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Three score and ten or more

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Funerals have their own sort of ethos. There is always an element of sadness, because someone who is loved is no longer with us. Even people of faith in a hereafter suffer through a period of loss. For many who have no such faith the loss is often more intense, though that is not always true. Along with a sense of grief there is also a certain joy in seeing friends and relatives that have not been together in a long time. One of the features of funeral pictures is the vivid contrast between smiling faces and tears.

I was feeling pain at the same time that I was looking forward to seeing some of my family, but I was really not expecting the same contrasts as they affected my travel. Living in South Georgia, most of the time, when I fly, I fly from Jacksonville, FL. Fares are generally lower from Jacksonville than from either Savannah or Atlanta. It is a three hour drive to Jacksonville, there is ample parking and limited auto traffic, while Atlanta is four hours away and the airport with the traffic around it is a zoo.

Because Janet can't put weight on her foot and has problems getting out of most of the cars except my old Pontiac Montana van, I determined to have my son drive me to Jacksonville, and pick me up on my return so that the car would be available if Janet needed it in Statesboro. He dropped me off in plenty of time and drove away. I checked in with a minimum of difficulty and using my cane made my way to the American Airlines terminal (which is the very furthest away from the ticket sales area). By the time I arrived I was pooped enough that the airline worker at the the desk took one look at me and put me on the list for assistance during transfers, and after a short wait we all started to board the plane. The line stalled at the door for about thirty minutes, and finally an agent came out an told us that the airplane was suffering mechanical problems and would not be able to fly. We must all return to the ticket agent and make arrangements for a flight the next day, or possibly at ten thirty that night.

One of the difficulties of walking with a cane is that one is slower than almost everyone else. By the time I arrived at the ticketing area, everyone else is already in line, and the flight that evening was already filled. I put my carry-on inline and staggered over to a bench to sit and pant. It occurred to me that contacting Expedia might be as useful as talking to the ticket agent. I called Expedia and after about half an hour of cell phone use, some pleasant young man with Expedia found me a flight to Utah, connecting at O Hare in Chicago rather than in Dallas/Fort Worth. I had some nervousness about O Hare because I have missed more connections at O Hare than anywhere, but at least I had a tentative departure the next morning and arrival at Salt Lake that afternoon. I still had to wait in or about the line (when one is almost the last one in line it is easy to get someone to save your place) in order to get someplace to sleep that night. The line moved very slowly because a young black man, his wife and two beautiful, happy children seemed stuck at one of the booths. As I got close to the front if the line I heard enough to understand his problem. He had checked his baggage, which was now back at the booth, and his checked baggage contained a pistol in a case. It had passed Xrays to be checked the first time, but they had inspected it at the booth. He not only had the weapon but it had bullets in the magazine (very against the rules). He offered to take the bullets out and throw them away, but they wouldn't let him touch the gun. I didn't get the end result, but he was still there at the booth, tearing his hair, about two hours later. He may still be there for all I am sure.

I finally got to one of the booths where the lady gave me a voucher for the night at a nearby Clarion Hotel, and she told me where to catch the shuttle to the hotel. Thinking that my troubles were over, I caught the shuttle, got to the hotel desk where the clerk shook his head sadly and said, "Would you please go back to the airport and tell American Airlines that they have already taken my last room, we have no more space." (Actually that sounded reasonable. This was New Years Eve, and the Gator Bowl was to be played the next afternoon. The highway into Jacksonville was full of Clemson fans going to the game and the airport was still littered with Nebraska fans planning for the same. On reflection, I am surprised that any rooms would be available in the Jacksonville area.)

I went out, got back in the Shuttle and talked the reluctant driver into taking me back to the airport. When I got back to the Airline ticket booth, the poor young guy was still haranguing the ticket agent at one booth (and his wife and babes were looking much less happy than before) and the other booths were busy. I cut in line to tell the lady that the Clarion was full whereupon she stopped what she was doing to tell the other agents. I had a feeling that the shuttle downstairs was full again and on its way to a filled up Clarion.

At any rate, they gave me a new voucher to a Travelodge (not as fancy, but at that time, any bed was a good bed). About that time I realized that I had not contacted my son who was going to the funeral as well (I think my children, probably wisely, don't think I should go anywhere by myself.) He was traveling from Memphis, with his plane scheduled to arrive at about the same time as mine and we were planning to share a car rental from the airport, but the car was reserved in my name. I tried to call him, but the Travelodge interior was a dead cell area, so I walked out of my room onto the grass to see if I could get service. I did, and got his voice mail when I realized that he was on a plane that actually left on time. At that time, the door to my room closed and I was standing bare footed on the grass, outside, with my key sitting on the table in the room. I clumped bare footed to the office, got a new key and went back to my room. Fortunately I heard the clerk tell a new customer that the rooms had wireless access (wireless, but phoneless) so I went back to my room, hooked up my laptop, changed the car reservation so that it was in his name, stepped outside (with my key in hand) and left him a voice mail on his phone telling him where to pick up the car, then went to sleep. It was 12:20 AM and I had an 8:20 flight in the morning. More later.

2 Comments:

At 1:11 PM, Blogger Norma said...

Not to sound like a nagging wife, but please don't travel alone. I about had a heart attack reading this!

 
At 9:32 PM, Blogger Thotman said...

Richard...you traveling alone is just a grand adventure..go for it!!! Dont forget to finish this tale...I'll be back..

 

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