Up, Up and Away

Mr. Garrison: Gentlemen, imagine being able to travel safely at incredibly fast speeds and not having to go to the stupid fart face airports.

South Park, “The Entity” (11/21/01)

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This afternoon I received some bad news from my brother: my mother apparently (they’re still doing tests, etc. ) had a stroke and it doesn’t look good.

When I got home, Wife was through the door right behind me, already in “Go” mode. She told me to start looking for flights to Florida. In my head, I was preparing for a lengthy drive. But the bottom line is, she’s right and I need to get there as soon as possible. I’m already feeling guilty about the fact that I’d planned to call her last night and got distracted. I don’t need to drive to Florida and discover that I didn’t really have enough time to do that.

I started looking at the usual travel aggregators but wasn’t having much luck because, after all, I’m looking to fly out the same day. So she suggested that I go directly to the airlines’ websites. As it happens, our local airport (Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Smith Kojak Pinocchio Redwyne Khaleesi Continued on Next Sign Airport) is a major hub for Southwest Airlines. As a result, that’s the website I went to and, sure enough, I found a flight this evening: 8:20 departure, 10:35 arrival. Not bad, but we have to book and leave almost RIGHT NOW. While I was online, I also booked a rental car; we don’t need any more distraught family members driving the streets of Pasco County. It’s bad enough the locals are doing that.

Not pictured: motion of any kind. For those of you far from the East Coast, or reading this in the future, a tropical storm is riding the coast, which means that pretty much the entire southeast corner of the USA is getting rained on. Consequently Wife had to drive me to the airport as quickly as possible in a driving (heh) rain. So I’m already looking forward to trying to get out of Baltimore on a Friday night with the rest of the tourists and families going on summer vacation; now we’ve got this. And naturally, because half the world is trying to get out of town, it was impossible for Wife to drop me off anywhere near the entrance to Southwest. We were actually outside the canopy, getting rained on when I took my bag out of the car and hugged her and the Wee One goodbye.

OK, so on into the terminal, where I got a little pleasant surprise: even though I’d already checked in online, I had a bag to check. Turns out that Southwest has a line for people who are in just such a spot. The bad news, of course, is that while the line isn’t long at all, I couldn’t get to it because of a couple of self-entitled, over-packed morons who were in the wrong line and were in a state of temporary paralysis about where to go, even though a Southwest employee is standing there telling them where to go. Finally they move there eighteen bags enough so that I (and the people behind me) can get through, and I get my bag checked without trouble. The person who checked my bag, however, took note of my flight number and informed me—with just a little too much cheer—that my flight has been delayed, to 9:05 That means an 11:40 arrival. Fabulous. So now I’m going to be in the terminal for longer than I’ll be in the air.

Next up, of course, is the TSA check. I’m an experienced enough traveler that I don’t wear a belt to the airport, I wear shoes that slip on and off easily, and I have a TSA-friendly bag for my laptop, so I don’t even have to take it out of the bag. I just open it out flat and push it through the X-ray. I want this as quick and painless as possible. Of course, given that I’m traveling on a Friday night and not, say, a weekday morning, it’s all kids and dawdlers and first-time flyers and EVERYBODY MOVE ALREADY DAMMIT. When I finally make it through the scanner, I grab my shoes and my laptop bag and I move into the terminal about a hundred yards before I even think about putting the shoes back on. Sure, I look a little weird but at least I’m not milling about in anybody’s way.

Of course, this is about the point where I realize that I brought my iPod and my laptop but I don’t have any headphones. This means that I have to buy overpriced airport headphones and they’re probably going to be buds, which I really hate because they’re damned uncomfortable. I go into the electronics store and I can’t even get across to the girl in the store that I’m looking for over-the-ear style clips. She keeps pointing me to the big honkin’ cans that also cost about fifty bucks. I give up but discover that, in the newspaper stand where I’m buying Tic-Tacs, they have discounted Skullcandy phones (buds, natch), so I spring for a pair. They’re actually not bad, comfort-wise. Go figure.

So I’m sitting in front of Arby’s, waiting for them to call my flight (any minute now, I figure) and dealing with an unreliable wi-fi signal so I can head south and…I don’t know. I guess I'll figure it out on the way.