Saturday, December 16, 2006

Airport Purgatory

I think it was W.C. Fields who it was reputed said that he wanted on his tombstone the legend, "On the whole, I would rather be in Philadelphia." I don't know how severely Fields expected to be punished after his death, but the Philadelphia we've seen so far isn't much of an improvement over any place I can imagine. We're in the Four Points Sheraton, located next to the Philadelphia airport. I don't know if airports the world over use the same malevolent architects, or if it's impossible to design an attractive airport, but the ones I have seen, ranging from Seoul to Paris; from Seattle to Philadelphia, all have a dreary similarity. Granted, one wouldn't want an airport surrounded by mountains or high rise buildings, and I guess I can see the functionality of having parking lots and rental car agencies nearby, but is it absolutely essential to erase any vestiges of local color and to banish all decent restaurants from the environs?
We got off to a good start this morning. I was up at 2:30 and out of the bathroom in time for my wife to do her ablutions and be ready to walk out the door at 3:40, precisely the time I had calculated we needed to leave. There was no traffic out at that time of the morning and getting to Bloomington to the airport and clearing security was like the good old days of flying.
We had a layover of a couple of hours in Chicago, and while waiting next to the gate for a plane taking vacationers to the Caribbean, we were reminded of what kind of torture the airline industry puts us in all too often these days. We heard the gate agent next door, in a most cheerful voice inform the waiting throng that the plane was at the gate and she was just waiting for the maintenance crew to finish cleaning the plane before letting them board. She repeated this news cheerfully several times over about an hour interval, and then finally 'fessed up as to what was really going on. It seems the cleaning crew had found a cockroach. One cockroach. But as any cockroach expert will tell you, there can't be just one cockroach; where there is one, there are more. Since the plane was flying into a foreign country, it could not take off with the possibility of any animals, including cockroaches, being on board. So, she said, they were trying to decide whether to fumigate the plane or to get another plane for the trip. The problem with fumigating the plane is that it would need to air out after the fumigation for many hours to avoid making the patients as sick as the cockroaches,so it might not be able to leave for a day or so. The problem with putting another plane in service is that it had to be equipped to fly over water, and she didn't know if they could locate an available plane with the right equipment. So, the poor vacationers, eager to hit the beaches of Martinque were left stewing at O'Hare. (And this was United, which is a relatively benign airline. Don't get me started about that lying Northwestern Airlines.)
But our plane left on time and got us to Philadelphia on time. Our only problem is that we got here too quickly and our hotel couldn't let us check in. No problem, I said, it's noon, we'll just duck into your restaurant and have some lunch.
"Sorry," the desk clerk said, "Our restaurant has closed and won't reopen until 5:00 p.m."
After determining that the nearest open restaurant was a Ruby Tuesday, several miles away, but that the airport shuttle would take us there and pick us up, we went off to kill a couple of hours. I had never been in a Ruby Tuesdays, but was under the vague impression that it was similar to Appleby's, TGI Fridays, and that genre of restaurants, i.e. "pricy tacky." My bowl of chicken chili was a white gelatinous mess with recognizable (by sight; not taste) strips of chicken. I didn't locate anything in the bowl that I would have identified as chili. I also had a salad from a salad bar and by the time I covered the limp iceberg with all the salad bar accoutrements, it was edible, although not $9 worth of edible.
I am looking forward to our trip later this afternoon to Dream Kitchen where I am sure we will have food about as good as we have back in Illinois, if not better.
It's about 3:30 now; the concert is at 8:00 p.m. and I will report further on our adventures as I have a chance.


Lauren said...

John! You're at the AIRPORT, for God's sake. Purgatory by definition.

Anonymous said...

Ah, the joys of travel: bad transportation, bad food, bad beds, rude people everywhere and sights you've seen so many times on TV or in National Geographic that you hardly find it worth taking picture.

Today, I went from my bedroom to the family room, pausing in the kitchen for coffee. Nobody was rude, I didn't have to wait, and I could do it all in my T shirt and boxers. I love travel.

Debra Hope said...

You think Philadelphia and O'Hare are bad? Try Atlanta with rain! &*$#&$)#)@#&$)#!!!! And, I know some stories about United that would curl your hair . . . my old firm handled their labor law. Not so benign as you might think.

Amishlaw said...

Lauren, we were soon in heaven.
Twoblueday, I'm not as anti-travel as you apparently are. I got excited walking by Betsy Ross's house in Philadelphia in search of a bar with food Saturday night. And the bed at the hotel really was very good. It had my wife saying, "I think we need to get a new mattress when we get home."
Debra, believe me, I don't think anything benign about corporate labor practices.