Thursday, August 10, 2006


I got home last light after a short sojourn in Sweat City. Leave Monday evening, spend two days at the Grand and Overblown Headquarters of the Great Corporate Salt Mine, fly back Wednesday evening. Simple, eh?

It’s never simple.

This time of year - meaning the period from August to July - the weather is likely to be sketchy either in Houston, Atlanta, or both. This means delays. And when your flight’s scheduled arrival is 10:20 p.m., any delay at all means you will not be getting home until the Wee Hours.


Last night’s flight was supposed to depart Houston at 7:04. The incoming aircraft was delayed in arrival; we boarded maybe 15 minutes late. Then we sat on the taxiway for a while, finally taking off at 7:55. The trip was smooth most of the way - one minor, short-lived jolt of turbulence midway through, but nothing to whiten the knuckles, loosen the bowel, and pucker the sphincter.

With all the fat they’ve built into schedules these days, we ended up touching down in Atlanta just before 10:40...only 20 minutes late. That’s when the fun began. Ground traffic was horribly snarled, a combination of a fast-moving thunderstorm that had sailed through the area right before we arrived, and a collision between an aircraft and a truck of some sort on the apron. It was almost an hour later when we finally pulled into our gate: 11:35 p.m.


As we were disembarking, a mid-fortyish fellow who had been traveling with his family commented to the gate agent, “That flight was horrible!

I could not help but throw my two cents’ worth in, telling the gate agent, “Aw, that guy is full of crap.”

For indeed, he was. Full of crap, that is. I have been on some bad flights, possibly even some horrible flights. And this was not one of them.

Sure, it’s annoying to be late. It’s really annoying to be 90 minutes late. But horrible? Hell, I’ve been on flights that were seven hours late...and even that’s not horrible. A major pain in the ass, yes. Horrible, no.

I’ve been on white-knuckle flights that bounced around the sky, dodging thunderstorm supercells and tornadoes. I’ve been on flights that missed their landing approaches. I’ve been on flights when it wasn’t entirely certain that the landing gear was in place. I’ve been on flights that circled for hours, awaiting a landing slot. I’ve been on flights that had to be diverted for refueling, or because of bad weather.

I’ve had to stay overnight in strange places because of diversions and missed connections. I’ve had luggage misdirected, in one case going to Australia while I went to Singapore, in another case going to Frankfurt while SWMBO and I were enroute to San Francisco. I’ve had luggage torn open. I’ve had luggage crushed so completely that the airline took it to use as a Bad Example to their ground crews.

I’ve been on flights with screaming babies, annoying seat-kicking toddlers, puking teenagers, and - one time - a drunk who urinated into the airsick bag.

I’ve had to sit in the (gasp!) Dreaded Middle Seat.

Any one of those flights could spin the Horrible Meter way the hell more than the Minor Annoyance Trip I took last night. So what if I didn’t get to the house until 12:55 a.m.? At least I got there.

Hell, it beats driving.

I figure anytime I can get on a gigantic, multi-ton tubular chunk of metal in one city and get off it in a far-away Different City a couple of hours later, I have little cause to complain. I make it a point to thank the pilots when I get off of every single flight I take. Sure, they’re only doing their jobs, but it’s Highly Fucking Important that they do their jobs really well. And if I get where I’m going in one piece, I figure they deserve a thank-you.

Perspective, Esteemed Readers. There’s annoying, and there’s horrible. It’s a Good Thing to know the difference.

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