So, I got the opportunity of a lifetime, being a guest of Whole Foods at their celebration in Austin this weekend. If you are unaware, it's their 30th birthday. The event itself was the most fun anyone could have anywhere, however the travel getting to Austin? Something our friends at US Airways might want to look at.
No one will argue that flying is expensive without luxury, yes? That we all pay the costs of the fuel, wages, equipment, etc. I think that's fair. However, for the first time since Cattle Airlines (read: Southwest), I truly felt like I was on a bus going to rural Mexico. Sure, there were not livestock on my plane like there may be in rural anywhere, but that is about where the differences end. My flight was basically Washington-Charlotte-Austin. The standard, origin-HUB-destination set-up most airlines seem to have. I get it. We get on an Airbus A319 for the 50 minute flight to Charlotte and I am thinking, this isn't so bad. Sure the woman next to me is already snoring loudly and we haven't even left the airport yet, but whatever. While I certainly don't feel glamorous, I am comfortable within reason and there's seltzer water with ice. I tell Anthony that the A319's tend to feel "fast" on takeoff and it certainly doesn't let us down. Part of my brain is likely stuck to that seat, so please bring a hanky or something should you be on that plane following my flight.
Once we arrive in Charlotte, I feel better about this flying business... That is, until we are face to face with the Canadair 900 (CRJ-900) we are about to board. If you haven't had the pleasure, they are the El Camino of regional jets minus any cool factor you may attach to the El Camino. All my friends do notdrive low riders, and I am a little concerned about flying in one. The seats, oh those seats, are like sitting on a pile of bricks. I have bruises where the armrest stabbed me in my fat behind when I tried to maneuver in and out of them. I must say that the flight attendants were so lovely and attentive on this small shuttle/express airline despite the flying bus from the 80's we were all stuck on. They were a source of comfort for me as I observed the scratch marks in the vomit(?) stained seats. (Seriously, the damage on the seats screamed "LEAVE NOW!") The flight attendants were apologetic as we boarded the super hot aircraft from Hades that seriously needed air conditioning. That flight was surprisingly smooth, but I have residual dizziness for whatever reason.
After our wild and wonderful Whole Foods weekend (blog to follow), we arrive at Austin International ready for another up close and personal with the CRJ-900. I so wanted to like this airplane. After the airport alarm goes off randomly causing me to pee myself a little, a quick "are you a terrorist" check I always do pre-boarding, and a few observations of take off's and landing, I am ready to board the CRJ once again. Luckily, we're in the slightly less vomited in CRJ-900 and the flight attendants were still fabulous. There are dark clouds overhead as we take off and there is turbulence expected. The sensation of "falling" backward kept hitting me over and over as we climbed over the dark (and not forecasted) storm clouds. The plane was alive with friendly people that helped distract me while in the air at 37,000 feet. At one point though, I saw two guys enter the back restroom and front at the same time, both traveling alone, and I wondered how much of the explosion I would see before I died. They both did their business and went back to their seats... Pretty much in sync with one another... On an airplane that small, it was ODD. I said nothing because I didn't want to freak anyone else out. (In case it was a dry run, they were both middle aged, unhappy, and used just enough hair product to "blend in" with the cool crowd. Anyone can be a terrorist, even Ryan Seacrest wannabes.) After that imagined "brush with death", I watched that Geisha movie and waited to land.
Finally, after a few bumps and dips, the plane begins to descend over Charlotte. As we land, there are fire trucks and police surrounding the gate next to ours. It's freaky. They offload us on the tarmac itself instead of those nice jet-ways I am used to. We used a jet-way before for CRJ-900, so this is unnerving given the police/fire/medic situation unfolding next to us. Not to mention the TSA agents escorting us to the terminal, made me wonder if there was something on that plane... In the terminal, flights are being canceled and rearranged. It's a PERFECT scenario for someone as afraid to fly as myself. Before we board the A319 back to home, I do my pre-terrorist check. I find a lot of things I am not too happy about. One would be the man in camo pants and military boots but a totally regular shirt and he has NO CARRY ONS. Not normal. Also, there's this guy using and international calling card in the phone booth next to me speaking in some foreign language and mocking "bye bye". I feel this is a terrorist mocking the infidels he wants to take out. However, he goes in the opposite direction of my flight's gate, so I breathe out. Anthony is shaking his head in embarrassment. He knows what is going on in my head, I've clued him into my terrorist check before. I sure know how to bring class to travel, don't I?
As if this traveling situation isn't bad enough, my husband spots some chick who works at the liquor store next to him sitting at our gate. He keeps saying that's someone he works near. I say it's not and to please quit staring at long legged and tan in a miniskirt before I castrate him. And what do you know? Long legged and tan IS that person my husband works near. She's on her way back from some tropical destination. On the plane she calls my husband by his nickname (that I thought only me and family used), and tells him she'll tell him all about it at work. Seriously, what kind of person wears a MINI skirt onto a plane? Yes, I know I wore 5 inch platforms, but at least I had on PANTS! When I realized that long legged and tan was laying down at the gate, I suddenly get the sick realization that Anthony was definitely staring. Which explains why he wasn't chastising me for terrorist watch or playing that stupid game on his phone.
Seething with anger and also really fricken nervous, I drag Anthony to the jet-way to get on the plane. The A319 we board is new (it says Star Alliance and it even smells new). As we take off we hit bumps, bumps, and more bumps. It's weird to me. Brand new plane, old plane turbulence. (And yes, I know that turbulence makes no discrimination between old and young airframes...) I furiously count the minutes of the flight. I look out the window deciding which city we're passing now. I note how misaligned window seat 12F is. It gives me broken views but the bonus of having part of the window behind me. Poor 13F doesn't appear to have a window. (Sucka! Should have Seatguru'd it!) As we take off super fast and bank super hard, I notice how much bumpier this flight is. And it stayed bumpy. All 54 agonizing minutes. As we land, I start to suck back in that sigh of relief when I notice cop cars speeding up the tarmac.... Um. Is that for us? Unsettling. I have no idea what was up yesterday, I probably don't want to know. I might have to fly JetBlue next time. I find I am likely not to notice this stuff so much when I have on headphones and am watching Saved by the Bell on TBS. Just saying.
Today's Lesson: US Airways would be wise to use A319's with In-flight entertainment if they want to have panicky passengers frequent them more.
Another piece of wisdom: Panicky passengers aren't ALWAYS easy to deal with, but you can count on them to notice everything. So don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, US Airways.
Totally mindless lesson: There's nothing glamorous about traveling in a CRJ-900. No matter how much DKNY scent you use, you smell like super sweaty stink once you deplane.
Lesson for the Ladies: Never wear platforms on a plane. Should you have to deplane using stairs, it's really a bummer to fall down several of them at your connection.