[I found this pre-9/11 air travel long form hand-written piece in a box today]
• Refugees at the Ritz
• Blankets a go-go
• Cots for the lucky
• Cardboard boxes as beds
• Juice Distribution
• Water water everywhere
“So are you going to go to the airport and catch an earlier flight?”
At about 1:00 a.m., mountain, I got my second wind. Sleeping was entirely too difficult at this point. Sure, it’s a matter of degree, but I have no experienced my first hint of homelessness -- er -- refugeeness. We are the refugees of the Great Denver Hailstorm of June 2001. Of course we have blankets and drinks. Some of us (not me though) have folding cots or an actual sofa (the kind without arms). Did I mention that the blankets were clean, probably new and still factory sealed?
We are all trapped (cancel stay-overs) in the Denver International Airport, the D.I.A. I’m living through an extraordinary day. A day without end. A day always at beginnings.
“On behalf of the entire flight crew, United Airlines welcomes you to Denver. The local time is 6:22.”
My flight from Oakland was uneventful. “Uneventful” is generally the best one can hope for with hub-and-spoke travel. Gotta get to Denver to get to Baltimore to get to New York. At least within per diem.
Of course OAK provided me with Surreal Freakiness of its own. The kind that Surreal Freakiness that could only come with the certainty that you are witnessing a thing with your own eyes. Like a commercial jetliner crashing into the gravity-loving earth.
Fortunately I did not see that, but some funky vibes (complete with the associated visuals) were in full effect. I’ve never seen a jetliner at a 55° angle just seconds after lift off. The adrenaline kicked in so fully, I turned into the Long Term Parking lot. I was driving a rental. Like I said....
To my surprise, I was awarded the lotto ticket of flying prize: an exit row seat (scratch off level). 10C. The middle seat does not matter when you have adequate leg room. OAK - DIA. For my last air leg, I was assigned to row 34. Aisle. But since it’s the very last leg - it doesn’t matter.
“Flight attendants take your seats.”
A little bumpy coming over the Rockies. Nothing new. Denver, God bless, is picturesque. The Rockies meet the plains. The weather is notorious though. Notoriously unpredictable. Baseball in the snow and shit. Lightning on clear blue afternoons. Thunderheads of straw. Double rainbows. All of that.
The good news was we landed without event. Uneventful. We landed uneventfully. No events. Just landed.
More good news. We parked our 737 at gate B23. My outbound 737 would be parked at Gate B24. No hurry. No confusion. Good news.
Oh. Outbound flight 1738 is showing a half-hour delay. No biggie. We’ll depart at 7:45. I’ll get home around 2:30 a.m.
No biggie except, after looking north, I noticed that the sky wasn’t quite right. To the south the weather was mildly sunny and partly cloudy. Denver. But to the north...something didn’t fully make sense. Brown-green isn’t the right color for the sky. It’s the color of pond scum. It’s the color or really old bong water. It’s the color of old photographs. It’s the color of v-neck sweaters. It’s the color of rotting corpses in third world countries. And, apparently, in Denver, brown-green is sometimes the color of the sky.
“Due to inclement weather” we were told “there will be a slight delay.” “Because of the possibility of lightning” which I suppose a brown-green sky could produce “the ground crews are being ordered indoors.” We were assured that “once the cell passes” (“ladies and gentlemen”) and “once the all-clear order” has been issued, we would be on our merry way to Baltimore. Home. Close to home.
A new time, 8:01, was posted as our scheduled, albeit delayed, departure time. I would be home just after 3:00 a.m.
Bap! Whole note. The audience grows suddenly quiet. Bop! Dap! Quarter notes. The audience is fully attentive now.
Bop-ba-dop bop bip? CHSHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! And just like that. And out of the brown-green sky: golf balls? Ping-pong balls? Oh, it’s hail...hail the size of...baseballs are pouring from the sky. It is so loud over our heads as ice pounds the glass skylights.
Sonofabitch. I’ve heard of this. Every human in the terminal is pressed against the glass windows. Stunned human silence. Denver. The time is 8:01.
“Hello. My name is Captain Parker. I am your pilot.” By now, it’s all nervous banter, anticipatory looks, and wishful thinking. At this point you notice how many young children and elderly folks travel. You notice how many people bring checkable luggage as carry on. At this point you know something is wrong because the pilot is at the gate counter starting an announcement about your flight home.
Stern-faced pilots are a dime a dozen. In fact, it’s an attribute one wants for the captain of their ship. Really. It’s somehow disconcerting for the Southwest pilots to be so...cheery. Goofy. Anyhow, grim faced cap’n Parker (or was it Packer?) gives us the initial report: hail damage: “Unfortunately, the FAA regulates post-hail inspections and specifications for release.” Unfortunately? When the cap’n speaks, everyone crowds the “podium” to hear - of course the P.A. system provides swell coverage of this audio. And, it’s not a podium at all, literally.
From a psychological perspective, the dynamics become robust - we had several types:
1) Explanation Demander - Why is this happening? I need to know.
2) The Novice - First air trip panic. No clue what to do.
3) The Professional - Cool, seen it all before. First to rebook/get hotel/cots.
4) Natural Followers - Whatever the person in front of them does, they do.
5) Information Distributors - Here’s what “they” say. Well I heard.
“Do you have chai?”
The biggest problem became clear and accurate Information Distribution by the officials and NOT by the passenger-class Information Distributors. They suck. Go to customer services - stay here - call the reservation number - wait for cancellation status.
[this piece was never and never will be finished]
I see a orange
See a orange
Ooh, one or two
I see an orange
Got to go Star Trek style
I see a worm up on a platform
I got the blues
Can I scream?
Air cruise crashin' not my style
I like yours
I'm movin', baby
To the side of your mouth
I see a orange
I see a orange
Ooh, saw a earthquake too...
I love you