01 November 2011

Travel Upgrade: The Voyage Home (Humpback Whales Sold Separately)

For those of you asking how my return trip from Indy went, here's the scoop:  it actually went surprisingly smoothly, all things considered.  This time I arrived at the airport in plenty of time to drop off my rental car (undamaged, in spite of my niece's attempt to jinx me by telling me how many people have accidents after declining the insurance--she works for Enterprise--which of course I had also done).  On the downside, I was charged an additional $30 for forgetting to fill up the gas tank before returning it, even though I'd only used a quarter of a tank.  Score one for the airport mafia.

Once in the terminal building, I headed straight for Security, thinking to get it over with before finding someplace to eat on the concourse.  The Indianapolis International Airport was unexpectedly sedate for a Saturday afternoon; in fact, there were virtually no people waiting in line at Security.  I pretty much strode directly up to the podium to have my ID checked and then was waved on to the actual scanners.  I dutifully deposited my flip flops, phone, purse, and iPad in the bin and threw my carry-on bag up as well.  As I approached the scanner, I could see the TSA agent clearly trying to catch the eye of another agent on duty at the Naked Scanner, undoubtedly so he could ship me over there.  She was too busy talking with other agents during the lull to notice him, though, so he sighed and waved me through the normal scanner.  I passed.  Thank you, plain, boring T-shirt and blue jeans.  Score one for me.

Because I was got to the airport early for a change, I was able to stroll leisurely down the concourse.  As a result, I arrived at one of the restaurants looking like a normal person rather than how I looked during my last two trips to the airport:  like a red-faced serial killer dripping with sweat and the stench of fear (over missing the plane) and breathing heavily on the gate agents.  Just as well.  At best, they would have just thought I was celebrating Halloween early.  At worst, I would have been detained and had my luggage searched for errant chainsaws.  Instead, I was able to sit calmly and quietly at a small pub and have a lovely Caesar salad and a nice, greasy, burnt hamburger for lunch.  On the plus side, the burnt hamburger did successfully counteract the bitter coffee ground taste I'd gotten from my banana breakfast (which was especially weird since I don't even drink coffee).  So no sweating glowing like a pig (Southern women don't sweat, I'm told, they "glow"--as though enormous rivulets of salty, stinky, stagnant water rolling off of them could be somehow misconstrued as merely "pleasantly luminescent") for me.  Airport Mafia 1, Ginger 2.

After my lunch, I strolled up to a gate agent and asked if the flight was particularly full.  I was told it wasn't.  Feeling decadent, I asked if I could upgrade to first class.  I couldn't.  So instead I asked if I could get a row all to myself.  Apparently this was no problem so I was switched from 27D to 36A--makes it sound like I'm talking about bra sizes rather than plane seats.  When it was time to board, I trucked all the way to the back of the plane for my new seat, only to discover that row 36 was right next to the engine.  Furthermore, it was behind a bulkhead, so my view consisted of nothing but a wall in front of me and a giant white suppository out of the window beside me.  Best of all, it appeared to be the only row with fixed, permanent armrests, guaranteeing that I would have to be crammed into one of the seats with a shoehorn after first being greased down like Paula Deen's skillets.

I considered my position for a while, eventually asking one of the flight attendants if I could change rows.  She said the plane was only half full, that everyone was on board, and to pick whatever seat I liked.  Score!  I hauled my bag out of the overhead compartment and headed back towards my original seat, which was still empty as was the seat beside it.  So why did the gate agent feel the need to shove me in the back of the plane like cargo, rather than just tell me that in the first place??  Whatever.  As I got to row 27, I noticed that the exit row in front of it was also empty (extra leg room, yay!).  I threw my bag in the overhead bin and settled into that row instead.  I guess because the flight was lighter than usual the attendants were likewise more laid back than usual, since no one ever came up to me and demanded that I accept responsibility for ripping out the door should we crash.  Happy seat, lots of leg room, no seat partner...score another one for me.

Everything went according to plan and to schedule and we started rolling out in a timely fashion, only to stop suddenly about 40 feet from the gate. We waited there a few minutes, puzzled, to see what would happen.  Which was nothing.  At all.  

After about 10 minutes of this, the captain announced over the loudspeaker that we had been put into a ground hold not because of bad weather either in Indy or Atlanta, but because Atlanta apparently had scheduled more planes to come in than they had gates.  Good job, Atlanta!  As a result, we pulled back into the gate to wait--for an hour or more we were told--until Atlanta's airport could get its crap together.  Awesome.  Within seconds of the PA system clicking off, every single passenger whipped out a stowed electronic device and started using it to keep busy during the delay.  Score another one for the airport mafia.

Everyone behaved calmly and quietly during the delay, and the captain updated us regularly.  He even went so far as to back the plane out and hover near the appropriate strip so that literally seconds after we were given clearance, he could pull out and take off.  The only real issue for me during all of this was the guy in the row opposite me, who was also seated on the aisle of an otherwise empty row.  Throughout boarding and the delay he sat right next to me puffing away on what appeared to be some sort of black metal smokeless pipe.  I say "smokeless" only in that large quantities of grey, tar-spiked clouds did not hover over us.  That said, he still managed to release clouds of white vapor something whenever he exhaled off to his side.  I found it supremely annoying and rude.  It was bad enough I had to share germs with every single person on the plane; I didn't feel like I needed to be sucking in this guy's germy fake nicotine vapors as well.  I realize that technically-speaking puffing on his contraption didn't count as a smoking, which is presumably why the attendants did nothing about it.  However, I am extremely sensitive to strong smells, particularly those of certain perfumes/powders/soaps and all tobacco products.   "Smokeless" or not, this dude's hookah toking was giving me a migraine that was not improved when he jumped up to dig in his bag overhead for a small bottle of brown liquid which he then used to refill his mini-bong.  If I thought his fake smoke was bad, the bottle was far worse.  It reeked of a turpentine and body odor that only marginally dissipated once he had closed the bottle and stashed it in his pocket.  I confess that in my irritation I behaved very passive-aggressively, first covering my nose with my fingers then eventually pulling up my shirt to do so as well.  He finally got the message and moved down the row to the window seat where he could steam up the window instead of me, which did help a little.  He finally quit when drinks were served and did not start toking again while he was on the plane.  Conscientious Captain vs. Toker Asshat = nil score. 

Tampon Toker™ for people who want to be smokinnnnnnnn'.
The rest of the flight went smoothly enough and I landed in Atlanta in due course.   I returned to my mom van in the first row of the parking lot, loaded up and headed home.  I took my husband's back route once again because it is more chill (if not shorter) and because I wanted to stop at an O'Charley's for dinner that is only on that route.  After finishing my meal, I had about an hour left to drive home, or at least I should have only had an hour.  When it came time to turn onto Hwy 78 for the last leg home, I accidentally turned left instead of right.  Imagine my surprise when I hit a big sign that said "Welcome to Loganville" instead of "Welcome to Athens."  Greaaaaaat.  I really need to start learning my Georgia geography, and soon.  Sighing, I made the first available u-turn and headed back in the correct direction.  On the plus side, I saw the best. road. sign. ever. for a town called "Between."  Had I not turned the wrong direction, I would never have been so entertained by the "Between City Limit" sign.  It's almost as good as "North, SC."  I wish I'd gotten a picture of it to add to my collection, but it was dark and I was driving.  Maybe next time.  

I made it home, intact, with a functional car and all my luggage at 7:30 pm.  So, score for this trip:  Airport Mafia 2, Ginger 3.  Total score for round-trip:  Airport Mafia 4.5, Ginger 6.  



  1. I can't sleep so am reading the archives of your blog and I thought I should mention that at least one airline website expressly forbids those smokeless cigarettes on flights. So well worth complaining next time.

  2. Thanks for the heads up. I checked Delta's policy, since that's the airline we most often use (I'm not sure Atlanta knows there are other airlines), and their policy does indeed prohibit the use of any device which "mimicks the act of smoking." I'm not sure why this guy wasn't busted for it then, but whatever. I'll definitely keep it in mind for next time.