Friday, March 18, 2005

Wicked, Twisted Road-Part 2 (Friday, March 11, 2005)

To say I am a nervous flyer would be a gross understatement. I like to be in control of situations and being 35,000 feet up in the air at the mercy of someone else is not my idea of a good time. I also read a lot and tales of pilots forgeting to de-ice planes or forgetting the landing gear or mechanics forgetting to attach the wings correctly bounce around in my brain come time to fly. I also imagine the pilot being either drunk or incompetent and the co-pilot being about 14 years old. I went to law school with at least 10 people who I wouldn't let handle a speeding ticket and I'm sure that there are jet pilots not fit to fly a glider-these are the one's I'm certain are at the controls everytime I fly. I imagine trying to "breathe normally" if one of those masks dropped down onto my head. I know that those "bell-like" tones are secret messages of impending doom and everytime I hear one I make eye contact with the flight crew to detect any sign of panic. When I board a plane, I like to see plenty of babies and small children-not because I like their crying and catterwauling, but because I don't think the good lord would let a plane full of innocent babies crash. Conversely, if the plane appears to be a cylindrical "God's Waiting Room," filled with inactive seniors, I am certain that a crash is imminent. That is why the first things on my list to pack are booze and a flask. If I go down, I will not go down sober.
On Friday I got to the airport about 7:30 A.M. for my 9:15 A.M. flight. I left my car in the park and ride, smartly took a digital photo of my Lot (D-1), and dragged my suitcase over the curb and into the shuttle shelter. I checked in at the new self-serve kiosk and was happy to find my boarding passes gave me a window seat. I checked my suitcase and headed toward the TSA area with my backpack. As instructed, I took off my shoes and emptied my pockets of any metal objects such as coins. When ordered to come through the electronic arch, I caused a loud beeping noise and drew a dirty look from the guy behind me. I forgot I had not removed my belt, because I rarely wear one with jeans. I took my belt off and made another attempt through the arch. Another loud beep and I became "suspected terrorist and U.S. public enemy number one." I was unceremoniously "culled from the herd" and was ordered to sit behind a sinister looking glass wall in what I later called the "chair of shame." I was told to give up whatever metal object I was concealing, so I emptied my pockets. Out came a pack of foil-backed anti-histamine tablets, which were found to be the culprit. That however did not bring my freedom. A nice but serious TSA employee had me stand on some painted footprints on the carpet while he ran a wand over me from head to toe. Pursuant to his orders, I raised my arms, lowered my arms, spread my legs and closed my legs so he could run the wand over every crook and crevice, while a steady line of "safe" passengers glared at me as if I was Bin Laden himself. Once through, I thanked him for his thoroughness and made my way to the gate, "bloodied, but not bowed."

On the short hop from Raleigh to Atlanta, I was in the last row-fortunately that was where the drink cart was situated and I found myself pulling out the flask about 9:45. A splash of Jack Daniels into a cup of Diet Coke and ice made the flight completely tolerable. In Atlanta, the device called the "JetWay," which is the passenger boarding bridge which connects the aircraft door to the terminal was stuck out of place and took about 15 minutes to fix. My connection time was only about 45 minutes to begin with and the Atlanta airport is a well-known "zoo." Scott met as I came off of the plane and we got on the shuttle to Terminal C to catch the commuter flight to Corpus Christi. I've heard horror stories about these little jet planes but the few times I've been on one, the trip has been superb. This plane was literally brand new-the outside sparkled and the inside was spotless. It was so new that they hadn't even had time to put in those airline magazines that all look the same. We took off from Atlanta about 11:15 A.M. for the 2 and a half hour flight to the southern Texas gulf coast. The red clay of northwest Georgia and northeast Alabama soon gave way to the darker soil of the Mississippi delta. We skirted the Gulf of Mexico for the last hour of the flight and the view was spectacular. Dozens of rivers snaked down to empty into the Gulf and orange flames lit up the thousands of oil rigs that scattered around in the cobalt water. Another round of toddies and we were on "terra firma" before we knew it. We were in the rental car on the way to the motel by 1:30 P.M. central standard time. We had three hours to kill-we wanted to be at the Executive Surf Club by 4:30 so we could poke around in the record store, check out the concert facilities and grab a bite at the Water Street Oyster Bar adjacent to the club.


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