Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Bogotification of Dulles

I always thought Bogota’s Eldorado Airport was horrible. Long lines, funny smells, chaos and suitcases dropped onto my feet. However, there’s something even worse than the chaos…it’s the contagion. Last time I flew out of Dulles, it was Bogota all over again. We’ve been infected! Here is a rundown of my festival of fun at Dulles last Sunday.

Flight Time: 5:45 pm

2:45 pm: Arrive at airport (three hours early!)
2:50 pm: Drag luggage to United counter, look desperately for airline employee so I know what line to stand in.
2:55 pm: Locate employee. Notice that employee is trying desperately to blend into the crowd as to avoid my questions. Discover that my destination is “Line 6”.
3:10 pm: Locate Line 6. Join a merry band of 433 new best friends, waiting for assistance from 3 ticket agents.
3:10 pm-4:30 pm: Stand in Line 6. Glance at watch. Move forward six inches. Glance at watch. Worry. Glance at watch. Sweat.
4:30 pm: United employee pulls everyone going to Munich out of Line 6…and moves us to an even longer line. Place head on suitcase. Weep.
4:45 pm: Finally check in. Discover my bag is 12 pounds over the weight limit. Gate agent requests $315 in fees for overweight bag. I remove precisely 12 pounds of stuff from Target from my bag (I’ve always wanted construction paper, hair dye, and glue sticks in my carryon!).
4:55 pm: Drop off bags with TSA agent, who tells me to “go to the left, no wait.”
5:00 pm: Go to left. Wait.
5:05 pm: Reach beginning of security line. Ask agent, “Will I make my plane, or am I kidding myself?” Response cannot be printed on family website.
5:10 pm: Befriend man in line behind me, who is also traveling to Munich. We compare incompetent United employee tales.
5:30 pm: My new friend and I finally get screened. My new friend walks up, and promptly removes his artificial foot and tosses it in a bin with a clatter. Awesome.
5:35 pm: We’re now very concerned about catching our flight, so my friend decides there isn’t sufficient time to fully strap on his foot. We half-run, half-hobble to the people movers. Meanwhile, Velcro foot-straps and my Target art supplies stream behind us.
5:37 pm-5:42 pm: Run, hobble, run. Reach gate. Realize my ticket does not have a seat assignment. Picture myself being pulled behind the plane in a little red wagon.
5:43 pm: Receive seat assignment (“Seat #1896A”)
5:44 pm: Board plane. Watch door shut behind me.
7:15 pm: Plane takes off. They’d discovered the luggage had been loaded improperly, so we had to wait for the entire plane to be reloaded. (I’m picturing all the weight on one side of the plane, forcing us to fly in circles.)

I haven’t even discussed the rowdy teenage basketball team, the batty Italian who wanted 8 different people to move to accommodate her boyfriend, the bouncing lasagna (I have the charming habit of testing airplane food to see if it bounces – which it often does!), or the fact that United seats are so cramped that I spent the entire flight with my knees jammed under my chin (I’m only 5’2”!). I bet business schools all over the world are studying how United sucks all the fun out of travel.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Power Point to the Rescue!

I just got back from a ten-day government training course, which licenses me to, among other things: 1. Start home-based Internet businesses 2. Inform people whether or not they may bring their pets in an evacuation 3. Distinguish between the varying types of Power Point presentations.

If anything, this conference cemented my hatred of Power Point. Why prepare a coherent, intelligent speech when you can play with ClipArt and bullet points? I spent way too much time being read to off a Power Point. In fact, here are my (progressively less coherent) notes from one particular guest session speaker:
  • Why do all cartoon people on slides look angry?
  • Buy bread crumbs.
  • I'm sweating like a pig. Maybe it's hot flashes. We've been sitting here for 20 years, and now I'm going through menopause. Jesus. Hot flashes at 28.
  • Am I the only person not learning anything? Oh, wait, the person next to me is drawing an enormous spiral doodle.
  • If it were physically possible to die of boredom, I would have done so twice already.
  • If fluency in English is a requirement of my job, why am I being read to?

I have to admit the training wasn't all bad. In fact, much of it was very good. I met people with the same job as me from all over the world. If I ever drop by Laos or Turkmenistan, I have friends to look up. I even got a certificate on high-quality paper.

I went out every single night, saw friends, ate untold amounts of Thai food, bought a year's supply of long-sleeve t-shirts, stocked up on Altoids and liquid soap, drank Starbucks coffee every day, and shook off some of the dreariness of Sarajevo. And that's worth a few Power Points.

PS- Sarajevo's airport had reopened by the time I returned yesterday. I didn't, unfortunately, notice any Velcro on the runway.