How to Travel Ten Hours and Go Absolutely Nowhere

So! Thanksgiving. The plan was pretty simple: get up early Thursday morning, fly from National Airport to Charlotte, then from Charlotte to Birmingham. Then, late on Saturday, we’d fly back home. Of course, since I said, “the plan was pretty simple” you know that means that the end result was anything but.

It started out on target; got up at 4:15am, Charlie picked me up at 5:30am, and by 5:50am we’d parked the car, checked in, and checked our luggage. (There were plans to go running several days, plus nice clothes and casual clothes packed, so the bag was otherwise bigger than I’d have planned. It could have still fit in the overhead compartments, but since it was a full flight I figured I would just find it easier to not have to struggle.) At 7am, our flight was completely boarded and we soon took off for Charlotte, despite heavy fog in DC.

It was around 8am that the pilot came on the intercom. I thought he was going to say we were descending to Charlotte, but instead he started explaining that they had mechanical difficulties and the flaps on the wings wouldn’t come back up after take-off, which would make landing tricky. And, because of heavy fog in both Charlotte and DC, they couldn’t land safely at either airport. So as a result, we were being diverted to Pittsburgh. Yes, instead of going 330 miles southwest, we were going 191 miles northwest.

After we landed, they started working on the plane. And working. And working. And working. After an hour or two, we realized that we were in trouble, because there was no way that we would make our flight to Birmingham. Worse, the only other flight from Charlotte to Birmingham was already overbooked. So that wasn’t an option either. Charlie got on the phone with USAirways, and after a lot of talking they booked us on a Delta flight from Charlotte to Atlanta. It’s only two hours from Birmingham so it wasn’t impossible, right?

Except the airplane still wasn’t ready. After several hours they finally let us off the plane to stretch our legs (and get food if necessary), then they moved us onto a new plane. Finally we took off, back to Charlotte. We landed there at 1:30pm, a mere five hours and fifteen minutes late. And too late for the Delta flight to Atlanta.

At this point, we wanted to just go home. Getting to Birmingham for Thanksgiving was impossible, and staying in Charlotte was not our idea of a good time. That’s when we discovered a new snag. The woman at the ticket counter wouldn’t change our flight because we were only flying one way on USAirways (the way back was via Delta), so she said we’d have to buy another ticket. Aaarrrgghhhh.

I stood in line for the assistance counter, with about 25 people in front of me, while Charlie got on the phone again with USAirways. After an hour, I still wasn’t at the front of the line, but Charlie had someone on the phone that said yes, they’d fly us back and no, we did not have to buy new tickets. Charlie went to a new ticket counter where the woman proceeded to say that we’d have to buy new ones. Fortunately, Charlie had kept the guy on the line and handed her the phone. (Also, around the same time, another passenger from our flight who had also given up on getting to his intended destination told her to stop giving Charlie a hard time because we were from the same mechanical error disaster.) Finally we got our boarding passes, got on a new flight now seating back to DC, and at 4pm were back where we started.

Well, except for our bags, which we didn’t get until the next evening. But I rather expected that.

Exhausted (we’d been awake for 12 hours and in airports/airplanes for 10 of them), we drove up to Rosslyn, had pizza at Piola, and then went home and crashed. For better or for worse, the most memorable Thanksgiving I suspect I will ever have. Hopefully next year things will be a bit calmer. (And hopefully next year I will get to do what I’ve wanted to try: brining a turkey.)

Thankful Time of Year

Holy cow, it’s Thanksgiving tomorrow, isn’t it? (Well, at least in the United States it is.) I’m actually heading out of town for Thanksgiving this year; pretty sure the last time I wasn’t around for the day itself, I was in the back seat of a station wagon and my age was in the single digit zone.

(I am vaguely disappointed that Birmingham, Alabama, is not a balmy 90 degrees this time of year. What’s the point of living there?)

So, as I’ll be out of town, here’s an advance photo essay on things that I am thankful for.

I am thankful for…

Child stars smoking dope!

The Spidey-Signal!

Cross-dressing Sailor Moons wearing sneakers!

Uncomfortably snug pants!

Chanukah ham!

Awesome parking jobs in my office lot!

And last but not least…

Betty White reminding me to end the joke here.

Happy Thanksgiving, regardless of whatever you’re thankful for.

Late Adopter

It’s funny, with some technology I’ve been an early adopter; I had a Wii before anyone else I knew locally, for instance, and I was using a second generation iPod before there was such a thing as Windows support. (Ah, back in the day where you had to use something like XPlay to transfer your music to and from your Windows machine.) I had my Palm Centro before the advertising campaign even really kicked in.

But in the past week I finally embraced the Bluetooth earpiece for cell phones, and bought an iPhone. Which makes me perhaps one of the last people on the planet to do so.

Dark Side of the Tooth [365portraits: 313]I’d actually given a Bluetooth earpiece a try a few years ago. The experience was horrible; constant crackles of static, echoing voices, and sound regularly cutting in and out. I try and use a hands-free device for if I have to use my phone while driving and after a week I gave up on the Bluetooth and went back to a wired earpiece. Said earpiece just died a few weeks ago, and after a trip to Target revealed no wired earpieces being sold, I did some research and gave Bluetooth another try.

The nice thing about not being an early adopter? They fix the bugs. It’s amazing how much better things sounded. So while I still feel like an extra in “Rise of the Cybermen,” I’m sold. Mind you I only use it while driving. I still draw the line at just wandering around with it on. It always makes me think that there are crazy people talking to themselves walking down the street until they get close. Why give people another reason to think I’m nuts?

As for the iPhone, while I liked my Palm Centro, there was a lot less functionality between it and what was coming out now. I thought about a Palm Pre, but a combination of there being far less apps available (and let’s face it, that’s half the attraction) and Sprint not offering a reasonable deal to re-up my contract and give me a discount on the phone, and the choice was easy. So, my contract expired on Saturday, and on Sunday afternoon after brunch I walked out of the Apple Store with my new phone. So far, so good. (Although I am a tiny bit surprised that plugging the iPhone into the computer won’t charge it, like any other iPod-like device up until now. Slightly annoying.)

And of course, one nice thing about being the last of my friends to get an iPhone is that I already have their huge recommendation list of apps to get. I’m already on the third screen worth of apps…

Nine Down

I’ve now had nine “adult” teeth removed, although on the bright side each extraction has gotten easier. The first four removed were from back when I had braces as a teenager. As part of the re-arranging of my mouth, they had to come out. Two of them came out quickly, but the other two had double-roots and weren’t so willing to budge. I still have vivid memories of a dental hygienist holding my head in place, while the dentist and a second dental hygienist simultaneously tugged at the stubborn tooth. When it finally came free, they shot backwards across the office and slammed into a wall. Meanwhile, I had so much novocaine pumped into my face that my eyelids were asleep.

The next four were my wisdom teeth, which came out in 1993. It actually wasn’t a bad experience; the teeth came almost all the way in (and were actually cutting up the sides of my mouth) so there was very little cutting that needed to be done. A new extraction, though, happened yesterday. Years ago after a tooth cracked, I needed to have a root canal that went through two teeth. (Eek.) It started bothering me this summer, so I went to an endodontist who was able to fix the one closer in that was causing pain. Unfortunately, the other one (which wasn’t actually causing any pain) needed to come out. So after a lot of delaying, I finally bit the bullet.

Pre-Extraction [365portraits: 312]I have to give the oral surgeon credit, that was much less painful than I’d imagined. I’d been warned that the tooth was brittle (as all root canal teeth are) so I “might hear some cracking noises.” Eeek. I had mental images of the tooth shattering in the process and then them having to dig the roots out of my gums. Not good, right? But I was worked on for less than five minutes and suddenly the surgeon was taking the brace out of my mouth and saying, “All done.”  You know it’s gone well when even the receptionist is startled at how fast it was taken care of.

That unfortunately meant lots of packed gauze and painkillers for the rest of today, and I’m still taking some 600mg of Motrin to ease the pain today, but it’s not that bad. (I actually just feel unusually tired and run down today more than anything else. We’ll see how the day progresses. Hopefully all will still be well.) I’m also not looking forward to the implant that will need to come for replacing the tooth, as I know that’s the more hefty of the procedures. But still, that’s a few months away.

Hopefully this is the last tooth extraction for a long while. I appreciate that they’ve been getting less and less painful, but still. I’d like to not have to gum my food down the line, right?

Epileptic Disco

I just heard the most awesome thing ever, and it was on my local NPR station, WAMU. One of the classical music CDs they were playing as part of their program “The Big Broadcast” started skipping. And not just a little bit. It sounded like an old 33rpm album cranked up to 45rpms, during an earthquake so the needle jumped every half second.

I normally reserve my hysterical laughing at NPR programs for “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” and “This American Life” but it turns out there is something out there even funnier.

After about five minutes, I gave them a call and let them know what was happening. Much to what I’m sure was great disappointment to the other listeners, they did then fix it about 90 seconds later. (Or rather, the station went silent, and then turned on a BBC radio news feed.)

Craaaaaaaaaaaazy radio!

The schnozberries taste like schnozberries!

While heading up to a friend’s shindig this afternoon, it hit me that if I took the Baltimore-Washington Parkway up to the top of the Beltway (instead of the George Washington Parkway up to the side of the Beltway), I’d drive right past IKEA. And since I recently used up the last of my lingonberry preserves, well… a trip to the IKEA “grocery store” might be in order.

If you’ve never had lingonberries before, it’s a tiny bit hard to describe them. They’re a little tart but sweet at the same time, and they’re an essential ingredient on swedish pancakes. (Places like IHOP actually offer a lingonberry syrup for their swedish pancakes.) As I’ve been on a pancake kick lately (and really, why not?), more lingonberry preserves was a must.

I actually picked up two other similar foods that I’ve never eaten before, though; cloudberry preserves, and gooseberry jam. I have no idea what either of them taste like, but how can I resist something called a cloudberry? It sounds like what Frodo and Sam would have picked off of bushes on their trip to Mordor. Or maybe something Mario would eat to get a temporary power-up while trying to save Princess Peach from Bowser. I, for one, can’t wait to try them. (A gooseberry doesn’t sound quite as interesting. But in the interest of trying something new I bought it.)

If I had been going directly home I suspect I would have bought stuff out of the frozen section, too, but I was saved by warmer temperatures outside this weekend. Perhaps next time I’m up in the area…