Friday, August 6, 2010

My Kind of Town

I was enlisted to fly to Chicago to teach two one-hour classes.  Things got off to a good start when I misplaced my car keys with just enough time to head for the airport.  Luckily, I found the backups.  Got to the airport.  Long lines to check bags at American, but none were moving.  I have no idea what these counter people were doing to go so slow.  An agent tells me there are shorter lines at the other end.  She's right, but they were moving even slower.  Takes me a full hour to get checked in and through security.

We get on the plane a little late and when we're all on and ready to go the pilot announces that the navigation computer isn't working right.  We sit for an hour while they fix it.  At some point, some people get up and head for the front of the plane.  The attendants announced that people should sit down, but apparently some got off.  Finally we taxi out to the runway.  But then, we pull off to the side.  The captain explains that because some people got off, they have to recalculate the weight and fuel.  We wait, and wait, and wait.  The captain is pissed, "I'm not getting the information I need to take off," he tells us.  Then they have the attendants come out and hand count the passengers.  I mean come on.  If you knew it was important why didn't you count the ones who got off?  Why did you let them get off in the first place?  Who knows what's going on?  Maybe they had to retrieve their bags or something.  After about 45 more minutes of sitting by the side of the taxiway, we finally get to leave.  When I ask out loud if they can go over the safety instructions again, no one laughs.  And don't expect free drinks anymore  when this kind of stuff happens.  These planes don't carry enough food and drink to go around.  They routinely run out of the "food" they're selling.

When we arrive in Chicago two-and-a-half hours late, we learn that there's no gate for us.  That's another twenty minutes.  I look at the news on my Blackberry.  Seven dogs dead on American Airlines flight to Chicago earlier that morning.  This is not AA's day.  Or maybe it's their usual, I don't know.  As we get off, the captain announces that our bags will be at carousel 5.  Our flight is not on the monitors at the baggage claim.  I ask an agent and she tells me that our bags will probably come out on carousel 7.  She doesn't tell all the other passengers that.  Why bother?  She also tells me that the monitors are broken.  After probably 45 minutes I see that our bags are coming out on carousel 7.  After I get mine, I go back and tell the others who are waiting at 5 to go to 7.  For a moment, I'm in control of the baggage area.  Is there a work slowdown at American?

But that's not the story.  The story is how the big 300 pound guy, who looked like he had no business walking into a Hyatt Regency, jumped in between my friend and his wife as we're walking into the revolving door at our hotel after dinner.  The guy blocks the door with his foot and starts pounding on the glass.  My friend is trapped inside the door, and I'm in the back, exposed to the street, but there are two guys behind me.  At first I think the guy who's blocking the door is crazy and he's throwing some kind of weird tantrum.  But then the guys behind me are kind of getting up too close to me and telling me to push on the door with both hands as hard as I can, as if this happens all the time and they know just what the cure is.  This makes little sense to me.  In split seconds, I'm trying to decide if the door is broken and the crazy guy is trying to help fix it, but I keep seeing he's blocking it.  "He's blocking the door," I say.  The guys behind me keep telling me to push with both hands.  But I realize it would be futile, and I also realize that I have no particular need to get through this door, so I say, "Why would I do that?" and step aside and over to one of the regular doors.  Only when I'm in the lobby and they are gone do I realize that this was all about picking my pockets, but they didn't get anything.  I don't leave things that exposed, and I never committed both hands to pushing the door as they wanted me to.

Well I'm glad their little plot was foiled and I didn't have to spend today in Chicago trying to figure out how to fly without identification or money.  These guys seemed like amateurs.  I could give them some tips on what they did wrong, but I'll save that for another day.