August 10, 2011

Travelogue: August 9, 2011

Yesterday ended up being a rough day of travel, and I guess this is the sort of thing you're supposed to blog about. It definitely could have been a lot worse, but I don't know if the day could have been longer. So here's a timeline of my day:

5:30 am - Rise n' shine. I had wisely packed everything the night before, but had some trouble sleeping. When the alarm went off I got right up.

6:00 am - Hit the road. The drive to the airport from CDC usually takes about an hour and 20 minutes, but with San Juan traffic you should budget at least two hours.

8:00 am - Arrive at the airport. I promptly received a phone call that one of my flights had been cancelled, but no worries - they'd rerouted me through Detroit and would actually get me into Grand Rapids sooner. I passed through security pretty quickly - was treated to the full body scan - and on the other side, called my dad with the good news.

9:45 am - In the air. Open seat next to me = legroom. They showed Water for Elephants and, being the huge Robert Pattinson fan I am, I was riveted.

1:45 pm - Land at JFK, where they have this:

That's a Best Buy vending machine. I could have bought an iPod from one vending machine, taken a few steps, and bought a Fanta from another. I guess this makes sense as a business model. I mean, Best Buy wants an airport presence, but doesn't really want to staff it or pay a lot of rent, so cram a few things in a vending machine and let the disposable income roll in. I felt like a total hick standing there taking a picture of a vending machine, marveling at the technology and novelty of it. Of course I didn't buy anything from it. Turns out the JFK airport is a pretty expensive place.

2:30 - Lunch time. After surveying all of my options, I chose a meal at Wendy's. Cost: $10. Had I wanted a Snapple, that would have been an additional $3.69. I think it's the perfect storm of having a captive audience and being in a place where the cost of living is ridiculously high.

Also, JFK airport - at least the Delta terminal - is crowded and short on seating. Not a great experience for the average traveler. They're going to redo the terminal, and I think they're doing it with Snapple profits.

3:00 - I rest my eyes for a little bit in an empty corner of the terminal, but not for too long. Better to stay awake, lest I conk out and miss the boarding call.

4:50 - Original departure time for Detroit.

5:30 - Revised departure time

5:51 - Revised departure time again.

6:27 - Final revised departure time. All that while, I really could have left the airport. But how was I supposed to know? I spent those hours wandering around the terminal, watching my departure time get later and later, thinking that it was increasingly clear I'd never make that connection from Detroit to Grand Rapids that was supposed to get me into town at 8:40. Also, one thing they don't have in Puerto Rico is good brewed unsweetened Iced Tea. I found it at Starbucks for $2.40 which, compared to a $3.69 Snapple, seems like a steal.

6:35 - We actually board the plane. And we do it out on the tarmac. Walked out there, up the steps, not using some fancy gate apparatus. That's fine with me, though, because it gave me a chance to feel for the first time in a bunch of months an atmosphere not saturated with humidity. But then, even after almost 2 hours of delay in the airport, we spent the next two hours sitting on the runway, waiting for fuel and for traffic to clear up. The guy in front of me said this happens all the time at JFK. He was flying with his little cousin who kept asking if we had taken off yet, if we were there yet, that sort of thing. Finally he told him "We're not actually going leave today. We're gonna take off tomorrow morning."

8:30 - Lift-off. Finally, we're in the air on the way to my beloved Michigan. Not a terribly long flight, at an hour and a half. But had everything gone according to plan I would have been descending on Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids right then.

10:00 - We land in Detroit. DTW, for what it's worth, has a really nice Delta terminal. It's clean, wide open, the stuff there isn't quite so expensive, it's laid out pretty simply, and there are lots of seats. And they have a neat fountain. I've decided I appreciate DTW. Since I didn't have much time to make my connection, I sprinted to a monitor and found out that the last Grand Rapids flight, which was supposed to leave at 10:25, was departing from another terminal. More sprinting.

10:10 - I step up to a gate where everyone is just standing around with no sense of urgency. What I hadn't noticed on the Departure screen was that this flight was delayed until 12:10 am. They had a seat for me. I ask the lady if I can score a meal voucher because of the delays. She says no, they don't give them out if it's weather related. I won't hassle her. There were tons of delays on the day and I don't want to be the grumpapotamus demanding she put right what Mother Nature was largely - but not solely - responsible for screwing up.

10:20 - Suddenly with lots of time to spare, I find a customer service rep at another gate and give him a more detailed account of my day - cancelled flight, delay at the reroute, delay now here - and he was more than happy to give me $12 in vouchers for meals. The McDonald's employee encourages me to use every last dime of it, so I walk away with a full meal, two apple pies, and a Diet Pepsi for the road. Forgot the napkins, though.

12:15am - We board the plane to Grand Rapids. I'm in a sleepy kind of funk. I've been up for 19 hours. Just get me home.

1:00 am - We take off. They announce the flight is 19 minutes.

1:05 am - "Flight attendants, please prepare the cabin for landing."

1:19 am - We land. The terminal smells funny. It's a familiar smell, not a good one, but not too offensive.

1:30 am - Hello mom and dad. Lots of hugs. No balloons, no crowds, no singing, just a perfect little moment.

1:40 am - bags in hand, we walk out to the car. The air is cool. It's been more than 20 hours, and it's good to be home.

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