Friday, May 16, 2008

Oh, the Adventures of Travel

I left my brother's home in Boulder at before 8:30 a.m. on my way to the Denver Airport. I could take the tollway, or go down US 36, then I-270, and I-70. I heard early on the radio of a traffic accident near the Vasquez Boulevard exit, but didn't think much of it, because I had given myself an hour and a half to get to the airport.

As soon as I exited on to I-270, the traffic stopped. A sign overhead said "Vasquez Blvd 2-1/2 Mi." The time was 9 a.m., and I was thinking I have plenty of time. The radio played lots of country music about lonely men in pickup trucks, country women who reveled in their taste for beer and bad judgment about transient relationships, and myriad country artists who evidently (from the lyrics) had some acute alcohol problems.

Sitting in the traffic (it was now 10:08 a.m., and boarding was at 10:30 - I was still 15 miles from the airport), I was beginning to wish that I had an acute alcohol problem. I felt less depressed after turning off the radio, but I needed the company to stay awake because of my own lack of sleep. What a dilemma!

Finally, I passed the traffic accident, and sped off to the airport. Normally, I fill up the tank in the rental car, but this time, I kissed the gas station at the Peoria Street exit good-bye as I sped past, and raced to the Thrifty car lot at the airport. Those 10 miles of Peña Boulevard seemed interminable. At dropoff, I told the woman that I was caught in traffic and couldn't fill up the car. (So Thrifty, I expect to receive a charge from you for a half tank of gas.)

The clock was ticking, but I was on my way to the Northwest terminal on the Thrifty courtesy van, full of other passengers who had also been caught in traffic. I entered the airport terminal only to find out that the TSA security lines had all been shut down because someone had entered the security area without going through a checkpoint. (Did he parachute in? Was he smuggled in with someone's luggage? Was he concealed in a handbag?) By this time, I was well past my plane's boarding time. The line eventually reopened, and it moved quickly (considering hundreds of people were in front of me) through the checkpoint.

I had resigned myself to going to a Northwest agent and rebooking my flight, but I took the train out to the C Terminal anyway, if only to gaze at an empty airport lounge and customer counter. To my surprise, my flight was still boarding (this was 40 minutes AFTER the plane was supposed to be in the air). I hopped on board.

The rest of my tale isn't very exciting at all. I had an hour layover in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and enjoyed a Ben and Jerry's there. One item of note is Northwest's peculiar boarding system. The airline boards all pre-boards and first class, then lets everyone else board all at once. The first couple of times I hated it, but at Minneapolis, I lurked near the ticket counter, and was the second passenger down the gangway after first class boarding. Cool!

The flight to Washington proceeded without incident. My taxi driver was a native Washingtonian. He's been hacking for 42 years. He'd also worked as a doorman at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, where we're having our international square dance convention (DC Diamond Circulate) next year. You still have time to learn to square dance. We had a great conversation. Ron had a hot meal waiting for me. Life is good.