Back in November I made a weekend trip up to the twin cities to check out the opening night of the NBA season and to meet up with Jacob (WentOnA777) and his friend Max who had won free air tickets on AirTran.
4 November 2000
Atlanta Hartsfield to Memphis Shelby
Due to a late night at work that resulted in me stumbling home only around 130am, I decided NOT to sleep before leaving home but instead grab some shuteye on my flights. I stayed online and saw first Jacob and then Max follow the *wake up - log on - chat - oh hell im late - log off* routine between 4am and 430am. My flight was at 720am (or so I thought), so my leisurely activity found me leaving the house right around 6am for the 20 min MARTA ride down to Hartsfield.
The ride down to the airport was quick and uneventful, and I strolled over to the E-Checkin machines right around 640am. The machine told me that I was within 20 minutes of departure so I could no longer checkin there. I was confused, but strolled up to the First Class counter (ah, the joys of being Elite!) and presented my photo-ID. I received two boarding cards (instead of my expected three) and noticed that my flight had a 700am departure. NW had changed their schedule on November 1, and even though my ticket had the correct time printed on it, I didnt bother to check and just assumed it was still a 720am departure.
Anyway, I raced out to the gate and was one of the last passengers on board, relaxing into my seat 3B. I was asleep before the doors even closed and had to be awakened by the crew when we landed in MEM.
After grabbing a quick bite at the McDonalds (and running into Al Gore's entourage - he had been campaigning in MEM the previous night), I made contact with Jacob and Max who had skipped out of IAD on an earlier flight and were sitting in ATL waiting for their flight to MSP. Max was very upset that the TCBY store on concourse D was closed, but I directed him to a Columbo Yogurt on concourse C and that seemed to pacify him somewhat.
4 November 2000
Avro/British Aerospace RJ-85
Memphis Shelby to St. Louis Lambert
I then headed out to C19 at MEM where boarding was just beginning on the Mesaba Airlines RJ-85. I took my seat 3B again and actually waited till we pushed back before falling asleep this time round. The announcements welcomed us aboard "Northwest Airlink operated by Mesaba Airlines" and the crew were introduced by first name only. The co-pilot was a very attractive blonde named Brandi. I didn't really pay attention to the others.
The flying time to St.Louis was only 33 minutes and our chocks-on time was almost 20 minutes ahead of schedule, leaving me with almost a full hour to wander the terminals.
I had to check-in again for the STL-MSP segment, so I walked over to the podium and got the same 3B seat assigned to me. I then proceeded to wander up and down concourses with no particular purpose as the PA system blared out announcements for "JFK passenger Gatu Mohammed, please go to your gate immediately".
I made a few phonecalls to friends and regaled them with my rendition of Nelly's "Country Grammar" song which features the line "St.Louis to Memphis and ....". Most of them were suffering from the usual Saturday morning hangovers and did not particularly appreciate my lame attempts at rap.
The St. Louis Fire Department had a stall in the main atrium (by the Lindbergh aircraft) where they were soliciting donations for a children's hospital. I gave $10 to the cause, which appeared to be one of the larger contributions of the day judging from the profuse thanks that I received.
Returned to the gate right as pre-boarding was getting started. The last thing I heard before I entered the jetway was "JFK passenger Gatu Mohammed, please go to your gate IMMEDIATELY!".
4 November 2000
Avro/British Aerospace RJ-85
St. Louis Lambert to Minneapolis-St.Paul
The crew welcomed me back for this segment and I was the only passenger in First Class until just before the doors closed and a few non-revs scrambled aboard. I spent most of the 59 minute flight to the Twin Cities leafing through the latest edition of "World Traveler" magazine. We touched down and taxied to the gate pretty much on time, leaving me around 15 minutes to get to E1 to greet Jacob and Max.
4 November 2000
Twin Cities area
I wafted through the newly renamed concourses (did anyone else really HATE the old color coded nomenclature?) en route to E1, arriving there just as the 717 taxied in to be met by the jetway that was patiently waiting in the noonday sun. I knew that our intrepid young travelers were in seats 1AB since they had left me a voicemail from Midway to brag about it, so I expected them to be some of the first off the aircraft.
How naive of me. I patiently waited as the aircraft slowly discharged its entire human cargo (and a feline too) without revealing either of the only pair I really cared about. Then it slowly dawned upon me that our budding young aviators were undoubtedly checking out the front office. Sure enough. A quick glance out of the terminal windows showed a young man in a blue turtleneck occupying the left seat with another young man in a Rocker jersey right behind him. I tried calling Jacob's cellphone, but was summarily dispatched to voicemail after four rings. I did leave a rather rude message though, so I felt somewhat vindicated.
Nevertheless, an agonizing eternity later (closer to 5 minutes though), the pilots finally realized that the aircraft was needed elsewhere and proceeded to hasten their exit. After quick greetings and introductions (this was the first time I was meeting Max in person, despite many contacts over telephone/internet) we traipsed our way over to the rental car desks and located the appropriate one for Dollar.
The nice man at the desk offered me an upgrade to SUV, but since my credit card wouldn't cover the CDW on it I had to decline. Jacob spent the entire time that I was reviewing the rental agreement by bashing NW, which is perhaps not the wisest thing to do in Minnesotta (but hey, I Delta-bash at ATL all the time so who am I to complain?).
The vehicle provided to us was a gold Honda Accord with just about 10k miles on it and she was a true pleasure to drive. We quickly exited the airport property and headed westbound toward Eden Prairie and the Amerisuites where Evan (A330300) had found us an amazing $62 suite. Check-in was smooth, although the girl at the desk did appear to be more concerned with getting back to her telephone conversation than with answering my questions.
The room itself was very nice and featured two double beds PLUS a roll-out sofa. There was a refrigerator, kitchenette and TV/VCR system as well. Jacob had brought along the tape of Max being interviewed by Jim Lehrer for PBS's election special and we proceeded to make fun of him. We also made fun of Jacob's comments about DCA slots on local TV as an "Aviation Enthusiast". Fortunately, there was no embarassing footage of me available.
That done, we headed back out on the road towards the Mall of America. We snagged a convenient parking space on the second level ("Hawaii" level I believe it was called) and headed into the mall to explore. We ate at the Alamo Grill and I was almost annoyed that the waitress carded me when I ordered a beer. However, she did admit that it was only because I was with a pair of sub-21s. C'est la vie.
After lunch we decided to ride the rollercoaster that runs around the mall. It was fun, and also served the purpose of allowing us to truthfully say "sure, we went ALL around the mall!". We then went back to the hotel where we were deluged by a mountain of phonecalls from assorted folks wanting to check in and say hi. The Northwestern-Michigan game was on TV and we watched enthralled as the teams proceeded to run the score up on each other.
By now, gametime was almost upon us. We changed into our matching John Rocker jerseys and headed out to the lobby to ask for directions. We ran into a group of old ladies in the elevator who were somewhat surprised to see "ROCKER" emblazoned everywhere, but accepted it with the inimitable stoic fortitude that only old ladies seem to possess. The guy at the front desk gave us good directions to the Target Center and off we drove into the Minnesotta twilight. We flipped a coin en route, and "heads" concluded that we would be rooting for the Sacramento Kings that evening.
Downtown Minneapolis seemed to be under construction at every turn and we got miserably lost after exiting the freeway. Fortunately, the "follow the crowd" mentality paid off and we soon found ourself entering a huge parking garage adjacent to the arena. A quick stroll through an elevated walkway found us at a set of turnstiles. The Timberwolves were retiring Malik Sealy's jersey that night (he had been killed by a drunk driver during the off-season) and we all received commemorative wristbands with his name and number on it.
Our seats were comps from the Atlanta Hawks, who had warned me in advance that they were "not the best in the house". However, even I was a little unprepared for just how bad they were. We were located three rows from the roof of the building and spent most of the night ducking 747s on final approach to MSP. Just kidding, but you get my point.
The game itself was pretty good, with the Timberwolves (what the hell is a "Timberwolf" anyway, huh?) pulling away steadily despite the valiant efforts of Jon Barry of the Kings (a GT alumnus whose younger brother Drew once sat in front of me in History 1001!). JB (as he is known) was consistenly manhandled by the significantly larger T'Wolves, much to the chagrin of Max. His comments had the entire section in splits, most notably "Hey Ref, they're killing our Honkie!!" after a particularly vicious foul.
We exited the game with a few minutes left on the clock and the outcome a foregone conclusion. After much debate, we finally decided to head back to the Mall of America and catch a late night movie. On the way, ACVitale called to say hi and to pass on some interesting news about problems with the A318 powerplants. We arrived at the mall and parked in the "California" level, before heading up to the multiplex on the top level.
Our top selection, "Charlie's Angels", was sold out so we compromised on "Meet The Parents" and purchased tickets. As we were heading down to the foodcourt for a bite, we heard a group of teens yelling obscenities and insults like "racist redneck bastards" at us. Both Jacob and Max wanted to head back up the stairs and confront them, but I steered them away from the area.
The movie was hilarious, especially the airport scenes, and we enjoyed it thoroughly. We headed back to the hotel where we chatted for a while, but none of us were particularly tired. I had a coupon for a free Pay-Per-View movie, so we selected Mission Impossible 2 and settled down to watch it. Of course, I fell asleep in the middle (and I believe Max did too) but Jacob stuck through the end.
5 November 2000
We woke up on time the next morning, and I used my internet enabled cellphone to confirm that my upgrade had come through again. After showering and getting dressed, we headed down to the lobby where the boys tucked into the complimentary breakfast while I used the Business Center for a few minutes. We headed out to the airport, stopping for gas along the way, and returned the rental car with no complications.
Jacob had been lugging a small pouch full of the new Sacagewa $1 coins around with him all weekend. He finally decided that he was going to spend them on upgrades for himself and Max for their flight down to ATL. On the way to the AirTran gates, we stopped off at the NWA E-Service Center and I checked myself in. We finally arrived at the AirTran gate, only to find a DC9-30 sitting there rather than the expected 717-200. The agent didn't even seem to notice, and expressed surprise when we pointed it out to her! Jacob enquired about upgrades and was asked "How are you going to be paying for this?". He replied "Gold coins please" and poured a stack of them onto the counter. The look on the agent's face was priceless! The flight boarded soon after that and I waited a few minutes till they pushed back before heading out to my own non-stop.
5 November 2000
Minneapolis-St.Paul to Atlanta Hartsfield
The flight boarded right on time and we pushed back on schedule for a 1125am departure. As soon as we were airborne, the F/A came around with lunch menus, followed by the meal itself. First Class was only half full, so the service was excellent. I picked the Chicken Fiesta which was served in a taco shell on a bed of rice. It was quite scrumptious and typical of NW's great catering in First Class.
We landed at Hartsfield on time and I called the boys who had arrived just around the same time. We met up and then headed out to MARTA for the ride downtown to my place.
5 November 2000
This was the first time Max was visiting my place (Jacob had been here before) and expressed the appropriate oohs and aahs over the view and the huge TV. We watched the end of the Falcons-Bucs game and played some "Civil War Foosball". Soon enough, it was time to head back to the airport. I secretly called one of my police friends who was on duty and she intercepted us on the way to the MARTA station. Max seemed to have a handcuff fetish so we cuffed him and threw him in the back of a cruiser despite the horrified stares from assorted passers-by!
The ride back to Hartsfield was interesting to say the least. We were deluged by hordes of Tampa fans heading back to their hotels from the game. One of the people recognized Max as the guy being handcuffed and expressed surprise at his "escape", much to our amusement!
We arrived at Concourse C with about 20 mins to flighttime, only to see an indefinite delay posted. I spoke to the agents for a while and tried to get the boys listed as standbys on the next flight (which was oversold). The boys were getting a little restless by now, so we headed out to concourse E and watched TV for a while while I worked the phones with AirTran.
We headed back to the AirTran gates around 7pm for the next flight out to IAD, but we got a call from Max's mom on the way telling us that she had just told off an AirTran supervisor who had expressed his inability to help with the situation. I assured her that I would have them on a flight out that evening, even if I had to drag other pax off the plane to accomplish that end. We took seats in the gate area and waited as the passengers checked in.
Suddenly we realized that "Max Braun" was being paged over the PA system. He went up to the podium and was handed the telephone receiver. Wisely, he played dumb and handed the phone over to me. It was the AirTran supervisor who was still a little shellshocked from dealing with Max's mom. He apologized for any "misunderstandings". I told him that I expected them to be numbers 1 and 2 on the standby list or there would be hell to pay, and he agreed. Sure enough, about 30 seconds later the agent working the flight confirmed that they had been miraculously bumped to the top.
The flight began boarding as I paced the waiting area. At the end of regular boarding, the agent summoned me over to the desk and told me to get the boys ready. They were the first standby's on board and were told to "pick a seat", which of course meant they took the two available in business class! I waited till the aircraft pushed back and then headed home, a long but fun weekend having come to an end.
[Edited 2004-02-28 01:46:12]
"The A340-300 may boast a long range, but the A340 is underpowered" -- Robert Milton, CEO - Air Canada