But then a month ago last Friday

There's a Bobs song called “But Then a Week Ago Last Thursday,” about a luckless guy suddenly having a run of minor good luck.

That song ran through my head a bunch on Friday, March 4, which was one of the smoothest travel days I've ever had.

(I wrote this entry on March 7, but didn't get around to posting it, and what with one thing and another it's taken me until now. It's probably tempting fate to post this two days before I make the same trip again, but I figure if I don't post it now I'll likely forget again for weeks more.)

In the morning, I woke up before the alarm, and got up not too much after, despite not enough sleep. I finished the last few bits of packing, had breakfast, and got out the door only a couple minutes after my planned departure time. By hurrying a little, I made it to the train on time, where I easily got my ticket and found plenty of space for me and my suitcase.

I got off at the Millbrae intermodal station and switched to BART, which involved no significant obstacles. I navigated BART to SFO successfully (which wouldn't be such an accomplishment if not for my having failed to do it last time I tried), got on the interterminal train, and made it to the checkin counter for US Airways quite a bit before I needed to be there.

Had no trouble checking my suitcase, and I think they were supposed to charge me but they didn't; I didn't quite realize until just now that I didn't pay the baggage fee.

I went and stood in the security line, which was relatively short. About halfway through it, a TSA guy stopped me and told us he was shunting us into a faster line, starting with me.

The faster line turned out to be fairly slow, because the TSA (or local equivalent) guys were calling each passenger by first name and trying to have little conversations with them about where they were going and why. Including the little kids. I couldn't tell whether the security people were just being friendly, or whether this is a new security measure. But when you mispronounce a person's legal first name (which they don't normally go by anyway), you shouldn't be surprised when they don't respond immediately. Anyway, this wasn't any trouble, and it didn't slow things down by much, and I got through security with no problems.

At which point I realized that I wasn't in my usual terminal (I usually fly United out of SFO), and so I couldn't get my usual sandwich from Klein's Deli, part of my usual SFO ritual. I was disappointed, but figured there was other food I could try—

And then I saw that there was another Klein's Deli in this terminal. So I got to pick up my usual sandwich after all. Yay!

I stopped and got my shoes shined, which I do occasionally when I'm flying with my nice shoes on. I was momentarily a little surprised that the shoeshine guy spent the whole time talking on his iPhone (in a language I don't speak, so I don't know what he was saying); but then I realized that I was just as happy to not have to chat.

(And I rolled my eyes at myself about my initial surprise. Oh woe, my big problem of the day is that the shoeshine guy is talking to someone else while he works! Karen H once used the phrase “privileged people's problems”; on Friday I came up with the variant phrase “problems of privilege.” Though I suppose that's more subject to misreading. Anyway, “Oh, no, the shoeshine guy isn't talking to me!” seemed like a kind of archetypal problem-of-privilege, much along the lines of “Pity me—my yacht needs repainting!” And it later occurred to me that the people at the place where I go to get my hair cut usually spend the whole time chatting with each other in a language I don't speak and that doesn't bother me at all. It makes perfect sense that if you're doing a repetitive service job, you would pass the time by talking with friends or family; I have no actual objections to that, it just made me trip over my own classism.)

I got to the gate in plenty of time. I found a place to sit. They called my boarding zone, and I got in line to board the plane.

The family ahead of me, two adults and two kids and a stroller, got bogged down in collapsing their stroller on the jetway a few feet from the plane door—and so they stepped aside to let me go past. I figured that was nice but not terribly unusual. But then as I walked down the plane's aisle toward my seat, two other people stepped out of the aisle to let me go by.

I realize that seems incredibly minor. But I have almost never seen even one person do that; two in a row was remarkable, especially after the ones in the jetway.

I started to feel like I was having a surreally good/easy day, like someone was smoothing my way.

In the row before my seat, a woman was struggling to put her bag in the overhead compartment. She looked at me and asked, sounding frustrated, if I could help her. I did; it was easy, it took almost none of my time, it helped her out, and it made me feel good about helping her. (I realize that this interaction was not about me, and it feels weird to be pleased at her difficulty. But helping people does make me feel good, especially when it's easy to do so.)

The night before, when I had checked in online, I had waffled a bit over whether to pay an extra $20 to get a better seat, a seat in a row where nobody was occupying the middle seat. I'd decided against it.

So I settled down in my window seat, and two guys sat down in the other two seats in my row—

—and the guy in the middle seat got up and moved to another row, leaving the middle seat empty for the duration of the flight.

It felt like all of the little things that often go wrong or annoyingly when I fly had suddenly all lined up to go right.

Sometime around then, I had a briefly irritated thought about it not being entirely straightforward to get from my house to SFO by public transit. In particular, it occurred to me that the travel time from my house to SFO was almost as long as the flight time from SFO to PHL. (It wasn't, really, but it wasn't as far off as one might expect.)

But then it occurred to me to turn that around:

It's downright miraculous that I can now fly across the country in not too much longer than the time it takes me to travel from home to SFO.

The flight itself was uneventful (always a plus), with no particular irritants or annoyances (except that I kept drifting off while reading).

When I got to PHL, I got off the plane fairly quickly, and on my way to baggage claim I stopped in a bathroom.

Where the water in the sinks was hot.

I dunno, maybe that's always true at PHL. But I'm used to airport sink water being cold; the hot water was an extremely minor but really nice little touch, relaxing me and cementing my sense that the travel gods were really on my side that day.

I retrieved my suitcase without difficulty, got on a shuttle to the car rental place with no problems. The car rental place (Enterprise) was a little disconcerting: they greeted me at the door and assigned one of the staff standing nearby to be my rental agent. (They were doing this with all the customers, not just me.) She introduced herself, led me to the counter, and started working on my reservation while she asked me questions about myself and my visit.

(I don't think I've ever before been asked so many questions about my travel. I was a little defensive because of my earlier uncertainty about the TSA questions, but it soon became clear that she was just being friendly, so I loosened up. I was a little chagrined when she hadn't heard of Swarthmore—most people elsewhere haven't, but I thought at least at PHL I could expect people to have heard of it!—but was mollified when she said she was from New Jersey, and more so when she expressed happiness about the company I work for, whose logo is on my jacket.)

The drive went fine (after a minor snag that resulted in my switching to a different car before I left the rental lot). I was reminded of how peaceful and relaxing it can be to drive on long straightish sections of road at night when there's no traffic. And then I arrived, and I hung out with Stephanie for the rest of the evening.

So, although there were some minor moments of things going awry, all in all it was an astonishingly good travel day. I was very pleased.

One Response to “But then a month ago last Friday”

  1. shmuel

    Hooray for good travel days!

    And a related term would be First World Problems.


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