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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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So, those of you that have known me for a while know I have pretty spectacular luck, especially traveling around the holidays. The past includes diversions to military bases, flights being grounded for two days, crew disqualifications, greyhound rides to make connections, and obviously more trivial things like lost luggage.

So, this year I decided I would be as smart as possible about my flights:

  • Hub to hub only: Fly from JFK to DTW; ORD has fucked me too many times. But the key is no connections. By flying hubs only, should have a multitude of reschedule opportunities in the event of a flight cancellation.
  • Stay at the airport the night before my return flight so there’s no risk of traffic impacting my ability to leave.
  • No checked bags (duh)
  • Earliest flight possible coming back, since that’s the far busier day.
  • Fly out on Christmas day, when nobody really wants to be flying.

It’s not that things couldn’t go wrong with this, but I figured I did everything I could to reduce the risks of trouble.

The flight out wasn’t so bad; got to JFK in near record time and there were still plenty of spots in longterm parking, unlike many previous years, when I had to park in the FedEx lot and take the employee shuttle. Bonus.

Picked up my boarding pass, stood behind some civilians trying to learn how to make it through security, but I allowed plenty of time for this sort of nonsense.

Delta did a really awful job boarding the flight; they were operating three flights out of the gate, but didn’t have mine listed, even though it was boarding, which lead to all sorts of confusion in the lobby, and once I’d actually handed over my boarding pass. I didn’t realize how badly boarding could be fucked up, but this one took the cake. All told not a major setback; we ended up getting the plane shut up only about half an hour behind schedule.

Pushed back and sat on the tarmac for another hour waiting for a departure slot, and then things were pretty smooth after that. Landed, muscled past the morons waiting in front of the guy unloading the plane checks and blocking everybody else, found my way to the rental car shuttles, and got on my merry way.

The Mazda 6 wagon was a relatively decent station wagon. Or minivan. I’m not sure what it wants to be. It’s slightly smaller than a minivan, but has sliding doors in the back and a third row of seats. A miniwagon, I guess. Or a station van. No, miniwagon it is. It wasn’t peppy, and had a nasty tendency under acceleration to just hunt and redline rather than shift, and the front tires were bald, which made things interesting in the weather, but otherwise, no real complaints about the thing. Beyond that it was huge, that is.

So yeah, weather. When I got in, there was snow on the ground, but the roads were clear. Over night half an inch of ice rained down onto the parking lot, such that it was just a sheet of glass when I got up. The offramp of I-94 that I could see from my place must have had a dozen cars in the ditch in the space of 100 feet. Some of the worst roads I’ve ever seen, and I grew up in the damn place. Took until after 4 before my folks’ road was dealt with. The day slowly warmed up, but things didn’t start melting on their own until almost 7.

That night, there were thunderstorms.

By the time I was attempting to leave, it was almost 65, with 40 knot sustained winds and 70 knot gusts.

Michigan has weather, I miss that here.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Visited with the folks Thursday and Friday, and got to visit grandma at the nursing home. That sort of sucked. It was good, but it sucked.

Saturday was Christmas with my dad’s family, which was nice, and then I drove to the hotel, had a lousy overpriced dinner (captive audiences for the win), a mediocre bottle of wine, an improperly made martini (twist of lemon does not mean a 2″×1″×1/4" chunk with chunks of ice floating in it and too much vermouth, and horrid service.

Went to sleep, got up at 4, and tried to use the express kiosk at the hotel. It said my reservation didn’t exist.

Went to the main airport, tried the same thing. The kiosks would either tell me they weren’t operational until 4:30 (4:33 by this point, mind you) or that I didn’t exist.

So… got in a really long line after talking to an agent, and found out the line were people from my flight, which was canceled because the crew was missing. No biggie, the joy of having an ass-crack flight and getting to the airport early is that I should be able to get on the next flight, right?

So, everybody is flying home on Sunday for Christmas. There wasn’t a single option before the 31st (with two connections, mind you), and the original rebooking put me on a flight next week. I’m standing in line at 5AM on the 28th, and they’re telling me it’s going to be midweek before I can get a flight out.

I didn’t have nearly enough underwear to stick around another half week in Michigan, and I sort of needed to be back at work in, oh, 24 hours. Tried to book an Amtrak back, but their site was down for scheduled maintenance. Tried to get a car with Hertz; they had some, but not until noon. Called Avis, got a rental, and waited half an hour for the shuttle to come. Gave up, canceled Avis reservation, and went blindly on the budget van instead. Budget got me a car, I tried to leave in it, and was told it was the wrong car. They put it in the wrong spot. Returned it and got my real car.

And that’s how I drove home from Michigan, to JFK, so that I could pick up my car in the long-term lot, and drive home, from JFK. Getting in only 12 hours after I was originally scheduled to arrive, I think it’s quite possibly my most on-time return from Christmas yet.

Other highlights of the trip included a man in the nursing home explaining to me that another guy in a wheelchair had Alzheimer’s, and was fishing. That’s apparently all he remembered how to do now, and was fishing for the little dots in the tiles. It was a strange conversation.

Had a dream in which my brother said “Café au lait is when the French mix cigarette ash with their coffee.” That was also strange.

And, got to see dad’s displays at the art co-op where he has some of his bowls and rolling pins. That was pretty neat.

Didn’t get as much reading as I’d intended done; downside of driving, I suppose. Next year I think I’ll just stay home. Or people can come visit me, or something.

Some pictures of this nonsense to come, I suppose.