Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Worst Travel Day of the Year

Now that Sammi is living and working in Virginia, this is the first Thanksgiving that she has to travel a great distance to come home. As it is a seven-to-eight hour drive and she had to work yesterday, we were concerned about her making it alone.

Initially, there were two friends in the Washington area who were going to hitch a ride with her, which would have broken up the trip a bit. However, those plans fell through and so I decided to fly down to Richmond and drive back with her.

On paper, it all looked easy. There is a 12:35 flight from JFK to Richmond, arriving at 2:15. Since Sammi had a shortened day and was done at 1:00, it fit perfectly into the schedule. And would have worked quite well had the plane actually departed.
Half the passengers were already on board when they decided there was a "mechanical situation" and sent us all back to the terminal. (I actually never made it to the plane; I was halfway down the gangway when I was confronted with my fellow fliers coming in the opposite direction.)
Eventually, they decided they were replacing our plane with a different one and we finally boarded (or re-boarded, as the case may be) at 1:45. The plane did not actually leave the ground until 2:40. And so, we arrived in Richmond at 4:00, where Sammi was waiting in the terminal.

And so we headed off on what turned out to be an eight-hour second part of my round-trip.
The trip was not without its amusing sidelights, however...
I had packed a lunch -- a wrap and a banana -- and had it in my bag when I went through the security check at the airport. My bag was stopped inside the x-ray machine and the inspector called her supervisor over and said, "What do you think that could be?"
"It's a banana!" replied the supervisor.
And my bag continued through the machine.

While I was sitting in the terminal, the mother of a small boy sat a few seats away. She and her husband were taking turns following their son around as he explored. (He was particularly fascinated by the high stools in the bar and kept running back in there.) Eventually, they steered him back to the seat to get him to eat some lunch. Though his parents offered him the seat between them, he decided to sit on the other side of his father and next to me.
I said hello to him and asked him his name. He said his name was Teddy and then said, "What's your name?"
"My name is Bob."
"Hello, Bob," he said.
Then he said to his father, "Say hello to Bob."
And his father said hello.
Then Teddy said to his mother, "Say hello to Bob."
And his mother said hello.
Teddy took another bite of his sandwich and was off and roaming again, with his father right behind him.
After awhile, as our stay in the terminal dragged on, Teddy's mother got up and went off in search of father and son, and another couple took the seats.
A few minutes later, all three returned, sharing a giant cookie they had purchased (at the Giant Airport Cookies Bakery, no doubt). Teddy, holding a chunk of cookie in his hand, climbed into the seat next to me and said, "Hello, Bob. I came back." Then he pointed to his cookie and said, "I have a cookie. Do you want a cookie?"
I told him no, thank you, so he turned to the woman on the other side of him and asked her if she wanted a cookie. I don't think she understood what he was asking, so she said yes. His mother then broke off a piece of the cookie and told Teddy that he should give it to the woman. Instead, he stuck it in his mouth.
His mother told him that he had offered her a cookie and that that was sharing. She broke off another piece and said that he had to give it to the woman. This time, he got the idea and handed it over. And then he was off and running again, with both parents on his heels.
When we finally did board, I was seated in the back of the plane and Teddy and his parents were in the middle. They had waited and were among the last to board; Teddy seemed pretty tuckered out when his mother carried him in, so I'm pretty sure he had a nice nap. (So did I, for that matter.)
When we arrived in Richmond, I passed Teddy and his mother as we were disembarking. I stopped to say goodbye. His mother told me that when they were getting on board, Teddy kept asking, "Where's Bob?" and they had to assure him I was on the plane. She said that they saw where I was sitting and pointed me out to him.
I was heading on my way and Teddy said to his mother, "Where is Bob going?"
"He has to go home," said his mother.
Teddy seemed disappointed, but he said, "Goodbye, Bob." And told his mother, "Say goodbye to Bob."
Which she did.
I can only presume that he told his father afterwards that he didn't say goodbye to me.

Sammi has a GPS device in her car that she calls "Bernice." For the most part, Bernice functions just fine, advising you when a turn is approaching, cautioning you when you go over the speed limit, etc.
But Bernice has a problem if you have choose a different route from hers.
Though Bernice plotted a route up I-95 for us, taking us past Washington DC and Baltimore, I prefer crossing the Bay Bridge and heading up through eastern Maryland and Delaware. (Most of that route is the one I take to CTY in Chestertown, so I'm quite familiar with it.) Well, once we veered from her intended path, Bernice kept telling up to turn around.
In fact, for each of about ten exits as we approached the Bay Bridge, she kept devising alternate paths that would take us back the way she wanted us to go.
When we were about halfway across the bridge, she suddenly started telling us to make a u-turn! Sammi was on the phone with Chuck at the time and he could not figure out who was telling us to turn around. (While Bernice's seeming "nervous breakdown" and directions could have led to disaster, I did eventually figure out why she was so insistent. The Bay Bridge has two separate spans, one eastbound and one westbound. However, to ease traffic flow, they will often reverse the direction of cars on one lane of a span. We were in the reverse-traffic lane, driving east on the westbound span, which Bernice interpreted as our driving the wrong way up a one-way street.)
Once we were across the bridge, however, Bernice tried a few more times to get us to go back to her original route (which would have included going back across the bridge) before finally recalculating and coming up with the route I had been following all along.

We finally got home a few minutes past midnight.

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