August 22, 2007
I returned to Philly yesterday.
I have a seven year-old PowerBook G3 that is fine for hooking up and chat but I can’t do any real work on it. When I am going to be away for any length of time I actually pack my desktop machine and monitor in a couple of suitcases, padded by clothes. They’re heavy and a pain in the ass to lug around but, until I get a new laptop, it’s what I have to do. My bags are always inspected by TSA because, between the two pieces of equipment and the mass of cables and stuff, they must look like god-knows-what to baggage screeners. Also, the airlines have lowered their weight limits and it now costs an extra $50-$100. This might have been the last trip these guys make, though.
When I got to the ticket counter in Atlanta, the Delta clerk asked me where I was going. She said they have no direct flights to Philadelphia and that I must be flying United. OK. I walked over to United with my smaller carry-on and my backpack. Of course, it was in the opposite corner of the terminal. I looked at their scheduled departures and they had no non-stop flights to Philly until later that afternoon. I took out my laptop and checked my confirmation email. It said Delta. When I returned to the Delta line I saw a small sign saying my flight was operated by USAir so I got in line there, only half way back through the terminal. When I got to check-in the attendant said my bags were $100 overweight and that I had a reservation but no indication that the ticket was actually paid for! I pulled out the PowerBook again and showed him the confirmation and he tried again. Nothing. We walked over to the Delta counter and they confirmed that there was actually a purchase. Back at his station he had to cancel my ticket and make a new one. It took three people to get this done. For the trouble he said he’d waive the overweight charge. That was good since I had exactly $100 in my pocket. I would have been walking home from the Philly airport.
Security was chaos. Everyone is ushered into a holding area. It’s just a huge crowd of people that somehow snakes into about a dozen lines for screening. It moved more quickly than I thought it would. I had to take off my shoes. I forgot to take my phone out of my pocket and the alarm went off. I put the phone in a basket and the alarm sounded again. They asked me to removed my belt. That did the trick. Since I set the alarm off twice, TSA flagged me and I had to wait in a weird free-standing box made of bullet-proof glass with a locked door. I felt like I was in the sound-proof booth on a game show. We mimed back and forth, them asking and me answering questions about which items belonged to me. It was absurd. I got really claustrophobic. They finally let me out and patted me down by hand and with a wand and did their bomb-detecting thing on my carry-ons. Naturally, they didn’t find anything interesting and they let me go. Then I stood at a metal table, repacked my stuff and put my shoes and belt back on.
Believe it or not, I had some time to spare. I bought Scott Smith’s The Ruins (great so far) and maybe the worst sandwich I’ve ever eaten at Chili’s2Go. I went to a news stand to get a Coke zero. The woman in front of me was foreign and she was buying three phone cards for $12.84 each. She kept asking the Jamaican clerk what the total was and the clerk kept replying “Three at $12.84.” Yes, even with a modern digital cash register she had no idea how to find the total! She didn’t even seem to know the meaning of total. It was maddening. Oddly, I didn’t lose my temper. I calmly told the clerk what her customer wanted. She finally understood but she still acted like we were asking her to explain the theory of relativity to an infant.
I sat and ate the disgusting sandwich in the boarding area. When I tried to board the plane, the attendant said that TSA had neglected to stamp my ticket and I couldn’t board. She looked at me as if I was supposed to solve this problem. I actually had to ask her what to do next. I think she would have been perfectly willing to have me just stand there and miss my flight. With a dramatic sigh she called a TSA person and I continued waiting. And waiting. And waiting. They began giving stand-by people their seats and said they were ready to close the door when TSA finally arrived.
Again my bags were emptied and swabbed, shoes and belt removed. I actually had to undo my pants to show them nothing was inside the closure. All of this again in front of a large gawking crowd. It was humiliating. I finally lost my temper when the TSA officer began positioning me with his hands and not saying anything. I told him to stop pushing me around and tell me how he wanted me to stand. He actually apologized. (He said he doesn’t bother apologizing anymore because it usually doesn’t matter! Great.) Finally I was cleared to board and they said to take any seat since they might have given mine away! I was the last one to board the plane and my seat, which hadn’t been given away, was in the last row. I had to walk past every person on the plane, all of them glaring at me and blaming me for the delay. I was in the window seat next to two really large people.
We departed a half hour late because the plane was overweight and out of balance and we arrived one and a half hours late because we were in a holding pattern in Philly for over an hour. Luckily, the guy next to me was watching the extras on the 300 DVD so at least I was entertained by some beefcake. His child was crying in the seat in front of me almost the entire way. This is possibly my least favorite sound in the world, worse than Patti LaBelle. (Why couldn’t I have sat next to the woman who bought a seat for her cat????) When we landed the kid stood up and kept smiling and waving at me. Maybe he thought I was Santa. I have to admit he was adorable, especially considering his parents.
The walk to baggage claim was so long I felt like I walked all the way back to Atlanta. My bags were the last on the belt. One of my them arrived severely damaged. It looks like some of it melted and other parts are ripped or broken off and the broken pieces put back inside the bag.
Outside it was raining but luckily I only had to wait a few minutes for the Lady Liberty van and I was the first stop. What luck!
As I was unpacking I saw that my $30 Canon battery charger was literally smashed to bits. Also, my desktop computer won’t start up if the monitor is connected. It will sometimes start up without the monitor but shuts off as soon as I connect it. I’m now using it as a very large external FireWire drive! The monitor was in the broken bag so I don’t know if there was any damage to it since I can’t connect it to anything. It looks OK but who knows.
I will deal with fixing broken stuff and seeing what I can mange to get out of USAir for them tomorrow. I would have don’t it today but I was too busy with other stuff--like finding out that I probably have cancer. (I’m not kidding. Details tomorrow, I can’t think about it now.)
I’m listening to “All This Paradise” from Fraser & Debolt with Ian Guenther by Fraser & Debolt.
Posted by HighStrungLoner in Travel at 3:05 AM
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