Spaf's Journal: Sittin on the Runway

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This was supposed to be a quick and easy trip -- fly to Boston, do a talk for Tripwire, fly to NYC, do two more talks, fly home. But simple trips never seem to be simple, do they?

Monday afternoon: drive to the Indy airport. Construction and two traffic accidents slow me down so I drive like a madman to make the flight. I arrive at the airport 2 minutes before the scheduled departure. I rush into the airport. The flight is shown on time, but still boarding. I rush to the gate. They lied -- the plane isn't even there yet. So, I wait around for 45 minutes until the plane comes in and we take off. I takes me about that long to catch my breath. I'm getting too old for this (or maybe simply too out of shape).

Arrival in Boston, no problems. The limo service picks me up and is taking me to Waltham. The driver hands me a bottle of water to drink -- one of those sports bottles with the pull up nozzle. I take a drink, then go to set it down while I try to call home on my cell phone. The bottle falls over on the floor twice, so I place it between my knees to hold it steady. As I'm dialing the phone, some jerk cuts my driver off and he slams on the brakes. I involuntarily jam my knees together. The top pops up, and about 2 cups of water spray into my beard and then down into the crotch of my pants. Wonderful presentation -- I can't wait to get out of the car at the hotel and have them wonder why I am there and if the authorities know I am missing.

Arrive at the hotel, still damp. They don't have my reservation. The confirmation number I have doesn't match the format of any of theirs. I can't raise anyone on the phone who might know the number or help out, and I am informed that all the hotels for 20 miles around are sold out. I have no choice but sit in the lobby and await rescue by the Tripwire people when they return from wherever they went for dinner. The hotel clerks are muttering to each other about the guy with the wet pants sitting in the lobby who is convinced he has a reservation. I hope the Tripwire folks return before the men in white coats are summoned.

Finally, around 10 pm, the folks from Tripwire show up and straighten things out. Not only do I have one room reservation, I have two! But neither has my name spelled correctly, and neither has a confirmation number resembling what I was given. Everyone is mystified. I get one of my rooms and we repair to the bar. Where we watch the Pacers lose the last game of the championship. Rats.

Tuesday: almost completely uneventful. My talk goes well. However, lots of people want to say hello and shake my hand. Unfortunately, my RSI problem is acting up and this makes my hand hurt a lot by the end of the session. Tomorrow, I will wear the brace to forestall this. Afterwards I hook up with former roommates Tom & Dave for dinner. We go to a great Cuban fish place, and in an odd bout of synchronicity, they have mojitos on the menu (new friend Annie and I were discussing these in email as the Cuban version of mint juleps. I had never heard of them. She avowed that I needed to sample one at the earliest opportunity. 3 days later, what is on the menu? Wow! Must remember to ask her about stock picks, too. :-) As promised, the mojitos are quite tasty. Dave and Tom restrain me from having more because they don't want to have to carry me to the car. Dessert is chocolate cake with mango. Yum!

After some more conversation, Dave takes me to the Boston airport to catch the shuttle to NYC. We get there early and I am able to catch an earlier flight. I'm sitting in my aisle seat when this very attractive women in her mid 30s comes up to sit in the window seat in my row. She is wearing a very stylish black dress, and one of my favorite perfumes -- Angel, by Mugler. I comment to her on her good taste. She offers me some candy. Great perfume and lemon drops -- what a deal! We spend the 45 minute flight chatting. She's returning from her grandmother's funeral, which explains the black outfit. She's also got 3 kids, which explains the purse full of candy (I think). Pleasant company for the flight, and a definite improvement from my usual luck in random seat companions.

Uneventful ride to my hotel, although my taxi driver is rather far removed from "Angel" status -- I suspect he has not really bathed in a few days, and that combined with the pungent curry odor is almost more than I can take. Luckily, the window rolls down. It is still not enough to prevent me having curry flashbacks all evening long.

The hotel has my reservation, so I check in, check my email, and get to bed about 1 am.

Wednesday: I am awakened at 5:30 am by some scraping and pounding noise in the room above me. I cannot return to sleep. As I lie awake and stare at the ceiling, I wonder what the noise is from. Could it be an inconsiderate group of construction workers? Overzealous termites? Android newlyweds? Whatever and whoever it is, they are far too noisy this early in the morning. At 7 am I admit defeat and arise to meet the day.

The rest of the day passes without undue event. My talks go well, and the audience is responsive. Wearing the wrist brace helps keep me from getting sore -- when people shake my hand, they are more gentle when they feel the brace. Good thing.

After good-byes all around I check out and go on to the airport. I get there an hour before the flight and catch up on some email. I notice the flight is delayed by 30 minutes. And lots and lots of other flights in the region have been cancelled. Hmmmm.

The jet is an Embraer -- small, single class. 36 of us board at 7 pm (NYC time; 6pm West Lafayette). This should be about a 90 minute flight to Indianapolis.

The jet taxis out to the apron and joins a line of 9 other jets awaiting takeoff. The pilot informs us that bad weather has forced an indefinite hold. He powers down the engines.

After an hour, the flight attendant serves drinks.

After two hours, the flight attendant serves more drinks and the boxed snack.

After three hours, the flight attendant serves the last round of drinks because all the ice is gone.

In the passenger compartment, we are all getting bored. We're striking up conversations, making bad jokes, exchanging magazines....

The pilot has been providing us regular updates. ATC has closed takeoff temporarily because of the severity of the thunderstorms, so there is little he can do unless the airline recalls him to the gate. They haven't done so yet, as the storm is expected to pass through the area "soon" and clear out to the west.

After 3 hours and 45 minutes wait, the pilot gets the all clear,. We sit down, strap in, and he fires up the engines. The jets in front of us take off one by one through a break in the storm. We get to the head of the line.....and ATC halts takeoffs again. So, we taxi back to the terminal to get more fuel, more ice, and get the toilet serviced (it has become an air hazard at the back of the plane from all the recycled drinks we've been served).

About a half-dozen passengers decide to leave the plane at 11:15pm local time. It is now raining outside -- hard. They're told that because the flight has not been cancelled, they are responsible for their own rooms and that both of the first flights in the morning are already overbooked. They don't care-- they've had enough of our jokes and banter. Yes, in the middle of the plane, a small group of us are having a great time. About an hour earlier, the flight attendant started handing out the booze for free, and the guys in the seat behind me (both named Brian) have been hitting it. One is with Arthur Andersen and the other is in construction. And the blonde sitting next to me....

If you've read my stories much, you know how often I sit next to the kooks, the misfits, and the bizarre. It's as if the airline personnel have a flag in my travel profile that says "He's one of them -- put them together with any other odd ones on the flight." Well, not this trip. Sitting next to me was an absolutely zany and very attractive woman. After joking with her for nearly two hours, I found out she is an actress and model. And not just any model -- a model for lingerie and swimwear. She flies to NYC for 8 days every month to model this stuff for major catalogs. She used to do Victoria Secret catalogs and the like before starting her own firm. Now she does buyer catalogs. She was incredibly funny, and had lots of good stories and odd remarks. (Most memorable: "It's ironic -- I do all this modeling of lingerie and underwear, and I can't stand to actually wear it -- I don't own any." This threw Brian the accountant for a loop and he kept coming back to it for the rest of the evening, annoying Lori the model more than a little.) Between us, we kept about 4 or 5 rows of people entertained and relaxed, thus possibly preventing attempted homicide on the pilot and copilot.

The plane rejoined the queue for takeoff after the brief servicing. At 1 am local time (12 midnight Indiana), the plane finally got clearance and took off -- a delay of 6 hours spent out on the tarmac. Most of us had numb posteriors. However, everyone on board claps and cheers, albeit weakly. Most of us agree this is about the worst experience we can recall flying. The company was fun, but the cramped conditions (little jet) and prolonged sitting simply was too painful.

The plane landed in Indianapolis at 1:45 am Indy time (2:45 NYC time). No one is waiting to meet the plane, which is just as well, because we must have resembled the Night of the Living Dead shambling off the plane. Brian and Brian have both decided to stay at the Ramada. Miss Lingerie is going to a nearby friend's house to crash because she lives in Anderson, an hour's drive away, and can't hack the drive.

Me, I have a 60 minute drive too. Luckily, traffic is light and the weather is good. I get home, unpack, and type in this last paragraph to send out to all of you -- it is now 4 am.

I love travel. And people wonder why I look stressed.

PS. In 15+ years of travel, I can only recall leaving out of LaGuardia on time once on any flight.

PPS. The last time I sat next to someone like Lori (Miss Lingerie) and told people about it, they didn't believe me. For some reason, people think I make this stuff up. To prove I'm not imagining Miss Lingerie, I got one of her promotional pictures she uses to advertise her agency (and self). She autographed it for me. :-) I've shown it to witnesses, but without Lori's permission, I'm not going to scan it in here. She said she's available for modeling if any of you are doing a catalog. Let me know (I'm not going to post her name and phone number here -- wouldn't be nice. She also has her physical stats on the card, I guess so you know what sizes she can model. I don't think I'll post those either But interesting.... :-). I told her I'd sign up with her and model if the Journal of Abnormal Psychology ever does a catalog. She said it's a deal.


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