Monday, September 21, 2009

Guest Post-Planes, Trains, Automobiles and Hell

This is guest post I of hopefully II. My buddy J. (we'll call him J. Marshall-Law for a semi-pathetic attempt at anonymity) wrote down his thoughts on his hellish travel experience from the U.S. to Spain last August. In this guest post he details the events as he prepares to speak at a seminar in a foreign country as a representative of his place of employment. He told me about this while we were drinking at the beach house during the summer and all I could think of was the movie 'Planes, Trains, and Automobiles'.....enjoy :

I missed my flight from JFK to Madrid. Those dumb-asses at American told me I'd have plenty of time even though we were delayed in Boston. Stephen's already in Alicante, and I'm still here at JFK. I got here @ 9:00 last night and spent the night in the international terminal. It was NASTY! Tried to go back to other terminals but they kicked me out at Midnight. I’m hoping to fly out at 6:00PM. If I wasn't so miserable, it would actually be kind of a funny story (the events that took place from leaving work, yesterday @ 1:00 to where I'm at right now). I have to tell you directly, although if I wrote it all down, it would be a good story to read later in life. Did I mention that, besides being filthy, I'm also incredibly itchy because the killer sunburn from hell is starting to peel. I have to shake the flakes out of my shirt, which of course is dark blue.

Of course, I'm lucky enough to be able to update this email, because one would actually need internet access to email someone. So I guess I am just writing everything down. SOOOOO bored right now. I'd try calling you, but I think it's 1 AM there now... Almost noon here and only 6 hours to go.

Wish me luck,

Part II:

Ok, so it was a roller coaster of emotion. First, I think I got the 6:00, then no hope. But wait! This guy thinks I'll get in on a waiting list. Wait! There's an opening! He calls American Airlines to get some needed information, and incompetence rains down. He tells me to go to the terminal to get information from the 9:00 they booked and he'll change it. I rush off to deal with workers that have no idea what I talking about, and, because I'm starting to rant and rave, they would be much more comfortable if I left.

But I need to get out of here. I can't take an extra 3 hours, making it a full 24 hours at the cesspool called JFK. I become desperate and start recounting the impact of that worker in Boston that told me, "You should be fine". There is a huge crowd behind me taking in my every word, enjoying the show. They hand me paper and say to take it back to the Iberian booker.

I jump back on the air train and get back to my terminal. I cut through a massive line to reach the dude that will get me out of this god forsaken place in the next 3 hours. He looks at the information, clicks his keyboards some, AND SAYS....... "As soon as you left for American, the space was filled."

It's too much. I have nothing left. Fatigue, filth, nausea... I have suddenly become surprisingly numb to all that has transpired. There's nothing left to do except go crazy, or just give up. I've come too far to throw away the entire trip now, but I tell you, (wife’s name omitted to protect the innocent), I was considering it very seriously. At times I would think, am I crazy? I feel like I've been away forever, and in reality, I've gone nowhere.

The booker dude takes pity on me, giving a window seat towards the front of the plane. He gives my baggage special priority stickers, and makes sure I don't have to claim my baggage in Madrid. He seemed like a trustworthy guy, Maybe gay. I take him at his word. Seeing him later in the departures terminal with a good buzz, I would later thank him and give him a pat on the back.

Jump forward:
This may have cost me as I'm in Alacante right now updating this record, buck naked, but at least clean, attempting to air out the only thing I have that wasn't in my computer case... the clothes on my back. Yes, that's right. The same clothes that have wallowed in the stench of high traffic places and public bathroom for the last 72 hours. Praying from a call from the airport in Madrid. And yes, I do feel ridiculous right now. Wait! Good news. I just opened the care pack from the conference people and there's a t shirt in it. Sure, I'd be the queer guy who wears the conference t shirt on the first day, but at least it's clean. Let's take a look... uh huh... yep... says something in spanish with a small yellow heart next to it. Definitely gay. Trying it on, and yes, it doesn't even cover my sunburned, peeling belly. For crying out loud, this thing may fit (Sons name omitted to protect the innocent). The role continues.

But I digress...

I try to express gratitude, as I leave to check in and head towards the security area. Leaving behind the barren terminal I've wandered repeatedly, dragging my luggage with me the whole time, like a ball and chain. Literally, I could not go anywhere without taking my stupidly huge suitcase that I thought I was a genius for buying.

Part III

Wait... I'm leaving the terminal!? I go past security and see shops and restaurants and bars, and look... a TV! And baseball is on. I drink 3 quick beers the bar, and then go to the most expensive restaurant I find. Todd English has restaurants? Who knew? Don't worry, hon. BHS will be getting this receipt. I feel a little sick, queasy stomach from not eating , and then suddenly over indulging, at little buzzed and dizzy from drinking quickly, and a bit on edge from suddenly going from homeless-like stasis to being in a mob of people. It is the reason I stayed away from the crowded noisy international terminal.

Passing through security and being free of the terminal is everything, and after the last round of departures I have found a quiet area to type this. I'm feeling much better giving my body time to absorb some food, and am fighting the need to sleep. I want to save that for the flight and I have too much fear that I would sleep through my departure. I think I'm going back to the bar to see the rest of the game.

So back to me, sitting 3/4 naked in the hotel room I have yet to leave, with my gay half shirt. I'm dreading putting those clothes on but am quickly running out of options. Maybe just long enough to buy some stuff and then run back to the room for another shower. Had to explain the situation to Stephen, who I just made contact with. He was trying to catch the bus to the university to register and scope out our room for the presentation. He takes off after the bus when he realizes I can't make it.

Par IV

Finally on the plane for Madrid @ 9PM sharp. The flight is packed, but at least I have a window seat to put my head against for a chance of sleep. A quiet woman sits in the seat next to me as we wait for take off, and things are a bit cramped, but I really don't care. Right before take off she says something to the stewardess in Spanish and leaves. I would not see her for the rest of the flight. She must of had a friend with an empty seat next to him/her and asked if she could sit there.

But check-in guy told me the flight was booked. Did someone cancel or miss the flight as I had 24 hours ago? Was it God saying, "This guy's had enough" and brought down divine intervention to throw me a bone? At the time it seemed like a mini miracle. Once in the air we get served dinner, and mine is a beef dish served chilled. I pick at it a bit and push it over to the empty seat try. I later found out from Stephen, who took the same flight the night before, that it was not supposed to be chilled, but instead it was never warmed. At the time I wouldn't have eaten it anyway had I realized. At this point I'm not sure if the woman will return, but decide to stretch out a bit.

Sleep comes quickly, and I’m in and out of consciousness the whole flight. It passes quickly and my neighbor returns for the landing. Passing over Spain the land looks like a patch work of shades of brown and yellow square-like shapes, all connecting, and occasional dark patches, which may be small pieces of forests. Flat plains give way to crumbling hills and mountains, and it is a very beautiful and seemingly ancient terrain.

Slept most of the way to Alacante as well but did wake up for the approach. Barren and ancient hills worn by time, with scrub patches of vegetation, almost desert like. Crumbling hills roll to the sea, and there doesn’t seem to be much west of the city.


lightning36 said...

I was waiting for the part -- "Those aren't pillows!"

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