Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Flight of Fancy

I had to travel recently on business. Suddenly.

Travel is so exciting. It can be even more exciting when you don't have time to adequately plan. So, I was asked (!) recently to take the place of someone who had a customer visit planned. The person had gone and gotten themselves hurt (yeah, right), so I was sent in to absorb the wrath of a large and dedicated team of angry physicians.

Why me? Well, part of the fallout of working with the same customer base for thirty years is that people get to know you, remember your unusual name, you know the drill. So they felt comfortable yelling at me.

But I know how to do that, that's not the issue. It was the trip! The trip was a TRIP. I had the itinerary of the other guy, but I couldn't match the dollars because it was now about a day before I had to leave. So my trusty administrative goddess and I spent a couple of hours trying to figure out how to get from a large, metropolitan east coast city to a large, metropolitan mid western city at the last minute. Multiple, multiple attempts with various options including one that involved a stopover on the moon. It's not so easy, lemme tell ya.

But we got it done and I decided to go into work for a couple of hours in the morning before the flight because I HAD to get some stuff out of the way. My other work didn't just disappear because I was going to disappear. I recall my wife looked at me funny and implied she thought I was nuts, but hey, I'm a company man, it's my frickin' job, OK?

And it's a darned good thing I went in, too, because the Earth would have stopped spinning if I hadn't done what I was supposed to do. I mean, it's happened before.

So, I finished my work, picked up my travel paperwork to print off my boarding pass and happened to notice in an offhand sort of way, that the flight was going to take off in an hour and fifteen minutes! Holy crap! One of the many other flight options we had discussed had stuck in my head! The incompetence washed over me like a warm summer shower leaving me a little bedazzled by so quickly reaching Level 27 in the new Facebook game 'Incompetence Wars'.

Now, in the olden days, I would have had a hemorrhage or two and perhaps died on the spot. Ah, but not so, not any more. Now I have gone through the fires of hell and have had my mettle tested by a German colleague who was both a physician and a policeman. This crucible has burned away the impurities leaving a kind of shrunken but sturdy metallic outline of what I used to be. I survived that clown, this little thing was nothing! Nothing, I tell you!

So, I jammed my laptop and papers in my bag and hit the road. Now I certainly wasn't going to get to the airport two hours ahead of time, that was a chronological certainty. Sure I had a couple of other strikes against me, sure my luggage was still at home because I thought I would have plenty of time to pick it up on the way to the airport. Sure, I didn't have a boarding pass yet, but I did have a secret ace in the hole! Ha HAA! No, I won't tell you yet.

Once in the car, I call my wife. I ask her to try to print the boarding pass. Nope, too close to take off. She checks to see if the flight's on time. You BET IT IS! She checks for later flights, yeah, sure, but they're full. Deb says,"I wondered why you were going in to work, I couldn't see how you were going to make it." That explains why she looked at me funny, but what the heck, I give her LOTS of reasons to look at me funny, this is just one more banana in the bunch.

Now, it's thirty-five minutes from the office to get home and maybe twenty-five minutes to the airport. Then boarding pass, security, banging on the door of the plane. Pretty tight. Pret-ty tight! Deb drives me to the airport, there is no parking in this scenario, I arrive fifteen minutes before the flight leaves.

I rush in, breathless, expecting the worst... BUT, there's no one in line! The lady smiles at me at first and when she sees what flight I'm on she gives me a look that is an uncompromising blend of shocked pity and unutterable contempt.

She sums it up for me. She says, "You'd better hurry." No kidding.

I run up the escalator and into the motherless hands of... Security! I take off my coat, my shoes, my belt, my shirt and my pants and go through the portal in my socks and underwear. Hey, there could metal in that stuff! As I'm stepping through the portal, I remember I didn't take my little baggie of liquids and goo out of my suitcase. That's it! That's what will do it! My goo! My goo will screw the whole thing up.

But, no! The goo got through! The conveyor poops my suitcase out and the guard strikes me only once across the shoulder. Did you ever try to get dressed in a hurry? It's harder than you think. Shoelaces take an especially long time, so does lacing a belt. So does putting on your pants.

I get it all done, but OH MY GOSH! it's TIME! I glance at the monitor as I go by to confirm the gate and oh, look, a gift. They've moved the flight to Concourse B from Concourse C. Interestingly, we had driven by Concourse B to get to Concourse C. So, I run. I shouldn't run, I have no knees any more, but I run anyway.

Breathlessly, I arrive at the gate. The gate agent looks me over with a combination of derision and disdain. She says, "I guess this is your lucky day, we should start boarding in about a half hour."

You see, folks, this was US Airways. And US Airways was my ace in the hole. Even though the telephone agent didn't tell my wife the flight was late and even though the counter agent didn't tell me the flight was late, I knew, I knew that I could ALWAYS count on US Airways being late out of Philadelphia.

There are few things in the world that you can really count on. Mighty rivers may change their course, great nations may change their boundaries, even the sun itself will go supernova some day.

But you can rest assured that on the day the sun explodes, US Airways flights will be late leaving Philadelphia. This was just my lucky day.


debbie said...

Yes, that was fun, let's do it again!!!!

Leah Kleylein said...

I'm actually, literally laughing out loud at your goo description and the wonderful, wonderful visual image of your suitcases being pooped out of the security thing!!! Fantastic!

Dave said...

I liked the part where the conveyor pooped out your suitcase. That was well described.