I’m A Stranger In My Own Land Part III : From A Terrorist To A Hostage
Alas, there is a part 3.
Having not been able to rent a car, I could not take up the Air Trans offer of 2 free tickets per 1 seat for my Atlanta to Charlotte flight. A bummer for sure, but hey, the downside is I got to be home in 45 minutes.
It had been a 3 hour layover in Atlanta, and I was more than anxious to get on that plane and…go back to sleep. I’d been up since 4:45 am after all. So they start calling out the zones for boarding, I sprint on to the plane, take my seat, pull out the sunglasses, pop out the iphone, fire up James Taylors “New Moon Shine”, and almost immediately fall into a deep sleep.
My own snoring woke me up some time later. You ever done that? It’s like you slowly become aware of this distant, horrible, grumbly sound. Your first thought is “boy that sound is awful….oh crap it’s me!”. My head jerks down and my eyes fly open. I’m a bit disoriented as I look out the window, so I turn to the guy next to me:
“Wow, we’ve landed already. That sure was a short 45 minutes.”
“Well, we actually haven’t taken off yet,” he replies after a few seconds.
“Hrmmm?” I reply.
“We haven’t taken off yet. The Atlanta airport is shut down because of this storm and we’re just sitting here,” he says. I do suddenly actually notice the storm - fierce wind is whipping paper around outside, and lightning flashes are going off like paparazzi catching Britney with no panties on.
It had been 1 hour and 15 minutes ago that I’d boarded the plane.
We sat there for another 30 minutes - please remember that this is a 45 minute flight, door to door - before we finally took off. I managed to drift off to sleep again, and was jolted awake by the plane touching down in Charlotte.
I was home! It was 8:15 pm - I had woken up at 4:45 a.m. pst - that’s 12 hours of travel. I couldn’t wait to see my wife and hug….the…..kids…..
My thoughts trailed off as I looked out of the window. We were passing a giant plane graveyard of sorts - there were dozens of large and small planes littered about, just sitting there.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Unfortunately, due to the bad weather in Charlotte, it’s backed things up here as well, and we’ve got a plane sitting at our gate. We’ve got to wait for it to back out of there so we can dock. Could be a while.”
I should have known better than to think that this trip was going to go quietly.
30 minutes later, Charlotte was hit with a really big thunderstorm. Lightning was striking the ground in the not-so-far-off distance, and it was pouring buckets of rain that was almost moving sideways in the strong wind. Not good.
“Me again,” said the captain. “Well folks, Charlotte has now grounded all the planes due to the weather, and now we’ve got a traffic jam of planes between us and the gate, and we aren’t going to be able to pull up to the gate until all these planes are cleared for takeoff and are out of our way. Could be a while.”
For added emphasis, we now spotted a medium sized group of fire trucks and ambulances, lights blazing, headed to the center of our little plane graveyard. They were no doubt there to chase down all the mothers and fathers of small children who were probably very soon going to see if they could squeeze out of their little windows and make a run for it.
I am very happy to report that, at 10:30, 2 hours and 15 minutes after landing, the weather had cleared, the planes were taking off, and our plane pulled up to the gate.
As a very lovely parting shot to my trip back, the Air Trans lost and found luggage office was closed for the night. My bag, which easily made it here on ITS scheduled flights yesterday, will just have to wait.
As I sit here in my kitchen eating a very wonderful dinner of cereal, 16 hours after waking up this morning to fly home, a few thoughts hit me. The first is that I hope you enjoyed my misery - somebody has to benefit from this!
The second thought is this: Our airport security is still not so secure, is it? Let’s face the facts here. 1) I was allowed into an airport without a federal id on the outbound trip. 2) I was NOT allowed back in immediately coming back and I missed the plane, but my BAG made it without me. How many red flags should that raise? All of them? 3) Airport security is wildly inconsistant. The guy who wouldn’t let me back in the Airport in Seattle, Steve-O, actually wins here because he probably followed proper procedure. But the gal in Charlotte who let me in to the airport didn’t, and the guy this morning didn’t either.
And people, I LOOK like a terrorist. I’m a male with dark skin and a scraggly beard. I’m not trying to be insensitive here - I’m just comparing my features to all the pictures we’ve seen of actual terrorists. I’ve been yanked out of every airport line since 9/11 for extra screening (which I don’t mind at all). I had an entire wallet of ID that could have easily been forged.
Not good, America, not good.