October 6, 2012

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Travel days are always interesting for me.  Sometimes that's because everything goes right, and sometimes that's because everything seems to go wrong.  Every time it's because the people-watching, especially at airports, can be spectacular.  And because the Atlanta airport is so enormous, people-watching sometimes takes on a whole new level of strange, kinda like the travel version of People of Walmart.  I often feel like the fashion police, sitting in judgment (as if my wardrobe allows me any remote right to judge anyone else's sartorial choices) over the guys with panama hats, cargo shorts and black socks with sandals or the women in skin-tight sweatpants with "Juicy" and other suggestive monikers emblazoned across their ample backsides.   I see young men with diamond stud earrings bigger than my wristwatch and the obligatory pants down around their ankles (because everyone enjoys seeing a half-mile of your underpants, dude...), and I see adorable young children dragging their little mini-me roller suitcases behind them (judiciously decorated with the Disney character or superhero of their choice) while clutching tightly to their favorite doll/woobie/stuffed animal/pillow/etc.  I find the airport the fastest way to observe a very broad cross-section of America.

Anyway, yesterday B and I headed off to the airport to go visit the girlie during her Fall Break, during which we'd be attending one of her SCA events.  We had to leave a little early to drop the dog at the kennel first, then we hit the road for the airport, which is around 90 minutes from our house.  We made it about halfway there when I remembered I'd forgotten my belt and belt pouch to go with my garb.  I guess I was so busy trying to remember all the attire for both myself AND my husband that I completely spaced on grabbing that last couple of items.  Well, crap.  You'd think it wouldn't be a big deal, but it kinda is because even after having taken in my dress, it's still a bit on the blousy side and needed to be taken up by the belt; also, hauling modern purses around an SCA event is just. not. done. so I needed the pouch to hold my membership card, entry fee, and anachronistic cell phone.  Sigh.  Always gotta be something.

We made it to the airport in good time.  I invoked my friend Gwen's inestimable "parking karma" and, sure enough, after a few unsuccessful passes through the front lines of the parking lot I drove to the other side till a very nice gentleman started pointing to where his vehicle was and told me to drive around the other row to take it when he left.  So I did.  We ended up with a spot almost on top of the parking garage (which is the hourly and short-term parking), right at the end of a row in the economy/long-term section.  Five minutes later, we were in the terminal.  Score!

After zipping through the baggage check I made a pit-stop and started to head down the shortcut to the security lines.  Unfortunately, there was some old dude in a vest blocking the path so nothing doing there.  I thought it was weird since that path isn't usually blocked, but figured they were cleaning up over there or something.  We headed back the other way to enter by the food court, which was also blocked off.  That NEVER happens.  Atlanta's airport may be huge, and the security lines can be painfully long, but I've never ever seen it that extreme.  The scale is a little difficult to describe, but I'll try.  You know those black "rope" barriers they make you thread through like rats in a maze at any airport before you get to the actual checkpoint and subsequent scanners?  Triple the length of those.  That's how many there are in Atlanta (though rarely are they all full at any given time--usually you can skip through at least half of them).  So there is something like 50 feet of barrier tape before the first Security checkpoint.  From the edge of the food court to the end of the barriers is another 50-100 feet.  From one edge of the food court to the other is another 50-100 feet.  (Just so you know, estimating distances is something I pretty much suck at, so it could have been much farther.)  We joined the line for security at the far end of the food court where it was starting to wrap around to the farthest baggage carousels. In spite of the incredibly long lines (which I gather were present at all the other airport checkpoints as well--there are three different checkpoints in the Atlanta airport--I've still no idea what was going on to cause the backlog) we moved at a reasonable pace and fairly zipped along once we hit the tape walls of the barrier maze.  Good thing we got to the airport 30 minutes early, since that's about how long it took us to clear security.  Better yet, in order to keep the excessive lines moving, all the metal detectors were open for a change, so I got to go through one of those instead of the Zap-Or-Fondle.

Once thru security, we made our way to the tram for the quick trip to Concourse B then stopped at the food court to grab a bite of lunch there.  After eating, we headed towards our gate, with me stopping off at the restrooms on the way.  When I finished and went to the gate to meet B, I couldn't find him.  Also, the plane at that gate was apparently heading towards Flint, MI.  Wtf?  I waited a minute, but he didn't show up so I looked up my itinerary on my phone's Delta app only to discover that somewhere between the time we checked our bags and got to the concourse, Delta had changed which gate our plane was at.  How thoughtful.  So I walked the two gates down to where I was now supposed to be and asked B why he didn't just text me...then I saw his fingers working the keys on his phone.  If it takes my little nerd boy 10 minutes to eke out a text, then we're gonna have to figure out some way to speed up his typing.

Meanwhile, I'm starting to think I have some form of travel Tourette's, because I seem to lose all concept of "filtering" when I'm in the airport.  I stand around blurting out random (and wildly unrelated) observations because I'm bored or because the people surrounding me are weird and/or interesting or because I'm a word nerd and the words I see on signage or the names I hear over the loudspeaker capture my attention.  For example, in the course of about ten minutes, I went from yelling at B about not texting me the gate change to commenting on the giant alien Big Brother eye suspended from the ceiling (TSA is watching us all, you know) to staring at and sneaking pics of a young Adonis at the gate because I was fascinated by a live Greek statue wearing a polo shirt to playing free word association when someone with the last name "Frolo" was called over the loudspeaker for standby.  Frolo...Frodo...Froyo...  Let's face it--the entire airport is one big "squirrel" for me.

TSA sees you picking your nose and building pipe bombs.

Hello, Hot Guy--wanna be my new Pool Boy?

After my insipid stream-of-consciousness commentary, we were allowed to head down the gangplank to the plane, as usual getting wadded up in a line while waiting for the people in front of us to stow carry-ons and get situated.  While standing there, an airport official suddenly whisked by us shouting "On the left!  Excuse us--please move--on the left!" as he briskly escorted a teenager with a skateboard tucked under his arm.  Um, okay.  Then some dude a few people behind us started going on and on about why that skateboard didn't count as a weapon since it was 2 1/2 feet long and could be used to bat people.  (Same reason my 12" mini-spears eyeball skewers knitting needles can go on  the plane but my nail clippers can't--you're assuming TSA is 100% logical, dude.)  I was having a really hard time not laughing out loud at this guy's apparent concern over a skateboard ("Look out--he's got WHEELS and he's not afraid to use them!!") so I had to keep my mouth covered to contain my snickering.  The people next to me started to giggle too, especially when the dude accosted the Delta agent on his way back up the skyway to demand "in all seriousness" why a 2.5 foot "bat" wasn't considered a weapon by TSA.  The poor agent was completely taken aback...somehow I don't think "death by skateboard" is a concern that has been voiced particularly frequently thus far.

While the man continued his little rant, I squirreled again, telling the lady in front of me that her purse was cute.  A stranger!  Talking to me!  In an AIRPORT!!  What if she's a terrorist?!?!?!?  Seriously, though, while a bit spooked at first, the lady proved to be quite pleasant and told me that it was actually from an outlet store somewhere in Rochester.  Before I was done I had 2-3 other women in on the conversation, all of whom were sharing valuable information about where to buy inexpensive knockoffs, what school our kids were going to and why was it so freakishly hot in Atlanta?  (Because you're from NEW YORK, that's why.  Amateurs.)  Meanwhile, Aspie-boy just stood off to the side shaking his head at my inexplicable need to accost strangers.  (He was probably just afraid he might have to contribute to the conversation.)

At any rate, we boarded the plane and had a reasonably pleasant trip in spite of the brief screaming of a small child behind us and the cracked inner window by our seats (because that's not unnerving at all) which was hidden behind the pulled-down shade.  Turns out the panel was just pushed in and up so B reseated it--after the plane landed in NY.  On the plus side, I asked him if the planes were getting bigger or if it was just that I was getting smaller...it's quite a novel sensation to feel like the limited space around you is suddenly marginally less cramped.  I could get used to that.  Yay, weight loss!

After we deplaned, B went to collect our luggage while I made yet another pit stop (weight loss is great, but all the extra water does have its drawbacks).  Surprisingly, he was already collecting our bags by the time I got to the claim, which is a bit unusual for the Rochester airport because it usually takes freaking forever for the ground crew to unload luggage. Now re-bagged, we went out to the curb to wait for our "chauffeur" to arrive in her limo Saturn and deliver us to the hotel to drop off our suitcases.  Because I am awesome (at least that's my story and I'm sticking to it), I not only scored a free 4-night stay at the hotel with my hotel points, I also got upgraded to a mini-suite with a river-side view!  Yay, me!!  I love this hotel--the Staybridge Suites.  Not only is it conveniently located right next to campus, most of the people on staff here are just really, really nice with the exception of the weird night clerk who sits around all night watching TV in the lobby (not that I blame him...no doubt it's boring at night) and assiduously ignoring the front desk.  Plus he's kinda creepy.  But everyone else is cool. One of the main day clerks remembered my name after my first check-in with her, and now each and every time I come back, she greets me by name as if I were one of her oldest friends.  The lady's got skills.

Once upstairs we deposited our belongings and relaxed for a few minutes before heading out with the girlie to what has become our traditional first-meal stop:  Outback Steakhouse.  The girl does love her Outback...where she gets a chicken Caesar salad every single time.  Because it's a steak house.  I just can't imagine where that girl gets her exaggerated sense of irony.

After an enjoyable meal, we stopped at Wegman's (awesome grocery store of the northeast) for me to load up on fruit and water to have around meals while there, then we headed over to Joann Fabrics so I could procure some garb-like materials to MacGyver a new belt and pouch for the big SCA crown tournament the next day.  I spent 2-3 hours hand-sewing said pouch and finishing a belt, making this my third day in a row of only getting 4.5 hours of sleep.  (The previous two I spent making myself a cloak and a kilt shirt for B.)  But it's all good.  The belt and pouch came out functional, and sleep is for the weak, right?

"This is the way we jury-rig stuff...jury-rig stuff...jury-rig stuff..."
Ah, well.  Who cares if I got enough sleep because I got to hug my girlie for real, instead of just sending cyber hugs over Skype.  That makes anything worthwhile.  Compared to that, navigating the wilds of the airport just seems frivolous.

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