Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gullible's Travels: Pt 1

What a nightmare. …
There are many varieties of bad dream. The one I encounter most is one where I find myself in what I imagine to be in the most terrible situation. I stop and tell myself that there is no way any of what is happening can be real. It is only a dream. It can’t hurt me. This is much like when a movie hero encounters a monster of her own invention and announces: “You can’t hurt me. I am your righteous creator and protagonist of this plot!”
The exposition of this dramatic nightmare was a last-minute trip, conceived of and planned under duress. The catalyst: the impending death of my grandfather. I did not want to process what seeing my grandfather in the hospital meant, let alone what it would be like to see the sad, fatigued, and stressed faces of my family. Over the years, Samuel Baca García has had a string of heart attacks, each one leaving him with diminished function of his heart.. The most recent attack has left him with a feeble 15%. I imagine that if abuela were still alive, she would quip that Sammy has lived his entire life without using much of his heart. Why should it matter how little is left now? There are of course extenuating circumstances. There is kidney failure needing dialysis and an infection interrupting dialysis. Essentially, what sounds like a lot of bad news to me. It was a bit much for me to handle. So, I did what any well-adjusted and rational person would do—I put off packing until 6 hours before my flight: midnight.
Packing actually went off without a hitch. I travel often enough that almost all of my liquids are TSA approved. I am also shameless about using other people’s shower supplies. I have gotten over my urge to dress by mood and only bring the bare essentials. I had everything assembled for my pilgrimage and was off to my brief, but necessary slumber.
Like most nightmares, the bad began with sleep. I woke up in the middle of the night convinced that I had not turned on my alarm clock. Without investigating the situations, I flipped over the switch. I woke up an hour later mortified, because I realized I had actually switched the alarm clock OFF! Ultimately, I woke myself up at 3:30am and discovered that I had turned the alarm volume completely off while I was asleep. How I manage these things, I will never know. …
Quickly, I took care of the matters of hygiene and set my sights on online check-in—the greatest invention ever created by man. After 15 minutes of clunking around a website without an iota of success, I was utterly exasperated and felt like a dunce, outwitted by the Internet. There was no time to fret. I had a bus to catch!
I ran. I don’t know why, and this will quickly become the one thing I did right that day, but I ran all the way to the metro tunnel and arrived with a handful of minutes to spare. No sooner than I entered that tunnel did I begin receiving suspicious looks from metro security. “This can’t be good.” It took me all of a minute to realize that the tunnel was closed and my bus was operating on the surface streets. SHIT! I fled my subterranean trap and emerged onto the street panicked. By some strange miracle, I knew exactly where to go. However, I had to be quite firm with the street urchins in my frantic hustle to catch that bus!
I caught it without a moment to spare. The bus ride to the airport was mostly uneventful, save the fact that people on downtown originating buses at 4:30am are operating in a non-cohesive mental state. Thank goodness there were enough of the less mentally cohesive on the bus keep themselves entertained, much like a plexi-room filled with plastic balls and toddlers.
Once I disembarked from the bus, I raced to the self-check kiosk. The clock was ticking; the race was on; [insert relevant quip about being in a frenzied hurry here]. I was momentarily thwarted by a set of rogue automatic doors. They persistently opened and closed becoming the airport equivalent of a mutinous miniature golf hazard and I the ill-fated golf ball. I had not time for the game and had to keep moving.
Next obstacle: check-in. The electronic kiosk was being, pardon my French, a little bitch. Attempt one: fail. Attempt two: same. Attempt three: SHANNON SMASH! After speaking with a Delta representative, we figured out that somehow I got booked on two return flights. Hence, all of my thwarted attempts at checking in. F.U. Priceline! Boarding pass in hand, I headed toward security.
My apprehensions toward security lines at the airport are similar to my apprehensions about getting behind the wheel at two in the morning. It’s not me I’m worried about, but everyone else around me. I travel light. I always have my travel documents out and at the ready. As well, my liquids are always in the proper receptacle and ready for whatever the XRAY machine might throw at them. What threw me for a loop was the presence of two check in lines: the one for the casual, some might say unprepared, traveler; the other for people like me—the expert traveler. This promised to be the smoothest part of my day. As it happens, the express traveler line is a veritable grocery express lane with no one monitoring the item limits and, therefore, no one adhering to them. If I were the line monitor on this particular day, you might here me say: Yes, a small carry on bag IS traveling light, congratulations. You, lady in front of the expert traveler, exceeding carry-on limits does not count as traveling light. And you, gender non-specified person burdened with numerous miniature people, express lines are more express when they are not clogged up by your progeny. I would make an example of these two people and send all non-compliant persons to the proper line. I ended up that the casual travelers made it through the line much faster, because everyone fancies themselves an expert. VANITY, old friend, you got me this time. …
At this point in my tale of woe, I need you to invoke an inner Home Alone-esque montage chalk full of running, confusion, aftershave and screaming. Finally, I arrive at the gate. I am the last person to board the plane and as I roll in the gate agent informed me that they were about to shut the doors and that I was “lucky.” Incidentally, lucky is not the word I would use to describe my morning, but to this person I just seem like a tardy schlemiel. So, fair enough. I muster a blank look, offer up no explanation and quickly board the plane where people are still standing in the aisle, cramming their personal effects into overhead bins. I am confident that I slowed no one down. I took my seat without incident and fell into a deep slumber. I had an exhausting morning.