Saturday, July 5, 2008

Airport/Airplane Adventures

Adventures are marvelous, and for a somewhat "civilized" adventure, you can't beat a trip on an airplane.

Our leaving adventure was actually pretty uneventful, if you overlook getting up at 4am to make it to the airport in time, and if you overlook getting crammed into not-the-smallest but definitely the most crowded airplane I've ever been on, and if you overlook lugging four hefty carry-ons half a mile in the wrong direction while changing planes in Charlotte with no time to spare, and if you overlook getting trapped for 20 minutes in the plane at Newark and finally having to move the whole show to another gate because the jetway at our original gate wasn't functional, and if you overlook the culture shock that hit us while waiting for our ride out in front of the airport (That was an education all by itself...).

Our trip home, well, it was a bit more exciting, beginning with the fact that we were
on our own!!! Well, not completely. Our ex-resident travel agent/tour guide had thoughtfully equipped us with all of our flight paperwork and detailed directions to the airport, and our handy $5.00 multi-state map of the northeast United States was at the ready.

After successfully navigating the LonGIsland freeway, as the natives would say, we saw an opportunity for a real bargain...$4.24 gas! So we stopped to fill up before we returned the car. Much to our amazement, the gas station would not take cash! Or so we mistakenly thought. After some frantic negotiation, it turned out to be nothing more than a slight cross-cultural misunderstanding, and we left feeling victorious: We had outwitted the Cross-Island Expressmaze, paid
cash for bargain gas, and almost made it to the airport. Now, according to Google, it remained only to "turn left at Arrivals Avenue." NO! NO!!! We don't want Arrivals! We want Departures!

Well, it's all the same to the Long Island airport, so we turned left and followed the "Car Return" signs on Arrivals Avenue. There were signs for every car rental company, except ours, but luck was with us, and we had to try only two car lots before finding the right one. But that was the end of easy. The parking spaces were labeled with letters and numbers and the name of the company, but nowhere, nowhere, nowhere, was any kind of directions or an attendant to be seen. Was there a shuttle bus to take us to the terminal? Were we supposed to
walk to the terminal? Where even was the terminal?!

We decided to go back to square one and take Arrivals Avenue from the beginning, only this time we would take the "This Way to Terminal" lane. We found our way around easily enough and pulled up in front of the terminal. Well, as close as we could get to in front of the terminal. Unattended cars and double parking are apparently the order of the day at the Long Island airport, if that nearly lounging security guard was any indication. We waved and yelled to get his attention and finally persuaded him to come over. Not that he was any help. The best we were able to get out of him was that the car rental counters were clear at the opposite end of the airport, so we took off again. At the end of the terminal, my Man went inside to inquire and was able to ascertain that we should leave our car in the lot, write down the mileage,
walk back to the terminal, and return the key.

We still didn't know where the lot was relative to the terminal, and we had a lot of baggage, so we drove back around Arrivals Avenue one more time to the front of the terminal where we unloaded and momentarily abandoned our (triple-parked) car while we lugged all of our stuff into a shady place. We agreed that my Man would babysit our luggage while I hopefully went off to divest myself of the PT Cruiser.

This time, as soon as I pulled into a parking place in the lot, a young man came right up and held out his hand for the keys. Should I
give them to him? Where was he the first time we were here? Why did they tell us to bring the keys inside? Who is this guy, anyway?! Well, he had a scanner in his hand, and he was wearing a B_____ Car Rental shirt, and he seemed to be asking the right questions: "Do you have your contract?" "What's your mileage?" "Did you fill it up?" Sooooo...I threw caution to the wind and gave him the keys. He said, "If they say anything in there, just tell them to call me." Oh, ok, noooo problem....

Well, we only thought we had unloaded the car. After
really unloading it, I headed out across the wasteland like a pack animal, loaded down with two sweaters, a briefcase, a bottle of water, a bottle of Coke, and of course my purse, and made it into the terminal and to the right counter where I attempted to return the car to a not-too-communicative clerk. Oh, dear...I can see the makings of another cross-cultural misunderstanding here. But the other clerk at the counter was merciful and came over to get things sorted out. Turns out the Phantom of the Parking Lot was actually their guy, so that was good news.

Finally free of the PT Cruiser, I set out to join my Man and our luggage, only to find that they were
not where I had left them. Oh, no! Lost in New York! I located them shortly, though, where they had managed to drag themselves out of the shade into the air conditioning.

We proceeded to the checkout counter where we got our boarding passes and were directed to check our luggage at a distant counter (huh???!), and then we headed over to join the short line to go through security. We passed the metal detector portion of the test and were putting our shoes back on when a burly security guard came rushing over. "Sih! Sih! Sih! Is this youah stuff?" Yes, yes, what about it? He held up my Man's treasured pocket knife and said, "You can't take this with you." Oh, rats. This is the only knife he has managed not to lose, and he really likes it. "You'll have to put it in your checked baggage." Oh, really? That baggage is already long gone, or I wouldn't be here, now, would I? "Do you have someone you could give it to?" Oh, sure. Would you like to have it? Well, whatever the fate of the pocketknife, it's safe to say that unlike at some other airports, the Long Island security guys are definitely on their toes.

Slightly (well, more than slightly, to be honest) peeved at being left pocketknife-less, we made our way up the escalator to the boarding gates and paused a moment before the monitor to see that our gate, and everybody else's gate, was A-2. Could that be right?

We took off in that direction, and sure enough, A-4 empty, A-3 empty, but A-2...Well, now, A-2 was host to a multitude of Biblical proportions, well appointed with a host of screaming little kidlets. We found a seat over by the wheelchairs and settled in. Surely all of these people weren't as early as we were? Surely there was another departure before our own flight two hours in the future? Well, whaddya know, there was
(#3169 to Foht Lawdehdale) scheduled out of A-2 an hour ahead of ours (What was wrong with the other gates?) (Maybe the jetways didn't work...?), and we fantasized that all of these screaming little darlin's might sail away on it.

Time came and time went for the flight ahead of ours, and no move was made to board it, other than by the passengers who were beginning to line up. After about 20 minutes, someone came out and announced that the plane had sucked a bird into the engine on the way in and they were checking to be sure it was ok to go back out. This was mildly interesting to us, but as the time for our flight approached, we began to fidget.

Suddenly we heard an announcement over the intercom: We just want to be suah that everyone going to Baltimoah knows theih flight has been changed to Gate A-3. How would we know? Nobody told us! Well, never mind, we, along with half the population of A-2, are on our way. It was boarding at once, complete, alas, with our quota of screaming kidlets, plenty to go around.

We found a row of empty seats in the waaaaay back and sat down to wait while the rest of the passengers boarded. Most of them were filling in the gaps toward the front, but then a family carrying an odoriferous bag from McDonald's espied the very last empty row on the plane directly behind us and came barreling down the aisle to stake their claim. Finally, The Groom, as identified by his t-shirt, made his way back to sit in the last empty seat left. Next to me.

After a minor mishap of two cans of soda ("pop" in New Yoahk) exploding and spraying the back galley, the pilot revved up the engines and dimmed the lights, and we all settled in for our restful late evening flight (leaving Flight 3169 to Foht Lawdehdale of bird-in-the-engine fame still perched at Gate A-2, over an hour late by this time).

Oh, wait...Forget restful... As soon as the engines started to roar and the pressure started to change, all those little kidlets started to cry. And then The Groom whipped out his little iPod or MP3 player or whatever it was, stuck it in his ear, and cranked it up loud enough for me to hear over the wailing kidlets. And then the girl behind us started to sing. Yep...On Top of Old Smokey, belted out in a quavering off-key voice that sounded unlike anything we'd ever heard before. And when the song was finished, she started LAUGHING OUT LOUD in an eerie sort of cackle. I hazarded a quick glance behind us to see if perhaps a Twilight Zone escapee might have taken refuge there, but no...it was just this everyday, ordinary, normal-looking family of two old parents and one late-teenage girl. Fortunately, my ears plugged up, as ears are wont to do on airplanes, so quiet reigned for the rest of the way home.

Yes, adventures are definitely marvelous...but nothing tops the comfortable and comforting adventure of coming home.

1 comment:

grammaw marina said...

I couln't have stood it...I could NOT have stood all that biz with the rental car return, and the rest of it! Rent a car, go, come back, pay the bill.

You write dialects GOOD! Glad you made it home safe, which was not a sure thing, sounds like!