....?"

"Well, you'll only have about 30 minutes to catch your next flight out of Reagan."

"Well... Oh, whatever. What you got for me?"

And so it went. I would leave 30 minutes later and fly into Philadelphia rather than Reagan. And there should be plenty of time to catch my next flight out of Philly. Sure. You can sense what's coming, can't you?

Aircraft rolled down the runway, lifted into the air, gear came rumbling up, all sorts of whines, thumps and bangs occurred in their proper sequence, we were flaps up, headed for altitude.

Going due west...

Now I'm no Vasco da Gama, but I do know that Virginia lies south of Rhode Island. It appeared our aircrew had a different destination in mind. We were headed west, and were still headed west some 20 minutes after take off. Hhhmmm? Perhaps there is nasty weather out there? Perhaps we're just swinging around it?

As I pondered this, the pilot banked to port. I mean really banked to port. I was sitting on the left side of the aerospace vehicle and I swear I was looking straight down. Mind you, I like that kind of thing. Heck if he started doing barrel rolls and hammerhead stalls I would'a been tickled pink. (As long as the wings stayed on and we stayed airborne that is.)

Now, as I studied the terrain and the position of the sun, I realized two things: we were now southbound and I had no idea where the hell we were. (Not that I really needed to know, but I'm funny that way. I always like knowing where I am on the face of the Earth. No need for a precise navigational fix, just a kinda sorta "hey, we're over Connecticut" position will do.)

To make a longish story short, we got to Philly. Not with an hour to my next flight but 15 minutes. That's 15 minutes to take off, not 15 minutes until boarding time. I guess the aircraft's wandering journey westward caused the flight to take a tad longer than normal. (Well, quite a bit more than a tad but there it is.)

There's the Old AF Sarge "sprinting" through the airport in Philly, the PA announcement telling me "This is the final boarding call for Flight 1234 at Gate such-and-such." Damn! That's my flight!

"Warp Seven Mr Data..."

"Warp seven, aye!" (I probably wasn't running all that fast, while quick on my feet, I'm no speedster!)

I arrived at the gate just as they were wrapping things up. Made the flight, made it to Virginia Beach at the originally planned time.

Whew. Well, I guess if the trip down was screwed up, I guess the trip back North will be smooth. Right?

WRONG!!!

Remember the picture up there at the top? Oh yeah, that's what you call "foreshadowing".

Now as I mentioned, Little Bit's birthday party was a lot of fun. It was at the Virginia Zoo. The zoo folks brought out "farmyard animals" for to show the children. That bit was in quotes because we're not talking about your normal farmyard animals. No, no indeed.

The first creature was a hissing cockroach (what farm did they pick this guy up at?) And it actually hissed, therefore it had an element of "coolness".

Next was a corn snake. (The Missus, exit stage right, looking rather green around the gills. My better half has no love at all for serpents.)

Next was your standard domesticated rabbit. (Enter the Missus, stage right.) The kids loved the bunny, it was soft and all peaceful looking.

Finally was a chicken. But not your garden variety chicken. I forget what type of chicken it was, but it had a real interesting pompadour. Feathers were extraordinarily soft.

Oh yeah, the kids all got to touch the various animals under the supervision of the zoo lady. I proudly can say that I did touch them all. Just to show off for the kids no doubt.

One young fellow, son of Googer (a Naval Aviator of course, that's his call sign), when they brought the snake out, announced to all and sundry, "I am NOT touching that!"

After the show and tell, we had pizza and cake. Lots of pizza and cake. When that was over, the zoo people told us that we had free run of the zoo for the rest of the day. Awesome!

But it was also hot that day. Surface of the sun hot.

We strolled over to the tiger enclosure. Saw two tigers, both lying in the shade and looking at us as if to say, "No wonder you humans are easy to catch and eat. You're not very bright are you? Standing out there in the hot sun."

What to do, what to do? It was really screaming hot. One of the WSOs friends suggested that we ride the train, we could see the whole zoo from the little train. Sure why not?

Turns out that Little Bit, who loves most forms of conveyance, does not particularly care for trains. After we'd paid our money and taken our seats, she commences to screaming bloody murder. I mean my granddaughter has a loud voice, a good strong command voice, and the other people on the train looked as if any minute their ear drums were going to burst.

Well, after the train started moving, Little Bit calmed down. Guess trains aren't so bad after all. But I think she was rather bored with the whole thing. The train was slow, really slow, and Little Bit likes to go fast (after all, Daddy flies the Super Hornet and Mommy is a Super Hornet WSO) and that train obviously had no need of a Mach meter.

Also, you could NOT see the whole zoo from the train. In fact, one sees very little of the zoo from the train. A couple of monkeys and a sun bear, that's about it. And the train ride lasts all of 15 minutes! So much for that idea.

"So should we visit the rest of the zoo on foot?"

"No, no way!"

"Hot, it's too hot!"

"Shut up Dad."

Bottom line, we jumped in the car and headed home, to air conditioning and cable TV. Yeah, that's the ticket!

Sunday dawned, clear and hot. Very hot. I checked the weather on line and there appeared to be no problems, at least none that Sunday morning. But there were little patches of rain bubbling up around the region and to the north.

Let me see, very hot, humid air and a cold front moving this way. This is not looking promising.

Got to the airport, flight has been delayed. Again I'm not going through Reagan, but through Philly. No problem, plenty of time to make my connecting flight.

I get to Philly, fortunately my flight landed at Terminal F, connecting flight was to leave from Terminal F. Like two gates away. Finally, finally, something seems to be going well in the air travel business.

Nope.

Not gonna happen.

"Uh, what happened to the flight to Providence?"

"Cancelled."

"And...."

"Go to the Customer Service desk, they'll have to re-book you."

Slowly I turn towards the Customer Service desk. And see a line of what has to be 400 people. No seriously, 400 if there was one.

I get in line, pissed like you would not believe. And here comes a young fellow in the livery of the airline handing out little cards with a phone number on them.

"Here sir, call this number and they'll book you on another flight..."

"TO WHERE, TO ANOTHER DAMN CANCELLED FLIGHT? YOUR AIRLINE SUCKS!!!"

Dude kind of drifted away, handing out his little cards. Hoping the myopic pissed off rhino is not following. I felt bad about it later, but hey I was in Philadelphia. No flight, no clue.

Alright, I call the number on the little card and actually get someone who knows what they're doing. I'm booked on a later flight. Like 5 hours later. Geez.

Originally I should've been home around 7 in the evening on Sunday. Plenty of time to grab some chow, get some sleep and arise at oh-dark-thirty to head North. North to the banks of the Merrimack River. Nope, I rolled into the driveway at Chez Sarge a little after midnight. Reset the alarm to 0500 and pressed on.

But it was an interesting flight, again we took off and flew due west. And there I was, doing my best Vasco da Gama again. But this time I could see the storm. OMG. Huge cell, nearly continuous lightning. And well aft as we headed west.

After a while we did a hard right (hey, I'm looking straight down again!) and assumed a northerly track. The entire way I was able to see that storm (well to our south now) and it looked really awesome from the air. Even when we began our descent into Providence, I could still see the flashes of lightning on the horizon.

It was lovely. But again, commercial flying has left me wanting.

But on the whole, I would rather NOT be in Philadelphia.

8 comments:

  1. Would it be worth flying into and out of Boston? Fewer cancellations I'd expect.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Boston. Ah, the things I could relate to you regarding my loathing for traveling anywhere inside the 128 loop. In fact, I have now extended the restricted zone all the way out to I-495. Getting into Logan is easier now than it used to be what with the "Big Dig" being finished. But still, driving in the Boston area can be, shall we say, "exciting".

      I don't think Logan would have made much of a difference on Sunday last. Major storm system between where I was and where I needed to go. Going anywhere seemed to be a problem here on the East Coast last weekend. The Missus, the Nuke and Little Bit were going to go to Memphis (the Nuke to return to her abode, the Missus and Little Bit for a visit as the WSO is headed down to Key West for Fighter Det). Their routing was from Norfolk to DC to Memphis.

      Flight out of DC was cancelled, after their arrival there (of course). They wound up spending the night in DC and most of Monday as well. Earliest they could get out of DC was 2100 Monday night (after arriving in DC around 2000 Sunday night.) So the weather was the big factor last weekend.

      Ah, the joys of travel...

      Delete
  2. You are only reenforcing my commitment to NEVER FLY AGAIN. I know: never say never. But I'm holdin' on to this one as long as humanly possible.

    That said... I'm glad the party went semi-well, hot weather and snake excepted.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I got home Sunday night (technically I suppose it was Monday morning by just a hair) I announced to the cats that I would never fly commercial again. After a moment or two of sober reflection, it struck me that if I wanted to visit with the progeny out in California, I'd either have to fly or take a crap ton of time off in order to drive out that way and back. All that being said, I've had mostly luck with my flying experiences. Which brings to mind a story.

      When I PCSed from Okinawa to Korea, it was a simple thing to show up at the MAC terminal, show'em my orders and climb on board the daily C-130 from Kadena to Kunsan. I did so. Then waited 6 hours while they fixed a problem with the bird. Finally we climbed on board, took off, circled the field and landed. Seems like the #3 engine had blown an oil pump. The one they'd just replaced. Long story short, I went back to the barracks, got my room key back, then went to drink beer with my mates. I finally got to Korea the next day. Did have fun with my buds one last time, so that was good.

      But the bad flights always seem to be far fewer in number than the good ones. So no doubt I'll keep flying commercial, until I win the lottery and buy my own Gulfstream. Yeah, that was me holding my breath. Heh.

      Delete
    2. ... if I wanted to visit with the progeny out in California, I'd either have to fly or take a crap ton of time off ...

      And there's the difference in our situations. I have the luxury of all the time in the world to drive (so to speak, in this particular sense). And I did just that two summers ago, driving from NM to South Carolina and then up to PA to visit with the boys and attend SN2's change o' command. In that lil Miata, too... which was one of the PRIME movers in my decision to get sumthin' a lil more comfortable for the long haul.

      I may actually fly again; as I said before: never say never. And it's hard to drive to Europe. ;-)

      Delete
    3. Yeah, there's the whole "need to work" thing. Dude, you're like one of my heroes.

      And yes, it's tough driving to Europe. Does Cadillac make an amphibious car?

      Delete
    4. great story! nothing more fun than playing with grandchirrun, acting like a little kid, adults look strangely at me but little guys have fun - all that counts! and your rampaging rhino through Philly airport story...classic...what a great visual...was there any collateral damage to unsuspecting travelers?...i must be sadist cause I sure get a lot of pleasure from other peoples travel miseries!

      Delete
    5. Glad you liked it Greg, I do aim to please. Yeah, love being with the grandchildren and acting their age. And I've noticed that I get strange looks all the time, even when I'm not with the grandkids. Because I pretty much act like a little kid all the time.

      No unsuspecting travelers were injured in Philly during my "rhino rampage", I did get a few cheers though. I was just doing what they wished they had the stones to do. Heh.

      I'm sure you're not a sadist, like most folks you probably just enjoy a good horror story. And I must confess, I love hearing other people's travel woes. Especially if they tell the story in a humorous way. Cause that's me, it's all about the humor. As a good friend of mine once said, "Life's too short to be taken too seriously." Oh yeah.

      Delete

Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)