Saturday, July 08, 2006

Okay, I'm rested now. Sorry for the hiatus. After my return, I had to write the article about the premiere so that had me busy, tired, and on deadline. However, it was great fun. I just read that Pirates scored a biggest opening day and weekend ever, which makes me all the more proud to have been some sort of part of it. I'll link to the article when it's up.

Now, for those of you who wrote saying you were envious, well, this second part, the part that previous post doesn't cover will make it all better. Really. It will. You see, I had a little um, adventure getting back to Baltimore. It seemed as if some force was trying to keep me in Los Angeles. That force was the standby gods. Because my sister is a flight attendant, I flew standby on a buddy pass. I didn't know that being so close to the July 4th holiday made it just about fucking impossible to get on a plane. Going out to Los Angeles was no problem. Coming back however, therein lies the rub. My plan was to take the red eye to Cincinnati, then catch the connecting flight to Baltimore. That flight left at midnight on Tuesday which seemed a good bet that there would be some standby seats available. Right?

Wrong. Apparently, everyone decided to fly to Cincinnati at midnight on a Tuesday. As person after person filled the gate area, my hopes sank. I watched the screen for my name to go from blue (no seat confirmed) to green (seat assigned) but it never happened. I wasn't going anywhere. I'd already turned in the car, checked my bag, which the agent told me was on its way to Cincinnati without me. About six other standby passengers and myself were left, and the agent told us that the next flight was at 6AM the next day. They said that we should be at the airport at 4AM. Since it was already past midnight, we all knew what that meant.

I wandered away, with laptop and everything that I had from the premiere in my purse. Pictures, electronic press kit, press credentials, recorded interviews. I did pack my complimentary pirate adorned Mickey Mouse ears, seen on the girls behind me in the picture, in my suitcase. I'd just have to risk those not making it. The important thing was that the things I needed were with me so that was of some comfort. I just had to find a place to rest for the next four hours.

The problem with trying to find a place to sleep in the airport, are that fluorescent lights bathe the entire place in white light. I searched for a place that could serve as some sort of shield, and found a bank of pay phones with a counter. I'd found my bunker. I crawled underneath, grumbling the whole time to myself about it, "I bet Johnny DEPP isn't sleeping under a bank of pay phones." Yeah, no shit Sherlock, I'm no Johnny Depp, but it was the irrational thought that came to mind as I blew up my neck pillow. I laid on the carpeted floor, trying not to think of the hoards of germs and microscopic creatures that were my bunker mates, and put on my shades to further aid in shielding my eyes from the white light of Satan. I comforted myself with the thought that during his lifetime, Johnny Depp had probably on more than one occasion slept under a bank of pay phones, and probably much, much worse.

Enter, the fucker with the floor polisher. The floor polisher that is, that was used to clean the carpet with some attachment that sounded like a band saw. I rifled through my purse and put in the free ear plugs that had come with my neck pillow. Helped a little, but the constant whirring was just too much. I rolled out, neck pillow still on, and collected my things. I located a darker spot behind a ticketing counter at another gate and crawled in on all fours. Now, I was shielded from both light and noise. I rearranged my things and prepared to stretch out in the two foot wide space between myself and the wall of glass that faced the runways.

First things first though. I lifted up my shirt to straighten my bra that had gone off track with all the lying on the floor, rolling and crawling. Shirt halfway up from my efforts, bra exposed, I looked up and met eyes with two pilots who were sitting in the cockpit of a parked 757 that I'd failed to notice, TEN FEET in front of me. Oh yeah. We sat for a couple seconds, like specimens in a zoo, separated by glass, and stared at each other. They were in their crisp white shirts and pilot garb, while I still had my neck pillow and sunglasses on and had my shirt up. I decided the best thing to do was just pull my shirt down and lay down.

Captain Dave, God I hope that wasn't you.

Soon, the cold set in. Yes, it was freezing in LAX due to lack of people traffic and an over eager air conditioner. Remembering my laptop, I took it out, plugged it in to a nearby outlet and hugged it to my chest for warmth. Enter, for an encore performance, the fucker with the whirling dervish carpet cleaner. I unplugged my laptop, which wasn't that good of a warming device anyway, packed up, and left camp again. It was past 2 AM, and a sympathetic airport employee saw me and said, "You need to get some rest."

"I'm trying," I said, "but I'm freezing."

She pointed me to a warmer place to sit, by her offices. She was a cleaning supervisor I think, and was probably the boss of Mr. Whirling Dervish a.k.a., The Fucker. I took her advice and found a chair with another one facing it. It was warmer, but not by much. I leaned back, put my feet up, and she appeared with an airplane pillow and two blankets. What a sweetheart! I thanked her over and over again and couldn't believe my luck to happen upon this nice woman. She told me she stole it from the pilot's lounge. I didn't tell her that I'd flashed my hooters to two of them an hour ago. I thought to myself that providing warmth was the least they could do as a return favor. Two boobs for two blankets, and a bonus pillow for good measure.

I actually managed to get sleep for about an hour or so, until it was time to line up to list on the 6 AM flight. The agent told us a lot of people missed that flight because it took so long to get through security and the line. However, that morning not enough missed it for me to get on. Nor the other six standby passengers who had also stayed the night in the airport. We looked at the schedule, and for the next several hours tried to get on flights to Atlanta or Cincinnati, both Delta hubs. It got so bad that we started saying to each other, "See you at the next gate," meaning we knew we weren't going to get on the flight. Six flights later, edging toward 11 AM one of the other stand by passengers told me about a flight going to New York that had 30 seats open. It was too late to list on it, but I passed on it anyway, convinced that the flight loads would lighten up at some point. If I chose to go to New York, I'd be too late to catch flight to Baltimore. However, I filed that away for another option.

At a little past 1:00 PM, and having not gotten on several more flights, I called my sister and vented. And oh, did I vent. Enough so that two artsy looking guys sitting next to me could hear me cursing a blue streak. I was quiet, not yelling, but audible to people close by. I told my sister I wasn't mad at her, just the situation, then asked how a corporation could get away with overbooking flights by this much. Regular passengers were being asked to give up their seats. Credit to my sister, she let me vent. I paced back and forth, cell phone to ear, then sat back down and cursed some more. A teenage girl walked up to the two guys who had been privy to my tirade and asked them for an autograph. I didn't recognize them. When they got on the flight to Cincinnati, I asked a tough looking young couple beside me who they were. They told me. I have a song of theirs on my iPod but am terrible recognizing musicians. All I can say, that if the band Nickelback comes out with a song about airport rage, I'll know where they got their inspiration.

After venting, I saw another New York flight boarding. This time, I decided to take it. I went over to the counter and asked the agent if there were seats. There were. I said I wanted to list on it, and she told me that she couldn't change my ticket at the counter, that I'd have to go through ticketing. That meant, I'd miss the flight since there wasn't time. I pulled out at least six boarding passes and said, "They've been doing it for me at the counter all day."

Turns out, she wasn't sure how to do it but figured it out. I have sympathy for gate agents. It's a thankless job and they take a lot of shit. So, though I wasn't going to take no for an answer, I wasn't a jerk about it. And, I got on the flight. A half an hour later, I was heading to New York City. Last row, middle seat, but I didn't care.

Part Two of the long journey home to come later.

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