I live in DC, which is a great place to live and visit. I try to make the most of it. However, I also love to leave my home and see what the world has to offer. Come and join me!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Friday, August 31, 2007 Birthday and Departure

Despite best intentions, I didn't start packing until the morning I left. I was of course shocked by how much I was bringing, though most clothes will get worn twice under the plan. Naturally I had to take the time to make a necklace to go with everything, empty out the fridge (which I had mostly done already), wash the dishes, take out the trash, drop of my plant and mine and K's mailbox keys for the neighbor, etc. etc.!

I left the house seven minutes after I had planned to (1:37), which would still have given me plenty of time to get to the airport express bus stop for 2:10...except there was a delay on the yellow/green metro line. Even though I picked up my suitcase and bolted down the escalator the doors closed right in my face and I had to wait 11 minutes for the next train. I had 6 minutes to go four stops to L'Enfant Plaza. Luckily the train was fast. I wasted some time going up to what I thought was an exit but turned out to be a dead end, and emerged from the station at exactly 2:10.

However, I was relieved to see a whole passel of people with suitcases waiting at a bus stop sign so I hurriedly crossed the street and positioned myself under the shade. And waited. And waited. Almost 20 minutes late the bus showed up. I was glad I had decided to go to L'Enfant where the bus route begins as we filled the bus about 3/4 full. The B30 bus to BWI has a luggage rack in it. It's useful, but it does cut down on the number of available seats (and I had to stand all the way to Greenbelt once). Thinking it would be a more popular line I guess, Metro did not put a luggage rack in the A5. Instead there are overhead racks...way overhead. I am only 5'1" and I could barely reach the rack. There was no way I could lift my suitcase up over my head and onto my tippy toes, so I put it under my seat where it didn't quite fit.

I was getting anxious about time. I had allowed an extra hour beyond travel time to get to the airport, and half an hour of it was already gone with the bus being late and the slow loading.

We headed to Rosslyn for the next stop. We could see a horde of people standing there with suitcases in hand. The bus driver had to make a left to get to the stop. I could feel her trying to get the bus into gear as we stalled out in the intersection. After about 10 tries we finally inched our way over to the next stop where the hordes pushed their way on. The aisles were packed with standers, and it is a 1 hour ride to Dulles (BWI to Greenbelt on the B30 is about half an hour).

Finally the driver closed the door to any more people. She put the bus in gear, we lurched forward, we stopped, she leaned on the horn for about 45 seconds and then got off the bus. Not a good sign. I hoped she was going to yell at some driver who had arrogantly parked in the bus zone right in front of us. It was hot and getting hotter. It was packed. A voice came from the back asking to open the back door so she could get off. We said the bus driver was gone. The people in the front didn't want to mess around with the bus's buttons and latches to figure out how to open the door. The girl seemed shaky and I was worried she was going to have a claustrophobic panic attack.

The driver eventually returned and said, "This bus is going out of service. " Chaos! Anarchy! She wouldn't open the doors to let people off. She said a new bus had been sent, but wouldn't say from where (probably from about an hour away in the suburbs). People wanted to know who would get priority on the next bus (as an entire other busload of people was still waiting), and how the next bus would know we had paid our $3 express bus fee. The driver assured us that normally this was a good route.

I didn't have time to wait for some dubious alleged next bus. I jumped in a cab with three other women and we headed off. There was a slight slowdown on 66 but it cleared pretty quickly and then we were on the airport only corridor of the toll road. We reached the airport about 3:45, over two hours after I left my house. The cab was only $15 each. For comparison, a cab from Dulles to approximately my neighborhood for 1 person with luggage costs a whopping $70.

All this drama and my trip had hardly started! Can you see why I hate Dulles?

There was a line at Austrian Air and it was slow, but I figured everybody in it was on my flight and tried to force myself to relax. I considered for about 3 seconds mentioning it was my birthday in hopes of an upgrade, but I really didn't have the energy to be pushy. It's not my nature. I was happy that my window seat was printed on my boarding pass and my paper tickets from my tiny consolidator worked.

Dulles security is a sight to behold. It's an enormous, endless arcade of metal detectors with thousands of people shuffling through. I got through in a reasonable amount of time (about 20 minutes) with no issues. I remembered at the last second that I had a lipstick in my carry on bag, but was told lipstick doesn't have to be in a plastic bag (but lipgloss does).

I had been so keyed up I couldn't eat anything before I left the house. I had had a peach with some yogurt and about 4 bites of tomato soup and was getting hungry. I wasn't concerned because I was planning to get California Pizza Kitchen tortilla soup as a birthday treat. I LOVE their tortilla soup, and all their soups are vegetarian. Oh noz! There is no longer a CPK in Dulles! They only have nasty airport-only chains now, including pizza with crust literally an inch and half thick. It would be like eating an entire loaf of bread.

I settled for the apple and low fat babybel cheese I had thrown into my bag in the last 45 seconds before I left home. I was glad I had taken that extra minute! By the way, wax-wrapped babybel cheese is *excellent* for travel. It doesn't smoosh and it stays good for about three days without refrigeration. I had also packed some Trader Joe's Nuts About Raspberries trail mix (peanuts, almonds, dried raspberries, and chocolate chips) so I snacked on that as well.

Our lounge area was near the smoking room. I had no idea any American airports (other than Vegas) still had smoking rooms! It's so...quaint? I observed a little boy peer pressuring his father not to go into the smoking room. It was cute.

I people-watched my fellow passengers. Among the European little boys the fauxhawk reigns! The older teen boys had long floppy haircuts but all the European boys between 9 and 13 had fauxhawks. Adorable.

Time to board! Not only do I get my window seat, but there is nobody in the middle seat. The little girl behind me kicked my seat periodically, but oh well. I was relieved to see seatback entertainment, but it wasn't on-demand, just channels. You could choose from about a dozen movies, but they all started at the same time. You couldn't go backward or pause. I missed the beginning of Georgia Rule but I could figure it out. It was better than expected, considering LiLo was apparently strung out during the filming.

If you think airline food is bad, try ordering the vegetarian meal. I always order the dairy meal but it does no good; I get the all-carbs all-the-time vegan meal. I should say in the airline's defense that I have a lot of allergies to fruits and vegetables so I couldn't eat everything on the plate, but here was my meal: one half of a veggie burger, or perhaps I should say two quarters because it was cut in fourths (of which I was given two), perhaps to make it look bigger? on a bed of minute rice; three cauliflower florets; a pile of shredded iceberg lettuce topped by one paper thin slice of tomato and a less thin slice of cucumber with some foul fat free lemon dressing I believe must be made of citric acid and xanthan gum that all the airlines use on their veggie meals; and 6 grapes. The menu for the regular service showed a dessert of profiteroles so I was hopeful I would receive some, but apparently the 6 grapes were my dessert. I ate my other babybel cheese, so glad I had it. The breakfast was much better; I got yogurt and they came around with warm mini croissants.

No comments: