austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Indicate precisely what you mean to say; Yours sincerely, Wasting Away

We had some comforts for our very short Sunday, such as eating together.

And I took the chance to give her the raccoon-charm bracelet I'd got at Morphicon. I love giving her things, and I think this might somehow be the first piece of jewelry I've given her. I also had the chance to slip a surprise into her bookshelf. This she would discover a couple of weeks later, at a moment when we really needed to hold hands, and this was some compensation.

I've been growing fonder of flying into and out of Lansing, particularly since the drive to that airport is just a couple of minutes and we were able to park right outside the departures door. So instead of long drives and parking hassles we were able to spend time outside security holding each other and thinking how long it would be until we got back together. We planned on the Ann Arbor Arts Festival as my next time to come out, and she'd come out east sometime in August.

I figured we'd parted with just enough time to go through security, and my timing was very good except that the screener decided there was something fishy about my iPad. See, I have a travelling case in which the iPad's tucked in a padded sleeve, with a pocket for the power brick and earphones. They didn't like this and insisted on putting it through the X-ray again with the wires and iPad separated. I'm sure this is a real existing policy formed for logical reasons consistently applied, regardless of how I've never been stopped like this before and the design of the carrying case specifically sold as good for bringing iPads through airport security argues against it.

But there were a few counter-balancing delays in the start of boarding, so what actually happened was I had to wait at the gate only a couple minutes. For all the catastrophe of getting to Lansing, getting back was looking to be sleek and efficient.

This didn't happen. The flight to Chicago was fine, but there were storms rolling in to Chicago. The hint of this was when we had to stand on the tarmac in gathering winds to reclaim our gate-checked baggage. But it didn't seem that bad and never looked bad on the ground.

Thus I was taken off guard by their shutting down takeoffs. We had boarded, and we had even pushed away from the gate, but after promising to try taking off fast to beat the weather the weather beat us. Nothing touched the ground, but apparently flights going to the east were not taking off for a half-hour or more.

I may be losing track of the delays here, as the situation kept changing in the details --- takeoffs began again, then stopped again for all outbound flights, and would be for a half-hour, or an hour, maybe two hours, maybe less --- but the substance stayed there: I was stuck on the ground. For the first time I started to really worry I hadn't brought enough reading material; I'd deliberately scaled back my anticipated reading.

Although the time on the ground was inconveniencing my father and cheating me of minutes with bunny_hugger online, I was reasonably calm. After all, I wasn't out of stuff to read yet. Other passengers weren't so calm, and the flight attendants had to take to explaining that yes, they could go back to the gate but the cabin crew was at the limit of the number of hours they could work that day. With the doors closed they were still technically on the flight that began before they were over-time, but if the doors open they would have to rest, and United would have to find a new crew, and bad as the weather delay might be if they opened the doors nobody would be flying out of Chicago for Newark tonight.

I should mention I needed to get home Sunday because on Monday my parents were flying off on a vacation and they needed a ride to the airport.

So I accepted that there would be some wait of indefinite length on a plane with pilots who were, legally and probably actually, fatigued past their working limits.

The delay kept going and I knew it was serious when they announced they would be distributing snacks and would begin in-flight entertainment which the flight wouldn't ordinarily have had. But the snacks turned out to be granola bars, and the entertainment was a Gwyneth Paltrow movie. Still, it meant I scored a free pair of airplane earphones.

Eventually the storms, which I again point out we never saw direct evidence of, lifted, and so did we. The flight was speedy enough, and the announcements were amusing. They were aware there were a number of passengers who were making connecting flights to international destinations, and regarding those connections they ... had no information. I appreciated the zen-like tranquility of such a statement. I'd have appreciated it less if I were going on to London, Rome, or Singapore. And after years of flying Newark-Chicago-Singapore I have trouble getting the idea of flying Chicago-Newark-Singapore.

They did ask that passengers not making connecting flights remain seated while they tried to make something out of the shambles of connecting flights. I was content to, but I'm content to wait on the plane except when there's bunny_hugger waiting for me at the gate. Apparently nobody else was, and I imagine everybody just got in everybody else's way. My attempt to wait politely for other people to get off the plane was foiled by a small clot of people in the rows behind who insisted on waiting for me. Fine, they can have it.

My father, it turns out, had gone up to my sister's and her husband's ahead of the airport, so the delays didn't really inconvenience him. He spent more time with his beloved daughter than he'd anticipated. She hasn't said how she felt about extra hours with our dad. But it was by now after 11, and he complained about being exhausted, and refused my offers to drive. He did want me to use ``that iPad gadget'' to get in touch with my brother, though.

My parents' tradition of having a last-minute luggage panic held true. For some reason they never find their own suitcases adequate and need to borrow them from some relative; my brother was the candidate this time. Somehow, also, my father was not convinced my brother had agreed to lend the suitcases. So he wanted me to text my brother and check that it was all right to borrow them and could he have them ready for us to pick up if he swung over there.

I don't instant-message, for no really good reason, but wasn't going to set up for that on the fly. I made do with some e-mails, which produced some asynchronous communications glitches between my brother, and me, and my father. The result of this really overly complicated discussion was: of course my parents could borrow the suitcases; what was the issue? My brother's only concern was we not make a racket and wake my niece. I was fine with that. I took the suitcases; my father stayed in the car for reasons adequate to his understanding.

There was another distraction in trying to find a gas station open after Sunday midnight, but we made it to a Wawa and eventually, frightfully late, back home, and to the common time.

My parents would use only one of the borrowed suitcases.

Trivia: Wiley Post and Harold Gatty's June 1931 circumnavigation of the world by air took eight days, 15 hours, 51 minutes, over a day ahead of schedule. Source: Mastering The Sky: A History Of Aviation From Ancient Times To The Present, James P Harrison. (And the trail of mishaps and accidents, some of them attributable to fatigue or trivial mistakes like the difference between Imperial or US gallons, read like the fun stuff in one of Arthur C Clarke's tale-of-technology stories.)

Currently Reading: Rites Of Peace: The Fall Of Napoleon And The Congress Of Vienna, Adam Zamoyski.

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