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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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I suppose I deserved it, but holiday travels were a bit messy this weekend. True to form though, I don’t think I was every particularly surprised or frustrated, and it left me plenty of time to get some reading done.

Arrived at HPN a couple hours before my flight, to find out that it was delayed because the equipment had not yet shown up from ORD. ORD had heavy fog all day and it was backing things up.

Anyhow, they figured out that there was no chance I’d make my connection. I pointed out that it’s likely to be pretty delayed as well, so they let me keep it (there are a few times when “you won’t make it, there’s no point” has lead to me not being able to take an earlier “late” connection, another is yesterday, but we’ll get to that). However, she wanted to get me other options. Since my flight was the last one into AZO that day, there weren’t any other options, so here’s what started:

Agent: “I can get you from ORD to CVG tomorrow at 6AM, CVG to DTW at (something), DTW to AZO at 10:36.”

Me: “In the morning?”

Agent: “Hah.”

Anyhow, most flights were booked up because of the holidays, and I tried to explain to this lady that AZO is about 150 miles from ORD. There is no way I’m going to spend my night at ORD, and then another 14 hours in order to get from ORD to AZO by way of two connections. Because, you know, my chance of making those other two connections is really good.

However, she insisted I have another option, so I had to leave the ticket counter with this itinerary, and I’d have to call to cancel the secondary itinerary, because otherwise my return trip would be terminated.

Whatever. I eventually did this, as I did want to come home.

She seemed startled that I was not angry and throwing a fit, like everybody else in line. I have long since gotten past the temptation to yell at a gate agent or throw a fit. Throwing a fit doesn’t help anything, and the asshole next to me is only getting the therapeutic effect of yelling at a helpless gate agent, it’s certainly not going to change the situation.

Plane eventually showed up in HPN, but we got a crew disqualification, so they had to get a replacement in. On Friday before Christmas. During rush hour. You can sort of guess how that went.

Got into ORD five hours late, at around 11 (central), which is better than I expected (hey, at least I was in Chicago). Then we sat at the gate for 10 minutes waiting for a jetbridge driver. Nearly got in a fight with a guy yelling at the baggage handler for his gate checked bag, because, by god, he was in a hurry. The rest of us waiting for our gate checked bags were obviously not interested in making our connections.

But it was the Friday before Christmas, I didn’t want to end up in jail.

Got my gate checked bag (yeah, I should mention, I’m not stupid; I certainly wasn’t going to travel with checked bags this weekend). Ran full out to my departure gate (my connection was already off the board), and was told I missed the open door by two minutes. Yep, missing jetbridge driver was the difference between making my connection and not. It had also suffered over four hours of delays and was still waiting when I got into the airport. Oh well, didn’t particularly anger or surprise me.

Talked to mom a bit on the phone, found out there’s a bus leaving ORD for Michigan City in about an hour, or there’s one leaving in … four minutes, and it’s on the other side of the terminal, across the tunnel, and down two stories in the parking structure.

More running, show up at the bus as it’s rolling out, but the driver stops and lets me on. Hour and a half and $25 later I’m in Michigan City, where dad picks me up. He drives me then all the way on to Kalamazoo, I make it there a bit after 2, and hereturns to Stevensville near 4 in the morning.

Weekend was pretty uneventful. Saw mom’s side of the family Saturday. Grandma isn’t doing well. Hung out with mom and dad some more, and then went to visit with Bill and Krista. Left Stevensville a bit after 11, and get into Kalamazoo an hour later. Notice that the winds on 94 are epic, and I’m getting tossed around in my piece of shit Chevy Aveo rental like something awful.

Oh, right, the rental car.

Because I got in so late Friday, I couldn’t grab my rental from AZO when I got there. On the bus trip over I called Avis to confirm that I could pick it up the next day. First operator transferred me to “the other avis” (no joke), where I repeated my talk, and then they indicated that since this as a pre-book through a travel agent (Orbitz), I had to call them. “Well, can you just tell me if I can pick it up tomorrow?” “No, you probably won’t be able to.”

Alright, whatever. Call Orbitz. Lady says that usually there’s a 24-hour grace period, but that she’ll call Avis to confirm.

That part is sort of fucked up, and I’ve dealt with it before. Call Orbitz, so they can call the number you just called and have the same conversation, because they’re the agent now. I really need to get in the habit of direct booking I guess, just using Orbitz/etc. as the initial price screen.

Get that sorted out after spending most of the way to Hammond on hold. Helio Fin battery life by the way? Not so great.

So anyhow, I showed up at the airport at 8 on Saturday, taking the shuttle from the hotel. Since they open at 7:30, I figured I’d let myself sleep in a bit. Notice a big crowd around Avis. Notice a complete lack of Avis people at Avis.

“They didn’t show up for work today.”

Oh. Nice. A lot of people rightfully angry, and trying to take it out on anybody that shows up. I calmy try to recommend that when Avis does send a replacement, that it will not have been her fault personally that this whole thing happened, but it falls on deaf ears. Long story short, the lady that was supposed to be there slept through showing up to work today. They sent a replacement that got there around 10:37, and I left with my car at about half past 11. Shortly before this, the original girl called and said “whoops, I overslept.” The replacement that showed up was not too enthused; it was her last day, and she was going to have the 3 to 10 shift that night.

(Monday, when I left, the counter was staffed by an agent who drove in from Lansing and a big “now hiring” sign was up. No joke.)

Right, so that’s the car story. The Chevy Aveo, like all cheap American cars, continues to be a miserable piece of shit. Pedals are poorly spaced, brakes have a good two inches of travel before the cruise control cancels (let along the brakes start doing anything), UI is horrible, it feels like cheap plastic (I mean, it is, but it doesn’t have to feel like it), there’s no feeling in the steering, and it has the power of a pull-start mower. Oh, and to add insult to injury, mine hasn’t been cleaned in several weeks, and is covered with dirt and soda stains. Classy.

Getting back to the chronological order of things, Sunday I picked up Brendan and V, and we headed to Coldwater for Christmas with my dad’s side of the family. We did brunch instead of a traditional dinner, and it was tasty. Was good to see everybody, and the grab-bag-only Christmas works remarkably well. I left with a spring-loaded notebook and a pound of assorted jerky. The power drill was nice, but I couldn’t fit it in my carry-on, I already had gotten a bowl from dad this trip, and I didn’t need a microplane grater, though it looks nice with a red handle.

Drive back from Coldwater to Kalamazoo, it’s snowing a bit, and we’re still getting the 40 knot winds with big gusts. Not many trucks braving the road. Hang out with Brendan a bit at his place, and then go to Applebee’s for dinner at 9, since I’m not sure my next opportunity to eat, even though I’m not hungry. Way back from Applebee’s it’s been snowing a lot, and roads are grade A nasty. And I’m cold. I took the down shell out of my ski jacket and just kept the hard shell with me for the trip, thinking that plus a hoodie would be enough for Michigan. I’ve gotten soft, as it wasn’t enough for me. Teens and forty knot winds plus blowing snow, and I was a bit cold. Made it back to hotel, barely make it to the building without my possessions being blown away. Check into AZO, found out they’d been closed in terms of inbound air traffic for hours already by that point. Pretty sure I’m not going to be going anywhere the next morning.

Get to airport at 4:45. Make note of the conspicuous lack of planes except for a single SF340. True to form, find out at the counter that my equipment is in Toledo, and the chances of me getting bumped over to that SF340 and a Northwest return via DTW are zero, since they were supposed to have five SF340 aircraft that morning, not one, and they were standby four planes long on that aircraft already.

No worries.

Gate agent scheduled me for the 11:30 departure (hah, right), as the E145 was supposed to be arriving from Toledo at 11. 11:50 connection out of ORD to PHL, PHL to HPN arriving 17:30. Fine. So, sat in cafe area of AZO for six hours. Entered security. “AARON TUBBS PLEASE RETURN TO TICKET COUNTER.” Great.

But it actually was good news. Seat opened up on earlier ORD to HPN flight, so I’d just direct from there. Besides, the plane was later than expected and I wouldn’t make my connections anyway.

Left AZO near 13:00, made it into ORD, walked to gate, confirmed plane was late, and grabbed lunch. Noticed that the original (by itinerary, I was never actually ticketed for it) HPN flight was still there, but found outthat there was a waitlist, and I wouldn’t have a chance. No biggie there. Plane showed up eventually, boarded, and we were then informed we had no captain, but he was arriving on another flight in about five minutes, and we’d surely be out of there in ten minutes or so. Wheels up about an hour later (no queue delays the whole trip, amazingly), smooth flight into HPN, despite the typical crying baby, child allowed to use plane as toy (playing with the air vents kept him occupied for a good hour), and the insane lady next to me.

No, seriously, insane. I mean, I rode out on one leg with this goth chick who was afraid to show her face, but the lady I rode back with this (by the fucking way, I got the non-reclining seats in front of the exit row on the 2-hour EJ145 hell trip back to HPN, even though I was original confirmed for aisle exit row; my seats were bumped at the gate for weight and balance, argh) leg ot the trip was nuts. She kept talking to herself, and muttering choice phrases like:

“No, don’t show me that again!”
“I’ve seen enough, I don’t need to see anymore!”
“No, don’t make me, I don’t have to!”
“At least there were no terrorists on that flight!”
“Now I’ve seen it, I don’t need to ever see that again!”

Anyhow, got to HPN from AZO in thirteen hours, which is roughly the time it would have taken to drive, so I was pretty pleased. Probably some of my better holiday travel luck.