Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Why E-Lo's don't have wings, the explanation

From now on, driving is the way I travel. I don't care how long it takes. California, here I come - in my minivan.

Because I'm never flying again.

So I've flown once before in a commercial airliner, and the experience wasn't so bad. The turbulence, although scary, wasn't as scary to me then as it was now, since my anxiety has reached its highest point ever now that I'm a mom.

More on that later.

We reached Tulsa with little stress. Our flights were on time, they were pretty smooth - even our landing in Chicago - our first stop, was perfect. We barely even felt the plane touch the runway.

Chicago from the air.

O'Hare was crowded and crazy, a much different scene than Pittsburgh International. The morning at the Pittsburgh airport was almost strangely quiet, but O'Hare was nuts. We stood outside of Chilis for 15 minutes to get seated for lunch. We were almost afraid we wouldn't get to eat before our next flight left.

We made it from Chicago to Tulsa without much interesting happening. Tulsa International airport is weird and tiny. But it does have a Starbucks, with coffee like crack cocaine that I experienced the morning we left.

Tulsa is a strange place. It's all flat and spread out - and it takes forever to get anywhere. It has a large population of Hispanics and gays. Work went fine - the power went out in the Tulsa Operations center on Monday right after lunch, so we had no lights to continue filming. So the ladies from marketing, or the "marketing bitches" as they like to be called took us on a little driving tour of Tulsa. There wasn't much to see. Like I said, it's a strange place. I learned that Tulsa is an oil town, turned technology town, turned aviation town. It's also a test market city, so it gets a ton of chain restaurants and stores and products before a lot of other places get them. Weird.

This is downtown Tulsa, and this is exactly how close I got to it. That's about all there is to see.

We resumed filming Tuesday, went to a couple of trucking companies, yada yada, and basically wrapped everything up. The marketing bitches took us to dinner at this sushi place called "In the Raw," which was the highlight of the trip, other than getting totally wasted Monday night at the hotel bar with my co-workers. We met a few diverse and colorful chaps that we chatted with, played pool, and went outside every 5 seconds to smoke. You can't smoke anywhere in Tulsa. Unless it's a bar that doesn't serve food. So anytime we wanted to smoke, we had to venture outside. Pretty inconvenient.

I ate edamame for the first time - which is just seasoned soybeans. But it's pretty good. And the sushi rocked.

Wednesday morning we left at 8:30 for our 10:30 flight, only to find out that it was delayed an hour because of storms in Chicago - we were flying back the same way we came in. So we drank some crack Starbucks and smoked as many cigarettes as we could before going through security. When we finally did decide to go to our gate, we found out that the flight was delayed yet again - which put a damper on us getting to our flight from Chicago to Pittsburgh on time, but there was still a chance we could have made it... if only...

For some reason, getting on this flight from Tulsa and taking off was dreadful for me. At all of our take offs, my palms were sweaty. This one I had to do deep breathing. My coworker V was as anxious - if not more anxious than I was. After about 45 minutes in the air, V went back to the bathroom, and the pilot came over the loudspeaker with this little gem:

"Attention ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We've run into a little problem up here in the cockpit."

This is where my heart stopped working and my entire body got cold.

"It seems that our windshield is delaminating. We've got it rigged up enough to prevent it from actually shattering, but we're going to go ahead and land in St. Louis. It's not an emergency, but it's for safety reasons."

I think I started to hyperventilate, thinking about the windshield of the plane shattering, the pilots getting sucked out, and crashing into the ground and dying in a fiery inferno and never seeing my child again, which was the only thing that I wanted to do that day.

V came back looking as white as a ghost. Before this announcement, we had been watching the first episode of Lost on my i-pod. You know, the one where the plane breaks in half and people get sucked out of it and they crash into an island? Yeah, that one.

It seemed like we were in the air forever. The pilot was obviously waiting to get clearance to land in St. Louis, and he was flying in circles, which made the plane tip back and forth, back and forth. I thought I might puke. I thought I might cry. I wondered if I was going to live. I wondered what would happen to our department if all of us died.

We finally did land, bouncing off the runway as we did so. We then had to get off the plane, which was wonderful, and immediately board another plane to Chicago, which we thought was dumb, why couldn't we get a direct flight to Pittsburgh? A rude non-American United representative told us we couldn't. So back on the next plane we went, even with the announcements that everything in Chicago was being delayed 3 or 4 hours because of the storms. Which made me really excited to fly into Chicago if you can sense my sarcasm.

The plane taxied down the runway. Then we sat. And sat. The pilot said that O'Hare was shut down. We didn't even know if we could get out. We sat on that plane for an hour and a half. The pilot came out and served us water and answered questions. Finally, he got word that the storms were only getting worse, and we'd be better off cancelling the flight for the night. So back to the airport we went.

We got our luggage and a flight from St. Louis to Pittsburgh for 6AM Thursday morning. United comped us a hotel room at the airport Hilton.

I loved St. Louis, the little that I could see of it. There were smoking lounges! You were allowed to smoke - in a bar! I was in heaven. This trip was stressful, so of course all I wanted to do was drink and smoke.

This is a long story, no?

Thursday morning was the same crap. We didn't get the correct boarding passes to get through security. Then we had to be specially screened by the homeland security agents because United transferred us over to US Airways, then we almost missed our flight because we were smoking in the smoking lounge. The ride into the sky was terribly bumpy. There was lighting all around us. I was a nervous wreck.

Never have I been so glad to see Pittsburgh. I'll never take having my feet on the ground for granted again. My mantra on that last flight was: "never going to fly, never going to fly, never going to fly AGAIN."

But I'm safe on the ground now. I'm such a terrestrial being.

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