The Tampa Trip

Language butchery by Mr Rich on  1.3.06 @ 18:50

Some of you reading this didn't know me when I originally wrote this. The following note will always be a constant reference when I am bitching about travelling. This is the infamous Tampa trip.

Mom, thank you for sending me this.

Fortunately, I haven't had anything go this bad since. I've had some fun times, but none as bad as this. However, I will say that every time I go to Florida, I always have grief.

I originally wrote this in March of 2003. I was new to travel then, and I had no frequent flyer status. If there is anything to be learned of this to those of you who travel at all, it's this: join the frequent flyer programs. They put you ahead of the next schmuck who hasn't joined.

Oh yeah...the Little Rock trip referenced at the end went off without a hitch.

More soon!



Date: Tuesday, 04 March 2003

Subject: Ah...The Sheer Joy of Travelling...

Well,

For those of you who haven't already heard...

Two weeks ago work decides to send me off on a little road trip. Oh the travels, the new experiences, and the quality time on a plane. Dante had no idea that there was an eighth level of hell: coach class and airport terminals with no smoking areas. Had he known this, he would have forgotten about writing Purgatorio and Paradiso after Inferno. Rather, he would have looked for ways to develop nuclear weapons to put the human race out of its future misery. Certainly he would have found nothing divine (and certainly not comical) about this deeper level of hell.

My trip began in the Eugene, Oregon airport. The airport code is EUG, and to travellers that spells UUGGGHH. I got tagged for a full search. This means that federal officers were examining my skivvies in the main terminal at 10:00 A.M. Someday, I must check a bag filled with nothing but lace underwear and assorted whips and chains. But just my luck, I wouldn't be tagged for a search.

Thank you John Ashcroft and Osama Bin Ladin for exempting my boxer shorts from the Fourth Amendment when I am in the airport. No wonder Mr. Ashcroft lost his Senate race in 2000 to a dead guy. Come to think of it, the dead guy died on an airplane...I smell a conspiracy.

After sprinting through the terminal to reach my plane, I soon found myself jammed into a puddle jumper for a lovely ride to San Francisco. This airport must have been designed by B.F. Skinner. B.F. Skinner was a psychologist who designed the Skinner Box, which is used primarily to stress and train various rodents into conformity. I say this because SFO (the San Francisco Airport) is designed like a wagon wheel. Only one of the spokes leads to a smoking area...which is of course, outside.

On the way back in, I noticed that this airport has a special security checkpoint reserved for first class passengers. Perhaps their skivvies are examined without the prying eye of half the terminal. Oh yeah - the baggage screeners don't wear gloves when taking apart your (or anyone else's for that matter) luggage. Smile and be nice (they are armed), but don't shake their hands. Wash your clothes when you get where you are going.

[Ed Note: The screeners now wear gloves.]

So I left SFO for every one's favorite airport, Chicago-Oh Hell....er, uh..O'Hare. On the flight, I had a crown break loose. Naturally, it was an incisor in the very front of my mouth. Start playing the banjo music...

Oh Hell was designed by the Marque d' Sade. His writing became the genesis for the word "Sadism." This airport is so big that it has connecting flights to itself. This is so you can get from one side of the airport to the other. In addition, this airport was chosen as a major hub for a couple of reasons:
  1. The weather always sucks.
  2. Chicago has rude and belligerent cops.
Like SFO, the Marque also decided to put the smoking areas outside. Furthermore, smoking is restricted to the lower level of the terminal. Apparently, it's illegal to smoke outside in Chicago now - except in designated areas.

Quit your preaching. I will quit before too much longer...eventually I will get stuck at O'Hare.

Fortunately, the flight to Tampa was un eventful. Tampa was actually quite nice. The weather was good, and my micro-managing Jesus-freak co-worker left me alone for the most part. BTW: Keeshawn Johnson has a nice restaurant. The wine list would make a five-star place in Paris feel insecure.

The relative calm ended on Saturday night. I started to get sick. No worries, right? Sunday, I was supposed to fly to Dayton, Ohio, and I figured I would just sleep on the plane.

HA HA.

So I get to the Tampa airport an hour and forty-five minutes before my flight. The itinerary was supposed to be from Tampa to Oh Hell, and from Chicago to Dayton. When I got inside the terminal, the United line was closing in on half a mile long, and it wasn't moving. Adding to this, everyone in line was pissed off. This is not a good sign.

So I get in line. A side note is deserved here: Just because you can fly first class does not give you the right to be a snobby shithead. So what if you get a leather seat and some leg room.

Two hours later, I get to the front of the line. The ticket agents look like death warmed over and served as leftovers. Time to suck-up - I am in the coach class proletariat after all. As it turns out, the plane that came in the night before had serious mechanical problems. Mechanics were on the way from my favorite airport. Not a good event on an over-booked flight that heads out of Florida on a Sunday during February. Thus began the first of seven itinerary changes. I was relegated to the ninth circle of hell: STANDBY!

Dante was spared this level as well. Had he seen this level, he would have killed himself just to spite humanity. He probably would have said something like, "...screw them. The reapeth what they sow."

Nervously I checked my baggage. You see, I had no choice in this matter. Chalk up another pain in my ass from Osama. I really hate that guy.

After missing a few flights, I began to realize that I was going to spend more time in Florida. At this point, I decided to check the weather forecast to see if it was hurricane season. I wasn't so fortunate. Rather, the rest of the counter was being pounded with snow. This complication prompted me to call my boss and tell her I might not make it to where I was supposed to be on Monday morning. She told me to head over to customer service and tell them that my boss will kill me if I cant get to Tampa.

Okay......

Reluctantly, I head over to the information booth. I was informed that there was no such animal at Tampa International as United Customer Service. I was told to go to either the ticket counter, or to baggage claim.

Hmmm....there isn't a line at baggage claim.

Did y'all know that baggage claim can book flights? Remember that, but don't spread it around. Should too many people have a route around the bullshit that happens at the ticket counter, baggage claim will be considered a potential terrorist target. Baggage claim tells me that my frequent flyer number wasn't being put onto the standby list. Had it been, I would have been headed to Chicago two hours before. Yes - the frequent flyer number does mean something other than you are a sadistic lackey who enjoys nicotine cravings while being tied in a pretzel for hours on end. Baggage claim got me at the top of a standby list to Dulles (Washington DC), and a confirmed flight to Columbus, Ohio - 50 miles away from Dayton.

I thanked him profusely and told him that Shiva would reward his good karma. I'm not religious, but if I Jesus, Allah, Jehovah, Shiva, or Ganesha can get me on a plane outta Tampa, I'll take whoever up on it. Besides, the guy was from India. As I boarded the plane for DC, I took a scotch and a beer and took a nap. Things were finally looking up.

WRONG!

Upon arriving in DC and sprinting across the airport again, I found that all United flights were grounded. Apparently, there were upper level micro-bursts...whatever that means. Back to customer service I go. At least Dulles has a UA Customer Service desk. This time I tell the poor schmuck behind the counter that she needs combat pay. I also told her that I would bear her children if she can get me anywhere near Dayton. I'd take Columbus, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, whatever. She came through for me, and booked me on a US Air flight to Indianapolis with a connection through Charlotte. After thanking her quickly, I sprinted off to the US Air gate...

...just in time to hear the announcement that they have grounded their flights as well. Okay...back to UA Customer Service.

Back at the UA desk, I got on my knees, pulled out the puppy dog eyes, and offered triplets instead of a single birth. There were no takers, as I couldn't get out of DC until Tuesday afternoon. Time to asses the situation:
  • I am post-security at the airport serving the national capital of a VERY paranoid nation.
  • I have no ticket.
  • If you don't have a ticket, you aren't supposed to be in the secure area of the terminal.
  • My cell battery is nearly dead.
Yep, I'm screwed.

I need an after hours travel agent who has good bandwidth. So I called my brother Terry. I need to have options before I leave security.

I bet he was really annoyed when I told him that I couldn't go down to the rental car counter myself. I bet he was annoyed and perplexed when I told him I couldn't explain why. I didn't think that shouting (it was a loud terminal) into a cell phone, "I don't have a ticket" when I was in a secure area was too bright. I already have one loose tooth at this point, and I don't need to have more as my face is pressed into the carpet by fifty uber-paranoid security guards. Fortunately, he found a car I could drop off in Dayton - 500 miles away. It's after 9:00 PM at this point, and I am supposed to be in Dayton in eleven hours.

So my name is Jack and I hit the road. Here are some lessons about driving in these situations:
  1. Don't ask Dad to navigate the web to get directions.
  2. DC maps are pricey.
  3. You will pay $3.60 to drive through 80 miles of construction on the PA Turnpike.
  4. West Virginia cops are too stupid to catch a rental going 110 miles per hour.
  5. The 2003 Mitsubishi Gallant starts to get hard to handle at 120 miles per hour.
  6. Pittsburgh is the armpit of the country.
  7. Ohio cops don't care if you drive 95 in a 55 zone.
  8. The Best Western in Dayton is a shit hole. It must have been moved from Pittsburgh.
[Ed. Note: This why I stay in Hampton's and Holiday Inn's now. Their toilets flush and I don't have roaches for roomies.]

So I get to Dayton at 3:30 A.M. 30 minutes after I arrive the nasty snowstorm that was all over the news when I was in Tampa hit. Time for bed. At 7:00 A.M., I call the customer. The conversation went something like this:

ME: I had to drive here from DC last night, and I need to get a car rental fiasco straightened out. Can I be a couple hours late?
GRACIOUS CLIENT: ...you drove from where...IN A SNOW STORM? ARE YOU NUTS?
ME: I got royally screwed by a broken down plane.
GRACIOUS CLIENT: No worries. Take your time. With the snow, everyone will be late anyway.
ME: Thank you very much. I truly apologize for this. Oh yeah - can you tell me where I can buy some clothes around here? I checked my bags in Tampa and I have no idea where they are.
GRACIOUS CLIENT: (Roaring laughter)

[Ed. Note: I still have those clothes. I take them with me to remind myself that people are good...and they are a good luck charm]

So I get through Monday, and head back to the hotel and call the UA desk at the Dayton airport. They have my luggage.

YAY!!!!!!

I went to the airport, picked up my bags and went directly to a bar. I wrote Kati a letter there. Things were looking up...FINALLY! When I got back to the Worst Western, I opened my bags to find a note from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA is the government agency responsible for airline security in the US).

Did y'all know that shaving cream and spray starch are not allowed in checked luggage?

Yes, my shaving cream and spray starch were confiscated. The note stated that the following items were, however, allowed in checked luggage:
  • Guns - which must be declared.
  • Knives.
  • Bullets - which must also be declared.
However, you are considered to be a minion of Al Qaeda if you want to shave and have crisp clothing. Wasn't shaving the first thing the Afghan men did after the Taliban was overthrown?!?!?!? Am I the only one who sees the irony in this? What the flying fuck did they think I was going to do with a can of spray starch? Stand up on the plane and yell, " STOP THE PLANE OR I'LL IRON YOUR CLOTHES!!!" ????

Well after this, the ride home was a breeze. the only event was I twisted my knee in the Portland airport.

Updates as events warrant...I fly to Little Rock Saturday morning...

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