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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Are We There Yet?

Well, I thiiiinnnkk we should say our good-byes.  I think my death is imminent, and I think I've been tapped for an eternity of fireside chats and 75 SPF.  I say this because today I took several steps down the ladder to hell.

For the first time since baby #2, I am away from my little family, traveling for work.  I left today and return home on Friday.  I haven't flown on a plane in one year.

Now I remember why.

I showed up at the appointed 5-hour early mark for my 9AM flight.  There were approximately 3 other travelers at the airport.  And there was about a 7:1 ratio of TSA agents to travelers.  In the hush of the security line, as I took off my scarf, shoes, and wire tracking devices, it was me versus the masses - 17 men and women ready to pop out of their polyester blue unis, just daring me to put my carry-on through without taking out my ziploc bag of 3 oz liquids.  I got scanned within an inch of my life, maybe because they were bored or maybe because I was wearing my "please mess with me, I'm an asshole" sticker again.

Nothing really starts the day off like a good pat-down, so I celebrated by going to the airport Starbucks. For the first time in the history of mankind, there was a one-person line at Starbucks, and that lucky person was yours truly.  The duo behind the register didn't look like they could put their own coats on, but I tossed my underestimations aside and chirped out my order: grande nonfat latte.  Imagine my smug satisfaction/flabbergasted rage when I received an iced mocha in return.  Had my lone order really thrown that much of a curveball?  I wanted hot, not cold.  I wanted espresso with foamed milk, not the chocolatey mystery mix that comprises a mocha.  I did the only sensible thing one can do in that kind of situation: I chugged the mocha, declared it disgusting, and demanded my proper drink.  That in hand, I went off to my gate to make new friends.

The first leg of the trip wasn't so bad, if you like flying in a coffin.  I actually prefer room for all of my extremities, so I felt a bit cramped.  But by the time I lost feeling from my ankles down, things improved somewhat and I made it to my layover destination -- Philadelphia -- in relatively good spirits.

Then things went downhill fast.  Because the first thing I did when I landed in Philly was realize that I had landed in Philly.  That city has to boast one of the world's worst airports.  It is sprawling, old, and looks like there's a chain smoker hiding behind every over-flowing trashcan -- there's some sort of unhealthy-looking film in the air.  And now they've remodeled it to make you feel like you're a mouse in some MIT science major's wet dream - you try to move with some purpose  towards your connecting gate 3 miles away, but you keep running up against walls that have no purpose and no contour - just big white hunks of concrete.  Several years and 1 shuttle bus ride later, I arrived at my connecting flight, just in time to buy a puddle of yogurt.  You know, for lunch.

That probiotic detour was a ghastly mistake.  It put me towards the end of the line for boarding, and that's when I heard the words no traveler in their right mind ever wants to hear: "All remaining carry-on bags will have to be checked and will meet you at your final destination."

Ummmm....let's do this instead.  Just send me back.  Turn me around, pat me on my head, and tell me to click my heels til I get home.  This can't be happening.  I stuffed that suitcase silly for the sole purpose of avoiding the fate you are condemning me to.  Please don't make me go spend an hour of my life standing at that silver whirl-a-majig waiting for a black, nondescript rectangle that is either on the first flight to Moscow or is going to get picked up by some other cheap bastard who bought the exact same black, nondescript rectangle to shuttle his khakis and button-down shirts. 

Tough luck.  On the plane I went, all alone with my laptop bag.  And then guess what?!?  We pulled away from the gate EARLY.  We were getting ready for an EARLY take-off and an EARLY arrival when the second most-dreaded statement was proclaimed over the PA system: "We are going to have to head back to the gate to deal with a customer situation."  Actually, scratch the "second most" label, because I have never heard that announcement before.  But turns out some gal in first class just did NOT want to turn her electronic devices off, and she was getting booted from the flight.  I didn't know Alec Baldwin cross-dressed, but apparently he does and apparently he was on my flight.  Or what became my flight after he/she was escorted off.

After 3 glorious hours of neck-straining, concussion-inducing naps to a background symphony of inane conversation ("wait, you really think the per diems cover tipping??"), we arrived.  And then I went to my hotel -- sorry, my "lodge."

The moment my toes crossed the threshold of this establishment, I knew I was about to meet my maker.  I was greeted by a plastic forest of trees and guided to the check-in desk by fake fencing.  My view as I checked in was of....well, it was of....okay, it was of an INDOOR WATER PARK.  Wave pool.  Super slides.  Rope swings.  Children wearing neon shirts over their swimsuits.

Waterparks are like mullets and t-shirts tie-dyed with their wearer's name.  They scream "nothing good is happening here."  This was my home for the next three nights.

After I checked into my "den," (seriously) I boarded an elevator with about 7 10-year-old kids, each of whom wanted a chance to press the buttons.  16 minutes and one kid with a nose-bleed later, I arrived at my floor, where I was greeted with the gentle hum of symphonized forest sounds: crickets, wind rustling the trees, bears growling.  Children were running everywhere, zapped up on all the sugar they hadn't worked off in the "Lottsa Water Fall," their parents lagging behind eating drippy pizza from a tired paper plate.  I reached for my room "key" - it's a wristband like what you get when you go to an amusement park - lunged into my room, and wept into the 21 cotton towels in my bathroom.  The good news here is that if my end has indeed come and some higher power is going to send a flood to wipe me away, I have the cotton reserves to prevent a complete deluge.

So here I am, snuggling up in my bed that overlooks my sink.  The pitter-patter of over-tired feet race up and down the hallway just outside my door.  I gaze out the window, wondering whether it's made of tempered glass that would prevent me from hurling myself through it.

And to all, a good night.

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