Thursday, May 24, 2007

I Suppose It Could Have Been a Lot Worse

I travel often for business. As a result of this I am sometimes upgraded on flights. I have to request it and if there is room and no one requested it before me I get it.

I flew this last Sunday night and I did not get upgraded. Instead of a first class seat, I managed an exit row seat across from the folding lounge seat for the stewardesses. Instead of a mixed drink, I had a coke. Instead of a meal, I had some pasta on the way to the airport.

With the exception of takeoff and landing, I had more leg room than anyone else on the flight save the gentleman to my right who had the same. My shoulders were literally over both arm rests. The gentleman to my right and I were shoulder to shoulder the whole flight. But that leg room was nice.

- TMI Alert -

What was not so nice - and it was my own fault for it - was the coke. I do not drink a lot of them. When I have one on an airplane, it is usually mixed with Jack Daniel's. Cokes are not really the best thing to have on an airplane because at the higher altitudes the gas expands more. Unfortunately for me, for that gas to escape, it had to get past something a bit more solid.

- End TMI Alert -

The exit by me, and not the one at the very front of the plane, was used when we landed. I was the first person off of the plane and the first person at the baggage claim. I could have taken care of business then but decided to wait until I arrived at the hotel. That was a mistake.

When the bags started to come up the conveyor, there was the faint smell of alcohol in the air. As they were going around, one man pulled a cardboard box out of the luggage that turned out to be a case - a very wet case - of Smirnoff vodka. He turned to his wife and said, "It's wet." About this time, I notice that not only is his case of vodka wet, but all of the bags that had been around it were wet.

They had been marinating in vodka during the flight.

This included mine.

That was not so much a problem since my case is lined and only my sweater was in the outer pocket. It was cold and raining but I was not planning on being outside so I was not going to wear my sweater anyway.

I collected my smelly bag, my other non-smelly bag, and made my way to the car rentals.

I reserved a sensible little car for my stay in town. I always reserve the same sensible little car. I never get a sensible little car but that is what I reserve. At the counter, the rental agent asks me if I want a minivan or a Ford F-150. I ask him if he is serious. (I do not really ask him that. I am really not that rude. I also realize that not everyone is from Texas and there might be some parallel universe full of weirdos or people travelling with kids that may prefer a minivan.)

I load my bags into the back seat of the F-150. All of the F-150's are crew cabs. It is also cold and raining and I did not want my bags to get wet - or wetter in the case of my smelly bag.

The new Ford F-150 is larger than your average sensible little car. It is larger than a minivan. It is larger than most cars that I ever get when I am travelling. It takes a few minutes to become familiar with it.

The airport is under a lot of construction. What was a shoulder a few weeks ago is now the road. What was the road is now rubble in the middle of what is going to be another road. There are not very many street lines. I manage to cover just about all of them though with the larger than average F-150. I do not think much of this since it is 1:00 A.M. and I am one of the only people on the road along with the police officer right behind me.

The strobe lights start flashing and I pull to the side of the road. Since I am still somewhat of a nice person, I pull under an overpass so the office will not get wet. I also figure that if I have any chance of getting out of a ticket it will be because the officer realized that I was a nice person and would it not be nice not to give me a ticket too?

Either I am getting older or the police departments are now recruiting out of junior high.

A twelve year old boy walks up to my car and asks to see my license and proof of insurance or something like that. (OK, he may have been in his early 20's.) It was raining and windy and the overpass was acting like a wind tunnel. I just hand him my license and the rental car contract which I already had beside me because I had to show it to the rental car rent-a-cop when I left the airport.

I had been hoping to make my 20 minute trip to the hotel in 15 minutes.

He asks if I know why he pulled me over. Even if I had not been to SERE school, I had been around enough counterintelligence Marines to know that you must admit nothing, deny everything, and make counter accusations.

I muster my sincerety. "No officer, I don't."

He replies, "You were failing to maintain a lane." Wow. He said nothing of my speeding.

I start to explain that it is a rental and that I am not used to driving an F-150 and that it was the Washington State Department of Transportation that was failing to maintain a lane when he asks, "Have you been drinking?"

That stops me mid-sentence. At this point I figure I am going to jail for at least the night. If I had been in first class, I would have had a drink but now that does not matter. I then explain that it is my smelly bag and not my breath that has alcohol on it. I tell him a case broke open during the flight and is now on my bag. He can smell my breath and then my bag. I will keep my hands in plain view.

He looks at me like I have penis growing out of my forehead.

He then opens the rear passenger door, verifies that my bag smells like a distillery, and shuts the door closed. He was about to say something more to me but, seeing him getting soaked, I offer him the passenger seat in the truck. "It warmer and really a lot more comfortable."

For a moment, he looks nonplussed. Then, instead of giving me a lecture or anything else, he tells me to take it easy and I may be on my way.

I would normally not speed so soon after being stopped by a police officer. However, things have reached critical mass. If I did not get to a restroom soon, not only would my bag be smelly, I would have a very embarrassing time checking in to the hotel.

Finally at the hotel, I rush inside and get my card. I run back to the truck - I left it in the fire lane in front of the hotel - and park it in the garage. As quickly - and by this time I am having to move as carefully - as I can, I get my bags and go to my room.

The card did not work.

This was now sounding like a bad joke. Unable to postpone the inevitable, I go to the lobby, find the closest restroom, and sequester myself for a while.

I return to the front desk and explain to the clerk that the card did not work. There is a look on his face wondering, "This guy just spent half-an-hour trying to get this card to open the door?"

The next card did not work either but the room already had someone in it so that was probably a good thing.

Eventually, I made it to my room, unoccupied and clean (both the room and me). Given what might have happened that night, it really could have been a whole lot worse.

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