A Lesson in Patience

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Trip type: Business

Airline: Delta

Route: MSP-PHX

In case we haven’t already established it, I am short on patience. (And if you’re hoping from the title that I actually learned a lesson in the virtue of patience, you may be disappointed.) My recent flight to Phoenix for a work conference only confirmed that I should probably have my blood pressure checked.

At any rate. The ways my patience was tried–let me count the ways…

  1. No room at the inn. It’s happened to friends of mine, but I’ve never experienced the hell that is driving up to Terminal 1 and finding that all the ramps are full. FULL. Arg. Thank goodness I always go to the airport two hours early so that I had time to drive to Humphrey and then light rail it over.
  2. “Do I have to take my shoes off?” Security is definitely a place where you need to take a deep breath and tune out the idiocy surrounding you. That is, unless you’re in the PreCheck lane. I don’t think it’s inappropriate to expect more from PreCheck compatriots so imagine my annoyance when the woman in front of me clearly did not understand that she was in the fast lane. “Do I have to take my shoes off?” No. “Should I take out my laptop?” No. “Oh [after the metal detector goes off], but I need to take my belt off?” FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. The TSA agent did apologize to me for the delay (of 48 seconds) so that was appreciated anyway.
  3. A man of the book. That was how the guy across the aisle introduced himself when I asked what he did. How do I always attract these people? And why do I insist on talking to them?
  4. The classiest man on earth. My seat mate (with the middle seat) showed up with a sack of Chik-fil-a which gave me instant nausea just thinking about the stale french fry smell that was soon to encompass me. He made snide commentary during the entire safety film and pilot’s announcements. And then he fell asleep. As he was already protruding from his seat onto mine, it was only a matter of time until his arm started drifting over the armrest he had claimed and into my seat. After several attempts to politely jostle him, I finally just shoved his arm back onto him. But we weren’t done yet…as his sleep deepened, he began to snore and then to ever so slightly fall over onto me. Unfortunately for him, when this happened I was totally ensconced in my work and jumped, effectively scaring the crap out of both of us. (Don’t worry, he easily fell back to sleep and we got to repeat the process.)
  5. The Parisians are coming. Boarding seemed to go incredibly smoothly, which should have been my first clue that something was about to go wrong. The reason for the smoothness, it turned out, was that half our plane was coming from a delayed connection from France. Thirty minutes after we should have departed, the French arrived. Because I’m such a Francophile, I’m usually the first to defend them…but not this time. The lot of them seemed to have no idea that they’d been on a late flight and lallygagged their way onto the plane. Finally all aboard (and after telling one woman, in French, that no, she could not just sit in the seat beside me because it was vacant (my classy seat mate was in the restroom)), I was ready to roll…alas, we still had to wait for the French luggage. An hour after we should have departed…we finally did. Patience: officially tried.
Inc. 500 | 5000 Awards Conference

With the editor-in-chief of Inc. Magazine accepting the Inc. 5000 award

Luckily, everything was much better once I made it to Arizona (well, once I located the taxi stand. Not big on any extra signage in the basement of the airport). I spent my days going between the ice-cold conference rooms and the sweltering 100 degree oven that is Phoenix.

Then, E flew down Friday once his conference in L.A. wrapped up to escort me to the award ceremony of the Inc. 500 | 5000 conference (where I picked up my company’s hardware, see right) and we spent the following day exploring Sedona. All in all, a great getaway to the southwest.

I’m sure it’s been unbearable without my frequent updates so get excited–my next trip is Thursday as we are off to Canada for a family wedding. Hopefully my patience will not be further tried.

Sedona, Arizona

Lovely Sedona

You Can’t Go Home Again

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It’s hard to believe I started the blog a year ago today. Not to get all 15 year-old emo on you, but it’s been a really amazing and gratifying experience. I’ve been able to bond with new and old friends over shared flying catastrophes as well as get some serious anxiety off my chest. So thanks, all. Cheapest therapy yet.

In honor of the one-year mark, I am finally going to recount a story I’ve been hinting at for a while now–the trip home from studying abroad in 2004…brace yourself.

Trip type: Personal

Airline: Delta/KLM

Route: CDG>AMS>JFK>LGA>MSP

Child, child, have patience and belief, for life is many days, and each present hour will pass away.

-Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again

On a couple of occasions whilst trapped in some travel nightmare or another, I’ve had the distinct fear that I’m never going to get home again. I know it’s irrational and completely brought on by the current stress, but I can’t help it. There’s this point where you’re sitting on a plane/in an airport/at security and you just feel completely defeated–like all the travel gods are conspiring to keep you from your destination.

Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur, Paris

I have never felt this more acutely than on my way home from studying abroad in 2004. It was late June in Paris, hot and sticky, and I hadn’t been home since March. Although my time in France had been nothing short of magical, I was ready to go home.

My father had come to Paris to collect me (my parents joked that if they didn’t physically retrieve me I wouldn’t ever come home) and it had been the perfect close to my travels as I got to spend a week showing off the city I had come to love. But now we were homeward bound.

Things got off to a bad start right at Charles de Gaulle. As mentioned in my post on this airport, it is perpetually under construction and, despite Paris being a huge tourist attraction, nobody really wants to help you. So my dad and I wandered around until we found the temporary relocation of the KLM desk. Although we wouldn’t know until we were stateside that our bags had been mis-routed, the KLM agent was new to the job and not instilling a whole lot of confidence, especially when we knew this was only the first of our three legs. She consistently re-asked us our names and our final destination, even when our passports and boarding passes were in her hands…we should have known she was a harbinger of disaster.

Monet's house at Giverny

Monet’s house at Giverny

Arriving late in Amsterdam (naturally), we had about ten minutes to make our connection. Which meant I had to run the entire length of the airport with my poor dad hauling our carry-ons behind me as I tried to stop the flight from departing without us (more color on this in my last post). Luckily, the door hadn’t yet closed and we made it on the flight. Things seemed to be looking up–everything would be better once we were in the US, right? If only we had known what was ahead…

Cannes, France

Cannes, France

We landed at JFK on time and had a couple of hours before our flight to Minnesota. We were herded to the international luggage carousels to collect our luggage before connecting to our domestic flight. We waited. And waited. And waited. No luggage. Finally realizing our bags were not coming, my dad and I went through Customs and straight to the Delta luggage services office. If you ever think you have a terrible job, you don’t. Livid as I was, I cooled down considerably after watching the poor woman running the office listen to some self-absorbed businessman go on for five minutes straight about how unacceptable it was that his luggage was lost and demanding $2,000 for a replacement suit. Oy. As if she was just going to give him a wad of cash and her sincere apology.

When we got our turn with Deb (I will always remember her name because I took special note to look at it after the jerk left in a huff), I was calmer but still completely riled up. Our two checked bags were missing and they held the wine and precious souvenirs I had collected over my stay. Luckily, Deb assured us that luggage is rarely “lost”, it’s usually just mis-routed. Indeed, our bags had been sent straight through to Minneapolis rather than following us.

Gordes, France

Gordes, France (Provence). No wonder I almost didn’t come home.

With that crisis averted, we were sure it’d be smooth sailing. Oh how wrong we were.

There had been some issue with our tickets so we went up to Delta ticketing at JFK. The extremely unhelpful representative told us that our flight had been canceled due to weather and that he could potentially re-book us on a flight to MN from Laguardia, but we’d have to get over there right away as the flight was in 45 minutes. Then he ripped up our boarding passes. Ripped. Them. Up. Yes, our flight had been canceled, but shouldn’t we have some proof of our previous arrangements? Anxiety reaching Defcon 3.

But what was there to do? We hailed a taxi and got over to Laguardia. After re-checking in, we headed to our gate. By now we knew that there was some serious weather affecting all East Coast airports. In fact, every airport had been completely shut down for a few hours (including JFK, LGA, Newark, Reagan, Dulles and ATL) and flights were getting canceled left and right. Awesome news.

Swiss Alps, Geneva

Swiss Alps, Geneva

Our gate agent assured us our flight was going but we weren’t so confident when the flight next to us (to Detroit) boarded and then un-boarded with the flight ending up canceled. We did board though, and I let out a huge sigh of relief when we actually pushed back. Finally, I was going to get home!

Not so fast. During our boarding and beginning taxi, the airports were shut down again. As our pilot explained, however, if we went back to the terminal, we’d be in for the night so he wanted to wait it out on the Tarmac as that was our only shot of actually getting home. Thank goodness for a MN-based flight crew and some foresight on the part of the pilot to top off the fuel.

Three hours later we were still sitting on the Tarmac with no end in sight. My cell phone was dead as were our laptops and the mini-DVD player my dad had with him. We had pretty much nothing to do except try to remain calm. Not my forte.

FINALLY, after nearly four hours on the Tarmac, we got an update from the pilot. Apparently, airports had reopened and due to his air traffic control connections (is there a pilot frat?), we were going to get out. Better than that, because so many planes had to go back to the terminal after running low on fuel, we were going to be the second plane out of the entire East Coast. I’m pretty sure I cried when we took off. There was a whole lot of clapping.

Although I had convinced myself I was never going to get home, we did finally make it (and for all those shenanigans, we were only about seven hours late). My big bag did not (of course–god forbid something work out), but it was delivered to my parents’ house the next day and all the wine survived. Whew.

And this, my friends, is why I never make a connection. Direct flights only.

Eiffel Tower

La Tour Eiffel, bien sur

P.S. – you will all be delighted to know that after missing both our prior anniversaries due to work travel, I will be firmly planted on the ground here in MN come Thursday’s three-year mark. To the rest of our natural lives (and beyond), Intrepid E!

Airports I’ve Known and Loathed, Part II – AMS

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Tulips at the Amsterdam flower market

Oh the tulips at the Amsterdam flower market

Last year, E and I visited the city of Amsterdam primarily because I had never stepped outside the airport after 10+ years of flying through it. And it was great. Amsterdam is a fabulous city and a real European treat. I only wish I could say the same for its airport.

There have been many memorable visits to Schiphol…I don’t think I’ve ever felt traveling anxiety the way I’ve felt it at AMS. It’s hard to distill, but here are the top three recollections.

  1. Amsterdam architecture

    Amsterdam architecture – the hooks are used to move large pieces of furniture.

    The time I ran the entire length of the airport. I really need to write a post about my trip home from studying abroad (yes, the same trip where #3 on this list happened), but for the sake of this discussion, I’ll just recap the very quick portion spent at Schiphol. Traveling home with my dad from Paris, our first connection was at Amsterdam. Naturally, we were late getting in and, knowing that we still had to connect at JFK (this trip is the singular reason I never connect if I can help it. Triggers the PTSD.), I was worried we’d be stuck overnight in Amsterdam or New York even if we didn’t get on the plane to NYC.

    AMS is a “one terminal” airport which can be helpful because you don’t have to take a tram between terminals but unhelpful if you get in at one end and have to get to the other. Which was exactly the case here. Because we had flown on a commuter-type flight from Paris, we weren’t near the international departures. As my father had recently had angioplasty, I took it upon myself to run ahead. Literally. Like a crazy person. I got to the podium and begged the gate agent to let us on, breathlessly telling her my father was coming and throwing around “heart condition” to gain some sympathy points. I looked (and felt) like a maniac, but we did make the flight.

  2. The time we spent an hour in the basement of Schiphol. En route home from Hungary a couple of years ago, we connected through Amsterdam. I’ll have to do some sleuthing as to whether there’s tension between the two countries, but it sure seemed like we were put through the ringer. First, we had to deplane on the Tarmac. Second, we were herded onto a bus and driven to the terminal. Finally, we were left in a teeny room, barely big enough to hold the 200 or so people from the flight. It became apparent that we’d be going through security again before being allowed into the main terminal (even though we had clearly gone through in Budapest). Sigh. There were two security staff working one conveyor so it took about an hour to get through. Thankfully, our flight had arrived slightly early so we had time to waste on these shenanigans.
  3. Anne Frank Museum, Amsterdam

    The Anne Frank Museum. Incredibly powerful.

    The time I thought we were going to have to call the State Department. Ok, this is a bit of a cop out since I already wrote an entire post on the time our passports were mis-scanned and we were pulled aside while our national identity was clarified but I think we can all agree this is about as bad as it gets. There’s nothing like being detained (ok, ok, that’s overstating it) like thinking you will be detained in a foreign country to make you want to never leave your house again. If I thought I looked like a crazy person in story one, I was even worse in this predicament as on top of the near-meltdown, I was rocking a horrible (and attractive) case of sun poisoning. Don’t be jealous.

I’m really grateful we spent time in the actual city of Amsterdam. Aside from fearing I would be run over by a bicyclist, it was an amazing time. And it makes me loathe AMS just a little bit less.

Amstel River, Amsterdam

A view from the Amstel River.

Airports I’ve Known and Loathed, Part I – CDG

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I mentioned in my last post that I’d write a future installment with commentary on specific airports that have caused me headaches (and blisters!). What was mostly meant as an off-handed comment actually brought some very specific requests for these posts to take place. So, much like the deconstructed baggie post, away we go!

L’Arc de Triomphe, safely taken from the center of traffic by my father.

I bet you thought I’d start with ATL but honestly, some of the most poignantly awful experiences I’ve had in an airport reside at Charles de Gaulle in Paris. I know that this has the propensity to sound like a White Whine submission, but it’s the truth. Here are the top three memories I have from disasters at CDG:

  1. The time that kid threw up. E spent a year at LSE getting a Master’s so after I graduated undergrad, we thought a European jaunt would be the perfect celebration. Since he was in London, we decided to meet in Paris. Très romantique, n’est-ce pas? After landing at CDG, I was surprised/not surprised to find that we couldn’t pull up to a gate. I was surprised because we were on a HUGE plane filled with hundreds of passengers (I had connected through Detroit) and not surprised because CDG is always a hot mess of construction. On the Tarmac, we were loaded into a tram/bus thing to get to the main terminal. I wasn’t wild about this, but what are you going to do? Unfortunately, one of my fellow travelers, a little girl who was probably about six years-old, was even less excited. No sooner had she uttered “Je me sens mal” to her mother and she was throwing up all over the back of the tram. It was not awesome. Everyone just kind of looked at each other with grimaces and edged away from the mess. Exactly the kick-off to vacation I was hoping for!
  2. Notre Dame by night.

    The time the baggage carousels were closed. As repeatedly mentioned, I usually carry on luggage. However, when I was traveling to Paris in 2004 to study abroad, I needed a few more pairs of shoes than I usually bring on vacation so I had checked luggage. Upon arrival we were, of course, routed to Customs. I was 20 years-old, completely alone, and not really at a point of mastering my French skills so you can guess how terrifying this was. After clearing Customs, I went to baggage and looked around frantically for a monitor that would tell me which carousel held my bag. As CDG is perpetually under construction, all the carousels were closed. I kid you not. Every single bag was coming out of ONE hole. The chaos was palpable. I still do not understand what travel gods were looking out for me, but the second I deduced what was going on and edged my way to the hole of baggage, my bag came through. I know, it’s a mystery to me, too. Let’s all pause to say a prayer of merci.

  3. The time that new KLM agent lost my luggage. At the end of my study abroad session, my dad came over to visit and we flew home together. When we got to CDG, we queued for check-in at KLM and had an agent who was clearly new on the job. Although a supervisor was theoretically helping her, she still managed to get everything wrong. We were connecting home through Amsterdam and NYC and she booked our bags all the way to Minneapolis. Imagine our surprise at JFK when our bags never showed up and we had to explain to Customs that we weren’t doing anything untoward. Considering the amount of precious cargo I was bringing back stateside, I thought I was going to lose my mind. Not to mention that when we got to Minneapolis, one of the bags was missing altogether (naturally the one with all the expensive wine), and wouldn’t be located and delivered until the following day. Don’t worry, the wine survived.

I should probably note at this point that Paris is my all time favorite city. I could/would/probably should live there.

Still my favorite tourist attraction.

I should also probably note that I flew to CDG about a year ago and everything was running much more smoothly than when I encountered the above situations. Regardless, a million disasters at CDG could never diminish my love of Paris.

If they run out of wine, we may have to reassess.

LaLa Land

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Trip type: Personal

Airline: Delta

Route: MSP-LAX

Have you missed me? I’ve missed you, too. My apologies for the hiatus; after a big job change, there are no more monthly trips to Atlanta. I will miss the blog fodder but not much beyond that.

Griffith Park Observatory

Griffith Park

At any rate, don’t be too worried about the blog! There are a few more trips coming up this year that should provide good stories, starting with this past week’s trip to visit  our dear friends M and E in L.A.

After not traveling since May (I still can’t believe I went the entire month of June without going to the airport), I was nearly giddy to be back at the airport. (I know; I’m seeking therapy.) It didn’t last long.

As expected, the plane for L.A. was huge which meant the perfect storm of half boarding vultures and half people who were in lala land (either because they weren’t native English speakers or because they were en route to an island destination but hadn’t flown in a decade). Seriously, just people wandering aimlessly around the gate, asking each other what zone was being boarded and if this was in fact the plane to L.A.

The Getty, Los Angeles

The view from the Getty

Once aboard, I still retained some of the initial giddiness of the day and excitedly took stock of our compatriots. My analysis started and stopped with the gentleman across the aisle from E who was blowing his shirt in his t-shirt collar. No, not wiping his nose to alleviate an itch, legitimately blowing his nose. Attractive. (He would later play a game on his iPhone for about 40 minutes with the phone on full volume and no headphones in sight.)

Arriving on time, we were excited to get our trip going. Unfortunately, this was thwarted by the inefficiency that is LAX. (I will save the detailed rundown of how much I hate this airport for when I write a future post on airports I’ve known and loathed, but suffice it to say LAX is right up there among the worst.)

We taxied for what seemed like an hour but stopped short of the terminal. Several minutes later, the pilot came on to tell us that our gate wasn’t ready and that we’d have to wait a bit longer. Ten minutes went by and the pilot came back on to tell us that the plane occupying our gate hadn’t pushed off yet but was supposed to do so soon. After another ten minutes, the pilot finally gave us the good news that our gate was open and we’d be pulling up shortly. Excellent. We creeped over to the Delta terminal–we were so close I could see the open gate–but were stopped again by all the ground traffic. The pilot came on to apologize for the congestion and asked us to stay put while we waited for the other taxing planes and various baggage carts to go by. Sigh. Maybe the ground crew was in lala land, too, because it certainly didn’t appear as though anything was happening in a hurry. Luckily, it was only five more minutes until we were finally at the gate and awaiting the jet bridge.

Griffith Park, Los Angeles

Probably professional models.

Inside the airport it was smooth sailing to the sea of chaos that is baggage claim and ground transport and an amazing weekend in LaLa Land commenced.

Also, M and I are apparently LuLuLemon models (see right; photo credit to E).

‘No’ Nonsense

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Trip type: Personal

Airline: Delta

Route: MSP-AUS

The word ‘No’ is one you hear frequently at the airport, especially from TSA and airline staff: “No, you can’t bring that bottle of hairspray in your carry-on”; “No, you can’t put your dog through the X-ray machine” (true story–I once saw a woman contemplating whether she was supposed to carry her Shih Tzu or put it on the conveyor), “No, you can’t jam your roller board under the seat in front of you if there isn’t any overhead space.” You catch my drift.

When the word ‘No’ comes from a fellow passenger however, things get decidedly more interesting. En route to Austin for a wedding last week, E and I observed two such instances:

#1: “No, I shall keep my jacket.”

My first story happened within 10 minutes of arriving at the airport (always a great tone to set for an afternoon of flying fun, no?). After scanning in at the podium, E and I queued at the third of four conveyors as it appeared that some altercation was going down on the fourth conveyor. In fact, the fourth conveyor was completely stopped, giving off a post-apocalyptic vibe with all its luggage and bins frozen on their way to the X-ray machine.

Beside the abandoned lane was a family made up of about eight 20-somethings and one old man who was probably in his mid-70s. E and I quickly pieced together that the issue was with the older man who was dressed in a full suit and not speaking English. The younger family members were animatedly arguing with him as he, apparently, did not want to remove his suit jacket. After finally coaxing it off of him several minutes later, he did not want to relinquish it. He just kept yelling what I can only assume was, “No, I shall keep my jacket!” Or something to this effect.

The polite Minnesotans all around this debacle clucked concernedly to each other as the perturbed TSA agent kept (helpfully!) interjecting that the jacket went through the machine or the man didn’t fly.

I don’t know what became of this group. We clearly needed drinks after the steep emotional toll of observing this all go down so once through security, we were off to Surdyk’s.

#2: “No, I don’t think I can do that.”

As is my usual wont, I had booked us in exit rows for both ends of the trip. Settled in to Row 9, the Delta agent came by to get our verbal confirmation that we would all be willing and able to help in an emergency situation. Seated to E’s left (on the aisle) was an older woman who, when asked if she could help in an emergency situation, answered, “No, I don’t think I can do that.”

Now, on the one hand I have to give her kudos for her honesty. She certainly didn’t look like she’d be the most useful in a high-adrenaline situation (there’s no way she could have done anything with a 42 pound door) so it was definitely for the good of the plane that she responded in the negative.

On the other hand, why the deuce did she book an emergency row in the first place?

At any rate, the Delta flight attendant handled the situation calmly. He took her response in stride and suggested another seat for her…which she turned down. Yes, it was at the back of the plane but oy. She then suggested that she’d stay in her seat after all but the flight attendant told her that she’d already said no and therefore he had to respect that response and move her. As you can imagine, there was no shortage of passengers willing to switch with her so it didn’t take long to get the whole thing sorted. Plus, her replacement looked much more able-bodied should any disasters have arisen.

After a whole lot of surprising ‘no’s, we were finally off to the capital of Texas. Yeehaw and whatnot.

Home now, several things have been reaffirmed for me:

  1. I could die happily if I got to eat Migas daily.
  2. E can cut a serious rug.
  3. I am not built for heat. I was mostly a melty pool of Minnesotan for three straight days.

Until the next trip, y’all!

A Sense of Entitlement

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Trip type: Personal

Airline: Delta

Route: MSP-MSY

Flying, I’ve found, is nothing but a very complex game. And, as a textbook firstborn, I prefer to play games I can master–and win. Alas, where there is always a ladder to a faster, better way around things, there is also a chute that will slow your progress completely.

Also much like a game, there’s always a way to cheat. Some cheat moves are fairer than others (like cutting the security line with a status card), some are all right when necessary (jostling seats to accommodate a family that has been separated), and some are reprehensible. Like boarding outside your zone.

For those of us that spend a fair amount of time flying, the little perks accumulated that allow for sanctioned cheats start to mean everything. Especially early boarding (which in this super fun metaphor, would be a ladder). So when someone tries to get around this rule, whether by cunning or stupidity, I get stabby.

Jackson Square, New Orleans

Hola, NoLa!

On my way to New Orleans last week (E had a conference and I decided to tag along and get in some shopping and eating in a new city), there was just such an example.

As with most of the flights I’m on, the flight to New Orleans was delayed. I find that this fact seems to up the quotient of people (especially those with status) not only cheating at boarding, but feeling completely justified in doing so. As if their ‘time served’ in the boarding area entitles them to board whenever the F they feel like it. What’s even more annoying than this fact is that they usually get away with it. There’s nothing more a dedicated rule-follower loathes than someone who breaks the rules without consequence. It’s hard being so virtuous.

But I digress. Back to C25. A half hour late, we began boarding. I had been “vulturing”, as E and I have coined it, on the boarding lane since it became clear that Lenny, the gate agent, would be moving us all through as fast as possible. After pre-boarding some delightful old Russian ladies, he called for First Class and all of the vultures took an unconscious step forward.

I had noticed a pair of Diamond fliers off to the right of the boarding lane since I’d started my hover and now I saw that they were inching closer to the scanner, presumably to sneak on with the First Class cabin. As noted, I see this happen all the time. Should I be so worked up about it? Probably not. But it’s the principle of the thing.

Stanley, Jackson Square, New Orleans

Eggs Benedict with fried oysters? Sure, why not?

Luckily, much like Roger from the other week, Lenny was ON. IT. As they shiftily sidled up to the scanner, Lenny asked them if they were First Class. When they admitted they weren’t, he asked them to slide down the chute and wait for the Sky Priority Zone to be called. After they only shuffled a step back, he asked them to remove themselves all the way off the boarding carpet. I chipped in by giving them the Stink Eye to let them know their hijinks hadn’t gone unnoticed. It was awesome.

Although I realize the Lennys of the world are few and far between, it was a nice win for the Rule Followers and the perfect start to a long weekend of shopping, eating, and Jazz Fest-ing.

Pre-Checked

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Trip type: Business

Airline: Delta

Route: ATL-MSP

It’s the little things that make all the difference, especially when you’re running around airports all the time. Given the usual propensity for flying snafus, my standards for these ‘little things’ is awfully low…a TSA agent who enjoys living, a flight that departs on time, not having anything dropped/spilled on me (got some Fresca to the eye on last night’s flight home courtesy of some aggressive can-opening on the part of the flight attendant).

And if it’s the little things that make all the difference, it’s the big things that make my day…unexpected upgrades, someone offering to put my bag up, and the new TSA PreCheck program.

If you haven’t heard about the PreCheck Program, I’ll explain it to you like I explained it to my friend Christine:

Yep, it’s like flying in 1999 again. Usually, I’m a fan of progress (did I truly live before my iPhone? Debatable.) but the security hassle around flying nowadays can be exhausting. [This is no comment on its necessity, just an acknowledgement of how laborious everything is at present.]

Anyway, back to the PreCheck program. Rolled out selectively beginning in October of last year, the program allowed some frequent fliers of Delta and American to fork over additional personal information in exchange for a quicker pass through security where you don’t have to take off your shoes or belt or remove your laptop or baggies. Since then, more airports have been added, including MSP, which was how I signed up in January.

Someone will have to correct me if I’m wrong on this, but I believe for a while you could only use PreCheck out of your home base airport. I’ve been to ATL many times since signing up but never got to use it out of Hartsfield-Jackson until yesterday when I was pointed to the coveted PreCheck lane after scanning my boarding pass at the pre-checkpoint checkpoint (one could never be enough). I walked right up to the podium, scanned my boarding pass and went into a blissfully open line where there was a dedicated agent awaiting me:

“Ma’am, I’m going to help you out today.”

-“Sounds great; thanks”

“What can I say? I love my job!”

-“Wow, maybe I should work for TSA.”

Quietly, conspiratorially: “No, you really don’t want to do that.”

-“Noted.”

I threw my bags on the conveyor and walked right through the detector (not even a full-body scanner)–shoes and all. I was literally done with security and headed for a Departures monitor in a minute. Glorious. The only two downsides I can foresee are that I’ll be tempted to arrive to the airport even later and that I might have to rename this blog if I no longer have to obsess over my baggie. A small price to pay.

The rest of the flight was uneventful aside from a pretty epic Battle of Elbow with my seat mate (and the previously noted Fresca mishap). It actually got to the point where I didn’t even want it and my left elbow was going numb from trying to keep it on the armrest but, on principle, I had to keep fighting for it. Hard to say who won so I’ll chalk it up as a win since this is my blog and all.

Conveyer Belt Connoisseur

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Trip type: Business

Airline: Delta

Route: MSP-ATL

I spend a lot of time bemoaning that the situation in which I recently found myself flying was the worst ever (Exhibits A, B and C)…and then I somehow manage to top it. Perhaps I’m just consistently melodramatic, but I prefer to think there’s just always a new echelon of absurdity that was heretofore unknown.

This morning, the ridiculousness was found in the security line. To be fair though, I should start by prefacing that my amusement level was pretty low to start. Due to the fact I was headed to a partner conference commencing at noon on a Sunday in Atlanta, I was on the 6:30am flight out of MSP. My previously noted frustrations with Sunday fliers (omg the lallygagging!) was in full effect and only heightened by the fact I had to be subjected to it whilst in full work attire.

So. Here we go. After once again forgetting to use the TSA Pre-Check lane, I found myself in conveyer gridlock behind, presumably, the most clueless people at the airport. (Yes, I know I already had a tirade last week about Googling how to travel correctly, but the seven people in front of me did not get the memo. I was also annoyed to have, yet again, managed to pick the lane that came to a standstill thanks to someone with more liquid than solid in her carry-on).

Luckily, Roger had my back. Roger was the TSA agent assigned to my line who clearly LOVES his job. He happily plucked the 20 tiny liquid bottles from the aforementioned woman’s carry-on and packed them into a baggie for her, all while explaining the historical background of the liquid sitch. He then repacked a man’s three bins into two (helpfully interjecting pointers on how to put one’s shoes just so in order to maximize space). Sadly for him, when Roger got to me there was nothing to fix. He saw my Delta luggage tag and commented that frequent fliers make his life so much easier. I felt pretty smug…

…Until the TSA guy at the other side of the conveyer asked, solemnly, if I was on my way to a funeral. Maybe it’s time for more color in my workwear.

Comparative Studies in Security Lines

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Trip type: Personal

Airline: Delta

Route: MSP-BDL / BDL-MSP

Holiday weekend travel, nothing better–amirite?! This past weekend, E and I did a quick back and forth from fly-over to Passover and I was unbelievably annoyed from start to finish. Look, I get that I am short on patience. And I get that I fly more than many, especially more than the infrequent flyers that come out of the woodwork around the holidays, but can I get a collective oy? If you don’t travel a lot, please save yourself a dirty look from me and Google “things to know when you fly”, Ok? Ok.

First things first: The Way There

After a 4am wakeup call, we were at the airport at 5:30 for our 7am flight to Connecticut and surprised to find very short security lines. Unfortunately, what was lacking in volume was made up for in annoyingness of fellow travelers.

In the security line, we were behind a family of four who had no idea what was going on. Understanding exactly half the Ziploc directive, they had their liquids packed in appropriately sized baggies…and several of them per person. Sigh. I amusedly watched the mother practically get naked in anticipation of the body scanner–shoes, socks, belt, coat, sweatshirt (I almost intervened to stop her when she decided she was bare enough)–and wedge all these items into one plastic bin (along with her three Ziplocs, purse and the shoulder strap of her duffel bag), as if she thought there was a one-per-person limit.

Breakfast of champions.

I then turned irrationally livid watching the girl behind me get pulled out of line and told that the full-size liquids in her carry-on were not allowed. “What? Really? But it says it’s travel size.” OMFG. E had to pull me away from the security area before my invective became too audible.

To be fair, however, unlike the second story I’m about to weave for you, at least these travelers didn’t delay me. You do not want to delay me at the airport. Ask E what happens if you walk too slowly on the moving sidewalk.

Plus, we were upgraded (see right), which always makes life a little better. There are few things I enjoy as much as free liquor. Sorry, mom.

Second things second: Home again

More fun in the security line on the way home. Although Bradley has become a pretty good looking and well functioning airport, it still surprises me in how it can be slightly behind the times (for example: the full-body scanner needs eight seconds to process. All the big airports’ machines take three seconds. Just saying.).

In the one line that accepted electronic boarding passes (see what I mean?), E and I got split up between a family of three made of a father and his two teenage daughters who, as teenage girls are wont to be, looked completely bored and judgmental. The three of them were flying to California, connecting through somewhere, and the father handed the security agent their cumulative six boarding passes in one pile. The security agent was not pleased as he had to sort the boarding passes to look at the three currently in question. He then asked daughter #1 (the one who had a cold and was incapable of sneezing without commentary about how sick she felt) what her full name was.

“Christine.”

“Your full name.”

“What?”

Please shoot me. After he got her full name out of her, he turned to daughter #2 and asked the same question. You’d think watching her sister go through this unbelievably complicated exercise would have prepared her but you’d be giving her a lot more credit than she deserved. Unreal. Remind me to raise children that are self-aware.

Kosher-ish

Anyway, we finally got through the slow x-ray machine (behind a gentleman who took his belt off…but then tried to carry it through with him…) and on our way to upgrade #2. And yes, I’ve decided wine is kosher for Passover.

Home. Finally.

One last story. Despite all the conspiracy to slow us down, nothing could stop us from an amazing feat of speed upon landing. We went from pulling up at the gate at 12:59 to being in the car and exiting the Gold ramp at 1:11. I kid you not. We were in the first row of first class and pulled in to D1, so we definitely had the fates on our side but we were pretty impressed with ourselves regardless.

Happy spring holidays to you all!