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Weather delays etc


Got to the airport on schedule Sunday afternoon, checked in, got my seat assignment.

The first sign of trouble was when I got to the gate. An hour before the flight, and there were about 50 people in line at the gate. I asked one of them what it was a line for; he said he honestly wasn't sure. I decided not to get in line, and ten minutes later there was an announcement I didn't hear clearly, something about not needing to be in line unless we needed seat assignments. The line dispersed.

Then boarding started, and it became clear what the line had been for: during the half-hour since I had checked in, the computer system had lost track of most of the seat assignments. After maybe ten minutes of slow boarding, I reached the front of the line and was told I was now on standby.

Fortunately, I didn't have to wait long (and didn't have time to get really upset about it) before they shifted to open seating and told us to just get on the plane and pick any seat.

So we boarded, and I got a window seat as desired.

And then we sat on the runway for an hour. Bad weather was forcing most cross-country flights to detour far to the south, which meant a lot of planes taking essentially the same route, which meant the planes had to be spaced a little distance apart, which meant flights were being delayed. Only as usual, they didn't tell us in the terminal "Your flight has been delayed by an hour"; instead, they got us on the plane and then told us. I can imagine several reasons why they do this, but it sure is annoying to passengers.

As we took off, I counted about 25-30 planes waiting in various branches of the takeoff line, plus any that may've been in the branch of the line that was behind us. The later PHL/SFO flight (which I had originally intended to take) apparently ended up running at least two hours late.

At some point after we took to the air, they brought out the food (available for purchase). And ran out of food halfway through the plane; there was nothing left for passengers in the back half of the plane to eat, on a six-hour flight after an hour of sitting on the runway (and leaving right around local dinner time). They also, if I heard right, ran out of water and ice partway through the trip.

Despite the huge detour, the flight time apparently wasn't much longer than planned, 'cause after an hour delay before departure, we were only an hour late arriving. So we got to SFO and went down to baggage claim, and about half the passengers got their baggage--

And then the baggage carousel got jammed, and it took them a good ten to fifteen minutes to unjam it.

(During which time I added about two paragraphs to this entry, only to find that a combination of iPhone's version of Safari and SFO's T-Mobile hotspot setup wiped out the changes I made when I tried to save them, because it decided I was no longer logged in to the hotspot. Sigh.)

We got to hear the phrase "We appreciate your patience" many many times over the course of the evening.

I should note that I was personally mostly unaffected by all this. I got a fine seat; I napped for most of the hour delay; I had bought food and a bottle of water in the airport to bring on the plane for dinner, because I knew from the previous flight on Thursday that their food-for-purchase supply is limited (and didn't really include much I was interested in eating anyway); I didn't miss a connecting flight in SFO, as several of my fellow passengers may have done; and the luggage delay was really minor compared to everything else that went wrong on this flight, and compared to what usually happens to my luggage when I fly into SFO.

(It's been a pattern: I fly into SFO late at night, usually on United I think, and my flight gets delayed by hours, and Kam comes to pick me up at 2 a.m. or so, and my luggage either disappears entirely or gets hidden in a cage somewhere or . . . all sorts of things, usually requiring at least an hour to sort out. This time I was on US Airways, and Kam wasn't picking me up, and the luggage thing went pretty smoothly.)

So all in all, it was a pretty smooth travel day for me. But I feel sorry for many of my fellow passengers on that flight, not to mention the US Airways staff (flight attendants and such) who had to deal with the resulting unhappiness.

I think my Customer Service Demon must have been taking a break after the shenanigans at the hotel over the weekend; usually when the CSD is in action, I get the service problems while everyone around me is unaffected. (Like when everyone else at the table gets their meal but my order mysteriously disappears into the ether.) In this case, it was kind of the opposite; I was unaffected in the eye of the storm, while most of the people around me got whomped by assorted problems over and over again.


Hmm, I wonder how much better train travel would be?

Then again, trains wouldn't help much with crossing oceans, other than getting one to a coastline.

Even though there were all those logistical frotzups, I hope coming to Alumni Weekend was on balance worth it. I know I really enjoyed having you visit, especially Thursday's outgehanging and Friday's roundsing.

I like the idea of train travel, and I've done it once or twice before. (For example, during college I once took the train home for vacation, which led to one of my more memorable Chicago experiences.)

But these days, given that long-distance train fares are more than half as expensive as plane tickets (and sometimes as expensive), and long-distance train travel can take nearly an order of magnitude longer, I can't bring myself to do it.

The article that you pointed to is a great reminder of how much more pleasant various aspects of the train experience are. But to get from here to Philadelphia by air takes me a total of 9-10 hours (from the time I leave home)--maybe as much as 12 if there are delays--and that's already longer than I want to spend traveling. By Amtrak, it takes 54 hours for just the Emeryville-to-Chicago section of the trip; more like 75 hours for the whole trip. More than three days of travel each way. I don't like the in-transit part of traveling, and I don't have time to spend most of a week getting to and from my destination, especially not if I'm spending only 2-3 days at my destination.

Even for shorter trips, it takes too long for me. I've once or twice considered taking Amtrak to Seattle, but it takes nearly 24 hours, as opposed to about 4 hours total (from my house) by plane. For a weekend trip, that just doesn't fit into my life.

Hi, Jim! Didn't mean to ignore you--you posted while I was composing my previous comment, so I didn't see your comment 'til now.

Yeah, the trip was overall worth it; there were a bunch of very nice parts, including seeing you.

But for much of the weekend, when I was in group hanging-out areas I was in a kind of distanced/disjointed headspace, feeling a little disconnected and out of sync. (This was partly just due to my having been generally grumpy and irritable for a couple of weeks now, for a variety of reasons.) And I never quite managed to do various things I'd intended to do (like visit the Crum and various parts of campus, and see Donna Jo and Jane J and DH, and play various games, and put together another roundsing, and teach people poi-spinning and juggling, and spend more time with some of the people who I did see), and staying on my late-night California schedule meant I missed the mornings and early afternoons (though I don't regret the late nights). And the fact that most people showed up Friday evening and left Sunday midday meant that the weekend ended up feeling really short to me, even though I was there longer.

Anyway. Despite it not being as wonderful as I had hoped, it was definitely worthwhile; many thanks to Jim and everyone else involved in organizing stuff, and great to see everyone I saw.

So, my flight boarded fine, left on time, and then did a 360 degree turn around and headed toward Texas. We were being rerouted because of the storms. The rerouting cost us an hour and meant we had to stop in Utah for more fuel which cost us another two hours. So, my six hour flight took nine hours. I got home at 2:00 a.m., and it was still easier than any trip I've had with the kids.

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