Friday, April 15, 2005

I hate business travel

I made it back home last night. Finally. I know you were probably all worried that I had died in a horrible air accident.

Well I *almost* did. As I said yesterday, my flight out from O'Hare had "mechanical difficulties" forcing us to make an emergency landing in Detroit. For those of you who have never experienced an emergency landing, it starts off with the plane nosediving as they try to lose altitude rapidly. Thankfully, the pilot only waited a minute or two before coming on and telling us that we were not going to die. Why they wait to tell us until after they start the decent I don't know. I think they were waiting for someone to scream "We're all gonna die!" before doing anything. I considered it...

Once we got on the ground, we sat and waited while an army of mechanics trooped through the cabin to the tail of the plane. Then we were told they couldn't fix it and that we'd all have to de-plane so they could start booking us on alternate flights. I got on a 10:30 flight on Northwest - but it was already 9:45 and the Northwest flight was departing from the "other terminal". I was given a little hand-written ticket and told that I could either take the free shuttle over to the other terminal (which might take days, according to the service folks) or just go downstairs and take a cab. I chose the latter, obviously, and dashed off to the taxi station figuring that the quicker time would be worth the $2-3 it would cost me for the tab to drive me the quarter-mile.

But was I ever wrong. The cab companies at the airport have figured out that they can make money hand-over fist running people from terminal to terminal, and actually charge $26 (plus tip) for the privilege. And of course, you have to pay it, because it was already 9:47 so there's no way the shuttle will get you there on time. It also turned out that the other terminal is apparently about 5 miles from the first one. So I pulled up to the other terminal with about 1 half-hour before departure.

Then, naturally, I had to go through security again. But not without first discovering that the paper ticket I'd been given at my old flight is not actually a ticket, but rather a voucher that I have to exchange for a boarding pass at the front counter. So I got out of line at security, ran and got a boarding pass and returned to the line, where I was placed in a special line for security with other passengers from my flight. While all the other checkpoints were *empty* we were held like cattle waiting for slaughter while Detroit's finest tried to decide just how late they were going to make us for our flight. First, they took the boarding passes and ID's for everyone in line *at once*. Because apparently it helps expedite things if you shuffle people's tickets like a Vegas blackjack dealer. Then, they had to find another 20 people to watch us go through security (I thing they needed to train the new recruits on the best way to provoke passengers into air rage).

Once everyone was there, we ran all our worldly possessions through the x-ray machine and went through the metal detectors, just like usual. But then, I discovered that apparently said x-ray machine and metal detectors were either decoys (which they were using to try and attract actual equipment like duck decoys) or purely decorative (to give the "illusion" of security). I know this because once on the other side everyone's bags were hand-searched (ah, so *this* explains why they needed to find all the other people) and we were all wanted and patted down. I wouldn't minded if the one patting me down was Catherine Zeta-Jones, but no, I was assigned a scruffy troll-like creature who proceeded to slap me around like a Canadian clubbing a baby seal. Then they gave me my ticket and ID and sent me merrily on my way.

Only it wasn't *my* ticket, which I discovered as I was riding the escalators down to the main terminal level. I had to go back upstairs and wrest it from the grubby hands of a complete stranger before flying back down to the terminal. Ordinarily I would have just pretended to be him but he was on a different flight and I had no desire to go to Boise, having limited interest in either potatoes or militia groups.

By the time I made it to Newark and picked up my rental car, things were looking up. I was hustling up I-95 heading around NYC through the Bronx (thinking maybe I'd have a celebrity sighting of J.Lo) when I ran smack into the worst traffic jam ever in the history of man. I reached the Bronx at about noon, and by 4:00 I had driven a grand total of 5 miles. It was inhuman. Most disappointing was that there really didn't seem to be any real cause of it. No road kill, no car broken down, no parade of topless showgirls from Atlantic City protesting wage disparity compared to their counterparts in Vegas, nothing. We just started actually moving once we hit Connecticut where I believe gridlock is illegal, which probably explains it. I finally pulled into the Stamford Fairfield Inn at about 5:00 or shortly afterwards.

The trip back yesterday wasn't as exciting. But that's probably for the best.

3 comments:

Spice said...

I hear ya, brother. Having business-travelled off and on for four years, it's a miserable experience. Whenever anything goes wrong you aren't consoled by happy thoughts of the vacation ahead of you or the vacation behind you, you're just thinking about how much you'd rather be at home.

Last summer when J.Bro, ELF and I were in Ann Arbor we had to drop ELF off at the Detroit airport (which is either very nice or disgusting depending on the terminal), and J.Bro commented that I gave the least emotional goodbye he'd ever seen at an airport. I told him that years of business travel had worn me down to the point where I saw planes as glorified buses - no one was ever there to send me off or greet me as I got home, so the whole "Love Actually"-style airport emotion had completely drained from me.

grrrbear said...

I was thinking about that on the way home actually. When I first started flying I would always pay attention to the safety demonstration that the attendants gave. Not only because I wanted to be safe, but also because I felt like they were putting on a little play for me, and I felt bad that nobody else paid attention. These days, I don't pay attention.

J.Po said...

my god, grrbear. that sounds like a terribly awful way to start your business trip. blech.

After all, Elmo seems equally disinterested in both...

I have a hard time believing that Elmo was traumatized by Katy Perry's decollatage after discovering that he had already "been arou...