Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Second Worst Flight

I'm getting a divorce. My poor parents are 0 for 3 in the children's successful marriage category. Since Brooke and I have seperated, I've been surrounded by good friends trying to help me heal. Some really good pearls have come out of that time like, "You're either in a relationship or 0 for."-Josh

Some opportunities have presented themselves as well. I decided to jump on Phil's offer to tail-guide for Mariska in India. It seemed like the perfect place to spend the purgatory between married and divorced. So I put in a rush order on a passport and visa renewal, tried not to think about the financial ramifications of this decision but rather the emotional ones, did my best to remain kind and gentle to Brooke through this transition, and chain-smoked.

Anchorage to Houston to Newark to Dehli to Kullu. Everything was going just peachy until we were about two hours out of Houston. I woke from one of my seventeen naps and raised my window shade. The sun blinded me. That seemed odd, either I had been asleep for many hours or we had turned around. Before I could wipe the nap drool off my chin, the captain came over the PA. You can always tell when an annoucement is coming from the collective groan of all the people using the inflight entertainment that just got interrupted.

The captain told us that a heckuva storm was pummelling Newark. Air Traffic Control had closed all of New York's airspace. "Don't worry, we anticipated this before we left Houston so we have plenty of fuel." So we circled and circled, mostly over Tennesee. The inflight map showed that the captain was doing a pretty good job, the circle on the screen got wider in a few spots but mostly he was following the same track until...

"Well folks we've used most of our extra fuel, ATC has routed us to Norfolk Virgina." We landed and got in line for fuel with the rest of the jets that had been hovering while waiting for the storm to blow through Newark.

My departure time out of Newark was 8pm. Since it was 7:30 and ATC still hadn't let us leave Norfolk, I was pretty sure I missed my flight. Ah well, at least we were waiting on nice hot tarmac that heated the cabin somewhere near the triple digits range, with an absolutely sold out plane full of parents on tour. The thing about parents on tour is that they realize no one wants to see the parents so they usually bring the babies.

The babies had a wail-off to pass the time on the runway. I had a contender sitting across the aisle from me but try as she might, she couldn't out scream the future President, astronaut, shortstop or teenage father in 12C. That boy could scream.

We finally got to Newark. Guess what waited for me there? It's true, another line! This one was full of patently pissed-off folks. The line crawled when it moved at all. At 11:05 about thirty people that I recognized from my flight joined the line. They had found a service desk right next to our gate when we had landed. I missed it and am glad I did cuz the agent's shift ended at eleven and no one replaced her.

"Next." I stepped up and a cute Hispanic American with way too much blue eye shadow said, "Where were you headed?" closely followed by, "Shit, why do I always get the hard ones?"
I got booked stand-by on Thursday and confirmed on Friday. Most folks know that the airlines no longer bump honeymooners to first-class for free, charge for lunches and extra bags and that sort of thing. Another awesome cost-cutting measure is that they no longer put people up when connections are missed.

Ms. Guerro told me that all the hotels near the airport were full due to the sheer volume of travellers that had been stranded by the storm. She said that I'd be able to find a motel on the strip, near where she live, miles and miles of motels and a cheap cab fare.

I've only been in the Newark airport once before, in fifth grade. Dad took me to New York and I remember him trying to find a cab to our hotel in Trenton. He asked a few drivers how much it might be, he wanted to make sure that the slick drivers weren't trying to pull one over on a hayseed and his son.

They all told him the same number. One of them explained to us that the lawmakers in Jersey had decided to fix fares by zone. So everybody going from the airport to all those motels on the strip would pay $18.

I finally got to the front of the cab line and said, "Take me to a motel on the 109 strip." Which one? Any one. But I have to have a name. Why, don't you know where I'm talking about? Yeah but I can't just drive around tell you find one. and on and on until I just got in and told the guy that i was done with lines and hassles and I was going to the 109 strip to find a motel and he indeed was taking me there.

Now I'm typing this in the Oak Grand Motel. $34 for two hours or $56 for the night, which is a pretty good deal if you think about it.