So this past weekend Natalie and I took off to New Orleans to visit family and to have one last round of all the seafood I could eat before the deployment. My goal when I'm in New Orleans is to eat absolutely nothing that walked before it died. I did have a moment of weakness this time around though as I ate some Burger King after 4 hours at the Rex parade...what can I say, we were all starving and in a hurry to get my sister to the airport. However I have apologized to the powers that be (the gods which provide the bounty of the Gulf of Mexico) and we have agreed to put this incident behind us.
I digress though - this installment will be about our transportation to New Orleans. How exciting can airplane flights be? Well - probably not as entertaining as Part II in this series - but it did have it's moments and I'll do my best I promise. After all, anyone who knows airline efficiency and the unparalleled abilities of TSA to keep our skies safe knows that there has to be something to talk about.
Well, for starters, let me share that Cincinnati is the most expensive airport in the U.S. I'm not just saying this - it's the truth. So instead of paying almost $500 per ticket we drove the hour and a half to Indianapolis for $300 a ticket round trip. After checking in at the front counter and having some breakfast we dutifully made our way to the TSA security screening checkpoint. Now I honestly regard TSA as nothing more than a form of work welfare for those who can't seem to get a job as an honest mall cop (I turned down a job at O'Hare to work for Concordia after all). But that's not just an uninformed opinion, proof, more proof, and even more proof abounds. But if all those hyperlinks aren't enough (I'm getting good at this Internet thingy) here's more first hand proof.
After performing the obligatory strip tease for the energetic and intelligent looking TSA officers and placing half our clothing in handy never sanitized bins we loaded everything on the conveyor so that we can pretend they are scanning for weapons, bottle openers, Swiss army knives, and other instruments of mass destruction. Honestly, I always just kind of figured they were watching soap operas on that TV screen but I was apparently wrong this time. The polite lady informed me she wanted to take an extra close look at my carry on suitcase. After advising me to not attempt to touch my bag or approach the screening table (heaven forbid I put down my coffee to show her the time bomb and save her the trouble) she opened the bag and pulled out what I was praying they wouldn't find......
That's right - an ominous miniature fake Christmas tree packaged with miniature Disney themed ornaments. Yes - the next great addition to the terrorist toolkit - "The Happiest Place on Earth" in a tube.
OK - first, it's a late Christmas present for my sister who kept not returning my phone calls so I didn't have her address to mail it before this Christmas. And I will freely admit that if the agents were really looking at an X-ray scan of my bag then maybe a cylindrical tube with what appears to be multiple wires inside may seem a bit ominous. And the kind TSA lady dutifully rubbed it all over (I was kind of jealous of Mickey really) with the bomb sniffing cloth and then ran the tube through the X-ray again by itself before returning it to my suitcase.
What makes this whole event reinforce everything I believe about TSA is the fact that I DO make it a point to always travel with at least one prohibited item. Maybe it's an aerosol can of shaving cream, maybe a small pocket knife, maybe even an extra large Sharpie marker if that's the menace of the season for TSA. In this case they totally and completely whiffed on the lighter that was in my laptop bag. So yes America - rest soundly as your Government sponsored security is aware of menacing seasonal decorations in the skies. Now pardon me while I just clean up these frayed ends on my shoe strings.
Now once we got to the plane our first leg of the flight was fine and on-time. However once we got to our gate in Memphis I realized that the seats assigned to Natalie and I were not even together. Forget that when I ordered the tickets I specifically requested, by row and seat, the front two seats on the plane. The website even showed open seats vs. filled seats. Now when the lady on the phone asks "window or aisle seat" I usually just laugh because the only time I got an aisle seat was when I jokingly asked for a window in an attempt at "reverse logic". But when I can click on the seats I want, I have to admit that an expectation has been set. But all was not to be lost. When at the airport I always use my military ID to travel and always keep it and my boarding passes together in my pocket. The ID used to get me out of any random screenings and even though that policy is gone (too many terrorists with military IDs getting on planes I guess) one can always hope for the best. Well when I approached the lady at the gate and informed her of my seating dilemma I still had my ID in my hand from when I had pulled the boarding passes out of my pocket. The nice lady asked me to standby while all the passengers loaded and then she'd see what was available. Well after everyone else was comfortably seated (which means that I didn't have to stand in line while idiots learned that their "carry on bag" won't fit in the overhead compartment) the nice lady called for Natalie and I and gave us new tickets for......
FIRST CLASS BABY!!!! That's right - I had a real coffee mug, Natalie had a real glass, and we had a choice between THREE different snacks!!! Oh, and the seats were much more comfortable too.
In closing I will say that the past few years have really taken the fun out of airline travel. More cramped seats, charges for baggage, "requested seats" never coming through, delayed flights, lost luggage, etc. That being said - this trip we flew Northwest Airlines. All things being the same - ALL FOUR OF OUR FLIGHTS WERE ON-TIME!!!! It could have been a fluke, it could have been because we didn't utilize O'Hare airport, or it could have been because they are a decent airline. Who knows...but figured I'd end this instalment on a happy note.
Have a great day - and hopefully some Mardi Gras pictures before Monday.