Man in a Suitcase

Over the last 7 weeks, I have had 6 work trips.  It feels like my kids are taller every time I see them.  I would have been 7 for 7 but one of the trips got moved and since I can’t be in New York and Los Angeles at the same time, I had to miss that meeting.  It has been nearly two months since I spent seven straight days at home.  I am tired of airplanes, luggage, security checks, hotel rooms, rental cars, rental car buses, and my broken wrist.  During one 72 hour stretch, I was in Boston, NYC, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and back to Boston. I work in sales, and while I don’t always travel like this, it’s been a heavy stretch since Verizon took over our company in December.  So here’s the tale of my favorite travel day in the last two months.

A couple weeks ago I had to go to Los Angeles for a three day group training session.  My flight from Boston to LA had a layover in Chicago.  Not long enough to get some tasty deep dish pizza, but long enough that we had to de-board.  We land in Chi-town, I shuffle off with my computer bag and roller board and go find a seat at the gate.  I was getting back on the exact same plane in 45 minutes at the same gate, but in a different seat.  I’m fairly obsessive when it comes to booking air travel.  I check in 23 hours and 59 minutes before the flight takes off.  I get a seat on the aisle toward the front of the plane.  I often upgrade for priority boarding.  I never check luggage.  I want to ensure that I can always find room for my rollerboard (people getting on last on commercial flights often have no choice but to check bags when overhead room is gone) and that I’m one of the first people on and off the plane.  Yeah, I’m obsessive.

So I’m queuing up with the obsessive business people for priority boarding, I stroll up to the ticket taker, and he declares, “Sir, you’re going to have to check that bag.” Pointing to my rollerboard.

“Excuse me?” I reply. “Why would I have to do that?”

“That bag looks too big for the overhead compartments.” He tells me.

“Well, I just GOT OFF that plane at the end of the ramp.  With this bag.  It went just fine.  This is my layover.  It’s not too big.” Now I’m getting mad.

“Sir, can you put the bag in the sizer for me please?” he asks.  Now if you travel, you know the ‘sizer’ is the tiny metal square thingy by the onramp to planes that is half the size of most of the bags that people take on board.  I have a broken hand, and I’m carrying a computer bag on my shoulder, and my rollerboard.  I awkwardly attempt to turn my rollerboard one handed into the sizer, but I can’t get it to fit, and I’m now astonished that he’s making the one-handed guy do this while 200 people wait and watch.

“Sir, where is your final destination?” He asks, reaching for a luggage ticket so he can check my bag.

“You’re kidding me right?  I JUST GOT OFF THAT PLANE WITH THIS BAG.  It was not too big.”

“Your final destination sir? The FAA is watching us closely sir, and that bag looks too big to fit.  These are the regulations,” he declares while tagging my bag to be checked.

At this point I’m not very social, or patient, with this guy.  I mutter that I’m going to Los Angeles and trudge to the boarding ramp as I loudly declare just for him, “What an unbelievable asshole that guy is.” The woman directly in front of me laughs out loud and turns to me, “I fly out of Chicago all the time.  He does that to somebody on EVERY flight.  It’s a power trip thing I guess.”  Despite my vocal public obscenity, I do feel vindicated that the guy apparently WAS an asshole.

I settle into my aisle seat towards the front of the plane, as people slowly board one after another.  I’m guessing there’s a crowd flying to Los Angeles coming back from South by Southwest, because there are a lot of ‘rockers’ on this flight.  People with studded belts, long hair, men with jewelry, several people carrying instrument cases.  A rocker couple slides in next to me, and the dude is large.  I’m no small man, but he’s a good 6’4” with shoulders like Charles Barkley.  Awesome. The intentionally distressed jeans he’s wearing are so very cool, and likely more expensive than my luggage.  The triangle pattern eyeball across his artistically ripped denim shirt back is hypnotizing.  I hate them both. After 20 minutes of boarding, and people settling, his girl friend leans over to me and asks, “Hey, would you mind moving to that seat over there?” she points to a window seat two rows back.  At first I think she has to be joking.  The window seat is on the left, meaning my awkw ard braced broken hand would butt up against the plane wall all flight (It’s annoying, I’ve already had it happen), and I’ve already gone over my preference for the aisle to get on/off quickly. “I’m sorry, no, not really, I much prefer the aisle.”  I reply.  She’s a bit miffed.  She wants me to move so her and rock-a-billy can have an empty seat in their row.  Seriously?  This ain’t gonna be my day.  Over the next several hours, these two people go to the bathroom 7 times.  I’m not joking.  She goes to the bathroom 4 times, and he goes 3 times.  Each time I have to get completely up into the aisle with my clumsy hand and whatnot.  I hate them both.

So I never check baggage because that slows you down at the airport.  I’m waiting for my bag to show up, and waiting, and waiting.  It finally comes down the conveyor and I dash to the shuttle bus for the rental cars.  Worst fears are confirmed when I hit the rental car office.  The line is 15 people deep for cars.  Sigh.   Ok, I pop out my phone and notice I’m 100 emails back now that I’ve been flying all day.  We slowly inch along towards the obligatory rental counter questions.  While I’m waiting, I see there’s 3 people working the counter.  One of them is an inhuman machine.  He’s pumping people out.  Step up, License and Credit card, punches through his pc – off you go.  One of them looks like they’d rather set their hair on fire than be working at a rental car place, but is moving people along.  One of the clerks has been working with a trio of Europeans since I got online, and is still working with the same trio as the line dwindles down.  The machine next to him has processed 5 people, 6 people, 8 people… the dolt is still talking with the Europeans… explaining insurance, and options, and asking about their family history, and what they plan on doing in Los Angeles.

You know what happens.  I get to the front of the line, and the dolt is free.  “Next” he calls.  Dammit.  The other two attendants have literally processed 15 customers in the time this guy got through one.  I step up to him, “no interest in an upgrade, no insurance, I’ll fill the tank myself… here’s my license and credit card, and I want a GPS”.  I gave him everything he needed in one sentence.  He doesn’t need to ask me any questions, he has the answers, but the GPS throws him.  He punches some numbers into the computer and looks at it funny.  I’m not panicking yet.  The machine next to him has already processed the woman behind me on line and is calling for another person.  The dolt says he has to go get a GPS and disappears behind a door.  I wait.  The machine processes that second person while I’m waiting and calls for a third.  The dolt returns with a GPS and pulls it out to punch a serial number in the computer.  He looks at the screen funny again.  “this one’s not in the system, let me get another,”… he leaves behind the door, again.  The machine is finishing up customer #3 now.  The dolt returns and does the SAME THING again.  Punches in the number, looks at the screen funny, and says he needs to go find a new GPS.  He leaves AGAIN to get a third GPS unit.  I want to cry.  The machine calls for the 4th customer while I’ve been standing there.  I’m not kidding.

The dolt returns and cannot get this THIRD gps unit entered into the system.  Now he’s looking for help.  I can’t help him, I don’t work here.  He asks the machine for assistance.  The machine told him to hold a minute while he finishes the fourth customer during the time I’ve been standing with the dolt.  When he’s done, he comes over, takes the GPS, and literally punches a handful of things into the computer, “you’re all set,” he says and returns to his desk.  “What did you do?” asks the dolt.  “Sometimes you have to be careful about entering the numbers,” says the machine tactfully.  The machine looks at me apologetically.  I sigh.

Keys in hand I trudge to my rental car.  The dolt is very nice and actually apologetic, but still a dolt.  6 people behind me in line have been processed and left while I was with the dolt for what seemed like an eternity.  Yes indeed, work travel is glamorous.

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