Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Charleston, Chewed - Part 1

Timestamp: Dallas Forth Worth Airport, Butt Crack of Dawn.

The Deal: The humble beginnings of our adventurous journey to Charleston, SC

So, it had been decreed, by people who decree things, that our little party of four must arrive two hours before the plane departed, and that we must all check in at the same exact time or the world as we know it might come to an inconvenient end. We had no idea why this was so necessary, nor could we be certain that we wouldn’t be forced to hold hands whilst carrying out some type of aviation sacrifice to appease the god who came up with the concept of a boarding pass. But why take chances, right?

Thusly, two hours early we did descend onto the expansive property of DFW International, prepared to meet the fates, and praying that somebody somewhere knew how to make coffee around this place.

Of course, it wasn’t easy getting there at the scheduled time. There were a few complications, cumbersome roadblocks and hazards thrown our way by evil spirits still agitated over the shocking cancellation of All My Children. Firstly, there was the simple act of getting out of bed almost before you actually laid down. I’m a night person. This means I stay up half the night, on a regular basis. It also means that a severe disruption in this schedule causes my sphincter to slam shut with such intensity that geologists are convinced that seismic activity is occurring and people better run.

But lo and behold, I reacted almost enthusiastically to the shrill, Gestapo-like alarm clock as it lacerated my ear drums at 3am. I calmly turned it off without hitting snooze, and actually arose from my comfy bed to begin my assigned duties. Two seconds later, some unknown creature starts banging on our bedroom door with the force of an enraged wildebeest that hasn’t successfully mated in several seasons.

This can’t be a good thing. If it’s the Apocalypse, I have a few things that need tending to, like writing out a vengeance-resolving will, making a quick but final blog post, and hiding the porn. Then a voice rings out: “Are you guys UP yet!! We’ve got to get moving!”

Of course we’re up. How could we NOT be after that mess? The entire neighborhood is up. For several blocks. Off in the distance, we can hear a helicopter for one of the local news channels soar into the air, because something that loud has a real good chance of being the lead story on the next newscast.

Anyway, with that much excitement and implied violence whirling about, I practically throw myself in the shower, scrub things clean in a matter of seconds, hurl the last necessary remnants into my suitcase, thunder out of the house, shove said suitcase into my SUV, and then turn and wait for the others.

Crickets chirp.

Okay, maybe there have been some complications. I mosey back into the house, and discover that it is apparently very important that certain members of our traveling detail slather themselves in enough makeup to keep hundreds of makeup-makers employed into the next century. How humanitarian of them.

But really. You’re going to be trapped on two different planes for the next several hours. Do we really need to go to that much effort? Everything is going to be smashed and wrinkled within minutes after you’ve been shoved into a tube with a kaleidoscope of society, most of whom didn’t even bother to wear deodorant or underwear. Are there rumors of talent scouts for America’s Next Top Model being on our flights? I think not.

Then again, I’ve never worn full makeup (yes, I’ve played with lipstick at interesting social gatherings, who hasn’t, but that pales), so I’m not savvy about the joys of re-sculpting my entire image before I face the world or at least go fetch the morning paper.

Eventually, people and things were loaded into the car, and off we head to DFW International Airport. At the surely satanic hour of 4 o’clock in the morning. I must say that this particular drive-time is an interesting experience in the metroplex. We still have the never-say-die party warriors weaving about in little clumps of battered (wonder how that happened?) vehicles, trolling for an after-after-hours bar that might possibly have something, anything, maybe rubbing alcohol, still available for consumption.

Mixed in with the just-CAN‘T-say-no caravans of drunken fools, we have the folks who are actually supposed to be up at this dark time of the morning, scurrying about in their bitter little cars, headed to their bitter little jobs that most people don’t even know exist. This batch of people apparently hates everybody, an extension of their dissatisfaction in life. They will do their best to cut you off, even though it’s a five-lane highway and it’s only them, you and an odd piece of litter in the middle lane, a questionable bit of refuse that may or may not be a tiara.

As we near the airport, there’s a brief discussion about being fiscally-responsible and parking in one of the far-distant remote parking areas where tolls are cheaper, probably because the lot is in a different time zone. Flip side is that you have to hoof it for decades to get to the actual terminals. In two seconds I decide that I will happily pay the equivalent of a house payment just for the sheer joy of simply parking my car, marching two steps, and then checking my bag. Life’s too short for unnecessary walking.

Finally, our gang of four is traveling en masse, lugging our check-ins and carry-ons. We make our way to the Delta counter, where we have been told to arrive as a unit and be processed as such, because otherwise governments will fail. We’re actually a little excited, just to see what is so important about this process. Will we get special prizes for cooperating? Will someone be taking pictures? Will there be fruit juice served?

None of this happens.

Instead, a ticketing agent that really doesn’t grasp where lipstick should be applied simply says “Go punch on that automated check-in kiosk and you’re all set.” And then she points.

We are instantly suspicious. Why was it so important that we all be here together? What lies have they told us? Are we about to be taken against our will to places we don’t want to go? (Is that news helicopter still following us around? Because we might need them to take the photos that will soon be on the backs of milk cartons.)

So Terry steps up to the magical kiosk, efficiently following the directions and punching a few buttons. Instantly, all of our boarding passes for this flight pop out, all of our boarding passes for the connecting flight pop out, a directive appears on the screen to hand 4 bags, any bags will do, to the fakely-smiling attendant now waving 4 of those adhesive strips they loop around the luggage handle. He grabs our tagged gear and throws it on a conveyor belt

Nobody wants to see our ID. Nobody wants to ask us if we have weapons of mass destruction in our designer luggage. Nobody even wants to know if we have a pulse. Just bag snatching, strip-adhesing and then somewhere in a small, black-and-white town an angel gets its wings. Four times.


Well, that makes me feel completely safe. You?

But at least we’re checked in. We were ordered to be here at 5AM. And at 5:02, the deal is done. This feels like so many Saturday-night dates in college back in the day, where inexperienced freshmen really didn’t know what that they were doing, and the love-making was over before the first Human League song even finished playing.

Tiffany turns to me, and all she has to do is lightly twitch an eyebrow and I know exactly what she is thinking: “What the hell are we going to do for the next two hours?

I’m thinking it won’t be anything fun. Just a guess.

I hear the faint sounds of the news helicopter fading off into the distance, any interest in the fate of our clan having instantly faded due to boredom, the dearth of photo-opportunities and a probable gang shootout in the shady parts of town where people pee on the sidewalk and nobody has a real last name.

We were on our own…

Click Here to Read the Next Entry in This Series…

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