The end of Part 2 left me snapping away with my camera around SFO. A friend of mine from Minneapolis had a rental car and a flight with NWA (aka The Red-Tailed Devil, Norwegians With Attitude) back to MSP that night about the same time I was to thumb a ride with the house that Robert F Six built. My Express Jet buddy checked the load and found it was looking good for me to get on the 0040 red-eye back home and put me on the list for stand-bys. My pal from MSP and I booked it into San Francisco for a bite to eat and a whirlwind tour of the sights. We ate at some hole-in-the-wall joint in Chinatown, of which there are a billion, and drove through such notable areas as Tenderloin (featured on a few police-related shows) and Fisherman's Wharf. I actually got to see a live bum fight in Tenderloin. Not that I don't see those on a regular basis back home, but this was in an exotic and foreign land and I was itchin' to see someone get shanked over a fifth of Thunderbird. Alas, the light turned and I was left without closure.
We returned my friend's rented HHR and took the train I'd ridden in Part 2 to the terminal. I bid my pal Godspeed and wished him luck in getting bumped to First. I checked-in at the CO counter and checked my bag laden with diecast airliners and smelly clothes and made my way to join the queue at security. You may recall from Part 1 that there was a nun on my flight. I smiled when I saw an Orthodox rabbi in line ahead of me. If a Bride of Christ can get me through, then I should be all set flying with this fellow. But I didn't see him again after security and left my fate to Brother Boeing.
I was disappointed again with the lack of attention I'd attracted during the security striptease. I was especially upset I didn't get to go through "The Puffer" I'd seen coming in. No matter.
Arriving in the gate area, I noted with some discomfort the number of people gathered. Crap. I'm never going to get home if all of these folks are ahead of me. I plopped down in an empty seat at the gate next to a guy sleeping through a chick flick on the DVD player on his lap. A Spanish-speaking family sat across from me - a woman with a son and two daughters - and the boy would not shut up. Perhaps he was excited about the flight or his impending visit to Honduras. Nevertheless, even my mp3 couldn't drown-out his rambling about subjects ranging from air travel to native-Honduran animals. I found myself wondering if an airport restroom lobotomy could help me un-learn the four years of Spanish I took in high school and college.
The PA system popped to life and the gate agent announced boarding for my flight. About fifty people boarded when stand-bys started hearing their names called over the PA. She called the names in pairs and made it through nearly a dozen before calling my name. Jackpot!
Date: August 20, 2006
Flight: CO 1743
Ship: N24202 (born 2000; s/n 30429)
Seat: SBY -> 28C
Scheduled Departure: 0040 PST
Push Time: 0040 PST
Departure Runway: 1R at 0049 PST
Scheduled Arrival: 0617 CST
Arrival Runway: 27 at 0616 CST
Photo © John Harris
28C? That's gotta be way in the back, I thought. No matter. At least I was on. I presented my boarding pass to the gate agent, who tried unsuccessfully to scan it, then gave up and entered the number by hand. There was no one immediately behind me so I took a moment to check out the manufacturer plate over the door. But I didn't know what the hell I was looking for, so when I found it, I wasn't able to give it much attention before another live cargo came up behind me. Two F/As doing the greeting shot me the "Oh Lord. An A.netter..." look described by Jafa39 in a recent TR. I chuckled at that thought and made the obligatory "I'm a dork" explanation. They were kind about it, but I still felt a "No sh!t" vibe in their response. As I worked my way down the aisle, I got a call from my friend on the MSP flight saying he'd been able to bump up to First and to inquire if I'd made it on the flight. "Only *****s fly First," I joked. Crap! I'm walking through First! I hung up with him and while waiting for the cattle to settle ahead of me, I called the friend who got me the Buddy Pass to let him know I was on.
Sure enough, Row 28 is the last row on the port side, with one more row on the starboard. I noted with disappointment that in 28B was (or, at least, could've been) a linebacker for the 49ers and was also occupying a third of both 28A and 28C. I settled into 28.66C and cursed my favorite carrier for the tight legroom and played footsy with The Fridge, trying to get into a comfortable-enough position that I might be able to catch some Z's without succumbing to DVT.
*sniff* A peculiar odor wafted from behind me and I looked expectantly for a mountain spring, but all I saw was a lav. Nice. One of the F/As saw my disdain and closed the door. That made the odor less-obnoxious, but only a little. I was afraid if my neighbor had to lay a coil, it would smell like someone took a dump in a mountain spring behind a flimsy door. I prayed to Our Lady of Worthless Miracles.
We pushed at exactly 0040 and I looked to see every seat filled. The Captain came on and gave us the anticipated flight time, weather in Houston and told us he'd leave us alone until our descent into IAH. We taxied for only a few minutes and didn't even pause before the Captain gunned it. Two guys in 28E and 28F closed their eyes and crossed themselves.
After the Captain killed the fasten seatbelt sign, several...*ahem*...older passengers got up in unison. I guessed it was either a group tinkle attack or or a legion of geriatric hijackers bent on forcing the plane to divert to Branson. One guy, who looked like an anorexic Jack Palance, made his way to the mountain spring with a bit more conviction than the others. Great. His prune smoothie probably caught up with him. The next thirty minutes passed with a parade of butt cheeks rubbing across my right shoulder. Perhaps I should've lifted a few wallets or copped a few feels, but I felt a nap coming on.
Terry Tate, the Airplane Linebacker, bought headphones for Doona, which I assume is about a young boy who falls in love with a cheetah, but his parents disapprove, so he elopes to New Mexico. I drifted-off to sleep. Fifteen minutes later, I was assaulted by a particularly big posterior and gave-up my dream of Hotness (see Part I) bearing me a litter of little sports and/or music stars who live only to support their loving parents. Doona was causing a ruckus in a school and I was about to...
The douchebike in 27C - who had laid his seat back already - was not content with the seat pitch and was ramming his shoulder into his seat back, trying to get it to recline more. Curses! He was apparently married to the woman across the aisle in 27D and spoke to her in what I think was Russian. I only took 1/2 a semester of Russian in high school, so my translation may be a bit rusty, but he either said, "My! The seat pitch isn't satisfactory for me" or "Is he grimacing in pain yet, or still just in irritation?" Zhopa. By the third offense, I wanted to grab him by the toupee and scream in his ear, "This ain't First Class, you inconsiderate pube, and that ain't a fecking lie-flat seat!!!"
Drinks and snacks were served (I feasted on Coke, some pretzels and a cookie) and I tried again to fall asleep. Just when I thought I heard Hotness pull her Ferarri into the driveway, I was jolted awake by a cacophony of banging and slamming behind me. No, no one was joining the FL350 Club beside the mountain spring. The noise was a F/A doing what I assumed was an inventory of the catering carts and felt the need to slam each door shut as if the compartment held a cheating boyfriend. Rrrrrgh.... Well, as long as she's practicing her audition for Lars Ulrich's spot, I might as well go tinkle in the mountain spring. Wouldn't you know it? The only real turbulence we hit was while I was trying to drown a leprechaun, so I had to "be a sweetie and wipe the seatie." Aside from the golden shower in the lav (my God, I hope that's the only time I ever write that), I was happy to have the opportunity to stretch my now-bruised knees.
The remainder of the flight was uneventful and I could feel us starting to descend as the sprawl of Houston came into view. We landed on 27 a minute, or so, ahead of schedule and made a short taxi across the east bridge to gate E23. It was difficult to make out the reg # in the pre-dawn light, but I finally got it after some gymnastics in the terminal window. I don't know if it happens to anyone else, but I was overcome with a feeling of not wanting to go out of security and wander the terminal like a wayward Sky Hobo. I indulged myself, as this was my first time in Continental's new(ish) Terminal E. I wandered a bit and started following the signs to the baggage claim. I walked. And walked. And walked some more. Sweet Jesus, I think I'm in SAT by now. Apparently, domestic arrivals get their bags in Terminal C's claim. That makes sense.
After getting my truck out of hock at Park N Fly, I booked it for the house, arriving in time to awaken the wife and initiate the Daddy-I-have-to-pee dance in the dogs. Then I started writing these things for you people. And that's it. Thanks for reading.