THE GLAMOUR OF AIR TRAVEL
It's always fun to get away somewhere, and I had a good time in D.C. and Virginia last week. But it's the getting home that's usually a drag. And I made the mistake of trying to save money by getting a flight from Dulles International that stopped over in Philadelphia.
The flight to Philly was supposed to leave D.C. at 5:19 p.m. but they said it was delayed a half hour when I got to the gate. No big deal. Then about 6 p.m. they told us to move en masse to another gate. We had to catch one of the funky shuttle "buses" but got to the new terminal just fine.
Then we waited. The guy from United Airlines who was announcing flights didn't have a very good grasp on English pronunciation, and a bunch of us sitting in the lounge had no idea what destinations he was announcing. They were using the same gate at Dulles for United flights to Altoona, Pennsylvania, State College ,Pennsylvania, Parkersburg (I think it's West Virginia) and LaGuardia, but we weren't quite sure.
Then the pilot came by and said the flight was being delayed but he didn't know why as the plane looked fine to him. And that doesn't exactly boost your confidence.
The guy working the gate (and he was working hard in his defence, with flights seemingly to all points leaving every five to ten minutes) came on the p.a. at 5:55 and said the flight would leave at 6:10. Which we all knew was insane but we just smiled.
We finally boarded around 6:30 for what was supposed to be a half hour flight to Philly. That would've given me plenty of time to catch my 7:50 p.m. connection to Toronto. But, of course, the plane had to circle Philadelphia and that took another ten minutes. Then we landed but there wasn't an open gate (how does this happen, by the way? Planes are scheduled to land and take off all the time; don't they have dedicated gates waiting for them?). So we sat on the runway for 10 minutes. By now it was 7:35 and I'm thinking I don't have time for a long haul to get my Air Canada flight, if it's leaving on time and I have no clue if it is.
So I push the flight attendant button. In the old days, it was common for flight attendants to ask folks to stay seated while people trying to make tight connections got off the plane first. You hardly ever hear that anymore, which I find curious. Anyway, I decided to ask about it.
"Excuse me, but I have a 7:50 flight to catch and I'm at the back of the plane and I'm worried I won't make it. Can you see if people can let me off the plane first?"
The flight attendant looked at me with a quizzical expression.
"We have to wait until we're at the gate until you can get off."
No kidding, that's what she said.
I looked at her.
"I wasn't going to try to make a run for it across the tarmac," I said. "I just want to get off first when we get to the gate as I might miss my flight to Toronto."
"I don't know if we can do that," she said.
"Of course you can. Just ask."
She agreed, then kindly suggested I move up to an empty seat five rows up to hasten my departure. We finally got a gate, and as we pulled up I could see that, miracle of miracles, the Air Canada jet was RIGHT NEXT DOOR to the gate. She made the announcement and I got to the front of the plane, only to find the guy who lowers the ramp to connect the jetway to the plane was having troubles. It took him three tries to get it done right.
I dashed down the jetway to the terminal and turned a hard right, only to see a nice guy from Air Canada. "Are you Mr. Byers," he asked. "The plane's still here."
He told me not to rush, so I slowed down a bit and made it by a few minutes. My bags made it too, which is great (they even did a fast job of unloading at Pearson, which is unusual in my experience).
Of course, I had missed a chance to have a slice of pizza or something for dinner. So I thought I'd at least get some free pretzels, but Air Canada doesn't even give out the tiniest of snacks out for free anymore, at least not on short-haul flights.
It all worked out, and there are people with REAL horror stories out there. But it does make you think about maybe staying closer to home next time and taking the car.
The eastern shore of Virginia is a delightful place with a very relaxed vibe and lovely, country scenery along the Atlantic and on the shore of Chesapeake Bay. You leave the busy-ness of Norfolk and take a bridge and tunnel for 20 minutes across the bay, then land in a lovely place with fun, warm people. I loved driving along Highway 13, which bisects the peninsula that separates the bay from the ocean, and seeing signs like "Fireworks, Ham for sale."
Great crab cakes and other seafood, reasonable prices, nice people and a couple very demanding golf courses at Bay Creek near Cape Charles, all in a very quiet setting. I took a short kayak ride and the shop that organizes the trips had t-shirts for sale reading, "Slow down ... this isn't the mainland."