flying

Not-so-happy returns

(Sorry, I really don’t feel like doing a write up now. Hopefully, these notes will do)

 

10:15am – leave house

12:07pm – arrive in Harrisburg

12:35pm – locate the Sheet z across from the airport. Sandwiches is awful, fountain drink is okay… okay, the 2nd one was (as I dumped the first one out).

12:48pm – arrive at MDT, agent for American Airlines cannot find my tickets tells me it is MY responsibility to call Travel agent or booking site to find it.

12:59 pm – shouting my name and phone number into the phone just to get: “Sir, I can not hear you. I am hanging up.” *click*

1:07pm – try to call Expedia. Get nowhere. Go inside. “Try the other airlines.”

1:28pm – none of the other airlines can find my flight on AA either.

1:35pm – I have no choice. I MUST get a new ticket for an extra $100 plus taxes and fees. It is too late because the flight I was trying to get onto is already making its “final boarding call.”

1:48pm – have tickets in hand, go through security to have power happy TSA agent rip my bag open and lecture me about the toiletries in my clear mesh bag. She then informs me that if I continue “arguing with a federal agent” (apparently we are seeing two different things here) the officers surrounding me would “be more than happy to discuss it with you in our holding cell.”

1:54pm – Get to the other side of the “hey, that’s my fat, ugly, hairy stomach hanging out when I lift my arms, this isn’t awkward or embarrassing at all” machine and one of the intimidation agents from a few moments ago stops me and asks if there is “any medical condition that would impede me doing a full pat down of your persons?”

“Actually, yes, it’s called Autism Spectrum disorder and it means I have severe, um, dislike of strang…,” and of course he does it anyway. Thanks for making me to talk to myself.  It almost distracted me from the patdown. No, it didn’t.
“You can go now. Have a nice day.”

2:15pm – board flight as usual. It is probably the smallest plane I have ever been on. I can literally barely fit down the aisle, but my bag fit in the overhead… once I was able to figure out how to get it up there without hitting the passengers in the surrounding seats.

2:22pm – take off.

3pm – arrive at PHL for my 2hr, 15 minutes layover.

4:15pm – get early dinner at airport. Chicken was all right, but fries were cold.

4:23pm – return to terminal. Flight boards in an hour and twenty minutes.

4:47pm – Passengers from plane I’m going out on are disembarking.

5:11pm – “Once again, this is a completely full flight. ALL passengers in groups 7 or higher MUST check their carry on baggage.”

5:13 PM – cool. I’m in… group 8. Yah.

5:27 pm – boarding begins. Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere for the next 10-15 minutes.

5:47pm – finally board – it is another 10 minutes before we finished boarding and pushed back from the terminal. Just to find out we are “number 20 for take-off…”

6:44pm – Airborne. Things are starting to look up…

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Categories: adventures, Autism, flying, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, transportation, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Norfolk: Day 1 – Travel and tribulation

It’s 10am as I’m sitting here, fighting sleep in the middle of a crowded terminal and writing this intro while waiting for my flight to begin boarding. I had less then 3 hours of sleep as my shoulder and gut bothered my for most of the night and I had to leave the condo no later than 8am to get to the airport in time to get through both the chaos at AA’s self-check-in area and the notoriously difficult TSA screening area. This is going to be a great day.

So, we arrived at PHL approximately 20 minutes early. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, except that my layover has now gone from 2 hours and 40 minutes to just under 3 hours. Three hours at an airport is a long time so I stopped to get lunch in the food court between terminals B and C before heading over to the shuttle at gate C10.

I got off the half-full shuttle, walked up to the giant monitor above the “Information” desk and saw there was a flight to Norfolk leaving in less than 30 minutes from gate F29 so after some careful consideration, I decided to go for it. I get to the counter, speak with the middle-ages agent who looks at with a plastic airline smile and says:

“I’m sorry, the last passenger has already boarded, and the plane door is already shut.”

“So,” the gravity of the situation sinking in. “You’re not saying I’m too late?”

“Yes, but don’t worry. There’s another flight in only two hours. I’m sorry. Have a nice day.”

That’s the thing about people being “sorry” for me, it’s always bad news and their semi-sincere apologies never actually change the situation. However, I likes how she said “only two hours” as if pissing away time in an airport was easy and fun. It wasn’t.

I go back to the dining area near the entrance, put my bags on a chair and sit down at the table next to them. Less than a minute later, I’m approached by a blonde-haired young man in a bright yellow vest, probably going to tell me to “move along” or something.

“My name is Alex, and I work for the airport. And I have a, um, question for you. Are you coming in or out – arriving or departing today?”

“Both,” I replied cautiously.

“You mean like a layover, um, okay, thank you. Sorry for bothering you.”

What the hell just happened? I know he was fishing for a reason to toss me out of the airport, but his body language and anxious tone said otherwise. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he was…. *facepalm*

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s TWO “missed connections” in less than ten minutes. Yeah, overthinking an awkward two-minute encounter with a super-hot airport employee I’ll never see again is definitely going to make the next hour and…ugh, forty-five minutes just fly by. It didn’t.

An hour later, I was sitting in the crowded terminal area when the gate opened and people stream out of the small plane parked outside said gate, down a set of narrow stairs and down a cattle shoot to the gate that I’m supposed to be traveling out of. That is not a good sign, and it was exactly what I was afraid would happen. Guess what, it did, and as a special bonus, I was too large for my seatbelt to fit correctly and my toes were scrunched up in the same under-the-seat-in-front-of-me area as my bag. I had friction blisters on my toes, and my vacation hadn’t even started yet. The good news was it was only an hour long flight. Yep, wait three to fly one.

I leave the plane, relieved that I’m exiting into the gate rather than down those narrow stairs, and pass through the windowed bridge linking the terminal to the main lobby (which resembles the pre-security seating area at MCO) – where I could see that it was pouring rain outside. It was almost 6pm so I stopped into the only restaurant in the building that was still open – a sports bar with more TVs than patrons despite the nearly full airplane I just got off of.

I finish my food and head downstairs to the Baggage Claim area where I eventually find an information counter. When I asked the clueless young woman in the beige Navy uniform where the ground transportation counter, she just looked at me blankly. Apparently, ORF doesn’t offer “shared ride services” so if I wanted to do anything besides pick up my luggage and take it to my rental car (duh, this is America – EVERYONE drives), I was like the Navy says “SOL.”

I take my hat out of my bag, flip the hood of my raincoat up and walked around on the median until someone asked if I “needed a cab.” It wasn’t my first choice of transit, but it beat walking around on an uncovered median for another 10-15 minutes as my vacation officially opened….

Categories: adventures, florida, flying, Norfolk, Orlando, Pennsylvania, Philadephia, transportation, Virginia | Leave a comment

Holiday week in review

Dec 21st – My flight from Orlando to Baltimore was frustratingly delayed over an hour for unknown reasons so it was already dark by the time we landed at Baltimore-Washington International. I’m used to BWI, but I was completely unprepared for cold, wind… or the 35-cent increase in Light Rail fares. Due to my relatively late arrival in HVTC (7:30pm), mom decided she would pick me the next morning so I had an awful dinner at Panera Bread and could barely find my hotel in the scarcely lit side street surrounding the mall, let alone feel my ears\nose\fingers.

Dec 22nd – Overnight in Hunt Valley. Nothing exciting to report here except that I was going to post Hanukkah memes, but couldn’t find enough that weren’t juvenile or anti-Semitic. I’m all for humor (which is why I compile these meme posts to begin with), but NOT at the expense of others.

We got back to Shamokin barely in time to meet my aunt (yes, THAT one, and while I wasn’t looking forward to it, it went relatively well) and her boyfriend at a popular pizza place in the next town over. I say “barely” because mom turned down the wrong street and got completely lost so we had to ask Siri how to get back. However, I can say with certainty that “the best pizza in town” isn’t.

Dec 24th – Normally, we spend Christmas Eve going to my parent’s friends the Nye’s house for a special holiday themed “open house” at 5:30 for dinner (featuring “Uncle Paulie” in the world’s least convincing Santa outfit) before heading over to the Candlelight Service (7pm). THIS year, instead of doing that we went to my brother’s house in Nazareth for a Christmas Eve dinner with his family (wife, and two young children). It was loud, hectic and crowded, but I got some nice pictures.

Since said dinner wasn’t until at least 5pm, mom decided it was safer to stay overnight. I was downstairs in the basement on an uncomfortable air mattress with sheets that were too small to actually be of any use. Fortunately, the ticking of the clock 3 feet away from said mattress was loud enough to keep me awake until the heat kicked on around 2am.

Dec 25th – Did I mention, the kids “slept in” until 6am? Slackers. By the time I admitted defeat and headed upstairs around 7:15am, the living and sitting rooms were a complete war zone. Toys, wrapping paper, boxes, unopen able plastic containers. On the plus side, my “gift,” a plastic card for a gas station (your brother has no license and no car and you get him a gift certificate to a gas station?) was waiting for me in a tiny box in an otherwise untouched stack of gifts on the other side of the sofa. Breakfast was at 9am and was good. As soon as we finished, we packed our stuff in mom’s van and drove 5.3 miles to my OTHER brother’s house in Bethlehem.

It was 11am by the time we arrived, and my sister-in-law had just put out the last of her Christmas brunch. My mom chastised me “how can you say you are trying to ‘lose weight’ when you had not one but TWO breakfasts in two hours?” The conversation at the table I shared with my mom, brother, SIL and her parents quickly went from light and humorous to dark and slightly disturbing (dead pets, bird attacks, death camps and Donald Trump. I pitied my SIL for trying to keep the conversation as light as possible. After less than an hour there, we left and made the roughly 90-minute commute back to the middle of nowhere, where we could contemplate our nothing lives. At least, I don’t need a password for my mom’s wifi…

Dec 26th – Before today, I would have assumed this would be a separate post. You see today is the day BOTH my brothers came to Shamokin and brought their kids with them…but we weren’t here to celebrate Christmas. We were here to work, cleaning up the garage, my dad’s den and what’s left of the basement. We got the den passable – in that one is actually able to pass through it without killing themselves.

The reason only ONE of the three areas was tackled was our mom decided since my eldest was coming in around 11am, we would meet him at a REAL pizza place along with my aunt and her boyfriend (who was able to come in because it was “slow” in his shop), my other brother came in with his family at quarter-til-12 so we weren’t out of there until almost 2pm.

After this, we were ready to work…until my middle brother got an important call on his cell which left us in limbo for almost a full hour. Finally, we get to go outside and open a mysterious chest in the garage (dad wanted “all 5 boys” present for it, but my 3yo nephew and his older sister went home with their mom after lunch). Good news, there was stuff inside it; bad news, it was boring stuff so my SIL took my remaining nephew home while the three girls stayed behind and played Clue in the living room with gramma while the three of us tackled the desk\cabinets\miscellaneous stacks of paper between them (dating back to 1973). The girls definitely won the night…

 

Categories: adventures, Baltimore, coal region, family, florida, flying, Harrisburg, holidays, light rail, Orlando, Pennsylvania, transportation, weather | Leave a comment

Hanging in

Wednesday: Missed the bus to the airport this morning because I went to the wrong stop. In fairness, it WAS 5am and I was running on 2hrs of sleep (after packing and making plane reservations). I barely made it through security in time for my flight, but with the exception of minor turbulence coming into Charlotte, the rest of my trip went relatively smoothly with me arriving at MDT at 1:07pm (four minutes ahead of schedule).

My brother Andy and I arrived at the house around 3pm, and I almost didn’t recognize it: as he and my older brother Ned had spent the past four weekends sorting out his stuff whenever he fell asleep. It was a huge deal to be able to not only see but to actually be able to walk across the floor without worrying about knocking any of his towering piles of stuff over.

The meeting with the funeral director was long and arduous as we went over details for music, flowers, even the menu for the wake (to be held after the service). Then came the part about interviewing us for the obituary (which he initially said would run as a “teaser” on Friday and “in full” in Saturday’s edition). Once that was over, we met with my aunt Mary-Ann and her boyfriend at a local sports bar. It wasn’t necessarily my first choice (our options are kind of limited in town), but we did have a good time considering the circumstances even if I was on the wrong end of the table to make any meaningful part in the conversation.

Thursday: The funeral director came by in the morning to drop off the galley of the obituary for “corrections.” God, did it need them as everything they could get wrong, they did: his name, his place of birth, his rank in the Air Force, etc. Their grammar was almost as bad as their notetaking so I was basically forced to rewrite it from scratch as many of my dad’s friends came by or called to wish us their condolences.

Most of the afternoon was spent helping my brother cleaning up my dad’s den\garage. Piles of books, papers, folders, etc. were all boxed up and taken to the recycling center over on Venn Access (the garage alone took two trips – and we only tackled the front half of it). It wasn’t much… but like mom said to someone on the phone:

“It’s amazing how quickly you can delete all traces of a person’s life,” she said continuing with a sigh. “One day you have valuable possessions and then s-suddenly it’s all ‘trash’ to be thrown out.”

Friday: Woke up to see the changes Andy made to the obit this morning’s paper (I dreamed they made a bigger deal at the paper: editorial, op-ed & memorial cartoon). It made it seem so “final.”

I’m doing my best to keep everything together. Today is a “slow” day (most of his friends were here\called yesterday) It’ll be MUCH harder tomorrow when the rest of the family starts arriving for the viewing…

Categories: coal region, family, flying, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania | Leave a comment

Photo: Welcome home

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Categories: adventures, florida, flying, holidays, Orlando, photography, transportation | Leave a comment

travels and travails

I asked the woman at the front desk (same one who checked me in on Friday morning) last night to call an airport shuttle for me for this morning. She insisted on a firm time like I was supposed to know ahead of time what kind of traffic to expect (though The Tampa Bay Times reported that there MAY be a downtown-airport Light Rail line in the distant future) or how bad the line at security will be (I’ve waited as long as 2hrs and as short as 15 minutes). When she pressed me, I ended up choosing a conservative number that assumed the worst of both numbers – 9am for an 11:40am flight.

When I came down this morning at 8:45am, the first thing I saw was the bright white cab sitting in the sunshine. “That’s YOUR cab,” the desk agent said as if I couldn’t see it.

“Wow, I wasn’t expecting it to be here” [as I was 15 minutes AHEAD of schedule].

“ARE YOU CALLING ME ‘INCOMPETENT?!’ YOU gave me a job – ‘call a cab for 9am’ – and I DID IT, and I am VERY good at my job.”

“I did NOT say you were ‘incompetent.”

“You didn’t NEED to – you IMPLIED it. It’s the same thing. Take the receipt – it’s YOURS, and your cab is STILL waiting.”

Traffic was heavy, but I still managed to get to the airport I approximately 15 minutes. The driver wasn’t all that talkative during the trip which is just as well since I’m pretty sure he understood me as well as I understood his heavy South Asian accent.

He pulled up to the U.S Airways curb, bolted out of his seat and around to open the door for me immediately putting his hand in my face. I don’t even know how much I’m supposed to give him yet and he’s already clapping the tips of his fingers against his palm.

“Youuu forgiiit my TEEP,” he said literally blocking the door with his body.

“All I have is $5.”

“AAAEEEIII Tay-git!,” he said snatching it from my hand.

Whatever, I don’t have time to argue with him, I go inside with my empty wallet and find a SunTrust ATM next to the Ron Jon Surf Shop. I put my card in their machine and read the display…

“$2.95? That’s highway robbery!”

It didn’t matter; I wanted to find someplace that had breakfast. There was a Burger King next to the shuttle to “Terminal F” so I went in there. They didn’t have the McCafe coffee I wanted (though the cashier assumed I was talking about Starbucks’ Frappuccino) so I bought a small container of chocolate milk instead.

Security was on the opposite side of the shuttle route, though I found it curious that they had a ticket checkpoint on BOTH sides of the shuttle. Interestingly enough, the line for the TSA screenings was almost non-existent despite it being mid-morning which gave me plenty of time to find a work\charging station which was (conveniently enough) located directly in the center of the waiting area for my gate.

There are two major problems with sitting in the last row of the airplane: Being the last to get on and being the last to get OFF (at least getting on, I can actually move about). Luckily, I was in the 3rd from last row on the second leg of my return trip.

My flight from CLT to BWI was delayed by “inclement weather” that the weather app on my phone said Charlotte wasn’t getting. This also led to severe turbulence on take-off, but once we reached our cruising altitude things smoothed out considerably. The cloud watching for the first half of the trip was absolutely fascinating.

The plane landed in Baltimore at 4:19pm, and it took just over 20 minutes for me to get off the plane. Fortunately, I was entering into Terminal D so it was only a five minute walk to the light rail station.

When I got to said station, the train was already there. I bought a ticket, boarded the train, put my stuff down on the first available spot and then quickly gathered them up again and bolted to the restrooms immediately inside the glass doors.

Naturally, when I came out again, the train was gone.It was a full thirty minute wait for the next one to arrive, but it still beat having to take a damned cab back to Bolton Hill…

Categories: Baltimore, flying, light rail, Tampa, transportation | Leave a comment

A Lack of Love: Part 3

I go upstairs to my room, right the first half of this story and then suddenly remembered that it was Valentine’s Day – meaning if I didn’t get dinner soon I wouldn’t get dinner at all. I open my wallet, put the reserve cash in there and stuff it in my pocket before grabbing my room key and phone off the coffee bar counter and heading out to Downtown Disney.

I will say that I was extremely lucky to be able get a “walk-in” table at my first choice of restaurant. I was even luckier since both the food and service were easily the best I’d encountered during my stay on Disney property.

I was going through the crappy Disney Parks app while waiting for my food, and noticed that there was a show starting in 40 minutes in the main park with the nightly parade shortly thereafter.

I didn’t make the first show, but didn’t feel like sitting idly on Main Street USA until the parade started so I headed over to Jungle Cruise. The line took about 15 minutes and the guide was a lot better than the one I had this morning, her jokes were largely the same but her delivery was much more confident. The dock agent (not the same one as earlier) didn’t even look at me when I exited the boat.

Now, it was time to find somewhere to see the parade. There were very spots along Main Street to do so. I would have preferred Frontierland as it is usually less crowded, but they directing all foot traffic down Main Street USA where there was almost no available space to watch it except for one patch near City Hall behind a garbage can with a view partially blocked by a faux- antique lamppost.

The parade itself probably isn’t that bad on most nights, but this wasn’t one of them. Maybe their performers got sick, maybe the navigation systems in the floats was off or maybe someone in their Central Command wasn’t on their game, but the timing was completely off. It seemed as if all of the floats (which looked quite impressive, btw) were trying to avoid running over some invisible marching band.

That was it, day over. The last float pulled into the “unstaging” area and the so-called “almighty voice” declared the park was officially closed. I went back to my room; I had some sleep to catch up on – especially since I was planning on catching the first shuttle back to the airport…

Categories: California, Disneyland Resort, Disneys California Adventure, Disneys Resort Hotels, flying | Leave a comment

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