Friday, February 20, 2004

Leaving on a jet plane

Finally in the Ohio portion of our program, the tale of Cap'n Ken's flight back. Enjoy.

So, since they consider cake servers to be weapons, can you not discuss wedding plans in line? Airport security here in Dayton was not too bad, except that they required me to show ID twice in the same line. Once at the front of the line, once before I went to the scanners. Why? It seems one of those (the first, I'd imagine) is rather pointless, and it just served to slow things down as people reached for their IDs again after figuring we were done with them for the moment. And the monitors above the scanners now have this warning: "TALKING ABOUT OR CARRYING THE FOLLOWING ITEMS [weapons, explosives, mace] IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED". Talking about those items is strictly prohibited? I can't say to the person next to me "Hey, looks like they have banned mace now"" or strike up a conversation with a guy wearing a Ruger jacket about the comparative merits of the .357 Blackhawk and the .44 Super Blackhawk? I guess the TSA now controls your speech. Soon even thinking about such things will get you arrested.

They didn't hassle me for not taking off my shoes, though. So I guess I should be grateful for that.

Of course, Christopher Columbus' family runs a bed & breakfast in St. Augustine. Across the tarmac from my window-seat at Gate 14B is the airport fueling operation. The company's name is Wright Bros. Aero. The Wright Brothers were from Dayton and back in the day had both their bicycle shop and a small aviation business here. Is this the legacy of their company? The family of the men who invented powered flight now run an airline gas station in Dayton? Seems rather underwhelming.

Splat! The gate attendant just announced that we'll be delayed a few minutes because the airplane that's taking us back to Atlanta hit a flock of birds on the way down a few minutes ago. I can see the pilot, some ground crew members and what looks like a gate attendant out under the left wing now, checking things out. The gate agent was taking pictures, maybe as some FAA requirement or maybe for her own "funny bird incidents" scrapbook. I won't be able to publish this before my flight, so if the bird incident causes us to crash and die, I have to hope somebody finds my laptop and can get the data out. I'm saving this file on my desktop as "it_was_the_birds_that_did_it.txt"
BIRD UPDATE 1: It's now 5 minutes after our scheduled departure time, and we're still not able to board yet. The wings checked out OK, but there's apparently a bird-guts-related issue with the windshield of the plane. The gate ramp is blocking our view, but I can see three or four guys out in front of the plane, and water streaming off it as they remove the remains of our little feathered friends. If I was flying Southwest, I know this would make an episode of Airline.
BIRD UPDATE 2: We got out about 45 minutes late, and got in to Atlanta about 30 minutes late. The Atlantans among us (including Mr. Jackass mentioned below) had to sit on the plane a few minutes longer than we should have to let the people scrambling to make connections get off first. Damn birds.

The D-Zones. I discovered on the flight up Wednesday that Delta has instituted a new boarding procedure. It used to be they boarded First Class and their premium SkyMiles members, and then began boarding by rows starting in the rear. And I used that procedure to guide my seat-selection process. I picked 44A on the way up so I could go ahead and get on the plane to make sure I have space for my carry-on and all that. I picked 16A on the way back so I could get off the plane and get home sooner. A simple system that worked fine for me.

But I came to discover Wednesday that Delta now uses "zones" to determine when passengers board. And it's not a simple system. Zone 1 is obviously First Class and I heard a gate attendant say Medallion SkyMiles members all board in zones 2 and 3 (I bet you have to have a certain number of miles to make zone 2). But on the flight today, I was also in zone 2. In Row 16. There are 8 zones total, and on the way up my Row 44 seat was zone 4. Others who boarded in my zone were sitting near me in both instances, so they must group certain rows together to make the zones. But I don't know how the zone logic works, so how am I supposed to pick a seat based on my desires about boaring first or getting off first? Maybe delta.com has a key to figuring out your zone, but I imagine it's a more closely-held formula. We shall see.

Mr. Jackass. As I'm writing this, I suppose we're somewhere over Kentucky or Tennessee, but having read Sky Magazine on the way up and not having anything of my own to read, I thought I'd relate a story. Within about two minutes of boarding the plane, I managed to piss off the guy sitting next to me. Yes, he's sitting next to me right now. (To Mr. Jackass next to me - should your eyes wander over this way from your quite interesting-looking set of training materials - complete with very fancy WordPerfect clip art - you're a real fucking jackass.).

What happened is this - I got to my seat and found a computer case under the middle seat of my row. I was one of the first in my section to board, and there was nobody around who seemed to be connected to this bag. I asked the guy who just sat down in front of me if he'd put his bag under the seat behind him. He said no, so we both figured somebody had left it behind. So, being the thoughtful person I am, I called the stewardess from the back of the plane and showed her the case. She took it to figure out who's it was when Mr. Personality appears from the rear of the plane. Seems he lacks control of his bladder to the point that when he steps on an airplane, he must immediately use the bathroom. Or maybe he's just such a jackass that he doesn't care that he's going to get in the way of the 35 rows of people sitting behind us who are boarding as he comes back from the bathroom.

In either case, he shows up and I tell him I saw the computer case and it didn't appear to belong to anybody, so I gave it to the stewardess (who, of course, was still on the plane - it's not like his laptop had been shipped off to New York or anything). He snaps back something like "Jesus, I just went to the bathroom" and goes off to fetch his case. He returns and I apologize for a second time, to which he responds "I didn't realize I had to take my computer to the bathroom with me."

I was done trying to be a nice guy at that point and just stopped paying any attention to him. I've got my MP3s playing with my earbuds up to an unacceptable level, though. I hope he likes The White Stripes (he looks more like a James Taylor fan, though).

So there he sits in his nicely-pressed jeans, toying with his middle-management moustache and stinking of some kind of Aramis-level cologne.

And if you're reading this Mr. Jackass, may I say again "fuck you."

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