May 22, 2008
Last week I went to Seattle for a few days. Last time I went I flew US Air non-stop. The non-stop was great but I was very very sick for that trip so 6 hours in a plane was not going to be a good time in any way.
This time scheduling and prices for US Air did not work out in my favor. US Air is the only airline that offers non-stop to Seattle from Philly. So I went with the cheapest option: Continental with stops in Houston each way. That’s right, Philly to Seattle through Houston.
On Wednesday I started as a normal day getting up around 5am and going to work. At the airport things were smooth. This was my first time not checking any luggage. It was nice to not have to wait for baggage but since I was traveling by myself I had to take my bag everywhere I went. The plane boarded early and we were on our way. The movie for this leg of the trip was 27 Dresses. It was alright. Not great but kept my attention which is all I ask for on a plane. I had headphones but I noticed they were only $1. I’m pretty sure they were $5 when I was on US Air. During the flight I saw the flight attendants handing out what looked like some sort of snack pack. I was shocked at how many people were getting them. I’m used to it being something like $5 for one. As they got closer I realized it was free. When it got to me I found that it was not a snack, but more meal-like. A salad, hot pocket type thing, and a Kit-Kat. I had gotten Burger King in the terminal in preparation for the flight because I would not have time to eat during my stop in Houston. The mean was solid. I was impressed that a domestic airline still served food. I was only in the Houston airport for 10 or 15 minutes before my flight to Seattle started boarding. The movie for this leg was Sabrina. Yes, the Harrison For movie from 10 years ago. I’m not sure where they picked that out of. Luckily I had never seen it and again it was good enough to hold my attention. The snack on this flight was peanuts. They were excellent. I hate when they try and fancy up the peanuts or go with some sort of trail mix. My other favorite airplane snack are pretzels that are stored on the beverage cart so they are chilly when they arrive.
I flew back on Monday. I was excited for the Fish Bar at the airport for breakfast. I stopped there last time I flew out of Seattle. The meals all look excellent but fried fish and fries before 8am isn’t my idea of a good time. They also have breakfast sandwiches and hash browns. That’s my pick in the mornings. A sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich with a hash brown. I made my way through the airport, into areas I didn’t know existed and things were trouble free. On the plane they served breakfast: Total cereal, a pound cake with chocolate chips, and a banana. Once again, like dinner, I was not expecting this but pleased. The movie on this leg was Step Up 2. I had not seen Step Up 1 so I passed thinking I would be lost. Instead I watched Grandma’s Boy on my iPod. The iPod isn’t ideal for watching movies, as I found last trip. I think part of the problem was that I was so sick last time. It could also be that Grandma’s Boy is good enough to overcome the tiny screen.
My stop in Houston this time was 3 hours. I went for some lunch at Papa John’s. Time passed pretty quickly and we were on our way. All my other seats were window seats. For this last one I was on the isle. Then things started going downhill. Some people came down the isle and put guitars in the overhead compartment. Who travels with guitars? I say only hippies and Jesus Freaks. I figured it was some group who’s name included ‘Good Time Family Band.’ If you are in any sort of real band you are not traveling in Coach. One of the guitar players sat next to me. A lady with a baby arrived to take the window seat. Awesome. Crank up the tunes. The movie for this leg was The Bucket List. I hadn’t seen it but I was a little confused by the selection. I’d like something moderately upbeat. About 15 minutes into the movie the captain comes on. He tells us that there may be a problem with the fuel gauge so we were turning around and heading back to Houston. Nobody was happy but we’d much rather be safe. When we got back on the ground the captain came back on to say that in the air they weren’t sure if the problem was a broken gauge or a fuel leak. Good enough reason to turn around. We had to stay on the plan while the mechanics did their thing. It got very hot. People weren’t too frustrated at first. After a while the lady with the baby decided to get off. I’m not sure how that works, if they give her a ticket for another flight or if she has to buy one. I also don’t know why she decided to get off. The baby was incredbly well behaved. He let out a few whines but there was no excessive crying. So guitar player slides over to the window and guitar player’s wife moves into the middle. We’re told that things are fine and they just have to refuel and we’ll be ready to go. About this time guitar player spots some black spots on the wing. I took a look, they were at the edge of the flaps. I have no idea, and neither does he, if they were there before. The baby had been playing with the window so we weren’t able to look out that much during the first trip. He gets the flight attendant and tells her what he sees. He wants it taken care of or he wants another plane. A mechanic climbs up and looks. The flight attendant comes back and says he told her it was just dirt. Guitar player is not pleased. He claims the mechanic didn’t have a good angle. He has her ask again. This time a guy goes out and looks from the ground and sees nothing wrong. Guitar player is really unhappy now. The attendant tells him there is nothing more she can do and he can talk to the captain if he likes. At this point he has convinced himself that these black spots indicate a severe oil leak and that the wing is going to come off at some point during the flight. At least that’s what I gathered from his tone. I am just sitting there with them talking through me while I look around trying not to get involved and giving the people who are now looking in our direction looks that he is crazy and there is nothing to worry about. That look would be a slight eye roll. He now tells the flight attendant that he is willing to bet the captain $1000 that its oil and wants him to come back and look for himself. The flight attendant isn’t really sure how to handle this latest development. At this point she is mostly staying silent until the crazy guy stops talking. She finally says she’ll go get the captain but guitar player has accepted death at this point. He doesn’t want to talk to the captain, he doesn’t care, he’s done all he can to save our lives and he’s out. He transformed from a concerned somewhat-adult (he was probably in his 40s) to a complete child. He then starts repeating that he ‘hopes to god you’re right’ to the flight attendant. The flight attendant left him alone. She was hoping he was done, she didn’t want to have to kick him off the plane. That would cause even more trouble. Luckily she was right and he was done.
So back to the flight. We wound up leaving the 2nd time about 2.5 hours after our original departure time. We were supposed to have dinner on the flight, which for the first time I had planned for and was expecting. Unfortunately with the delay the food had expired and they were not allowed to serve it. Everyone was willing to take the chance but they wouldn’t allow it. To get another delivery and heat it back up it would have delayed the flight another hour. So no meal. They did hand out the Kit-Kats later. For being patient passengers headphones were free, but I already had my own, and your first drink was free, but I wasn’t getting a drink. So all I got out of the delay was the story. The Bucket List was good but I was correct in wanting something more upbeat. Somehow after being so late we arrived in Philly only an hour late. My sister was there waiting and sadly my trip was officially over.