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IT'S A LONG WAY TO SACRAMENTO
2 May 2006
I remember the first plane trips I took, back in the 1960s and early 70s. Plane travel was really a special event. You got dressed up because you were going on a plane trip. There was leg room. You got up and moved about the plane--if you were traveling in a group, your group could congregate in the aisles, sometimes, to chit-chat on long flights.
The flight attendants (who were called "stewardesses" then and who had to be female, and be young and good looking. They would take special classes in how to apply make-up and do their hair. Sexist, I know...) would bring you peanuts and free drinks and when mealtime came around, you got your choice of three different kinds of food. Haut cuisine it wasn't, but it was often quite good. It was served with cloth napkins and real silverware. Wine was offered, sometimes, free with the meal. It felt elegant, which was why you dressed up to fly.
Nowadays, I consider days I have to fly days from hell and just accept that it's going to be horrible from start to finish. When it isn't, I'm pleasantly surprised, but when it is, I don't stress out about it too much. Bring lots of reading material and prepare for the worst.
The only thing that saved our flight to Boston from being "the day from Hell," was that the last leg we were put in rows with extra leg room (you would normally pay $175 extra for those rows. Each.)
Our United Airlines plane out of Sacramento had mechanical problems--not enough oxygen in the cockpit container and some problem with the nose of the plane. It took a very long time to get everything fixed and we kept getting encouraging comments about "just a few minutes more."
Ultimately, we sat on the tarmac in Sacramento for so long that we were more than an hour late getting into Denver and our connecting flight had long since left. We had been told that the next flight to Boston was full and we were anticipating leaving in the middle of the night (actually, we might have been on Ned & Marta's plane, if we had). But they were able to get us on the next flight, putting us in three separate middle seats--but in the extra leg room row.
While we were dealing with Customer Service, another man who had been on the flight was berating a rep, saying that the pilot had been late, which started the problem, that there was no promised representative to help at the gate with people who had missed their flights, that he had been to two other Customer Service desks, which were unmanned. This was not a happy traveler.
My heart sank, hearing that I was going to be in the middle seat. It's one thing to be this big and sit between your mother and your husband, each of whom loves you and puts up with your bulk, or even sitting at the window, where I don't disturb anybody but Walt, but the thought of being put between two strangers was horrible. It was a completely full flight (as was every flight we were on), so there was no possibility of getting a different seat.
While we were waiting, I decided to try their "high speed internet" machine so I could release the Happy Birthday Jeri journal entry, so she wouldn't think it weird that the day's entry was so late. Only the "high speed" was slower than my dial-up Windows 98 laptop and I gave up after I had spent $1 for four minutes.
Fortunately, the two young men on either side of me were slender and didn't glare at me. I sat there wedged--and I do mean wedged into the seat (when I travel with Walt, we put the armrest between us up, but the only hope of keeping all the fat corralled into one seat was to jam the arm rests down into the rolls of fat). I don't know if you can cut off circulation to your hips, but after 5 hours, I definitely had semi-permanent dents where there were none before and I was in real pain from the metal armrests keeping my butt from spilling over into the lap of my seat mates.
Sunday, I anticipated another day from Hell, hopefully without the flight delays.
We started the day with just some "driving around." We had time to kill and the kids were busy at a Star Wars exhibit, so we drove through downtown Boston just to get a last look. We saw a helicopter landing on top of a medical building.
We ended up at the Arnold Arboretum, which is near Jeri's house. After driving all around it, we found an open gate and decided to drive through. Unbeknownst to us (and there was no sign saying so!) the arboretum is not supposed to be a place for cars, as the dozens of people we saw walking dogs, jogging, riding bikes, walking strollers, and just walking along in the middle of the roadway let us know very quickly!
But we had to complete the loop to get back to where we could get out again, and so we did get to see some beautiful blossoming trees.
And then to the airport, schlep the luggage onto the rental car transport, get checked in, see that we might be flying with 50 bazillion high school kids, so get into the concourse early (turned out they were flying to Des Moines, but their flight had been delayed for a very long time, due to storms in Chicago).
The flight out of Boston was on time, though we were definitely not in the extra leg room section. I don't think they have taken out any seats to make extra leg room. I think they just scrunched the seats in the back together more. When you are my size, it's already a problem. There is absolutely no way that the tray table folds down in front of me, and then when the guy in front of me decides to recline his seat, I fight tears because I'm too embarrassed to say "I'm too fat; could you please move your seat back up." My mother asked him for me, and I was glad she did it, though it didn't help the "embarrassment factor." I still couldn't put the tray table down, though, which meant balancing my "meal" --a "mini meal," which costs $5 and looks like someone went to Costco and threw in every sample there was available--apple sauce, salami, Parmesan cheese spread, 3 crackers, 2 cookies. My mother let me share a corner of her tray table, and I managed to knock her orange juice over into our laps.
We were slightly delayed on the second leg of the trip, waiting for arriving passengers from weather-plagued Chicago. I had to ask three different times for a belt extender. It's embarrassing to ask for one period, but to have to ask three different flight attendants is mortifying. I know its my fault for being fat, but still...
But fortunately, the trip was uneventful. I finished the third book for the week, Ken Follet's "Whiteout." Anybody read it? It's a great page turner, but I couldn't help but think that he wrote it tongue very firmly planted in cheek. Despite the serious nature of the crime (theft of a virus more virulent than Ebola), it would make a great comedy!
I have several slide shows put up on Flickr, depending on how much you want to see about our trip. Also, I went and added photos to the day we went to the zoo.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
The Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge