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Saturday, February 24, 2007

It is almost 1130pm. In four hours, I will load up my rental car to drive 100 miles in freezing rain to an airport to catch a 7am flight home. When I fill up the car with gasoline, I will drink a can or two of Red Bull, since I'm pretty tired from overeating for the past three days. Exhausted really.

But it's not just the food, I've been on kind of a weird schedule since I arrived here. Let me explain.

My flight was supposed to arrive at {destination redacted} at about 955pm, and was right on schedule until it became obvious that fog had settled in, and no one was landing anything at that airport. I'll admit that I was surprised that you couldn't land a plane in the fog, given the instrumentation that exists on modern aircraft. I say, go for it, I have things to do.

The pilot informs us that we will be diverted to {redacted}, which is about 200 miles west of {destination redacted}. He also makes it clear that given the weather, no attempts will be made to fly to the original destination before the next morning. This is bad for a couple of reasons:
  • My original destination is not the place I am actually going.

I decide to fly in to {destination redacted}, even though it is about 90 miles from where I really want to go, because it saves me about 250 bucks to do so. Making the drive myself is no big deal, and is actually sort of enjoyable.

Now, however, I am in a city that, while not much further by car from where I want to go than {destination redacted}, is not the city I will be flying back out of a few days later. Thus:

My car rental reservation is useless.

Also, a new reservation would be for a car that I would be renting from one city, and returning in another. Those of you who have rented cars know that a one-way rental costs an arm and a leg because the rental company has to pay someone to bring the car back from wherever you left it. I am not interested in incurring this sort of expense. You would think that sort of thing would just balance itself out, but apparently it doesn't.

So, my options are now to hang around in the airport where we have landed waiting for a flight to my destination which is not really where I want to go, or I can take a chartered bus to where I was supposed to be flown in the first place.

Around midnight, the bus leaves, and I'm on it.

The bus ride is boring for the most part, and I cannot sleep, and have taken to timing the speed of the bus using my cell phone's stopwatch and the mile markers we pass.

Show me how far and how long and I will give you the width of the universe...

So at a little after 3am, we arrive at {destination redacted}, which is where I was supposed to have been five hours earlier. The fog is incredible, but I don't mind driving in it, because I want to drive my 90 minutes and go to bed.

Of course, I can't do this, because the rental car counter doesn't open until 5am.

So, I'm in the airport. I can't sleep because that's not my best thing anyway, plus every ten minutes the automated announcement telling me to keep an eye on my luggage is played, so that I and the one other person in the airport who is traveling will make sure to keep terror in check.

It was a long two hours, it really was.

Finally, at 5am, the rental car place opens. There is paperwork, and waiting, and they have lost the fucking keys to my car. They will be found, but I will not leave the airport for another 45 minutes.

At about 7am, I finally arrive at my actual destination and go to bed about an hour later. I wake up around 1230pm, feeling like shit, and understanding implicitly that this feeling will likely not go away before I head home.

This is the second trip I have taken by air in the past five months where I did not arrive at my destination on the day I was supposed to, and the third time in the past few years.

The last one, back in September, was a trip that connected through Houston. The first leg of the flight left an hour late on a perfectly clear day because the plane was late arriving at my home airport.

Whatever. I had about an 80 minute layover in Houston.

The plane arrives at George Bush International Airport (kill me) about 20 minutes before my outgoing flight is due to leave. I race across the airport on a half-dozen people movers and two trains and arrive at my gate about five minutes before departure.

The plane, quite naturally, has already left.

It is about 8pm. The flight to my final destination is the last time that day that this aircraft will be flying, and for it to be ten minutes late is of no consequence. The airline made me late arriving at my connection, and refused to call the gate and ask them to hold departure for a couple of minutes.

Through no fault of my own, I am now stuck in Houston. I am hoping against hope that I will not be murdered before I can leave town.

I walk to the ironically named hospitality desk for the airline to see when I can get the hell out of Houston. There are no more flights to where I want to go that day on this airline. There are no flights to where I want to go on any airline. I will be stuck in Houston until late into the following morning. I am offered a voucher for a hotel room that will save me a few dollars on a room.

"Who pays the rest?"

"You do."

"You couldn't be more wrong. It is entirely your airline's fault that I am stuck in a place that I have no desire to be, simply because no one bothered to make a phone call."

Secretly, I am angling for flight vouchers, while mentally stabbing myself in the eye over the notion, since I never want to fly on this airline ever again.

While I am performing mental gymnastics, and apparently looking very disturbed, I am offered a free room at the Marriott near the airport. It is the best I can hope for, and I am too wiped out to spend the effort to get more.

I would eventually arrive at my destination sixteen hours later than scheduled.

I am sick of air travel, and would not mind it very much if I never had to fly anywhere ever again. I used to enjoy flying, but it just completely fucking sucks now. The way the airlines are run, I am honestly shocked that three planes don't fall out of the air each week due to incompetence.

I see ice hanging from trees and street lights now as the rain continues to fall. I am 100 miles and seven hours from my scheduled departure time. If I do not write in this space again, avenge my death.


posted at 11:20 PM

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