Thursday, December 10, 2009


A few weeks back I took my first solo flight in quite some time. It's amazing how quickly you can get through check-in and security without having to wrangle kids. My flight was departing at 7:30 am, which meant I had to be ready to board by 7, which meant I should probably be arriving at the airport at 6. Which meant I'd be getting up before the crack of dawn.

So I prepped everything as best I could the night before and set everything by the door so I wouldn't be making a bunch of noise and waking up the baby Blaise. Being the obsessive traveler I am, it was a foolproof plan.

But I am a fool. After getting up and somehow ready to head out earlier than scheduled, I went to grab my keys. They weren't near the door. Not anywhere near the door. Soon I was tiptoeing around the bedroom with a mini Maglite searching through jackets and pants pockets hunting for keys. Clock ticking loudly. I must have gone back and forth through every room twice before noticing the keys hanging off the edge of a canvas Trader Joe's shopping bag that was hanging off the edge of a dining room chair.

Next I'm pulling my car into short-term parking at LAX near the US Airways terminal. I'm making note of what level the car is parked on, and I'm briskly walking across the skybridge over the LA airport traffic jam below. Security is fairly easy, seeing's how I have no kids to manage and I only have a carry-on bag and my backpack.

I wanted to get coffee, but I thought I'd better get some rest on the first leg of the flight. I estimated I'd get some shuteye, land, get up in the air again just in time for beverage service right before the caffeine withdrawal headache hit. Turns out the flight was so quick that I didn't have a chance to get any sleep.

And now I was in Las Vegas for 30 minutes before my next flight started boarding. So I did what any red-blooded American stuck in an airport in Las Vegas would do: gamble. Not that there's much action in the airport except slots, so I pulled out my wallet and found some singles.

I fed one into a slot machine. The machine spit the dollar out. I fed it back in. It spit it out. I grabbed a different dollar and fed it in. It spit the new dollar out. Since I wasn't getting any gambling done, I did my own mental gamble and thought "if this other machine doesn't take the dollar, then I'm done." I reached over to the next machine and fed it a dollar. It spit it out. Obviously somebody didn't want me gambling, so I took the hint and opted for some food instead. I grabbed some type of pocket pita thing and headed to the gate.

We got into the air and the caffeine withdrawal headache started to introduce itself. By the time beverage service made it to my seat, I had to ask for two cups of coffee. Who the hell could predict when they'd be back around? Knowing US Airways, probably never. The coffee was so bad that I had to break my streak of drinking coffee without cream and sugar. I downed both cups at just below scalding temperature strictly to kill the oncoming headache. Disaster averted.

I had planned to use some of the plane ride to work on a music video, so I pulled out my laptop and portable drive, inserted the earbuds and got down to business. 20 minutes into it, one of the male flight attendants came by and asked if I wanted another cup of coffee. I pulled out one of the earbuds and said "no thanks". As he turned to walk away, I thought I heard him say "Do you have enough stuff?" It's just a laptop and a mini-drive. Jeez.

We landed, I did the meet and greet, and before you know it I'm back on a plane to Los Angeles. This time the flight was completely full, as in zero seats available and I get seated next to a guy in the middle seat who doesn't fit in a middle seat. I bailed on the idea of doing anymore in-flight editing. A few cramped hours later I'm back on the ground in LA.

As I walked past security, I could see a skybridge to the parking garage, and a sign with an arrow pointing in that direction which said PARKING GARAGE. Sweet, I don't have to go all the way down and back up again, I can just go across. I was so sure it had to be a trick that I asked the security people "Can I really go straight across to the parking garage?" The security guards looked at each other, then both looked at the PARKING GARAGE sign, then back to me and nodded. Must be my lucky day.

Halfway across the parking garage, I noticed that I was walking toward a parking structure that wasn't the same one I drove into the day before. I turned around and walked back into the terminal, only now I had to go downstairs to get past security. And to be able to walk on the ground level to get to the right garage.

I got outside and saw the right garage and started walking towards it. And then I noticed that wasn't the right parking garage either. Suddenly I realized why I wasn't where I thought I should be. Because the outbound flight was on US Airways, and the return was Northwest. Completely different sides of the airport. Not just any airport. LAX.

And because it's LAX, getting from one side to the other ain't easy. I decided to take my chances and use a skybridge to the nearest parking structure and hope to be able cross the middle to my parking structure. One broken elevator and a flight of stairs later, I was able to cross a skybridge and I found out that no, you can't cross. You must go down from the skybridge to the ground and walk around no man's land, the section in the middle of LAX.

I felt like some sort of refugee with my rolling carry-on as limo after limo passed me. Remarkably I walked by two or three other people who appeared to be in the same boat as I was in, rolling their bag around searching this way and that to find out how to get back to their cars.

Things started looking familiar and I found the right parking garage. Because I was parked on a higher level, I pressed the up button on the elevator. Waited. Apparently it was broken. I took the stairs. Took them up a flight too far. Came back down and finally reached my car. I estimated that the whole excursion probably cost me an extra 10 parking bucks in foot travel time. I drove to the cashier. 60 dollars. Next time I'm taking the bus.

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