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Life and Times of an itinerant slacker in Sacramento. Thrills, Spills Galore coming soon. Not to mention lots of opinions.

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Friday, October 08, 2010

Getting There - A Day of Air Travel

Today is one of those inevitable days lost to travel. Nothing much you can say about a day like this beyond whinging about the quaint and trite realities of contemporary air travel. I can say, “my flight was on time, it was delayed, the luggage was or wasn't lost, TSA is a pain in the ass, felt crunched in my seat, it's not like it used to be.”

Today's experience was a little different than the normal, since I took flights that started at 11:00 AM instead of the unusual 0-dark thirty flight. As limited as options are between two Podunk towns like Sacramento and Madison, I was able to sleep through the 6:00 AM at the airport drill. K dropped me off on the way to work, so I got to hang around the airport from about eight AM to ten thirty. For the most part, leaving mid-day freed me from the usual crowds and waiting. Alas, I was not totally free.

After getting dropped off I hazily dragged my luggage to the check in line, passing empty counters and deserted baggage claim carousels. The Third World Frontier airlines I booked had a counter around a couple of corners from the main ticketing and check-in area. I was surprised to see a line of about 15 very glum looking people in line. I pulled up to the back of the line, towing my suitcase behind me. The line just didn't move. The sordid truth wasn't revealed to me until I asked the person in front of me if she was taking the 11:00 flight. She, and everyone else in line was very charitable about telling me the 9:00 flight had been canceled. The airline didn't have enough staff in Sacramento to handle rescheduling all the passengers. I was told it was a much grimmer scene by the gate.

Most of the jilted passengers were still in good cheer, pleasantly joking about their predicament, even a 50 year old guy at risk of missing his daughter's wedding in Oklahoma. Then came the screamer, that self-presumed possessor of great entitlement who angled herself between the passenger being served and the counter and peppered the attendant and the entire line with a litany of high pitched complaints. As if everybody else around hadn't already figured out this sucked.

The already stressed agent sent her to the back of the line (next to me, egads!). She loudly and shrilly resumed her tale of woe. Although our heads might have been a couple of feet apart, she was speaking in a stage voice, for the benefit of all. Something about how she was accustomed to good service and. . . I hope all that screeching hasn't robbed me of the ability to hear pitches.

Another agent set up a third line and called me forward since I was the only person there who was already booked for the next flight. It was a breeze for me after that. I sat in the food court outside security and nursed a coffee for an hour and a half while enjoying counter with a view of the runway and a place to plug in the computer. Sacramento's airport now has free internet. Free wifi and free electricity, w00t!

I did the quixotic and incomprehensible walk through the security gauntlet with no delay. In the early morning that step usually takes 20 minutes or more. After 10:00 there was no one waiting in line, and the TSA people seemed a little less surly than normal. The area near the gate had a less jolly feel. I was surprised to find a long line of refugees from the earlier flight still waiting in line to be dealt their fate. They didn't look happy. Given my 11:00 flight was the last Frontier flight to Denver, I suspect they were out of luck. The line still had about twenty people when I boarded my flight at 11:00.

Everybody says the U.S. Is running a Service Economy, but if this is how we do service, we are history.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

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I must enjoy shouting into a vacuum, but I think about getting my act together one of these days. My mom says I am very handsome and intelligent.

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