Flying Sucks

June 12, 2005

Yesterday Michele and I traveled home from Norfolk. On Friday evening, after the funeral was completed we decided to return to Norfolk and spend the night in a motel with shuttle service to the airport. Our flight was at 9:10 am, and we didn't want to be up at 4:00 to make the long drive from Currituck County to the airport.

Michele's aunts Betty, Sandra, and Peggy came with us and dropped us off at the hotel. We availed ourselves of a surprisingly good room service menu and watched some mindless television in the room. The hotel was attached to a large indoor mall, and the mall parking lot turned out to be the place for crusin' with the stereo blasting. Our room, on the fifth floor, reverberated to each and every thump from the lot it faced below. Finally, about 9:40 we called the desk to complain. While mall security was called, and the noise abated for a few minutes, the incessant thump returned by 10:00. The second call to the desk got us a new room, higher in the building and facing away from the lot.

With a 6:30 am shuttle we decided to get up at 5:30. Michele, who was by this time running on only a few hours of sleep for the past three nights, was once again plagued by sleeplessness. She was awake by 2:30.

By 7:00 or shortly before we were in line at the Northwest checkin counter. Imagine our dismay to learn that the helpful reservations clerk I'd spoken to two days prior had moved our flight to Friday morning and not Saturday morning like I had requested. The 9:10 flight was full. They were able to get us on the 12:30 flight leaving us with over 5 hours to waste in the airport. We had some breakfast and then, since we were both exhausted beyond words by this point, we found a couple of chairs off to the side of the terminal and collapsed.

Midway through our flight to Detroit, where we were due to change planes, I noticed that we were spending a lot of time turning to the right. We were circling - never a good sign. Eventually the captain came on the intercom and told us that severe weather had closed the Detroit airport and that we were diverting to Cleveland for more gas. Then he came on and said we were going to Toledo. Then he came on and said that, nope, we were going to Cleveland as the weather that had closed Detroit was headed towards Toledo. Our frayed nerves were growing even more tense with all the added drama of the flight.

Luckily our connection was still several hours away, so we had time for all the hurry up and wait activities that ensued. We spent perhaps two hours total on the ground in Cleveland taxing, waiting, getting increasingly hot and humid as the plane's reduced power on the ground failed to keep the A/C running at full capacity.

We made the twenty minute flight to Detroit just in time for us to have 40 minutes to change gates. Naturally we landed at gate 72 with our connection at gate 11. And with the weather delays the terminal was jammed with other weary and irritable travelers. Fortunately the Detroit airport sports an indoor elevated electric tram that whisks you to your gate. We made our connection with 5 minutes to spare.

The last flight into Kansas City was largely uneventful, but the plane was full of 20 or so high school choir members and their chaperons returning from Jamaica and a cruise. Their boisterousness was hard to take on 3 hours of sleep, after 12 hours of travel. We finally reached our car about 7:00, after more than 15 hours of constant travel for 1200 miles of distance.

Increased wait times as bags are inspected and tagged, being physically searched, the lack of food during the flight, cramped and loud seating on board, coupled with delays and needless drama have all combined to make flying just about impossible to enjoy anymore. Granted this trip was difficult for numerous reasons, but having the actual travel itself be so stressful was really difficult. I think it will be a long time before we fly anywhere again. For any reason.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.