The trip from hell

Started off Sunday morning contemplating spending the day playing Call of Duty 4. You know, real productive day. Instead I finally finished installing software into my latest VPC image. I kinda bloated it up. 30Gig! Crap. Too much stuff… I didn’t really need to load the entire MSDN library (3 GB) and the full version of everything on it. Ah well. Then, with SnowstormLife still barfing occasionally with application errors, I decided to hop off Community Server. But onto what? I know, I’ll build something of my own. And I spent the next several hours realizing how much I had forgotten about web development. But It’s coming back to me. And I’ll have a spanking new, barf-free site. That night Pam and I watched “Waitress”, a funny, quirky, fabulous movie. Go rent the DVD.

Monday was the big up and back day-trip to NYC. It has been 14 years since I’ve been here. Early morning flight meant getting up at 3:30, after a short 5 hour snooze compared to the extremely short 2 hours the night before.

I had already checked into all legs of my flights, so when I got to the airport I headed right for the gate. Little did I know the day was going to turn to hell.

Question for Boeing (yeah, the airplane maker): WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH THE SEATS???? Why do they insist on creating the “legs” for the seats in the most impractical positions for at least one person on each side of the aisle. On my flight from Tampa to Atlanta I was on a 717-200. I had a window seat a couple of rows back from the very back of the plane. And I had a spot exactly 13 inches wide for my feet, angled off to the right side. And the seat itself was slanted to the left, making my body do a very unnatural “S” curve. I wasn’t able to get comfortable the entire flight. Fortunately the flight was only an hour and fifteen minutes long. But it was an hour and fifteen minutes of discomfort.

I’m glad I didn’t know then that things were going to get much worse before they got better.

Am I on a roller coaster ride? That’s what the last 10 minutes of the flight from Atlanta to Newark was like. Strong cold winds had blown into the northeast on Sunday and were still blowing strong. As we approached the airport for landing I could see the Manhattan skyline peeking through the low clouds. It’s such an impressive site – all those tall buildings packed wall to wall. We landed with a huge bounce then a couple of smaller bounces.

Oh my God! We’re not slowing down! We’re not breaking! Well, that’s what it seemed like. But we were. And we did. We hopped the NJTransit train and headed to Penn Station. I played “tourist” and took a bunch of pictures, then we caught a cab uptown. Cool cab – had GPS and an interactive map showing the cab’s location on a monitor in the back. It confirmed the obvious – we were in a huge traffic jam, and we weren’t going anywhere for a while. It had a credit card machine for paying the cab bill. Coolness – I wouldn’t have to burn through my cash right off the bat. But the cabbie had other ideas. We stopped at our destination, I pulled out my credit card and started to swipe. “No, you can’t. I pushed the button. You have to pay cash. It’s too late for card.” Crap. So I forked over the cash. And he managed to stiff himself out of a nice tip. Sorry.

It’s amazing that all cars driving in Manhattan don’t have body damage. It’s a complete zoo.

We still had a bit of time before our meeting started so we went in search of lunch. Found a hole in the wall kosher place near the 9 West building on 57th Street. (Why is it called “9 West” when it’s between 5th and 6th Avenue?) Kosher doesn’t matter to me, but menu looked good. While Dave and I were eating my phone rang – an 800 number. I almost didn’t answer it. But I’m glad I did, because the phone call changed my plans dramatically. It was AirTran calling me. They knew, at 11:30 in the morning that my 7:45 PM flight was going to be late. And that I would not make my connection to Tampa. How did they know that? And if they know that so early, why can’t they do something about it? Crap. So I have a choice – spend the night in the Newark airport or spend the night in the Atlanta airport. I love options. I feel so empowered. I really like having a choice of where I get to spend several groggy, uncomfortable hours. Crap. But I think I said that already.

…. later ….

The meeting went real well. We were on the 17th floor and had a nice view of some smaller (and larger) buildings across the street. But we had to close the curtains during the presentation. Good thing, though, because I don’t think  I could have concentrated on anything but the cityscape otherwise.

That evening with our flight delayed a bit we took our time getting back to Penn Station. The energy I remember from NYC 14 years ago was still there. Crowded. Noisy. The place was alive.

Since I had the pleasure of making a choice, I’ve chosen Atlanta. That’s where I choose to suffer. Only one leg away from home. Whee. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow morning. My feet hurt. Right now I’m in the Newark airport, the delayed flight is even later than they predicted. Maybe I should just rent a car from here and drive to Tampa. It’s probably only a 14 hour drive. Um, no.

…. later ….

This is the trip from hell. I will never fly AirTran again. That’s what I told the customer rep I was talking to on the phone after we arrived in Atlanta. It was 1:00 in the morning. I was scheduled for an 8AM departure. My options at this point: 1) try to catch some zzzz’s on the ground at the airport; 2) try to find a hotel that would take me in for a couple of hours, cab over there, sleep for a couple of hours, 5:30 wake up call to put my stinkin same clothes back on – the ones that I’d been wearing since 3:30 the previous morning, get back to the airport, run the security gauntlet, and (HOPEFULLY) get on an AirTran plane.

I was tired. I was frustrated. I wanted  to get home. And I didn’t trust AirTran. And by now it was 1:30 Tuesday morning. Crap. The customer rep put me on hold again for 15 minutes this time. That was the last straw. When she came back on I told her to cancel the final leg of my trip and give me a refund. She couldn’t since it was a non-refundable fare, but she could give me a credit that I could use the next time I flew AirTran. That’s when made my proclamation: “This is the trip from hell. I will never fly AirTran again.”

So I had her create a credit that will never be used. I hope their accounting department goes into convulsions trying to figure out to do with it one day. I walked over to Avis and was lucky enough to be able to rent a cheap car, one way to Tampa this close to the holidays.

Road trip! Now 2:30 in the morning. Been up since 3:30 the morning before. 6+ hour drive staring me in the face. My blood was boiling thanks to AirTrap, my adrenalin pumping. I knew I would be able to at least get a whopping hour outside Atlanta before getting drowsy.

Dark outside. Can’t see anything except the boatload of trucks on the road. Don’t know if I’m in mountains, plains, near a lake. (Well, actually I did know all that stuff because I kinda know the topography of Georgia, but I couldn’t see it.) Just the interstate. And me. And my rental. And my sleepy mind.

Just south of Macon I hit the wall. Hungry, tired, bored. The novelty of a road trip long gone. The reality of what I was doing staring me in the face. Crap.

I pulled into a Waffle House. Thank God for Waffle House. Scrambled eggs, toast, grits, hash browns, bacon, and 3 cups of coffee. Aaaaah. Foood. Good food. Now I was awake. I grabbed a another cup of coffee for the road, left a generous tip for the waiter and cook then headed to the gas station next door. Bought a Coke and some sunflower seeds, oh, and swiped an empty coffee cup for the shells. Yeah. Sunflower seeds. My buddy Ken recommended them as a way to stay awake while driving. Gives you something to concentrate on. And it works. I hit the road again and was booking along I-75 southbound.

Unfortunately, all the coffee I had at Waffle House and all the Coke I was drinking because of the salty seeds kinda put a kink in my mileage plan. I had to stop every hour or so to relieve the pressure. But I guess it was a good thing, cause each time I started back up I was fresh again. If I could just make it to daylight without wiping out I knew I would be OK.

When I crossed the Florida state line I pulled into the welcome center, totally beat. I went inside, rested for a few minutes, wondering what to do. Take a short nap? Press on? I set the alarm on my phone for 15 minutes, eased back the car seat, and closed my eyes. Solid cat nap. Refreshed. I looked to the southeast and noticed it was starting to get light. Morning! Yes!!! I started the car and pressed on for home, still stopping every hour or so because of all the liquid I’d consumed.

11:00 AM and I made it home. Dropped off the rental at the Tampa airport, got my truck and drove home. Home! What a lovely site.

UNGH! 36 hours in a suit, overcoat, and pair of tasseled loafers. It’s time to go fishin. And I’m never flying AirTran again.

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