ouray

ouray
It's me doing a little posing while taking a break at the Ouray, Colorado Jeep Jamboree in 1995.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Amateur Hour: Casual Summer-Vacation Travelers Clog the Airports and the System

OK, I get it; I shouldn't bitch about a free flight to Seattle, but you know I'm going to anyway.

The occasion: the launch of the redesigned Versa. Nissan sprang for the plane fare so I could be there -- a room at Seattle's Hotel 1000 and a few meals included. I like Nissan.

I go on a lot of these trips for assorted carmakers during the year. I know that when I walk off the plane in Seattle, some travel-agency flack hired by Nissan will be standing in baggage claim to collect me and get me to the hotel.

As long as I make the plane out of Atlanta, I don't have to waste an ounce of brain energy worrying about where I am or where I need to be for about 48 hours. Did I mention that I like Nissan?

I did have a two-and-a-half-hour slog to Atlanta for which I had to leave my house at what-the-hell-am-I-doing-up o'clock. It put me in Atlanta at the peak of morning rush hour, but that wasn't the worst part of the trip -- not by a long shot.

I don't fly as much as I did five or six years ago, but I still fly a lot by the standards of most folks. Last year was probably in the neighborhood of 80,000 miles.

During the 1990s, I put five or six years back to back flying more than 120,000 miles a year. That was a bunch of travel considering most of it was within the contiguous 48.

Yet, even with all the flights I have clocked over the years, I always forget how miserable it is to fly during the summer until I arrive at the airport for that first summer flight.

You see, it's summer vacation season. Atlanta airport was filled ass to elbow with amateur travelers. You know, those people who fly once or twice a year for fun. That apparently two out of every three of them were dragging along a kid or pushing one in a stroller only added to the chaos.

I was slapped in the kisser by the realization that amateur-traveler season was underway when a lady announced on the shuttle that was to take me from Park 'n Fly Plus to the terminal that she needed to go to the bathroom. Rather than take her suitcase with her, she simply rushed off the shuttle, leaving five of us in her wake. We sat and waited 10 minutes while she completed her business and finally returned to the shuttle.

No rush, lady. Don't give us a minute's thought; we just have planes to catch.

There is nothing as stress relieving as having 100 people in the security line in front of you who have no idea what they can and can't take through security. They shuffle all the way to the metal detector where the TSA agent tells them to remove their shoes and asks if they have any liquids in their bag.

This ignites a flurry of activity as the clueless then begin rummaging through their bags pulling lotions, potions and creams from the depths of their carry ons. Meanwhile, the line comes to a screeching halt.

There were no less than 30 kids under the age of 12 terrorizing the gate area as I waited to board my flight. A lady with three boys ranging in age from maybe 8 to 1 year, chose to establish base camp at my feet.

The 1-year old evidently suffered from Toddler Tourette's. His periodic, unprovoked screams were punctuated by fits of crying. For nearly 40 minutes he alternated between crying and screaming.

He also must have recently discovered that you can get stuff from here to there by throwing it. He had no shortage of projectiles at his disposal; each he heaved with a spirited scream or sob depending on where he was in his noise-making cycle at that particular moment.

Shoes, socks, hunks of muffin, a little car all skipped across the concourse floor, ricocheting off of the shins of unsuspecting travelers.

Preboarding for anyone with small children on this flight required 20 minutes. Half the plane was already seated when I entered its cabin as the second passenger in the Zone 1 boarding group.

The cacophony of crying and screaming was nearly deafening. Add to that the old lady in the row behind me attempting to hack up a lung, and I could barely hear the announcement that the boarding door had closed.

Atlanta to Seattle requires about 4 hours and 45 minutes in the air.

I did determine that it's virtually impossible to slit your wrists with a house key.

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