Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Voyage Over

As you know, I made it here in one piece. The trip went pretty well, all things considered, and here's how it went down:

Matt was kind enough to let me crash at his place the night before I left. Quality time spent with Kono and Oscar (the cat who looks like an Ewok). We got in about 2 hours of sleep, and then headed to the airport.

The flight to San Francisco is ok. I've got the window seat. The person behind me kept farting. On the descent into SF, we enter a cloud bank and lightning strikes the plane. At least that's what it looked like. It may have been just off of the tip of the wing, and it may also have just been static discharge from the plane coupled with static discharge from the clouds, but I happened to be looking out of the window at the time and saw it and it looked and sounded a lot like lightning. Very exciting.

Unfortunately, the plane left DIA a little late, and took it's time in the air, and we touched ground 30 minutes later than we should have. Then we took the scenic route around the tarmac, I suppose because of the rain. We finally de-planed in Terminal 3, and I saw that my flight to Honolulu left form Terminal 1. I started following the signs, and very quickly found that
a) the signs aren't very clear
b) Terminal 1 is a very long way from Terminal 3
and c) I've got 20 minutes before my plane leaves.

So I'm hurrying along, and I finally come to a sign that says Terminal 1 is off to the right, and I look, and there's a security guard and another sign that says "Exit" as well as "Any return to the airport will require passing through security." So here's how it went down:

Cameron: [pant, pant] hey...[pant] is this really the way to Terminal 1?
Security Guard: Yeah.
Cameron: [deep breath] But this says that I'm leaving the secure area....
Security Guard: Yep.
Cameron: So I'm going to have to go through security again?**
Security Guard: Uh-huh.
Cameron: And this is the only way? You've gotta be kidding me!** I mean, I've got [looks at cell phone] 14 minutes left before my plane leaves....
Security Guard: Then I suggest you quit asking me about it, and get moving... it's a 7 minute walk just to the terminal.
Cameron: Crap!**

** <---areas edited for content.....gotta keep this blog PG. My nephew might be reading some day

So now I'm running. My two carry-on bags are (of course) both backpacks, so one is on good, but there's no good way to carry the other. My shoes are still untied from when I went through security at DIA, and I'm starting to feel the annoyance of a blister forming on my right heel. But no time to stop! Must...catch... the plane! <--my best William Shatner impression here

And then, the hallway ends. There's a big arrow on the wall, with Terminal 1 painted above it, and it's pointing at the door to the parking lot. Seriously? But no time to stop now... I've still got [looks at phone] 7 minutes! So I run outside, and follow along the wall. There's a makeshift canvas hallway out there... I guess they're doing construction or something. I pass a guy in a uniform going the other way.

Cameron: Is this the way to Terminal 1?!?!?
Security Guy on Break: Ha ha ha Yep!
Cameron: Thanks! (by this point I'm already 50 feet past him, still running)

Finally there's the door, with the words "Terminal 1" written above it, in glowing letters like a beacon in the night to wayward air travellers, offering comfort and relief at finally reaching not your destination, but the place you need to go to to reach your actual destination.

(sidenote: I remember thinking as I saw the sign that underneath the words "Terminal 1" that they should add in small letters "at the farthest possible geographical distance from wherever the hell your first plane landed." I'm thinking of suggesting this to the airport administrators, and since they're doing construction already, I think it'll be easy to do)

I check my phone. The plane leaves in two minutes. I'm not going to make it. Especially since I have to still go through security. So I jog up to the Hawaiian Airlines counter (I would have walked, but I wanted to make sure it still looked like I wanted to make my flight, so they'd be nice and put me on another one).

I get there, and there's a hippie in front of me. Not a cool old "I really stood for something in the 60's" hippie, but a neo-hippie... some college-aged kid who likes to smoke weed and have dreadlocks and listen to Phish and Bob Marley, but still wears $150 shoes and has a $500 back pack with a Grateful Dead patch on the side.

Hippie: I have to get on this flight, man! I've got my ticket right here!
Lady at the Counter: I'm sorry. They've already closed the doors, and they're not taking anymore passengers.
Hippie: Where's the love, man? Just because I was getting in one last bong hit with my bro-hams and showed up at the airport 4 minutes before my flight leaves doesn't mean you can keep me of of the plane, man!
Lady at the Counter: I'm sorry..ahem..sir.... but there's nothing I can do. They've already closed the doors, and have probably already left the gate.
Hippie: Well.... ok.... whatever, man... so, know... can you hook me up for the next flight?
Lady at the Counter: Since you showed up late, all you can do is book another ticket yourself for the next flight.... tomorrow at this same time.

At this point, I have to speak up:

Cameron: Excuse me.... I'm sorry to interrupt, but I was supposed to be on that flight as well, but my last flight on United from Denver was late, and I only got off of the plane 20 minutes ago, and I ran 34 miles here from Terminal 3, all the while with this one stupid backpack flopping around because I already have another backpack on so this one has nowhere to go, and I think I'm getting a nasty blister on my I have to wait until tomorrow as well?
Lady at the Counter: Yes, sir.
Cameron: But it's not my fault I was late... it was United's fault!
Lady at the Counter: Then, sir, I suggest you talk to United and get them to put you on an earlier flight. It's their responsibility at this point. The best I can do for you is to put you on the flight tomorrow.
Cameron: Ok... that makes sense. I can do that. [looking around] Where's the United ticket counter?
Lady at the Counter: Terminal 3, sir.
Cameron: [has visions of lunging over the counter and choking Lady at the Counter until Security Guy on Break shows up to arrest him]

[phone rings behind the counter]

Lady at the Counter: Excuse me, please. [answers phone] Lady at the Counter, how can I help you?....... Uh-huh.... Yes, two of them..... Yes........ Uh-huh....... But one of them's a neo-hippie..... Yes, Widespread Panic t-shirt and everything.... No, he doesn't reek of patchouli......Ok. I'll let them know. Thanks. [hangs up phone] Ok, they're holding the plane. You've got to hurry and go right now!!! GO GO GO GO GO!
Hippie: Sweet, Dude! Let's do a bong hit to celebrate!
Lady at the Counter: No time! You've got to go now!
Hippie: Why are you always trying to harsh my high, man? Seriously... it's so uncool.

So I take off running again, only to stop 148 feet later at airport security. Fortunately, the line is short (I'm assuming because most people have either given up or died of exhaustion before reaching Terminal 1). There are two octogenarians in front of me. I ask if I can have cutsies, as an entire plane of people wanting to get to Hawai'i (and that I live here I'm obligated to add the apostrophe) are waiting for me.

Male Octogenarian: Listen, Sonny! We've spent the last 47 years trying to get here from Terminal 5, and there's no way I'm letting you get in front of me here!

So I back off and wait as patiently as I can in line, looking over everyone's shoulder, tapping my boarding pass on my hand, and generally appearing like I really really really have to pee, and the only bathroom in the world is on the other side of security.

Finally I make it through. I get to my gate. They let me in. I get on the plane. Everyone gives me the stink eye. I tell myself "Don't.... don't look at it. As long as you don't make direct stink-eye contact, you'll be fine.... Besides, they don't know it's United's fault. United, and whoever designed the San Francisco airport....") So I sit down. The guy next to me is asleep, and has somehow used half of my seat belt.

Cameron: Excuse me....
Cameron: Um.... pardon, sir.....
Cameron: [pokes guy on shoulder]Pardon me....
Cameron: [puts foot in other guy's foot space]
Other Guy: Hey!
Cameron: Oh hey.... sorry to bother you, but you seem to have half of my seat belt.
Other Guy: Huh? Oh...yeah.... I guess I do. Sorry about that. I couldn't figure out why I had two buckles and no flat part, so I just tied them in a knot. Here you go. [hands me my piece, and I had him his part with the flat piece]

Turns out, he's a really nice guy named Steve who was born in the US, and his parents live near Washing DC, and he's spent the last 15 years out of the country doing marketing for various firms all over the world. He spent the last three years in Kenya (at which point I became convinced he's really Jack Bauer).

Finally, after NO in-flight movies, and "lunch" that consisted of 6 potato chips, a turkey croissant sandwich the size of a silver dollar, and two Oreo cookies, the 5½ hour flight finally ended.

Once I made it to Honolulu, I fired up the laptop and saw I had about 15 minutes of power left. Better to save that for once I'm all the way to Hilo. So I pack it all up, and head to the bar. Since I've got two hours to kill, I get a beer and strike up a conversation with the guy next to me. As I sat down, he was trying to explain the concept of common denominators to someone over the phone. "Must be a work call," I thought. ha ha ha.

Anyway, I go on the flight to Hilo from Honolulu. I was excited because I had the window seat again. I thought I'd have a shot at checking out the volcanoes at first, and then trying to look for Skye's place as we started the descent into the airport. I walk along the aisle, checking out the people along the way. It looks to be about 20% tourists, 20% people who live on the islands, 40% neo-hippies, and 20% undefined from first glance. I find row 23 and there are two older folks, sitting in the middle and window seat.

Cameron: Um.... I think I'm in Seat F.
Old Lady: Ah...yes.... we save it for you. [pats aisle seat]
Cameron: Yeah...[thinks about the trouble of explaining it given that it's only a 45 minute flight] Ok... that's cool. I can sit here.
Old Lady: no no... I saw the sign up there [points at overhead compartments] D...[points at husband] E.....[points at herself] F! [points at aisle seat]
Cameron: Gotcha.... well... sure. I'll just sit here then. [sits in aisle seat]

Turns out Mrs. Tanaka (that may not be her name, but it's the best I can do) was quite talkative, and told m all about their trip to California, and then to Vegas for 4 days, and how her son is growing apple bananas (more on that another time) near where I'd be living, and how she knows people in Colorado, and how she likes the mountains and such.

I got all of this before take-off. Once the plane got on the runway, she either fell asleep or started meditating. I couldn't tell. Mr. Tanaka said nothing.

The flight to Hilo was easy and quick. I really wanted to be looking out of the window, but since Mr. Tanaka was hogging it, I instead looked at the Hawaiian Airlines magazine in the seat pocket in front of me. Turns out that recently Hawaiian Air opened up a direct flight to Manila. Good to know.

About 30 minutes in, Mr Tanaka spoke. I thought he was talking to his wife, and I was knee deep in an article about a guy who photographs waves. But then he said it again. I looked at Mrs. Tanaka, and she was still in hibernation, so I looked up at Mr. Tanaka, and he was looking at me, thumbing at the window.

Mr. Tanaka: Lots of snow on volcano.
Cameron: [looking out window] Wow... yeah.... there is a lot of snow up there....

It was pretty impressive. When people who are not Hawai'ian think about Hawai'i they think about surfing and beaches and palm trees and basically the tropics. But the volcanoes here are at 13,700 feet, and get snow on a regular basis. The west side of the Big Island is dry ad arid, and the east side (where I'm at) is rainy and lush. I read a blog from someone once who stated that the Big Island had "Four seasons in one day," which of course made me think of the Crowded House song that you're probably not familiar with, but it's true. There are four seasons happening all the time on this one island. It's crazy. And many thanks to Mr. Tanaka for sharing that perspective of it with me.

So we landed. The plane stopped. Mrs. Tanaka woke up from her trance. I got off of the plane. Skye was there waiting for me. And (a great big And), given everything that happened in San Francisco, my baggage actually showed up. I don't know how it happened, and I wasn't expecting it, but there it was, spinning around the carousel with all of the other luggage.

The lesson learned here? Terminal 3 is much closer to Terminal 1 if you're baggage.

On the way out of the airport parking lot, we noticed three neo-hippie chicks walking along the road to the highway. Two of them I recognized from the plane. The third I'd never seen before, and was carrying a baby. Seriously. A baby. So we stopped and picked them up and gave them a ride to the highway, where they were going south and we were going north.

Crazy hippies.

So, the bottom line is I'm here, and I had a mostly good time getting here, and I'm surrounded by neo-hippies, most of whom have babies. :)


  1. Hippies....Well, glad you made it there in one piece. I had a similar experience at the Detroit airport onetime. I had 10 minutes to get to my connecting flight. I was sprinting to the end of the terminal. There was a security gaurd standing at the end of the hall, with corridors running to his right or left. As I was running towards him, he yelled,"Where you going?" I yelled back, "Richmond!" He pointed to his left and said, "Good luck buddy!" as I sprinted by him. I did make that flight, barely, and he was my crappy airport angel.

    Feel free to pimp my Blog. Think I'm going to post some stuff again soon.

  2. Cameron, it's good that you are such a nice guy. Running thru airports is a little exhilerating (as long as you make your flight). Paul and I had an airport race in Atlanta (must have been designed by the same designers as SF). But I don't remember any crappy airport angels. . . must have been pre-911. :) Anyway, you should really write a book!

  3. we should ask Jo how many airport races she's had! Huh Jo? :)

  4. @ Kilzer - Airport Angels.. nice!
    Blog = pimped.

    @ Jen - Write a book? Isn't that what I just did? :P

    @ Jen (part 2) - I think Jo's slacking off being a mom and not posting. :P

  5. Okay, so I've totally been slacking. But I have been enjoying your blog! Well, I rarely meet airport angels as I usually miss my flight (twice). See, you all think I'm late to meet up with you for some passive-aggressive reason, but really, I'm just late to EVERYTHING.

    When you saw the lightning strike the plane, did you also see a weird monster guy trying to rip the engine apart, like in the Twillight Zone movie?

    Neo-hippies. That's FUNNY!! and oh-so-true. Is this why you're afraid of Boulder? You don't like dreds in Saabs?

    I would have told Mr. Tanaka to move. Or at least pretended that I didn't speak fluent English so that I didn't have to talk to Mrs. Tanaka... Especially after the neo-hippie incident.

    Glad you're in your new home!