Monday, April 20, 2009

Thoughts on Flying from West Palm Beach to LaGuardia

Text and photos (c) Robert Barry Francos

Written throughout the day of Monday, April 20, 2008.

• I bought my tickets from an online service to save some cost, but they split it on two separate airlines, flying from West Palm Beach (WPB) and switching at Dulles outside Washington, DC, with a four-hour layover. Because it was split that way, Jet Blue would not permit me to switch to a direct flight to LaGuardia (LGA), despite being room in standby. I would have been home in mid-afternoon, hours before my flight was scheduled to arrive. Next time, I only fly with partners.

• At WPB, I'm sitting directly across from the flight to LGA that I was banned from, and they made numerous announcements about the flight boarding, especially since it was a bit late. The doors closed at 11:30 (I had been there since 10:30, my flight at 12:40). At 11:35, a woman about 65-70 years old comes up to the gate and wants to get aboard, yelling that she has been waiting for the flight since 9:30 and didn't hear the announcements, and somehow missed the large crowds lining up to board. She is arguing with the man at the gate (same one that would not let me switch flights), so she apparently is not deaf. Don't know why she was so clueless. The gate people check, but it is too late, the plane bridge is already detatched.

• Cell phones, cell phones, cell phones everywhere, and not an importance to hear.

• Watching the luggage get loaded in WPM through the plane window, wondering why they always slam the luggage down on the conveyor. I'm grateful that I have carry-on.

• Woman across from me at United's gate at Dulles busily using Purell, then rubbing her hands with an alcohol pre-soaked cloth...all the while coughing deeply without covering her mouth.

• I am set to fly out of Dulles at 6:59/18:59, so I went to see if I can get an earlier flight. I'm put on standby (while keeping the original ticket) for a 5:09/17:09-er. Thanks to delays at LGA due to storms, as I write this my standby flight is bumped up to 6:54/18:54, with my original one set to 7:46/19:46. No matter what, I'm going to miss Heroes.

• I write most of the blog about the Detours: NYC's Premiere Film Noir and Arts Festival that I saw on Thursday night, before I left for WPB. I'll finish it tomorrow, but meanwhile, as I wait, I'm reading Travis Nichols' Punk Rock Etiquette: The ultimate how-to guide for DIY, punk, indie, and underground bands (Roaring Brook Press, NY: 2008). He's a musician and cartoonist (for Nickelodeon Magazine). It's a short and funny book on how to start and maintain a band, including recording and going on the road. Far easier to read the book than to focus on the article right now.

• Dulles is a badly laid out airport which has these huge people moving bus vehicles that take you from terminal to terminal. They remind me of the two-legged machines from The Empire Strikes Back, or as I like to call it now, "Something, Something, Something, Dark Side."

• A couple about my age now sitting across from me at Dulles, both dressed in purple: his shirt and her jacket, blouse and pants. He looks a little like Robert Foxworth, she like Maggie Smith. Don't know what led up to it, but he flipped out and violently grabbed something out of her hand and then ripped it up. He sulked for a bit, and then walked off, dragging his luggage and leaving her behind. I was thinking of reaching out to her and asking if she was okay, but he came back, without saying anything at first. Then he opened his carry on suitcase and pulled out something from an amber bottle and took it, and then gave one to her. She hesitantly swallowed it. Prozac? He put his hand on hers and while I couldn't make out much of what he was saying, it was obviously an apology. I did then hear him say that there was a lot he was sorry for in his life. And through his whole long comment, he kept his eyes tightly closed, like one does praying hard. Hmmm. He's getting teary and she is responsive, but stony). Her hand is on top of his patting it as she responds, and she fiddles with the ring on the other hand (looks like fancy wedding band, but on her right). So much drama; meanwhile, the standby flight is still 1-1/2 hours away and I do not know if I'll be on it.

• Well, when I got my standby pass, I was told I was first on the list; now it is 6:20/18:20 and I've just been told that I am 12th because of my low air miles (i.e., I'm not on their "plan"). And my real flight is now scheduled for 10:00/22:00. My chances, so I'm told, are slim. That means I am looking forward to another 4 hours of waiting. Fuck! That will mean 12 hours for a 2-1/2 hour trip.

• Finished Travis' Punk Rock Etiquette book. I'd like to see 2 additions: In the "Packing" and "Roadmance" sections, include condoms. And when staying in other people's houses, do NOT steal!

• So, I didn't make it onto the standby flight. I was number 12, and they let on 4 people. Didn't even come close.

• Starving, as I haven't eaten since 8:30 this morning, I grabbed a burger about 100 yards down the terminal. I come back to find out my 10:00 flight was cancelled. In fact, everything out of Dulles was cancelled for the night. After standing on line at the courtesy desk (which was directly across from the burger place) for an hour, I booked a flight for tomorrow morning. I am staying at a Holiday Inn for $75 (plus tax). Have to check out tomorrow at 6:00. I am writing this on the hotel's Business Suite computer, and am saving it without publishing, which I will do tomorrow. More when I get back home...

Continued the next day, Tuesday, April 21, 2008.

• Fell asleep last night near midnight, waking up with a start at 4:00 AM (had a call set for 5:30), so I scanned the hotel television, including the two music channels. Lady CaCa: Are you serious? People like this? Jamie Foxx: Like T. Pain, he has a good voice that is wasted by electronica vocals. Kelly Clarkson: Reminscent of Celine Dion, as a blaster, but KC has a bit more subtly, though doesn't show it much trying to be a pop rocker. Britney Spears: Congrats on the comeback but go away again now, okay? Pink: I also like her voice, but her style and production values make her uninteresting to me. The same videos are playing on both channels. Wasn't VH1 started to be different? Apparently, I'm not missing much by not "wanting my MTV."

• The Holiday Inn Dulles-Chantilly bill came to $81.75 after tax. Not sure where that will come from. It would have been double that without the United voucher. Because it was weather related, I was lucky to get that.

• They tell me to be at the gate 2 hours before the flight because of what happened last night. When I get there, I'm told I didn't even need to check in because I already had my ticket. What was the point of my early arrival? I could have had my Continental breakfast after all.

• My 8:25 flight is delayed until 8:45 due to clouds over LGA. Didn't they used to fly in rain and clouds, climbing above and landing through? Isn't that what radar is for?

• We board at 8:20, and sit on the tarmac, told the flight had clearance to leave at 9:30; still, we take off at 9:15, and I alpha-sleep most of the way.

• The plane lands at LGA officially 10 minutes late, after a 38 minuite flight. That 38 minutes took me about 20 hours and $81 extra.

• The M-30 bus and N/D trains come quickly. On the train I'm thinking that I used to enjoy riding outside the tunnels and having a view; now I anticipate the tunnels for the silence.

• I walk in my door just about at noon, and my cats are as thrills for me to be home as I am.

• Next time, St. Louis. Stay tuned...

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