February 02, 2003:
Finally! Spent yesterday frantically doing laundry
and packing and stressing that we had forgotten something.
Made a last minute trip for Benadryl and a second last-minute trip for envelopes. Repacked. Checked the tickets for the hundredth time. Rechecked them.
I love to fly, really --
Early to bed and up at 4:30 to get to the airport
for our 7:30 flight. Oh, I love airport security suggestions.
"Please show up at least two hours before flight time, four hours for international flights." I think not. I don't think they even open the security gates until six. "Expect delays with security." I personally think that the current focus on airport security is a "sound and fury, signifying nothing." But, we're ready for anything. I even reminded Mark to put his teeny little Swiss Army knife in his checked luggage so they wouldn't confiscate it.
Of course, I spent the ride to the airport wondering
if we checked the leaky toilet to make sure it isn't
running for an entire month (it's been at the "jiggle-the-handle" stage for a few weeks now) and we get one hella
water bill when we get back. Is the coffeepot off?
The lights? Obsessive? Me?
There is almost no one at the airport at this hour--a few dozen people looking excited despite the early hour
- but every single one of them was at the United counter.
The airports have a new rule in place now - you cannot
go through security until you have a physical boarding
pass. It used to be that you could curb check (if
you had luggage) and go straight to the gate for a
seat assignment so you could bypass the always-enormous
line at the check-in counter. Nowadays, in the name
of "homeland security" they require you
to have a paper boarding pass before you can even
get into the main part of the airport. Electronic
tickets are a bit less useful in that case, but luckily,
they have started allowing curbside check in again.
We took one look at the line inside and bolted back outside to the slightly less busy skycaps.
We hit the concourse after sailing through security in approximately two minutes
at 5:45 and managed to find someone at the United customer
service desk to assign us exit-row seating. The woman
behind the counter barely said a word
it was too early for her, or she's just naturally
grumpy, I guess. You know, I don't think I've
ever run across a happy airline employee. I'm too excited to let it bother me.
Nothing in the airport opens until 7am. No food. If they expect you to show up two hours before flight time, they should at least have a coffee shop open so you don't starve to death waiting. Humph.
New York, New York
The flight to New York wasn't even close to full.
We probably could have taken two whole rows and laid
down to sleep. We overheard a gentleman a row or two behind
us talking to the flight attendant (is it completely
un-PC to call them stewards and stewardesses nowadays?) mentioning
Uzbekistan. After a bit of judicious eavesdropped,
I realized that he worked for Newmont Mining Corporation- I
had contracted with them for over a year and knew
their IT person stationed in Uzbek! I almost got to spend some time there myself. It's a very small world,. and getting smaller all the time.
We all caught a cab to Terminal 4 (where they send
all the "odd" airlines that need a gate
once every week or so) and tried to check in and get rid of our luggage. No go.
The gates aren't even open until late afternoon and
our flight doesn't leave until 11pm. I'm still not
sure why I let our travel agent talk me into an early
morning flight. We now have all day to sit around
and contemplate our navels.
Instead of lounging about the fabulously comfortable
concourse (not!), we decided to get a hotel room and
sleep for the afternoon. The airport offers reservation
services and we found a room nearby at the Sheraton.
After a quick lunch, we crashed for the afternoon
in preparation for our flight. I figured it would
get us closer to Egypt time - they're nine hours ahead
of Denver, so we actually should be sleeping, if we're
going to adjust.
Caught the shuttle bus back to the airport at 8pm
to check in. What a ZOO. With the new security requirements,
TSA personnel have to scan every piece of luggage
before it goes on the plane. They're supposed to do
this with new scanners that search for bomb/explosive
residue, some kind of CAT scanning or X-raying or something.
So, the lines to the airline check in counters are
cordoned off and these enormous machines are sitting
in the middle of each section. It's completely unclear
how you are supposed to proceed. There are no signs,
just hordes of TSA-uniformed security everywhere.
We figure that they mean to scan every bag, so we
get in line and wait. At the front of the line, they
ask for boarding passes
well, we don't have those
We would have to go *past* these gentlemen first, through the maze of ropes, to get to the counter where they'd issue us boarding passes and label the luggage
black ribbons and proceed to the EgyptAir counter,
which is a frenzied horde of people with the most
luggage that I've ever seen. I mean, really. Four
or five enormous bags per couple, or a half-dozen
boxes wrapped in string. Truly amazing amounts of
luggage, some of it so large it won't balance on a luggage cart. I don't have that much luggage when I'm moving.
We manage to check in, carefully drawing attention to the fact that we have business class seats, which caused a short, confused conference of gate agents before they issue us tickets and direct us back to the luggage screeners, who dab at our luggage with little cloths meant to show explosive residue and slap green stickers on the bags before handing them off to giant luggage carts. We can only watch as they trundle away with the rest of the herd of luggage carts to who knows where. Probably the lost luggage depot in Marrakesh.
I want to be rich
Because we are flying business class (ok, let me interrupt right here and point out that we usually fly cattle-car-coach. Honest Even for business. The upgrade for business class was so unbelievably cheap for this trip that we had to do it. it would have been stupid not to, considering the amount of time we have to spend on planes. (Warning - massive rationalization in progress! Warning! ). Anyway, because we are flying business class, we can park ourselves in the Lufthansa lounge to wait before the flight. What a haven! Quiet, with coffee and food, and we can watch the departure boards from comfy leather seats.
The flight is a bit late, but we are escorted to our seats and offered a drink of orange juice (no alcohol on EgyptAir flights) and a hot towel. I mentioned I hate to fly? Well, it's so much better in Business class. Real silverware, and footrests, and enough room to stretch out and sleep.
Uneventful flight, although it's 11 hours long which sort of sucks the life out of you. I'm not sure why we thought a direct flight was going to be a better choice than stopping somewhere. At about seven hours, I was ready to get off the plane. After ten hours, I lost the will to live. A layover to get up and walk around, and use a bathroom that isn't the size of a Barbie-doll shower would be nice.