Monday, February 21, 2011

Death Flight 2011

Flew from St. Louis to Chicago to Charleston, WV this week, and there were more than a couple of moments that I was less than thrilled about it.

I should probably preface this by saying that I have a knack of working for places that operate in pretty remote locales. My last job was for a healthcare company that served the largely rural portions of Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma and I currently work for a coal mining company (and obviously the views in this space are mine and not those of my company yada, yada, yada) which operates largely in Central Appalachia and the Mountain West areas. I actually do typically enjoy the travel (I don't have to do it much, and it’s nice to get out and see how the money gets made), but it typically involves lots of short flights in a row. I'm not what you'd call a nervous flyer. The worst part to me is only having 20 minutes worth of airline magazines to read but 40 minutes of flight time where I can't turn on my electronic devices (note to self: grab a newspaper before flying home), and somehow still not getting the extra special TSA pat down (kidding, mostly).

So, this week I was flying from St. Louis to Charleston, WV via Chicago. Aside from leaving the gate late (which doesn't even qualify as an inconvenience anymore) the first leg was pretty uneventful. From St. Louis to Chicago is literally up and down -- they don't even bother to pretend they are going to serve refreshments.

The second leg, however, started off a little more ominously. We (I was on the trip with a coworker) got to Chicago late, but fortunately our connecting flight was even more late, so we grabbed something to eat at the Chili's Too (do they even have Chili's standalone restaurants anymore? The link I just included would lead me to believe "yes.") which was directly across from our gate. Which had a paper sign (taped to the functioning monitor) that said simply "Charleston, WV" in Sharpie. Good thing we chose that spot, because they started boarding far sooner than they were supposed to. Only through my Herculean efforts was I able to ensure that none of my French fries were left behind; my traveling companions burger was not so lucky.

We then hurried onto the plane so we could be passively aggressively directed ("we'll pull away from the gate as soon as everyone has turned off their electronic devices") in order to rush to the tarmac where we waited for 45 minutes to take off in a torrential downpour. Once in the air, it only got more fun as the captain came on the speaker to warn us that they were going to try to retest some system that wasn't flashing right on the flashy thing in the cockpit, and that if that didn't work out we'd be going back to Chicago to land in the torrential downpour. Then the plane got really loud as it sounded like they were trying to open the bomb bay doors. Immediately after that sound subsided the plane banked strongly to the right, and everyone let out a groan because we were obviously going back to Chicago. Two minutes later the captain came back on and said everything was fine.

As an aside, I've never understood the whole "if something is wrong we're going to fly back and land at where we just took off from" mentality. To me, if we are going to crash, I'd just as soon do it at my destination as opposed to my starting point. If we have a terrible landing in Chicago, it isn't like I'm gonna want to hop on the next plane to Charleston. If we have a terrible landing in Charleston, at least I have two days to get over it before I return home.

After that, things got much better. The <sarcasm>cheery</sarcasm> flight attendant apologized for the rough flight and gave us all free trail mix after assuring us that this was his best flight of the day. Free trail mix cures a lot. Maybe <more sarcasm>I'll start bringing that home when I forget my anniversary</more sarcasm>.

The rest of the evening was pretty unremarkable aside from our luggage being wet and the Mapquest iPhone app sucking. Can't wait to fly back home. Hope it is on American Eagle, again.

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