how to get to san diego (the hard way)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

2 p.m. EST, Midtown Atlanta
Meet your co-worker in the office building turnabout rolling your oversized suitcase, shouldering your laptop bag and strapped with your insane camera bag looking fresh and eager with your matching vintage necklace-and-earring set and your cute t-strap flats.  Load everything in the car and head for the airport.

2:05 p.m. EST, Midtown Atlanta
Traffic.  Ugh

2:45 p.m. EST, Camp Creek Parkway
Climb aboard the Park-and-Fly shuttle with oversized suitcase, laptop bag and insane camera bag.  Note that the air temperature is less than desirable considering the 90-plus-degree weather.  Begin to sweat.

3:05 p.m. EST, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport
Approach the Frontier Airlines counter and take place in the surprisingly long and slow-moving line.  Keep inching forward and shifting giant bag, camera bag and laptop bag.

3:20 p.m. EST, Frontier Airlines Counter
Get checked in by a curmudgeonly ticket agent who asks you if there's a phone number attached to your oversized suitcase.  Do what now?  Proceed to rattle off your cell phone number.  Receive irritated look from the ticket agent.  Oh, do you mean is my phone number on my bag?  Yes.  Why didn't you ask that question in the first place?

3:25 p.m. EST, Security Line
Feel SO relieved to have lightened your load and only be shouldering the laptop bag and strapped with the insane camera bag.  Clearly, it's going to get easier from here.  Remember you have to remove shoes.  Oh, t-strap flats, don't make me unbuckle you.

3:35 p.m. EST, Underground Train
Move to the back of the car and find a place to stand.  Let the laptop bag rest on the ground.  It is, after all, getting a weeee bit heavy...

3:45 p.m. EST, Concourse D
Walk all...the...way to the end of the terminal to the assigned gate where there appears to be approximately 4,000 people waiting to board the plan.  Dash to newstand to buy guilty-pleasure fashion magazines and a water as an afterthought.

3:50 p.m. EST, Concourse D
Boarding begins with premier customers.  And families with young children.  And the elderly.  And possibly trained chimps.

4:00 p.m. EST, Concourse D
Have they called any other rows?  Nervously check watch and wonder about the 4:09 departure time.

4:10 p.m. EST, Jetway access to the plane
Listen to a Frontier representative repeatedly yell along the line of passengers that the overhead bins are full and as many people as possible need to check the bags they didn't check to avoid the $25 baggage fee.  Consider yelling back, at equal volume, that the plane is late.

4:15 p.m. EST, On plane, in seat
Assume that now that you're buckled in, the show will get on the road

4:55 p.m. EST, On plane, in seat, fuming
The cabin door finally closes after the most disorganized boarding procedure in the history of aviation.  Begin to wonder if you have stumbled into some sort of sociological experiment trying to determine how long the passengers will wait to overthrow the crew.

5:30 p.m., MST, On plane, in seat, considering barfing
Due to some unspecified weather condition, the Denver airport is closed.  And even though this moment marks the appointed time of arrival, aimlessly circle the Denver airport instead through teeth-rattling turbulence.  Almost lose it when the guy next to you says he's going to be sick.  (Doesn't he know you never say it out loud???)

6:15 p.m., MST, On ground (thank you, Lord), at arrival gate
Shoulder insane camera bag.  Pull laptop bag out of overhead bin (did it get heavier?).  Run to gate agent.  Connecting flight?  Gone.

6:30 p.m. MST, Frontier Airlines customer service desk
Stand in line behind the other stranded passengers on the flight.  Wonder if those are blisters forming on the top of your feet.  Politely explain your dilemma to the service agent, swallowing the desire to yell or cry.  Or maybe barf (just a little).  Receive transfer ticket to the 9:10 p.m. MST departure.

7:00 p.m., MST, Chef Jimmy's Bistro, Denver Airport
Call friend in San Diego about change of plans.  Discuss that the John Wayne/Santa Ana/Orange County Airport is further from San Diego than she thought.  Consider moving one Hilton night to the Irvine Hilton and journeying south the next morning.  Call Hilton San Diego.  Be told to call the Hilton Irvine.  Call the Hilton Irvine.  Be told that because you are a deal-seeker and pre-paid for the room to get a discount, that adjustments to the reservation can only be made by corporate.  Call corporate.  While on hold, realize that they close at 6 p.m., CST time.

7:15 p.m., MST, Chef Jimmy's Bistro, accompanied by pizza and pasta
Decide in a radical move to rent a car in Orange County and drive to San Diego upon arrival.

8:30 p.m., MST, Frontier Airlines Terminal
Sit in a giant square arena with other angry passengers while the gate agents insist on using the loudspeaker at the same time so that all flight cancellations and gate changes sound like they're being issued by Charlie Brown's teacher.  Laugh or cry?  Eat a cookie.  Realize those are definitely blisters.  And that your laptop may contain lead.

9:00 p.m., MST, Frontier Airlines Terminal
Hear the announcement that the flight has been moved from gate 26 to 30.  Join the lemmings migrating in that direction.  Wince at the blisters on your feet.  Hate your laptop.  And your camera.  And your life.

9:15 p.m. MST, Flurry of activity
Board the plane in desperate hurry.  Orange County has a curfew and planes that take off after a specified time are rerouted to LAX and bused to Orange County.  Wonder if you will collapse in an apoplectic fit if this happens.

11:00 p.m., PST, Over southern California
Be woken from restless sleep by the flight attendant announcing that the plane is approaching Orange County.  Realize disaster is averted.  Then laugh inside at the thought that this small victory could in any way signify averting disaster.  Feel grossed out by the passenger next to you putting on full makeup at this time of night.  Take off the earrings that are pinching your ears.

11:15 p.m., PST, Alamo Car Rental Kiosk
Sign away your life in order to rent an economy sized car.  No seriously.  Tell them whatever they want to know if they'll give you a car.  Do it.

11:25 p.m., PST, Baggage Carousel #2
Be approached by super chatty Orange County dude.  Consider punching him.  Inwardly mock him instead.  Collect your oversized baggage, crippling laptop and why-did-I-bring-this-camera-bag.

11:35 p.m., PST, John Wayne/Santa Ana/Orange County/Airport of Many Names
Pull out of the parking deck in a shiny yellow VW bug that has difficulty holding everything.  Coworker turns on the radio and "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" is on.  Sing loudly.  And badly.  Miss the exit ramp for the 405.  Wonder why California hates u-turns so much.

12:15 a.m., PST Somewhere on the 5 south
It's dark.  See the sign for San Diego County.  Applaud.  Attempt to mentally do the math to figure out how many more exits there are between you and sleep.  Fail.

12:35 a.m., PST, Hilton Hotel Gaslight District
Pull up to the curb and give the valet an absurd amount of money to park the car overnight.  When he asks if you need help with your bags, brush him aside.  You've got it.  You've got it as you tug your oversized bag out of the tiny trunk and stumble backward and ouch those blisters hurt and where's your wallet in the insane camera bag and how heavy is this laptop?  Stagger into the hotel and give your name for the reservation.  Discover you're at the wrong Hilton.

12:40 a.m., PST, Curb
Angrily stuff all your crap back into the tiny VW bug and your poor coworker can't buckle her seatbelt because of how you pushed your luggage into the backseat and you promise to drive very carefully for the three blocks to the other Hilton.  And why are there so many Hilton in San Diego?  Wonder is that you that smells so ratty?  Consider that your mascara may be on your chin.

12:45 a.m., PST, Hilton San Diego BAYFRONT
Meet CAMERON who is resplendent in his light blue Hilton jacket and stylish designer glasses and carefully trimmed hair and oh my does he have manicured nails?  Briefly consider what you might look like.  No, bad idea.  Spell your name.  Sag against the counter when he finds it in the computer.  Try to patiently endure the offers of upgrades and sidegrades and as politely as possible, hitching your maddening camera bag up on  your back and your laptop bag straps out of the skin on your shoulder and shift the oversized suitcase so you can reach the counter and don't even think about your feet, reach for the keys that will open a room where there will be a bed.

1:00 a.m., PST, Hilton San Diego Bayfront, Room 2210
Laugh maniacally when you see the bed.  Think about the path of least resistance to bed.  Could you forgo washing your face?  Yes.  But not your teeth.  Forage for toothbrush and toothpaste.  Open the bathroom door.  And...oh, sweet fancy Moses.

1:05 a.m., PST, The Smell of Death
Meet your match - the unseen swamp gas rising from some unknown source deep in the bowels of the earth and breathing its pungent, deathly breath right in your face with an intensity that makes your eyes water.  Back away from The Smell of Death and ask co-worker for confirmation.  She confirms and calls the desk about the fouls stench that can only be described as some unholy combination of rotting cabbage, raw sewage and the funk of 40,000 years.  Run for your life.

1:10 a.m., PST, Hallway on the 22nd floor of the Hilton San Diego BAYFRONT
Stand like two bereft hobos in the lamplit corridors with your yes-you-still-are-stuck-with-this-infernal-camera-bag hung askew off one shoulder leaning against the handle of your oversized suitcase that could roll out from under you at any moment with the strap of the laptop bag tangled around your arm, the bag itself precariously perched atop the suitcase.  At least you got to change shoes.  Gaze sadly at the raw red blisters on top of your feet.

1:20 a.m., PST, 24th floor of...Lord, help me, where am I?
In the bathroom, consider that you look like a meth addict.  Washface.  Brushteeth.

1:30 a.m., PST, 2:30 a.m., MST, 4:30 a.m. EST; Personal standard time, DOA.
Collapse into bed.  Before letting weary exhaustion take over and relax your throbbing feet, crippled shoulder and aching back, set the alarm for 8 a.m. because after 14 hours, two cars, one train, two planes and your own tortured soles, with God as your witness, you are going to see San Diego in the morning.