Today’s the day! I’m off to Portland. I say Portland as that’s the airport I’m flying into, but let’s keep in mind that you voted to “drop me” in the Willamette River which, in its 187 miles (301 km) travels through many places in Oregon, beginning with Eugene to the south and ending in Portland in the north where it then empties into the Columbia River and heads out to the Pacific Ocean.
My flight leaves at 10:25am, which is a decent enough hour to get a good night’s rest. The only challenge is the Monday morning rush-hour traffic. Thus my 7:45am departure from my house. I’m traveling with one very tightly packed suitcase, one very tightly packed carry-on bag and one very tightly packed backpack. Why are they all so tightly packed? Packing for this trip was a challenge. Much more challenging than packing for Newfoundland in February. In Newfoundland, I knew it would be cold. Yes, snow boots, a winter coat, ski pants and sweaters all take up quite a lot of valuable luggage space, but you can wear two pairs of jeans and three sweaters all week. Portland in May is a hodgepodge of weather. It might better be described as “whether.” Whether it will rain the whole time or be sunny, whether it will be 80 degrees or 49 degrees, whether the fact that it’s already hit 104 back home will make 70 feel like I need to break out that winter coat. And then there’s the other uncertainty which is what Drop Me Anywhere is all about; what will I be doing? There’s hiking boots, water shoes, flip flops, sneakers and the more respectable black heels. If I find packing this stressful, it’s a good thing that’s one of the few planned activities.
I arrive at the Quality Inn in Tempe, Arizona at 8:25am. Why am I at a hotel a half-hour from my house? I’m trying something new. In an effort to save money I’ve found a website called Global Airport Parking. They have deals with local hotels to rent out their extra parking spaces. While long-term parking at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport would have cost me $9.00 per day, I’m parked at the Quality Inn for $4.99 per day plus a few fees. In the end this will save me about $38.00. Either way I would be taking a shuttle bus or rail from the parking lot to the terminal.
After being dropped at the airport I head over to the US Airways ticket counter to check my bag. As I’ve checked in online I hope that this will expedite the process. Alas, this is not to be. There are about 150 in line ahead of me. I resign myself to a long wait and take advantage of some fine people-watching time. I notice the man two lines in front of me in the long, snaking queue that seems to have had more trouble packing than me. He has three bags, all matching, of course, dragging behind him with each one attached to the next. He looks like the Pied Piper of luggage. I’m wondering if each one is packed or if he just couldn’t bear to break up the set.
Before long I reach the front of the line. I must complement the US Airways staff here as those ladies organizing the line up front and directing people to the next available kiosk were efficient, yet polite. They even helped the people that, I swear, had never flown before or, for that matter, used a computer before.
Bag checked, I head on up to security. In order to prepare to go through the x-ray machine I remove my belt while on the escalator (I’m really good at undressing while riding transportation). When I reach the security agent I’m directed to a line to the left. Uh oh, I think. Great, I’m going to get the enhanced security check again. What is it? Profiling? Is it a redhead thing? There are 4 people ahead of me and each of us is instructed to leave our shoes and our belts on, leave our computers in our bags and just place our bags on the conveyor belt. Um, what? I feel as if I’ve won the lottery. Apparently this is the opposite of enhanced security.
I make my way to the gate and meet Isabella. She is three years old (although she insists she is five) and has a monkey on her back. We start up a conversation about said monkey which she insists is a backpack. She then offers me a cookie. While I’ve planned not to eat a bunch of sugar on this trip, when a child offers you a cookie it’s a bit like a Frenchman offering to give you directions in English – it almost never happens and you should feel honored when it does. As I don’t want to risk insulting Isabella, I graciously accept the cookie.
Before long, I’ve gate checked my carry-on bag as I’m in boarding group five on a full flight so the chances of there actually being an overhead space for it when I board is pretty much the same as Isabella offering me another cookie. As I wait for my boarding group to be called, I notice a group of men who have made themselves quite comfortable during their wait. They’re lying on the floor in front of the boarding line. Believe me, I understand the fatigue that traveling can cause, I even follow the website Sleeping In Airports. But really, in what other place would grown men feel comfortable lying in the middle of the floor in a public place? Do you just pick a store in the mall, lay back and relax? How about the bowling alley? For the love of God, find yourself a seat and lean on a stranger’s shoulder like the rest of us. And please, try not to drool, we’ll be boarding soon.
Tomorrow – We’ll learn of about my first experience at an AirBnB in “A Yurt By Any Other Name”