Thursday, November 26, 2009

lib > mia > lax... long beach > jfk

By Pauly
New York City

I'm in one of those phases where I'm constantly on the move and spending a significant time in airports, on planes, and stuck in lengthy lines with moronic holiday travelers. Tis the season to punch cheap bastards trying to stuff three oversized bags into the overhead compartment - even though you are only allowed one carry-on plus "your laptop bag" which these days translates into "two bags" which is fine with me except during the holidays.

Ah, before I continue my rant about amateur travelers, let me tell you about how I successfully fled Costa Rica without getting anything taken from me... aside a $26 departure tax. Seems as though they wouldn't let me even see the ticketing agent without getting shaken down for a tourist tax. Nicky and I had to go to a window behind bulletproof glass while an armed security guard directed me to one of the windows.

Otis, Nicky, and I shared a taxi from Playa Conchal to Liberia airport which was a 45-minute drive on a two-lane road. We got to see plenty of sugar cane and what looked like a low-speed police chase. We arrived super early and sat in the only air conditioned spot in the tiny outdoor airport. We played Chinese Poker with a deck of souvenir "Florida" cards that Strawberry Shortcake gifted me when she visited us during Halloween.

I slow-rolled a straight flush on Otis which tilted him for sure. Dick move on my part for sure, but it was well worth the reaction.

Our flight to Miami was about 60%, but poor Nicky got stuck behind two screaming kids with parents who did absolutely nothing to quiet them down. I don't have kids, but plenty of my friends do have kids and travel with them frequently. They do everything in their power to minimize the outbursts -- and at the least -- apologize to those around them for the noise pollution in a cramped space. Look, I know babies cry. It's what they do and I give plenty of leeway when I see parents doing everything possible to calm a crying baby. I get pissy when parents say "Fuck it" and let the entire airplane suffer. Personally, I think they should have to "pay for the seat" and then dole out that collected money to the people around them who were most affected by the crying. Heck, I want to see flight attendant fine parents who can't keep their kids quiet -- and then hand over that money to the passengers (as a bonus) for enduring the insanity.

Flight to Miami was 15 minutes early which was necessary because of the clusterfuck trying to clear immigration and customs then re-enter the airport for our connecting flight to LA. We spent some time in the Admirals Club lounge where I sorted through hundreds of emails.

We got into LAX kinda late and hit up In-N-Out Burger for dinner. I was in a grumpy mood because I had a long list of stuff to do before I flew to NYC. Sure, I had a blast on vacation -- but that was justa temporary respite. I returned to a mountain of problems and issues and had that heavy depressive funk that hovers over moments after you return from your vacation.

I stayed up late trying to catch up with work. I crashed for a few hours so I could get up early and run errands. I had to replace numerous items that were stolen at San Jose airport. I spent my morning completing those tasks and when I got home -- I was pummeled with a relapse of the flu. I was so scattered brained that I almost missed a deadline.

I opted to go to bed early -- 8:30pm and slept for almost nine hours. For you normal folk -- imagine sleeping 3x your normal amount. So if you get 8 hours a night, imagine sleeping a full day. That's what the nine hours felt for me. I woke up better -- but still bleh. At least I could function and I banged out one article and finished packing before we ate a customary last meal at Nick's Coffeeshop. Then it was off to Long Beach Airport.

We arrived early because there was not as much traffic on the 405 as per usual. I guess it was the calm before the Thanksgiving Day storm. Shit, I was flying on Turkey Day Eve which is known as "the worst possible day to travel" and after my experiences, I'm starting to think that label is not entirely accurate. Like most things hyped up, the media fear mongers instilled the notion that air travel on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving was utter hell. Heck, if anything, the Sunday after Thanksgiving is a horrible day to fly since everyone is trying to get home from their families.

Why do I think otherwise? First and foremost... the economy. More people are driving than flying. Second, Wednesday flights were actually cheaper than any of the days before. Word got out that Wednesday was a shitty day to travel so everyone jumped on the Monday or Tuesday bandwagon. Long Beach airport was full but it didn't look like anything other than a normal travel day.

My flight was delayed and I chatted up a guy who proclaimed, "I hate people" after a rich-bitch nearly ran him over trying to get to the gate, "Whatever happened to 'Excuse me' or 'I'm sorry?'" he bemoaned. That's when he uttered, "I hate people." I figured, this is the one guy on my flight I want to talk to. So we bullshitted about the downfall of modern civilization while we waited for our flight to finally board and we both prayed that the wailing baby at the gate would not be seated next to us.

"Hey, you play poker, what are my odds that I get stuck next to the baby?" he asked.

"Well, there's 27 rows on an Airbus with 6 seats across. That's 1 in 162 chance, or less than 1%. However, you have to take into account the screaming radius, which I estimate as three or four rows give or take. So that makes it 1 in 6 or 7 that you're seated in a danger zone. Roughly 15 to 18% that you're fucked."

He was amazed that I was able to spit out those numbers. I was amazed that I think in that way. Luckily, I was seated near the front of the plane part of my strategy so I could be one of the first passengers off the plane at JFK so I could sprint to the taxi stand and beat the rush.

During my flight, I watched a Top Chef marathon and realized how cocky the Voltaggio Brothers were from Day 1. They knew they were among the best and they managed to make the final four.

I wrote 85% of my Sunday column somewhere between Illinois and New York state, while I was amazed at the germ freak sitting across the aisle from me. he had two packages of sanity wipes that he blazed through during the flight. He was constantly cleaning his hands.

We landed 30 minutes late and I rushed off the plane, grabbed a slice of pizza at the food court, and rushed outside. I took one look at the lengthy taxi line when a dude with cornrows walked over.

"Taxi, mister?"

"You the driver?"

"I'm the owner. I have lots of drivers."

We negotiated a very good deal to Riverdale and I hopped in one of his SUVs. The driver was a guy from the Dominican Republic who had plenty of social commentary on the state of NYC and the turmoil of the entire country. A lot has changed since he moved to the US almost a decade ago. It was interesting to hear his perspective about America on the Eve of Thanksgiving.

There was zero traffic and he got me home in record time. I was happy to be sitting on my brother's couch and watching the Knicks game. The Knicks still suck, but I was finally home... for the holidays.

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