Thursday, November 30, 2023

Holiday Travel

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter D. Blair/Released)
As you may recall (if not, read this), I had the "privilege" of traveling over the Thanksgiving festivities. Though the two aircraft I was aboard were about as crowded as shown in the photo above (not really, but it felt like it), the whole airport "experience" wasn't nearly as bad as I expected it to be.

The Nuke had made all of the necessary travel arrangements about a week ahead of time. (To include paying for the tickets, it's nice to have successful kids.) She had booked me on Southwest (my preferred airline) using the Early Bird Check-in feature (which while not free, does save time on checking in, it happens automagically, I used to do the whole 24 hours ahead of time and get stuck near the ass-end of Group B). She also recommended that I do the carry on thing, don't check any bags. (Which Southwest, unlike other airlines, does not charge you for the bag. A pessimist might say "Southwest will lose your bags for free." Which is exactly the situation I was trying to avoid.)

So, There I was ...¹

The week of Thanksgiving I only had to work Monday and Tuesday, at my place of employment it's a two-day holiday, as I only work four days a week, I had Wednesday off. That was the day I was flying.

"What!?!?! Are you crazy, flying the day before Thanksgiving?"

Probably, but I decided that the potential hassle was worth spending the day with family. So I bit the bullet.

Now I had decided which carry on to use on Monday night, we have a couple. Then I began to wonder if the one I had chosen was actually the right size. Before going to bed, I began to fret, then (even in my exhausted state) I realized: I have a cell phone to look stuff up on and a tape measure to measure things.

Using the tools available to me, I decided that I had chosen poorly in terms of a carry on bag. While it met FAA requirements in general, it might not meet the specifications of whatever aircraft I might be flying on. Fortunately, we have a smaller bag which works just about anywhere.

Now I'm going for five days (four nights, two of the days are travel days, but it's a short flight, less than 90 minutes) so I don't need to pack a lot. Everything I wanted/needed to take all fit in the carry on and the under the seat backpack. Until ...

Tuesday night, in the midst of packing, I get a text from The Missus Herself: "Bring all of my medicine."

Ah, sure. I go to the medicine chest (I realize that she had planned for a two week stay, T-Day would make it a three week stay, she was running out of meds!) and there discover that she has quite a few meds! Enough so that my carefully packed bag will require some "arranging."

Eventually I decided that one pair of jeans in the bag and one draped about my person should be sufficient for a five day trip. So The Missus Herself's meds were stowed, extra jeans put back in the dresser, NOW I'm packed!

Go time was 12:30, so I figured, it being Thanksgiving week, that I would arrive three hours before my flight, not my usual two. I awakened at 0800 local to hear the wind howling and the rain falling in sheets. Well, it was expected and the airline assured me that the flight was on time. So I got up, showered, shaved, and got dressed. Jumped in Blue and headed to T.F. Green.

Hhmm, not much traffic, this is good.

Lots of cars in long term parking, hhmm, maybe not so good. (Note that when I entered the lot I had to open my window to scan my credit card, guess which way the rain was coming from?  Yup, my second shower of the day.)

Parked the car, grabbed my bags and jumped into the shuttle.

Which was waiting for me, right behind my car. Bus was empty except for me and the driver.

"Where is everybody?" I asked the driver.

"Beats me, this is quieter than a normal Wednesday."


It was quiet.

Too quiet.

Now I'm a modern guy, I've got my boarding pass on my phone. But I'm also a practical guy, so a paper "back up" is always nice. Curbside check in provided me with that, entered the terminal and went through security. Place was damned near empty.

Had to discard my shaving cream, forgot all about that, can was twice the size allowable. (So of course they dump it at the screening area, if it was something nasty, now they have it. Well, at least it won't get on the plane!) But security was a breeze for all that.

Now Dunkin Donuts at T.F. Green is always mobbed.


Except the day before Thanksgiving. Four people. Four. Count 'em ...

Yup, four.

I turn to the fellow next to me, "Where is everyone?"

Dude shrugged, "This is freaking me out, the place is empty."

Anyhoo, went through the line, got my breakfast, had a reminder, once again, that I am old.

The kid ringing people up was telling people the number on their tickets (for when they would be called). He said to one guy, "You're number ten."

To which I had to reply "You Numbah Ten, G.I." (A phrase which old Asia hands might recognize.)

Four blank looks (from the other people in line and the kid at the register) and one suppressed guffaw from an older gent walking past.

I looked at him, got a nod, saw the "Vietnam Vet" hat and nodded in reply.

Man, don't they teach anything in school these days?

The flight down to BWI was uneventful, the aircraft, though full, had less than the normal complement of idiots, so things were smooth as regards boarding and disembarking. Not checking a bag worked well, I headed past baggage claim and went straight to ground transportation, there to await The Nuke. What I saw was chaos.

BWI has four lanes of traffic for pickup, two were intended for moving vehicles, two were intended for folks stopping to pick people up. Now at many (most?) airports in my experience, the local constabulary discourages people from parking there to await passengers. They have what I believe is generally called a "cell phone lot." You park your ass there and wait for a call to head into the LZ² and pick folks up.

At BWI (and later at T.F. Green when I returned home), there were tons of Uber and Lyft drivers parked curbside, empty. waiting for people. At T.F. Green I did see signs designating an Uber/Lyft pickup area, didn't see them at BWI. What I did see was police barking at those guys to keep moving, the pickup area was totally packed and was complete chaos.

The time I saved not having to go through baggage claim was completely squandered due to the Uber/Lyft guys jamming the LZ. Had the same issue on my return home, though on a much smaller scale.

Now don't get me wrong, I really like the Uber/Lyft concept. But at least with taxis, they stick to the designated areas at airports, the Uber/Lyft guys seem rather out of control on that front. Which, for normal travel, isn't much of a problem.

Bottom line: I was expecting a nightmare travel scenario, on both ends. Speculating with my fellow travelers (the non-Communist type, mind you), it seems that most folks traveling the day before Thanksgiving also have to work that day, so they leave later than I did. I also left somewhat earlier (I suppose) than normal holiday travelers for the return home. Which is why I seemed to have "dodged a bullet" vis-à-vis holiday travel.

And I really don't have a problem with that.

¹ SJC.
² Landing Zone.


  1. A Thanksgiving Travel Tale, excellent news on dodging most of the usual travel bullets although a couple of the ejected brass did score hits.....:)

    1. I was expecting a nightmare, was pleasantly surprised.

  2. I understand the aging out on the humor thing, the last time I heard someone say "Dave" and I (automatically I'm afraid) said "Dave's not here" got me a lot of odd looks and no smiles at all...
    On a separate note, it is that time of the year, Merry Christmas!

    1. I am oft guilty of using that same phrase, in a Cheech and Chong kind of voice as well. Which really gets you odd looks.

      And yes, the season's upon us, it's that time of year ... (Expect that post shortly.)

    2. “I’m sorry, Rob. I’m afraid I don't understand that”

    3. Ooh yes, add in some 2001: A Space Odyssey elements as well!

      "Open the pod bay doors, HAL."

      "I'm sorry, Dave, I can't do that."

      "Dave's not here, man!"

      "Daisy, Daisy ..."

      And so it goes.

    4. Daves not here....

    5. Add me to the list of old farts that immediately go to either Cheech and Chong's 'Dave' or to 2001's 'Dave.'

      Or when hearing "We Three Kings of Orient Are" immediately think
      "Trying to smoke a rubber cigar,
      when we lit it, it exploded it,
      Wandering kings we are...."

      Or ethnic jokes... I miss ethnic jokes.

    6. You're just another refugee from the "good old days." We grow fewer each year ...

  3. Sarge, I had come and gone a bit earlier than you but had really the same experience, especially on the Saturday heading out. I had expected pretty bad crowds on Saturday, what with people taking the week off and college students going home and all. There was almost none of that. Flying home Monday night was the same - somewhat more crowded, but not at all like what I would have expected. It made for a pretty okay holiday travel experience (and super glad yours went as well as it did too)!

    1. "Pretty okay ..." I like that turn of phrase, I just might steal it!

    2. Sarge, I make liberal use of the phrase because - really - most things are "pretty okay".

    3. Yup, you're right. And pretty okay ain't bad.

  4. Our plans were disrupted by sick children; T-Day (local travel) had us at home. Having planned, we were home WThFS (and had a wonderfully quiet time with phone and zoom calls.) Sunday we got up, and the car wouldn't start. Stuck the charger on the battery, it says battery dead and charging. Curses. Left it for two hours. Click. Changed to "Boost start". Click. Not so long wait for AAA. Kid looks at how I'd hooked up my charger, turns it off, hooks up JumpPac to where I had, car starts. "Your charger may be too old?" he says, "or …. I shouldn't guess." And he was off, having already started nine cars that morning. We were late to everything and I went on the hour drive to charge the batter, realizing the car had been parked in an unheated garage at 0°-20° for days without even a trip to the grocery store. Remember to exercise the car as well as myself. And check that (thirty year old?) charger!

    1. Yeah, in that kind of cold, you're going to have issues.

    2. We get that down here, due to the heat and humidity. 3 years is a good life for a battery, and any electric storage device is very subject to loss of capability, which, of course, makes me question the feasibility of having a sparky car down here, especially if having to use the a/c or heater (because due to the humidity, gets downright cold some days. Heater in the morning, a/c in the afternoon. Florida is bipolar.)

    3. It must be weird living in that kind of environment. In Little Rhody, in the spring and fall, you have to carry three different weight jackets in your car. Mornings and evenings you might go through all three!

    4. I have defaulted to t-shirt and cargo shorts and sandals. Because no matter how cold it is outside, someone, who just last week was complaining how hot it was outside, will have turned the heater up to 85 degrees.

    5. I'm a fan of those small lithium battery starter pack now, they really work!

    6. In the old days before such newfangled gadgets, I had awakened to the cheerful crowing of the alarm clock at 0h dark four hundred on a bitter morning in GFND to plug the car heater in. After another two hours, car no start. No oil pan heat. Electric connections corroded. After a couple groans and clicks, the battery was as dead as the great wooly mammoth. The battery sat basking in the house for an hour and a half in a sink full of hot water while on a charger (safety is for sissies). Battery warmed, recharged, and reinserted, the car started right up.

  5. Sarge,
    Glad things went well and travel was less painful than usual. I think "Better lucky than good" applies here as usual.
    Our family gathering is at Christmas this year and am very much looking forward to it.
    Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all....and to all a good night!

  6. Empty airports are a bit weird. Unsettling. Empty airplanes on the other hand, are exciting. I remember my first jump seat on an empty freighter. That thing went straight up like a rocket. Didn't avoid much turbulence either. I guess freight doesn't complain as loud as passengers. Oh, hey... Give me a chit and I'll alphabetize the Acronym Page. I blew past SJC a few times.... Control F is your phriend over there.

    1. Uh, it is alphabetized, it's just really busy with a lot of entries.

      Ctrl-f is always your friend over there.

    2. My empty flight was flying from Paris, TX to DFW on a 20 some seat commuter turboprop being the only passenger (Feeling just like J.R. Ewing. "Head her for Dallas, boys").

  7. Welcome home.
    Another one that Viet Vets recognize that others don't comprehend the importance.

    We played host and hostess for family who had zero drama in their flights.
    Pro tip for the winter season- Don't shovel snow with keys in one hand. It may take several days to find them...if the weather is warming up, otherwise it may be spring time!

    1. Now that is an awesome pro tip, should we compile a list here on the blog?

    2. Is shoveling snow with keys in hand a real thing? Why wouldn't they be in your pocket? Wouldn't that hinder shoveling with a lump in your hard? Inquiring women want to know?

    3. I personally have never done that, but I have dropped my keys in the snow.

  8. The most we travel on a holiday is to church, or maybe to a store for a "Peter Rabbit" shopping trip (bread and milk and cackleberries). Enough idjits on the road on normal (normal? what is this "normal?") days. This reminds me, I need to get my internal ID or whatever it's called. Not that I see flying as something happening any time soon, or entering a federal building.

    I've learned to not use terms and phrases like that in public here in Sonoma County. Even something as innocent as "Well, that was an E-ticket ride!" The blank looks and inevitable questions usually aren't worth it.

    Good tale, sir.

    1. I used the term "he had a road to Damascus moment" the other day and the blank stares accompanying that were startling.

      The country is rapidly filling with vapid atheists.

    2. Or the more obscure "Road to Emmaus" moment, sort of like a Road to Damascus moment, but you don't realize it until much later.

  9. Weird. It's almost like you were transported back into the early 70's before deregulation or something.

    Can't imagine flying anymore. But can't imagine flying any less...

    1. It did rather feel like that. The only thing missing was the family meeting me at the gate.

    2. Or wearing your Sunday best to fly. Remember those days?

    3. I remember pictures of those days, when I began flying about the world, I had to wear my dress uniform (Class As as we called them). That was later dropped to "protect" us from terrorists. (Still had to carry your ID card, and Hollywood notwithstanding, terrorists are not stupid, they check that kind of thing.)

      I do my version of business casual when I fly. (My version is jeans, I hate trousers that flap about one's legs.)

    4. Crusty Old TV Tech here. Welcome back Sarge!

      I wondered when Ma AF dropped the Class A bag thing. By the time I started flying for Pa AFCC, it was no Smurf suit, no Class A bag. They told us it was due to Baader Meinhof et. Al. getting frisky. Yeah, 1981, Ranstein AB, it did get folks attention. Not that it really did any good, any bad guy could pick us out at 100 yards in a crowd of Gringos...Milspec haircut, and cheesy cutoff 'staches, dead giveaway.

    5. Yeah, we didn't exactly blend in.

    6. There was a reason for wearing a suit in route to a conference, along with critical presentation materials as carry-on. If I arrived, they probably would as well.

  10. At first glance I thought the photo was the Vietnam Airlift, but then realized the gear they were carrying was too modern. Refugees from the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami?

    1. Here's the original caption:
      Tacloban residents displaced by Typhoon Haiyan fill the cargo hold of a C-17 Globemaster assigned to the 517th Airlift Squadron. Approximately 400 personnel were loaded onto the aircraft. Joint Task Force 505 personnel are conducting search and rescue, supply drops and personnel airlifts in support of Operation Damayan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter D. Blair/Released)

    2. I noticed all those people have a single bag with them.
      Imagine... something goes wrong and you have to leave (forever?) and all you can bring is one back pack...
      I packed up once to flee a wildfire (Sebastopol in Sonoma county in 1973) but there was time to toss "stuff" in the van, the bombers showed up and stopped it just on the other side of the ridge. I was up there with a shovel wearing jeans and tee shirt while the firefighters were getting their coats ready in case the bomber missed with the pink stuff. My wife was tossing things into the back of the van...
      The next time I had to run my house was on fire, I snagged my laptop as I went out the door into the snow barefoot. Lucky both times!

    3. Kind of makes you focus on what's important.

    4. Thanks. Just after I hit "Enter" I though, "You idiot! Just right click and select "search image with google!"
      Rob, we had to bug out twice in the Tubbs Fire in '17 and during the Glass Fire in '20, we had time to get ready, guns, icons, and important papers in the car ready to leave, Also meds and computers,. Not monitors, keyboards, and the lie, just the computers,. A bag with about 3 days of clothes.

  11. Maybe everyone decided to stay home for Thanksgiving and avoid the crowds. Very fortunate for you for sure. With all the calamities that have affected air travel over the past few years, I've only been bit once, and it wasn't a deep bite so I've got that going for me. Glad to hear it was smooth and easy. The only time I see an empty airport is when I have the 6am flight out, or the 2330 landing.

    1. From what I've heard, T.F. Green was mobbed later on Wednesday. BWI was crowded, but again, I left early. A lot of people apparently waited until late afternoon to travel.

      Given the cost of air travel these days (FJB), perhaps many did stay at home.

  12. I hate those Uber/Lyft drivers with a passion.
    I used to deliver cooking oil to restaurants. Up in Austin on a weekend night, they'd be parked on 6th St blocking two lanes and forcing everyone to go around them... And blocking the alleys I needed to go down.


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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