Friday, March 5, 2010

Travel Adventure: Where Did I Park The Plane?

Coming from rural Missouri I don’t have many occasions to use public transportation. A trip to the Alzheimer’s Action Summit gave me a chance to get more than my fill of it.

It seems like things change all the time, but it's never for the better. An early morning flight used to mean you woke up early and headed for the airport. (Well, there was that one time when Jim dropped me off and the flight started boarding before he got back from parking the car.) Now, it means you need to find a place to stay the night before so you can get to the terminal on time. You have to allow extra time to be scrutinized.

I am not the least bit nervous about flying, but things can go awry in a hurry. Once you’ve done everything you can—stay the night, get up at an obscene hour, and hop in the hotel van hours ahead of time. The hotel driver makes the trip several times a day, so you just leave your timely arrival in his capable hands. The sign plainly says, “Midwest—Terminal A.” The driver whipped around the terminal. “Did I miss it?” he asked.

“I didn’t see it either,” I said. Of course, I was depending on him to see it. My friend, Cindy, and my granddaughter were in the back seat and they didn’t see it either.

We looped around the circle again. This time we stopped in front of another airline and Cindy jumped out to ask them where to find Midwest. “They moved to Terminal C yesterday, but they haven’t changed the sign.”

Our driver drove us to Terminal C and, sure enough, there they were. We checked in and paid $20 for every bag we checked. After having our belongings X-rayed, and thankfully not our bodies, we were seated in the holding area and hooked up to the Internet in no time.

Eventually, the pilot showed up. “No one told me we had changed terminals,” he said. Ooops, shouldn’t he have gotten the memo even if the passengers hadn’t? I don’t think he was too happy. Minutes before the boarding call, a flight attendant showed up.

We boarded and prepared for take-off. The pilot taxied, and taxied, and taxied. We were beginning to think he was going to drive to DC. I figured the control tower didn’t know what the heck Midwest was doing at Terminal C either. It is possible that the kid at the mike didn’t want to clear an unauthorized plane. We thought maybe the pilot went back to Terminal A to take off on familiar turf.

In the air we get the bad news that we will get only complimentary drinks—no snacks and no chocolate chip cookies before 10 a.m. I was pretty coffee logged so decided to go with juice. Tomato juice sounded good. “Do you want plain or spicy?” the flight attendant asked.

“Might as well have spicy,” I said. “I’m sure I’ll have heartburn anyway.”

“Do you want some lime in it?”

“Sure, sounds good to me.”

She poured a small glass and handed it to me. Wow. It was really hot, but it was tasty. And the lime was a great touch.

Later the flight attendant brought me the rest of the can. “No one else wanted any,” she said. A whole plane full of people, and I’m the only one that likes spicy tomato juice? The spicy tomato juice was Bloody Mary mix. No wonder the lime tasted so good in it.

When we got to DC, the plane looped in a big circle in one direction, reversed the circle in the other direction. Round and round we go. Who knows what was going on? Finally we landed and were on our way to the hotel.

Later in the day the big adventure was riding the subway to see the sites. With no help in sight, a gaggle of tourists tried to decipher the machines. After several false starts, we finally bought day passes and headed out.

While we waited for the first subway, a recorded voice explained that unlike elevator doors, subway doors will crush you like an aluminum can if you get caught in the door. Well, she didn’t say it in those exact words, but that’s what she meant. All I can say is the announcement put the fear of God in me. I made sure my granddaughter was between Cindy and me because I wanted to make sure that if one of us had to abandon getting on a car my granddaughter would be with one of us and not standing alone on the platform.

After a day of ankle-swelling, aching-back walking, and riding on crowded subway cars, we passed by the same set of machines. Cindy tried to cash in her ticket, but couldn’t figure it out while at the same time trying to explain to a bemused tourist how to buy a ticket. He just wasn’t getting it. I put my ticket in the machine and it said, “See a manager.” Yeah, right. I’m not so sure there is a manager, much less actually finding a human who fit that description.

“Here,” I said, handing the tourist my pass. “Take this. It’s good for the rest of the day.” I knew that with my aching feet, they couldn’t pay me to get back on that subway.

For sure, traveling is always an adventure. At least with the afternoon ride home, we don’t have to get up early and better yet, Midwest serves those delicious chocolate chip cookies. I don’t think I’ll be having any Bloody Mary mix with that. That would be taking adventure to a whole new level.
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