13 Hours from Albuquerque to ‘Frisco

Isn’t that a Glen Campbell song?

OK, maybe not. But it was the actual number of hours it took me to get back to San Francisco after two weeks visiting my ol’ New Mexico home.

Me and travel have a love-hate relationship. I love it and it hates me. Nothing thrills me more than the notion of seeing a new plac but getting there for me is usually an experience that ranges from moderate annoyance to full-on pain in the ass, especially if you throw airlines into the mix. Every trip I’ve taken to Albuquerque involves one layover and at least one delayed flight. Accepting that as commonplace, I’d become comfortable, complacent, unable to recognize the sound of Fate diabolically tittering as I walked blindly to my doom.

We (my husband Nick and I) got to the airport two hours before our flight so we could relax at the bar, have a drink and unwind. We did that, toasting margaritas and people-watching until about an hour before boarding time. Upon arriving at the gate, I saw an inordinate number of people and the traveller’s most-hated word up on the gate marquis–”Delayed”. Due to severe weather in Denver, our 5 o’clock departure had been moved to 6:15 which left me ample time to sketch surly airline customers.

That pensive activity was unexpectedly cut short–first, by a drunk and disorderly businessman type who spent fifteen minutes haranguing an airline employee for “making him” miss his plane–and second, by a floppy-hatted woman who, judging by the absurdly high-volume phone conversation she carried on for twenty minutes, had no concept of an “inside voice”.

By the time we made it to Denver at 7:40, my patience was worn about as thin as a disposable toilet seat cover and was just as easily flushed when we saw that our connecting flight had been delayed until 11:15. With two and a half hours to kill, we settled in to read, draw, play games, stare at slack-jawed strangers and any other activity we could think of to pass the time. By 10:30 my eyes were burning and it was all I could do to stay awake. Then it came–the announcement that the plane that was supposed to be coming for us from Indianapolis had had a passenger with a medical emergency and was forced to turn back, making our new departure time 1 am.

I just about burst into tears at that, looking enviously at a nearby 2 year old who was getting her frustrations out through a more-than-justified tantrum.

Around that time I realized–designers of airport seating are a cruel lot. They purposely put in non-foldable armrests so you can’t lie down on the seats, damn them! Not that I relish the idea of putting my head where thousands of butts have previously hunkered but what’s a stranded airline passenger supposed to do?? Turns out, what you’re supposed to do is throw yourself exhaustedly on carpet that’s probably more germ-laden than a hillbilly’s underwear, using your husband’s coat to shield your eyes from the merciless flourescents. If you’d told me a week ago that I could actually lose consciousness in such a situation, I’d have laughed at you. I wasn’t laughing Sunday night.

At long last, our plane arrived and we finally departed after 1 am, landing in San Francisco after 2. Blearily, we stumbled to the baggage claim, thinking only of getting to the airport shuttle where we could pass out for another 45 minutes. Like everything else on that Longest Journey, the baggage was also delayed so I sat on the floor in a stupor while Nick held himself upright through sheer force of will. Around 2:30 we got our bag and headed outside where we were fated to experience the WORST SUPER SHUTTLE RIDE IN HISTORY. But that’s a subject for another post.

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