Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Beautiful Insanity that was April

I did not have a very productive April. I did manage to submit something for my W1S1 goals (a story inspired by the saga detailed below, actually), but I wrote much less than usual, and in the second half of the month I was almost completely disconnected from the blogosphere as well. (Sorry, Blogger friends!) Initially I had a great excuse: my husband’s best friend was getting married in the Bahamas, so we were busy vacationing out of the country for almost a week.  

One of a million "everything is so serene and beautiful here!" pictures
You can't do this in our chilly ocean
I planned to blog about the trip as soon as we got back – especially the comedy of errors that (eventually) got us to and from the island – but whenever I thought about telling the air travel story I just felt really tired and frustrated all over again. But I’ve finally managed to put together an abbreviated version of our journey by the numbers (which is still fairly long, but trust me, it felt much longer at the time):

1.5 invasive pat-downs from TSA agents (Travel Tip: those pants that zip off into shorts and seem like a great versatile travel choice? They tend to set off the new airport scanners.)

2 extra trips through security on connecting flights because San Fran doesn’t know how to design an airport.

<1 hour of sleep on the red-eye from San Fran to Charlotte.

4+ awkward bathroom experiences in the Charlotte airport, which looks just like a normal airport bathroom except there are attendants and mints like you’d see somewhere much fancier. The bathroom attendants were all very nice (hi, Raven!) but it’s still unsettling when you’re the only one using the bathroom and there’s a stranger standing outside the stall making conversation in hope of tips. I’m sure it was worse for the guys, though, since they don’t get stalls with doors. 

3 US Airways planes required to fly 1 leg of the trip…
  • First we had a two hour delay because there was a problem with the aircraft.
  • Then we changed gates and boarded a different plane, made it halfway to the Bahamas, and HAD TO TURN AROUND and return to Charlotte because an auxillary power problem would have stranded the crew in the Bahamas. (Which didn’t sound like a problem to me, but maybe they don’t like island vacations.)
  • We waited on the tarmac for half an hour while they tried a “quick fix,” then they told us to get off the plane while they restarted it – twenty minutes tops, they promised, and we could leave our belongings on the plane.
  • Forty minutes later, we were told to get our stuff from the plane and move to another gate so they can try airplane #3.
  • One of the passengers asked the attendant if we needed to get our gate checked bags, and the answer was a clear no; they'd just be transferred to our new plane. But as we were waiting at the new gate, a different attendant announced "a passenger left their gate checked bag on the plane and needs to retrieve it immediately.” She refused to clarify further, so Kyle and half a dozen other passengers sprinted to the other terminal just in case, only to be berated by that attendant for questioning her original directions. It turns out the second attendant just misspoke – she meant a passenger had left a carry-on (which was delivered to our gate via golfcart a few minutes later, so no one needed to go anywhere anyway). But she refused to admit her mistake and just copped an attitude with everyone.
  • When a passenger asked the same attendant what our updated flight time was, she insisted that we’d be leaving at 4:00. “That’s funny,” the passenger responded, “because it’s already 4:07.” The attendant didn’t have a good response to that, either.

21 hours from the start of our trip, we finally reached the Bahamas.

1 day of nothing but lounging to recover from traveling.

These are our happy but exhausted faces
1 beautiful wedding with amazing scenery, dancing, food, and people. 

 3 days of swimming, partying, and beach volleyball with old and new friends in the most gorgeous location ever. (Because I am certainly not complaining about the Bahamas!!! Just the travel to and from.)

1 very reluctant departure and another looooong journey back to Oregon with a whole new set of problems…

2 drinks spilled all over the man sitting next to me on the Bahamas to Charlotte leg because the turbulence was INSANE but they ran drink service anyway. Luckily I didn’t order anything and escaped unscathed. 

1 flight (the one in the gate before ours) delayed for half an hour because they were waiting for a part… which turned out to be a volume control knob for an emergency megaphone. I could not make this stuff up.

3 US Airways planes needed to fly 1 leg of the trip, AGAIN. The first plane had an unspecified problem, the original replacement plane never materialized, and then finally they found us another one and sent us to yet another gate. The attendant mentioned the option of skipping the safety check so that we could get in the air more quickly and make up time. I screamed calmly requested “NO! Do the safety check!” We boarded only to discover that there was a valve problem that the pilot proceeded to fix by turning the plane off and on – just like with computers, Restart apparently works wonders. Somehow we made it to San Fran alive.

For those of you keeping score, that means we went through 6 US Air airplanes to complete the 2 most problematic legs of the trip, and only 1 of those planes had nothing wrong with it. 

1 food place still open for dinner when we arrived at SFO (thank you, Subway).

3 hours of sleep on the Tetris-piece shaped couches in the baggage claim area (they wouldn’t let us stay in the terminal overnight). 

My Bed
 1 rat that wandered by while I was sleeping and Kyle was keeping guard. (Why yes, I think I *am* traumatized for life now.)

2 drunk frat boys sleeping in the same area who managed to spill 3 bags of Cheetos on the ground while having “breakfast.” 

1 possibly crazy man who came over to tell Kyle about his dead uncle and ask him about a bathroom. 

1 loud infant next to me on the flight from San Fran to Eugene. I actually found her cute and enjoyed talking with her mom, but Kyle was trying to sleep and was much less enamored. 

0 desire to fly with US Airways, through San Fran, or to anywhere as far away as the Bahamas ever again. 

And to top it all off, an unbelievable coincidence that sent us both into hysterical, insane laughter…

1 invitation to another Bahamas wedding waiting for us when we arrived home.


  1. Oh my goodness! What a trial. I hate air travel, especially since I always seem to get singled out for additional security. I don't know what it is about me that makes the TSA want to rub their hands all over my body, but they do it every time I fly.

    International travel is so much easier (depending on the country).

    But, on a positive note, your pictures look gorgeous! I'm glad you had a good trip (aside from the air issues). Welcome back!

    1. "I don't know what it is about me that makes the TSA want to rub their hands all over my body..." Oh goodness; that's awful but also had me laughing out loud. At least my TSA agent was kind enough to tell me that my pants were the problem, though she still felt the need to check me very thoroughly, of course. :-/

  2. Oh wow, those photos look wonderful. Sorry the holiday was marred by the trip.

    1. Thanks! Next time we'll just have to choose a gorgeous tropical island that is closer to us :-).

  3. Absolutely gorgeous photos of those beaches -- I need to get down there ASAP. And well done on reaching your April Write1Sub1 goals this month!

    1. Thanks! I'm not even a beach person, but I was completely won over as well. Such a beautiful location.

  4. Oh, Jillian! I don't know what to say. That last part about another wedding invitation to the Bahamas...too funny and so must go into a travel essay or story or something. :)

    Oh, and this story is one (or a few) reason(s) why I hate to fly...

    1. I KNOW! I think I need even more recovery time before I can write out the full narrative, but it certainly already has the perfect ending.

  5. Sounds like you had an interesting trip. Great pictures. Congrats on meeting your W1S1 goals.