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denver to new york
new york to cairo

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…either 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 yet.

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 ….Under the 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.

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