2005-11-14: Planes, Vans, and Destroyers

I normally don't write personal things in my journal, as they simply aren't interesting or useful to the world at large. However, this story is interesting enough to my friends, and my voice is bad enough presently, that I don't want to keep re-telling it to people. Therefore, this is the most blog-like entry I've ever made in my journal, and I therefore provide this disclaimer: don't read it if you're looking for the normal, more-informative content I usually write.

I was flying back from my friend Chris's wedding. Thanks to the hotel's AC and what is either a cold or the flu, my throat was already starting to get bad. The airplane air didn't help me out much either, and by the time my flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Las Vegas was over, I was half-dead and just hoping it'd all be over soon. Imagine my overflowing happiness when the gate agent for my 2359 flight from Vegas to SD announced that due to fog, the flight had just been cancelled.

The gate agent told everyone to follow her and she'd get us sorted out, then promptly lost about half of us because she didn't slow down when we went through a few large masses of people. I wound up getting lost, but I'd heard that we were going to baggage claim, so I made my way there. My flight never did have its bags put out on the carousel, but the lost-baggage folks told me to go chase down the ticket counter.

At the ticket counter, plenty of people were furious. It turns out that the fog is considered an 'act of God' and that America West is thusly not obligated to put up anyone in a hotel, feed them, etc. Nor were they inclined to pay for rental cars for people to drive themselves to San Diego, however they'd be happy to re-schedule us for flights the next day. I was offered a flight in at 8pm and told that they could either hunt down my luggage or it'd just fly to San Diego on the 8pm flight. I decided that was ok, since I had to pick up Brian anyway.

I saw a few of the more vocally outraged folks standing over in a corner grumbling to each other, so I approached them and asked if they were up for splitting a rental car to SD. Turns out they were, so we went over to the ground transportation area, where we eventually settled on a minivan rented through Thrifty. The 'drop charge' for going one-way and not two-way is $77, apparently, and the total at the end was $201 (not counting gas, which was an additional $45). Also, Las Vegas charges a 30% tax on rental cars. I guess that's one way to encourage public transit and taxis.

I was the only person in the group who was both completely conscious and 25 or older. The only other conscious person was a 19-year-old PolySci student at UCSD by the name of Tara. Tara was blonde, and looked like a veritable clone of my mom's friend's daughter, Hayley. My other passengers were a mid-20s Air Force intelligence analyst by the last name of Nelson, with an uncanny resemblance to Starbuck from the new Battlestar Galactica (in pretty much every way), a 19-year-old female sailor who was supposed to be on a boat at 5am that morning (we got out of the rental lot around 2am), and a middle-aged guy who sells credit card processing services.

Navy was terrified because if she missed the boat, she may have been looking at a dishonorable discharge. Nelson was supposed to be over by the airport teaching a class at 0730 hours, and if Tara missed her class over at UCSD, she would get an automatic grade reduction. I hope for her sake it was the later class, and not her 8:30 class (which she was a few minutes late for). And then lastly, I had to get to work so that I wouldn't be forced to burn another day of vacation time with potential layoffs pending.

I decided that if the highway patrol chased us, I'd rely on good 'ole boy mode, plus the fact we had two active duty military who needed to get to work, and the fact we'd been screwed over by American West, to weasel out of a ticket if possible. Thankfully I never found out if that would've worked or not, because we didn't get stopped. We averaged 90mph most of the way, with some stretches of 85mph and some bursts up above 105mph. I tended to slow down to 85 when where weren't other vehicles on the road (solitary target, easier bait for cops) and the 100+ speeds were reserved for leaving generous distances between us and the numerous people who were either low on sleep or intoxicated, judging from their lane-wandering.

I-15 turned into a parking lot right at the intersection with 78, so I switched to 78 in order to get to I-5, where we needed to be ultimately anyway. That became interesting, because there was a fresh accident on 78 that we were stuck behind. That didn't take long, though, and once we were past it, the traffic practically sailed. It was about then that the van started signalling me that I was almost out of gas, so I continued over to coast highway and filled up at the Valero station. There was a brief altercation where one of the passengers got grumpy, thinking the little stations by Vista Way took something other than cash (available of course through their insanely expensive ATMs indoors, which would've taken longer than driving to a station that takes credit cards at the pump). I assured him, admittedly less than politely, that I know Oceanside gas stations and that going to those would have been a bad idea.

This was around 0630 hours, and Navy was already late for her ship. We slugged south through I-5 traffic as well as we could, further complicated by the fact I'd never been to the 28th street Navy base in San Diego. There was a brief bit of unprofessionalism at the front gate (Nelson was admittedly cute, and the Navy gate guard wanted to check her out a little I think), but we got through and dropped off Navy at 0740 - 20 minutes before her boat was going to leave harbor. The overall consensus was that since she did make it onto the boat, the worst thing she might face would be a letter of reprimand. Considering she'd only been in the navy for 5 months, I imagine she'll be more careful with her travel plans in the future as well.

Next stop was the airport. We dropped off the van, and Thrifty was conveniently close to the salesman's car. So, he went off for that while Nelson got the return paperwork finished off, and came by in a few minutes. Nelson got dropped off first, as she works at a small Air Force installation next to terminal 2, and then we ran up to UCSD to drop off Tara. After that, I was dropped off at my trailer around 0840 or so. The salesman's business is quite an interesting model - I learned things in idle conversation that I didn't know about credit card processing, and I thought I knew a fair amount.

So, once I was at the trailer, I staggered in, powered up my laptop, and sent Brian some AIM messages advising him to do all the wrangling he could to sit standby on earlier flights, or get re-routed. He was scheduled to fly into SD the next day, but at the same time - which means that if the fog conditions were the same, he'd be stuck in the exact same position I was in. Although if he ran straight for the ticket counter and left the gate agent and such behind, he'd have had a shot at an earlier flight. The earliest they would've been willing to put me on a plane would've been 8pm, by the time I made it to the desk. Brian has yet to be picked up, as does my luggage, which should arrive some time later on tonight.