Archive for September 25th, 2008

Sep 25 2008

Alive in SF (better than the alternative…)

Published by under conventions,Life,travel,Writing

Well, our flight here certainly could have been MORE eventful, but I’m glad it wasn’t. Specifically the first leg out: we had last-minute deals on plane tickets, which meant we were doing a bit of airline hopping during our transfer, and also meant that for the first leg we were stuck with US Airways. Seriously, I have a strong inclination not to book another US Airways flight again, regardless of the bargain advertised. In addition to the plane’s layout contributing to us feeling like so many sardines in an overfull can (and the flight wasn’t even sold out), the seats were less comfortable than the airport seating. It felt like we were sitting right on those inflatable vests, rather than cushions.

But you know, when I think “plane travel”, the first thing I think to prioritize isn’t a flat, rock-hard, lumpy seat; nor even the inconvenience of legroom just about right for a toddler under age 5. The inability to keep the plane in the air definitely tops the list for me as far as flight no-nos go, and there were severe questions about that during this flight. Thankfully, we were too sleepy to do more than doze most of that leg, otherwise I’d be twice as physically stressed from worrying for two hours whether we’d just fall out of the sky at some point. (Keep in mind I normally love flying.)

We spent about 20 minutes at the gate, waiting for a guy to “fix some computer issues”.  This involved, at one point, shutting off all the lights and air circulation on the plane, one presumes to “reboot”.  The take-off was choppy, and I was jolted awake from my dozing every time we hit a pocket of turbulence that was poorly corrected for. But the landing I wasn’t sure we were going to walk away from; definitely the worst landing I’ve experienced without something actually going very wrong. We circled at least 5 times, during one approach actually doing a sudden pull away and upward climb like we were avoiding a collision with someone. We finally hit the runway like we were going to keep diving into it, and the braking process felt as if it were panicky, too little, and too late, surging and slowing like a rank beginner sat at the controls learning to drive with Mom or Dad. I just grabbed Kit’s arm and watched through the window, my hand on my phone. We made it! (The flight attendant giving the farewell talk as we taxied to the gate sounded very shaky, so I watched her, and when she put away the intercom handset she wiped her eyes as if she had been crying. Coincidence? Or barely-avoided fiery death?)

…to Phoenix. Now of course we didn’t learn our lesson from the Phoenix airport last time, but the message is this: never, never fly into Phoenix if you are on a time-crunch transfer. Double those nevers if you plan to transfer airlines. Triple them if your airline has delayed your flight in an attempt to kill their passengers. The short story is, with both Kit and I on gimpy feet, we landed with 27 minutes to get to our other flight–which was two terminals away and through security again. Amazingly, we reached it two minutes before they closed the plane door behind us.

United was a much better (and less eventful) experience, with seasoned professionals in the cockpit that took us up and set us down again with a feather-light touch. Plus they didn’t charge us $2 for three gulps of juice. And we arrived 17 minutes early, rather than half an hour late. I could keep delineating the differences, but you get the idea.

We grabbed pitas on our way out to wait for the hotel-airport shuttle, and had plenty of time to eat our snack before it arrived. Another revelation: don’t sit at the back of an airport-hotel shuttle if you can avoid it, especially if you are on bad streets with a maniacal driver, and triply so if you are large-breasted. But they did NOT bounce off, and we made it to the hotel by the charmingly quirky San Franciscan navigational technique of driving directly past it first thing, then looping back around making sure to service all other hotels on the route first.

Check-in was surprisingly fast and un-eventful. We are staying tonight and Monday night at a hotel near the airport, with these two nights gifted us complimentarily by Kit’s mom. Thanks, Siun! (We also figured not having a long way to travel between airport and hotel during arrival and departure days was a smart-monkey thing to do.)

We’re meeting with Kit’s sister this evening, and we haven’t seen her since she came to visit Kit a couple of years ago, so we may or may not manage to reach the conference in time to watch the fucking-machine contest. I’ll be disappointed if we miss it, but family takes precedence over things you can watch later on video. And we’re here in plenty of time to take in the rest of the conference.

Now to quit procrastinating and get back to talking about this presentation with Kit…hopefully we’ll see any of you Californian readers at the conference this weekend! Hmm, perhaps a snack…wait. $9 for buttermilk pancakes? SRSLY? You can, even here in SF, buy two entire boxes of pancake mix for $9. Methinks I will not dine upon hotel fare, here. (Kit’s favorite entry from the breakfast menu is “The Healthy Start”: one grapefruit half, one bran muffin, one low-fat yogurt, and one small box of Special K cereal with milk…for $11.50!)

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