Monday, 25 June 2007, Flying home

Written 25 June 2007

Paris houseboatsAs I write, we're winging our way over the Atlantic, halfway to Atlanta. This Boeing 767 has widely enough spaced seats that I'm able to use the laptop in flight. It also has newer and better individual seatback video screens than I've ever seen before. They provide movies, TV, HBO (at $5 a movie), video games, triva, etc. Not bad at all. Not that it makes up for being on the way home from France, but what can you do?

Paris viewWe were up at 6 a.m., in the taxi by 6:30 a.m., and off the ground by 9:30 a.m., with our tasty "chaussons aux pommes" and "gourmandises aux pepites" from the Paul bakery shop in the airport, and the food on the flight (flown all the way from Atlanta for the purpose) hasn't been bad.

Another successful trip to France, though once again I feel that the trip was characterized at least as much by what we didn't do as what we did—all those closed museums, inconveniently scheduled concerts, festivals in preparation or just over with, and stuff there just wasn't time to do . . . . We'll just have to keep going back, I guess..

Written 26 June 2007

As you will have heard me say before, if it's not one thing, it's another.

We got to Atlanta right on time and breezed through passport control. Baggage claim took a long time, but was otherwise punctuated only by a visit from Milo the contraband-sniffing beagle, who fingered (or rather nosed) the lady next to us. His handler asked us all to lower our hand luggage to the floor to be inspected, saying, "Find it, Milo; show me!" Milo showed no interest in my computer, David's briefcase, or our CD player, but he danced an enthusiastic little jig and poked this lady's backpack repeatedly with the side of his nose, causing the handler to ask sternly, "What kind of food do you have in there, Ma'am?" She got busted for having brought a foreign apple into the country and had to go have it examined by a human agricultural inspector. I don't know whether or not it was condemned. Once we'd claimed our luggage, wheeled it through customs (without raising a glance from anyone), and rechecked it, we headed to Concourse D, where our ASA flight to Tallahassee was due to board at 2:30 p.m. Our gate turned out to be handling three closely spaced flights to different destinations ("All you Tallahassee passengers, please stand aside. We're loading for Chattanooga only right now. You're next."). The Chattanooga folks were slow, so we boarded about half an hour late, then pushed back even later because the caterers were behind schedule. After a few minutes' wait on the runway, our pilot announced that the wind had veered 180 degrees, so all the planes were facing the wrong way at the wrong ends of the runways. Rather than "turn the whole airport around," as he put it, the air-traffic controllers were going to close the airport to wait for the present thunderstorm to blow through, in hopes the wind would shift back. After 45 minutes or so, during which our steward, Steve, broke out the beverage cart and served drinks and munchies all around, our pilot further announced that we'd have to taxi back to our gate to refuel—we'd used up too much fuel sitting on the runway with the engines running to make the trip to Tallahassee safely. Half an hour into that process, a gate agent came aboard to announce that the flight was cancelled; everybody off.

Delta now has quite a slick "auto-rebook" routine that automatically rebooks passengers from cancelled flights, in (we're pretty sure) order of highest Skymiles total. They directed us to report to gate C24 (just a few gates away) and to wave our boarding passes under the nose of a compact little machine there, which read our bar codes and spat out little slips of paper telling us our new confirmed flight information. "7:43," David read excitedly, "It's only 6:30 now; we can make that easily!" But, no; closer inspection revealed that it said "7:43A," i.e. the next morning. So we joined the line for hotel and meal vouchers. For weather-related problems, Delta only pays half, but they booked us into a nearby Comfort Inn and directed us to the motel's shuttle bus. Our luggage, we were told, would go on to Tallahassee on the next available flight.

The ad for the Comfort Inn advertised that it was next door to a Cracker Barrel, so even though David muttered darkly, "That's one of those family restaurants, isn't it," (by which he means, "They don't serve wine, do they"), we decided to eat there rather than getting something at the airport first. The shuttle served several local motels, so we were treated to a brief stop at the Country Inn and Suites, where we stayed the last time this happened. As we pulled up to the Comfort Inn, though, I noticed an ominous empty building next to it. Sure enough, the desk clerk said, "Cracker Barrel? Oh, that closed a year ago." Drat. We could see a cluster of fast food about a mile away, across the six-lane highway, but in the end I just called up Pizza Hut (the phone number was conveniently printed on our room key), and Listen up, Tennessee St. Pizza Hut, the store that delivers to the Comfort Inn Camp Creek in Atlanta makes a way better medium pan Supreme than you do, and they deliver it hotter. David was even able to get a glass of red wine from the motel's lounge.

Up at 5 a.m. to get the shuttle bus back, but because we were still pretty much on European time, that wasn't a problem. The flight was on time, and our bags had beat us to Tallahassee, so we were home, unpacked, laundry started, dinner thawing, and off by 10:15 a.m. to play a round of golf (for the sun, you understand; it's good for the jet lag). Seminole was closed for maintenance, so we played Hilaman instead. Grocery shopping and more laundry in the afternoon, and we're pretty much ready to go back to work.

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