Saturday, December 02, 2006

Eleven Hours

My flight to Long Beach would have tested every ounce of patience in a Buddhist monk. I boarded my plane at 3:40pm and did not get off until 11:45pm... West Coast time. Yeah, an eleven hour ordeal in the same seat was tough to endure and I'm fortunate that I made it out alive. I took the flight as an exercise in having to deal with a 17 hour journey to Australia from LAX next month.

I could have freaked out but part of being a regular business traveler is to accept and anticipate delays, which are inevitable. I've wasted days and weeks of my life over the last two years due to random travel delays due to bad weather, mechanical failure, and breeches in security. I've figured out how to use that wasted time wisely by writing short stories, answering backlogged email, catching up with friends that I've neglected, and reading random magazines and books that I normally would not have time for.

Scheduled to depart JFK at 4:20, my JetBlue flight rolled away from the gate around 4:30. We sat on the tarmac for over three hours. Waiting. And waiting. Every twenty minutes or so the pilot would get on and explain the crappy weather situation (as every other TV in the cabin as tuned into the Weather Channel) and say they were looking into alternative routes.

By 7pm, the pilots settled on one route where we'd get to Long Beach eventually but would have to fly through the Great White North (aka Canada) in an end around over the first major snow storm of this season. That flight plan would use a lot of fuel and include a stop over in Salt Lake City, UT to refuel which would add an another 30-40 minutes to our journey. It would take a while, but we'd definitely get into Long Beach before Midnight or four and a half hours later that originally scheduled versus waiting for a few more hours on the tarmac.

The pilots actually went west along Long Island than north up to Providence, RI before making a turn to the northwest over upstate NY into Canada. We reentered American airspace over Wisconsin and Minnesota and touched down in Utah for a refuel stop.

The best part about the flight were the stewardess who all did an awesome job, despite the fact they worked for four plus hours without pay. The clock doesn't start ticking until the plane takes off for them. I knew that and appreciated the fact that they did the best job possible keeping everyone happy.

The people around me were calm and cool with the situation too. That helped out immensely because we didn't have any negative energy surrounding us. Nothing is worse than having to sit next to a pissed off salesman from Long Island or next to a whiny spoiled princess from NJ bitching every five minutes about the delay.

There was a well-dressed blonde woman in her forties and her fifteen year old Lolita of a daughter wearing tight pink Juicy sweat pants in my row. They both dealt with the situation admirably. They were screwed because they were missing a connecting flight to Sacramento in Long Beach.

The woman had a rock on her finger the size of a golf ball. She was a nervous flier and the plane got caught up in a pocket of nasty winds for several minutes after takeoff. The turbulence doesn't bother me and I actually get off on those moments of flights that make normal people sick to their stomachs. I crave the thrill. I'm not afraid of the plane crashing. I'd rather die in a plane wreck like Buddy Holly than be found face-down ass-up in the shitter like Elvis.

Anyway, the bumps didn't rattle me as I switched the channels of the DirectTV using the handset. The plane rocked back and forth violently and the woman clutched down on the handset which included my hand. I didn't say anything when she tightly squeezed my hand for the next few minutes until the turbulence stopped.

I watched the Kings-Mavs game along with hockey highlights on ESPNews. I also caught a two hour documentary on the Sex Pistols and laughed everytime I saw Sid Vicious spewing off a narco-induced tirades of obscenities at the camera crew with cuts on his face and sporting a puffy eye after a random brawl. The History Channel kept my attention for two hours as I watched a WWII piece on Operation Market Garden where Dick Winters from Band of Brothers was one of the people interviewed about that phase of the war. Somewhere over Wyoming, I watched something about Vietnam aces and dogfights involving our pilots and Migs flown by the North Vietnamese, Russians, and Chinese.

I also cranked through the entire issue of Rolling Stone and finished a book (that Spaceman gave me when I visited him in Tennessee) called Rock Springs, a collection of short stories by Richard Ford, who happens to be Joe Speaker's favorite writer. I didn't sleep at all and a half hour before we reached Salt Lake City, the toilets were filled and you had to hold it until they cleaned them out during our stopover. That sucked for me because I had been drinking beer, something I rarely do on flights these days. They ran out of water and Heineken somewhere over Minnesota and I had to resort to drinking semi-cold Budweiser.

The temperature was 49 degrees when my flight arrived in Long Beach shortly before Midnight. By the time I snagged my luggage from baggage claim and Nicky picked me up, it was closer to 12:30am. We drove back to LA encountering no traffic as Nicky explained that both her and Showcase would have gone ballistic if they had to experience what just happened to me.

Nicky made Penne Arabiata with Italian sausage for me hours earlier that we were supposed to eat had my flight been on time. I didn't even bother heating it up and ate it cold in the kitchen as I stared out into the dark alley.

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