Saturday, February 17, 2007

Notes From the Road blog

First Steps

This post started as the story of me trying to get to the airport, and has been added to and added to, so I give it to you as a whole: The first 2 days.

It's a strange feeling getting to the gate this morning.

It's been about 20 months since I was last on tour. It was with Cliff with Sandisk on Warped Tour. It ended when I got the job at XS. It'll be nice to be traveling again, even though I'll miss everything at home.

I'm on a JetBlue flight to JFK. There are some eerie similarities between this flight and a flight some years ago. Superstition. If I see the lead singer from Living Color, I'm not getting on this plane.

The flight was way delayed. I caught that there might be a delay around noon yesterday, and have been keeping tabs on it ever since. As a pilot, I'm not going to say I have access to more information, but I am aware of more resources. In addition to the JetBlue site, I've been watching an industry flight tracking site and listening to air traffic control at JFK to get a feeling for the flow. The big break happened at around 8 last night, when I saw the flight hadn't departed yet. This meant I could still watch lost at home (which was awesome). I knew it was going to be a long night, but didn't know just how long it would be.

As I continued to pack, I continued to watch my various information sources. Shortly after 11pm, the plane still hadn't left JFK to make the turn around. The site showed a departure time of 5am, which I knew was unrealistic, so I decided to take a nap and set an alarm for 230. If 5a was accurate, this would give me enough time to get to the airport, and if it was delayed I'd have time to sleep more. At 230a, the plane was airborne with arrival at 630 and a departure of 745a. Reset the alarm for 430a and go back to sleep. Getting up, just a couple loose ends to tie up, and in the car I go.

Getting to the airport was easy, as expected. There was no line to check in, and the person behind the desk has been there all night, but is still in good spirits. Getting to the gate is like a wasteland. There are crumbs, wrappers, cups, cans, bags and people strewn across the floor. I'm reminded, tho, of the amazing customer service of JetBlue. See, the airline has provided all the blankets, pillows, beverages and snacks. The people are here, roughly 8 hours early through no fault of their own, have experienced customer service that very few airlines offer today. And they still complain. They have some valid points, but overall they are just pissed they had to spend a night in an airport. If you really want to know, ask me about my thoughts on air travel.

There's an interesting air at the gate. Confusion, misinformation, anger... There are 5 or 6 people on their mobiles talking to friends, family, or co-workers. There appears to be some sort of camaraderie that's developed between the 30 or so that spent the night. They are all getting different info from different sources and are talking in this strange mix of English and their native tongue, softly and loud, in to their phones and across the room to their new single-serving friends.

Around 6am, 2 gate agents pop around the corner. Instantly, they're bum-rushed. Ever been to Wild Waves? Know that lake in the middle of the park? Ever been there when someone is feeding the catfish in that pond? Yeah, it was like that. Everyone had something to say, everyone wanted to be heard, and everyone wanted to be first.

Minutes later, all the anger turned to glee. The plane is here! I was pretty worried to see people's faces as they got off the plane, but was pleasantly surprised. About half of the people had big smiles, like they were glad to finally be in Seattle. Maybe another quarter were huffing and mumbling to themselves, as if they wanted someone to notice they were angry, but knew there was nothing anyone could do about it and it was no one's fault.

Just a couple minutes later I'm reminded as to the mentality of people... A couple, who clearly spent the night at home, arrive and take up 4 seats with all their crap. The wife leaves to go to the bathroom and get some coffee, while the husband walks away on his mobile. 3 or 4 minutes later a guy walks up (who I later learn had spent the night on a bench) and sits down in the one empty seat that's not filled with the couple's stuff. The man on the phone comes over telling incoherently, and the wife if returning at just about the same time screaming "GET OUT OF MY SEAT!!". Maybe 10 minutes later they're like old friends exchanging false information on flying.

Now that the inbound passengers have been off the plane for a little while, the rumors start to circulate. The numbers being thrown around are obscene. "They sat on the ground for 8 hours." "They were in the plane for 17 hours." Um, I don't think that's the case. The flight was supposed to get in at 11p, meaning a departure out JFK at 5p Seattle time. Even if they had gotten on the plane at their scheduled departure time, they would have been on board for 14 hours max, with 6 being flight hours. So it's possible they sat in the plane for 8 hours, but they didn't board till at least 8p Seattle time.

Finally boarding for us begins. The gate agent calls out pre-boarding, and 120 people stand up. Next is the last 5 rows (25-29), and there's a wall of people that's formed. The gate agent calls all rows, and it's mayhem. We all get on and then wait. Since the website said 745a, we can't leave till everyone is her or that time. We do get out a couple minutes early, and we're on our way.

My favorite quote of the day comes from the captain, talking about the wind at JFK, and how there might be a delay coming in. "JFK might be slowing is up so a hold us possibly a possibility." That's almost as good as "What it is is it isn't..."

Now almost ready to land, it's 20 degrees in NYC. The captain says it's going to be bumpy, and bumpy it is! Getting into the terminal is the more exciting adventure, tho. See, since so many flights have been cancelled, it's pretty much a mad house. It's difficult even to get off the plane since there are so many people in the terminal. Getting down to baggage claim is no different, hearing horror stories of people waiting 2 hours for luggage. The airline is even announcing where people can go to pick up there luggage from flights that have been cancelled. I feel lucky that I only waited for 45 minutes for mine. Off to the cab. As interesting as this day has been, the worst part is waiting for the cab, as it's cold, windy, and we're outside living it.

It's about 545p and I'm in a van to the city, passing some left overs from the 64 worlds fair. There are dinner reservations at 6 that I'm really hoping to get to. I get there; The Spice Market. Great atmosphere and decent food. Good, but nothing that special. It's also my first chance to meet some of my tour mates. First is Adam, the Asst. Tour Mgr. He's also from Seattle. Graduated 98 from Redmond Hi. Next is Justin, from Queens. Both seem like cool guys. I think we'll get along just fine. Haven't met the third guy yet... He's stuck in Burbank.

Dinner, then beverages, then back to the hotel, ... And so ends day 1.

Day 2 begins with a train ride to the office. I should mention, for those not in the know, all the trains here are referred to as "the train." You could be referring to Amtrak, the LIRR, the subway, the PATH... It's all the train. Anyway, I took the 6 to the L to 15th and 9th, and sat in conference room after conference room. This training is a lot more fun than many in the past, as we spend most of the time joking around. Finished, back to the hotel, and now I'm just about to go to dinner. Tomorrow we pick-up then load-up the trailer, then go park it away somewhere, then get a good night sleep as we start the drive to FL on Sunday.

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