Freeway Free: How NOT to get outta town
My friend C invited me out of the blue to spend a few days at her timeshare in Tahoe. A gal’s getaway – sounds great! Mindful of recent blizzards in the Sierras, my Personal Travel Agent suggested that I fly to meet C at the Reno airport rather than make a stressful drive by myself. Love to be coddled.
PTA gets me to the airport more than an hour before boarding. I breeze through check in with the help of a brightly – masked gate agent who affixes my baggage tag for me. I’m hung up for a few minutes in security as the X-ray objects to the steel shanks in my hiking boots. Cleared, I stop at the rest room, fill my water bottle, buy an extra Chapstick against cold ($3.80!) and still arrive at the gate an hour before boarding at 12:30
I dig out my Science News, which I expect to be able to finish on the plane. 12:30 comes and goes. Then the announcement – “The crew for your plane is stuck in Palm Springs. We are looking for a new crew.” New estimated departure: Maybe 2:30.” The announcer doesn’t sound very confident.
I go to the rest room again. I take out the snack I had packed for the plane – a mandarin orange and a granola bar. I find a quiet area and eat very slowly. Back at the gate there is no change on the board. I call C, already waiting at the Reno airport. I ask her to go to Hertz and let them know we’ve been delayed, so we won’t lose our car. I wander down to the bookstore. Ooh, there’s a copy of the latest volume of the “Outlander” series! But maybe I’d better check back before I immerse myself in colonial America. Oops! The plane is boarding! It’s 1:56. Amazing.
I’m comfy in an exit row with a aisle seat. Then my seat mate arrives, a very large United crew member dead-heading to Reno for a flight tomorrow. There goes my elbow room. He tells me a replacement crew agreed to fill in for the stranded group – above and beyond, out of the goodness of their hearts. Thanks be to good-hearted crewmen. I text C “I’m on the plane!” She responds “Hallelujah”
2:35: We are boarded, locked and loaded, but not pushed back from the gate yet.
2:36: We are detached from the gate, but not actually moving as safety announcements are made.
2:40: We have moved 20 feet backwards. It’s a 40 minute flight, if we ever get airborne!
I feel like I’ve been indoors in a mask with hot breath funneled up to my eyeballs forever. It has been three hours.
I only downloaded two books onto my iPad before leaving, and one of them I’ve nearly finished. Will one book and one copy of the Economist last me through four days and the flight back home? I check – seems some time back I downloaded The Brothers Karamazov as something I’ve always meant to read. This may be the week.
2;46: WE’RE MOVING DOWN THE RUNWAY! No, we’re slowing down, moving to a different runaway. Turning a second time. A third time. Are we there yet? A fourth time. The engines are making serious revving noises. Here we go!
2:48: Lift off! San Francisco looks like a city built of white sugar cubes in the bright winter light. Lots of boats and barges lined up in the water – supply chain overflow? Oakland looks just a bit grimier than its gleaming sister city across the Bay. The plane dips and turns right over Alameda; I can almost pick out our old house on Doris Court. Then we right ourselves and head east.
Thoughts: Travel is chancy these days with airplane crews and bus drivers and other service personnel ravaged by viral variants and supply-chain glitches and labor shortages. My trip by plane and rental car to Stateline NV from the Bay Area took 6 hours; on a good day one could drive the route in 4. My excuse for flying was “less stressful” but that’s not necessarily so when one’s flight is delayed, the airline rep says, “We’re trying our best but no update yet”, and one is supposed to be meeting someone at the other end.
So, if you are traveling, bring plenty to read, lots of patience, and bon voyage!