It’s hard to believe, but I was about to get on an airplane for the first time since early 2013. And it was the first time I was departing on a “road trip” since I left for spring training in February 2012.
Gratuitous plug here … I was traveling to visit with a client. I indeed WILL write for money! I enjoy telling my stories here, but I have mouths to feed. Please contact me for all your content needs. Remember, content is king!
OK, back to the trip. It’s a different day than the last time I traveled. Somehow, I was able to get from the “departing the taxi” portion of my day to the “I cleared security” phase in 18 minutes. At a busy O’Hare. During morning rush, no less. Times sure have changed. I didn’t have to partially disrobe to get through the security checkpoint. Heck, I didn’t have to pull out my laptop or empty everything out of my pockets – include comb and pens.
For someone who used to fly charter and never go through the terminal, this wasn’t bad at all.
And then I entered the Terminal 3 Food Court, and all I could think was “Best Food Court Ever.” Wow, I sound like such a rookie. The thoughts of my first road trip in baseball are starting to float through my head.
I got to the gate and started my people-watching experience in earnest. I quickly figured out that the first 100 people to get on a plane use the airline app on their smartphones to board – and everybody else uses a physical boarding pass. Who knew? I, of course, was prepared to go either way.
That brings about a naïve little question … Why do people jockey in line to be the first person on the airplane – when you already know you’re sitting in seat 1A?
I haven’t been on a plane in a long time. Thank goodness they still spend a full minute explaining how to put on a seat belt, as I had forgotten that you have to grab the strap and pull tight.
A few thoughts/musings …
- I always like getting to the airport early to people watch. So what if there’s time to kill. Can you say “time to kill” at an airport these days?
- It really was amusing watching humans get in line more than half an hour before boarding began – then have to make way since they weren’t part of the first five groups being allowed to get on the plane. Is it possible they were all flying for the first time? That would explain the long demonstration of how to put on a seat belt. It all makes sense now.
- I was actually sitting close to the gate entry watching “airport life” when the pilot walked by me to get on the plane. He said Hi and asked, “Are you going to Charlotte?” I said “Eventually,” since I was in seating group 2 – which turned out to be the sixth group called. He laughed and said, “I’m not used to seeing someone sitting down this close to boarding.” Yep, that’s me: Chuck Wasserstrom, retro traveler.
- I long for the days when airline carriers boarded planes from the back to the front. The process seemed to flow smoothly. When you board front-to-back, people like me tend to have their backpacks smack aisle sitters in the side of the head. I apologize to the multiple people that met my backpack head-on. You should have waited to get on.
- If I’m sitting in row 17, and the plane continues for 10 more rows, how were all the overhead spots taken before I got to my seat – when there were only five people seated from rows 18 to the back of the plane? It’s a good thing I still pack for 10 days for a short excursion; I was one of the three people on board who paid the baggage fee.
- Random thought: If you can only bring one piece of carry-on luggage onto a plane, how did a bunch of people get two bags past security? Just asking.
- There’s something really awesome about breaking through the clouds and seeing a bunch of fluffy cotton balls below the wings. And it’s even “awesomer” when you have the theme from Jaws going through your head. Hat tip to “Airplane!” for creating that visual for me.
- In this day and age, there’s really something special about being Wi-Fi-free for a couple hours. No emails … no texts … just kicking back with the headphones on and listening to some music while staring out the window. Have you seen the GMC commercial featuring a ballpark shot from 35,000 feet while The Who’s “Eminence Front” was playing? Well, that song was on when downtown Charlotte appeared during the descent. Outstanding timing.
My friendly pilot must have been in a hurry to get here. We landed 30 minutes early, which meant sitting on a tarmac for 30 extra minutes. I guess that’s why you’re supposed to fly the speed limit.
In order to get there that fast, we must have flown fast – as the landing was a tick on the hard side. You knew you were coming in hot when you can feel the brakes being applied before the wheels touched down. Now that I’m a travel writer, too, I have to be reminded that commercial planes can’t stop on a dime no matter how hard the pilot tries.
Actually, the landing reminded me of one from my Cubs days. We were flying into Utica for the Hall of Fame Game – as Utica was the closest airport to Cooperstown. Apparently, no one had warned the pilot that Utica has an extremely short runway. He started his descent, then pulled up and circled. He started a second time, then pulled up and circled again. Obviously, he wasn’t too confident about landing this puppy in one piece.
The third time, he went for it. We landed so hard that oxygen mask compartments flew open when we hit the ground.
I’m doing a lot of this typing between flights, as my trip continues on to Chattanooga. A few more thoughts:
- I forgot how big Charlotte’s airport is. I needed a plane to get me from my arrival gate in the C concourse to my departure gate in E.
- I have a serious question, since I had to take several people walkers. What exactly does “Walk on the Left, Stand on the Right” mean?
- Good thing I didn’t ask that out loud. The person who nearly brought a people walker to a grinding halt by standing still in the “walk” lane turned out to be the flight attendant on the connecting flight
- The Chattanooga flight is a regional plane, also known as a metal tube with wings. It’s about twice the size of an MRI machine. Those planes scare the asphalt out of me. On the flipside, they are small enough to actually land on a dime.
This is a new career, yet I can’t help but reminisce about my first baseball road trip. Come back in the next day or two, as I’ll be working on that tale on my return flight home.
Until then, I get to hang with Principal Richard Belding! It’s a brand new world out there.