Nobody wants to sit there and listen to me complain about my job and the complications that sometimes come with it.
Nobody.The skies are only occasionally friendly on flights these days.And I get that. Who am I to complain? I have a killer job and don’t think for a minute that I don’t appreciate that.
But . . . but . . . this trip to Portland last week (or was it this week, or was it both) was a Jim Dandy of a trip.
It started with a drive to Kansas City to catch a plane for Phoenix. Then it was on to Portland, which was wet and cloudy most of the time we were there. It included a lackluster showing by Wichita State in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night.
So why did I just get home Monday?
Bad planning, I’m afraid. Instead of looking for flights out of Portland on Friday or even Saturday, some of us on the trip decided to honor our original tickets and avoid the change fee. That’s because we’re always looking to save McClatchy a dime; it’s just the kind of people we are.
So the wake-up call comes to our room at 3:40 on Sunday morning. I think it was Sunday, I’m not really sure. Yeah, Sunday. We get up and quickly get out in front of the hotel to catch a cab for the Portland airport. Things go smoothly, except the cabbie doesn’t speak much English. But neither do I, especially at that hour, so we make things work.
He drops four of us off, but one of us is on U.S. Air and the others are on United. No biggie, we’re all scheduled to get into Kansas City at about the same time.
My son, Jeff, is the guy on U.S. Air. He texts me that he has gotten first-class arrangements for both legs of the trip. I feigned some kind of interest, but most of my attention was on myself and the flight I was doing to catch with colleagues Paul Suellentrop and Fred Mann. We got on our 6 a.m. United flight and took off. It was looking like a glitch-free day.
But about 15 minutes into the flight, the captain announced that there was a mechanical issue, that a door on the plane might be ajar and that he was going to turn the plane around and head back to Portland. At that moment, I knew I was going to miss the connecting flight in Salt Lake City bound for Kansas City, where we had to pick up the car we had driven to get on our first flight. But, worst case, there would be another flight later in the day.
Except there wasn’t. When we arrived in KC, we spent 45 minutes talking to a ticket agent. He looked at everything, with United and with other airlines. And there was nothing. NOTHING!!!
The best we could do was to get out early the next morning. We were given hotel vouchers and meal vouchers and the Comfort Inn just outside of Salt Lake City gained three unexpected visitors. It wasn’t a bad place. It was relaxing. It just wasn’t home. But after that day of travel, we were eager to get some relaxation wherever we could get it.
Monday morning, we got on some flights. Paul and Fred booked themselves on a United flight to Minneapolis, then to Wichita. I stayed with the Kansas City game plan because of that car and because my son was in KC waiting for us. He found his own hotel Sunday night.
This flight, thankfully, was uneventful. And I even got to sit in first class, where my only mistake was taking the chicken pasta over the chicken sandwich. I thought about asking the flight attendant for a shave, but figured that was probably taking the whole “first class” thing too far.
We arrived in Kansas City around 2, got the car and made it to Wichita just before 5, driving through pouring rain much of the way.
So that was the trip to Portland. And back. It’s the “and back” part that messed me up.
I have a few other observations, though:
* What are the 10 strangest words strung together in the English language? I’ll go with: “Your seat cushion can be used as a flotation device.” Think about that for a moment. You hear those words before every flight and like most everything the flight attendant says during that awkward getting-to-know segment you tend to brush them off. Yet, consider for a moment the magnitude of those words. What the flight attendance is really saying is that if this airplane happens to crash into the ocean or another body of water, good luck with that seat cushion. Or am I missing something there? First of all, if the plane is going down and does crash into a body of water, what are the chances of me being able to find that seat cushion? I mean, I’ll look around, but I’m probably going to need a Plan B. Are there people out there championing seat cushions for saving their life after a plane crash? If so, I need to hear from those people because I gotta tell you, I’m not exactly confident that a seat cushion is going to do the trick for me if the plane goes down.
* Another thing about flying is the refreshments. They give you this little glass of soda or juice or whatever and that’s it. There are times when I want to ask for more, but I’m scared to because it might cost the airline another 4 cents. It seems against protocol to ask for more to drink. I never see anyone do it, even though what we’re given initially is no more than six ounces. And by the time the little cup is filled with ice, it might be more like four ounces. I need 12 ounces minimum, but I have never been able to summon the courage to ask for more. There are rare times when a flight attendant just hands you the can of soda and those are the times I most treasure flying. Thank goodness for that occasional generosity.
* I had a middle seat on the flight from Portland to Salt Lake City. I’m not s small guy, but I did my best to scrunch up. But there’s just no way to avoid the discomfort of leg touching with the passengers on each side, which happened to be men. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t want any part of my body touching any part of anybody else’s body on a plane flight. I don’t know these people. I will never see them again. But when a flight is over, I almost feel like I need to ask them to dinner because of how intimate we’ve been on the flight. I’ve been in relationships that didn’t have as much touching.