Sunday, September 5, 2010

Wherein Lincoln Returns from Jacksonville

“Air traffic control/I've been gone/I've been up away from home/now my gear is down/I'm circling round/and I am coming in/running out of oxygen/and my fuel is running low/runway lights, where do I go?/I'm looking down, but they don't show” – Louis XIV, Air Traffic Control

“Trade one town for another/Delayed/Now why did we bother?/An X on the calendar square/New city, same stuff/Seatbacks and traytables up/Seatbacks and traytables up” – Fountains of Wayne, Seatbacks and Traytables

Ahh… checking out of a hotel room. When I’ve been there for only one night, it doesn’t take much effort, but for some reason once I cross the three night mark it’s a process that feels more like moving out than checking out. Today’s hotel, for example, after four nights I had finally figured out the layout of the room; I had become comfortable and now am moving out.

Sure I have inevitably left something behind I make one last scan of the room. It’s a ritual of longer stays: I turn every light on, and open every drawer. Starting at the far end of the room and working my way out, I close and turn off when I’m satisfied that no remnant of my stay remains. I see the same clerk that I’ve exchanged small talk with over the past week. “Well, Mark, it looks like I’m out” I say, as I slip one keycard across the counter—needing the other for my upcoming escape from the garage.” “You’re all set”. “Am I?” I wonder silently.

You would think that after spending 32 nights in hotels since January 1st that I would be less jittery about the checkout process; on one hand it’s true: I no longer look under the bed; on the other hand I’m convinced that my odds of forgetting something increase with every stay. After trying to get in to Room 404 – my room at my last hotel – at this hotel, where I belonged in 631, I’m beginning to wonder how much intangible is left behind.

As I walk out to the car I wonder if I remembered to grab my shaver during my ritualistic cleansing: I end roll my bag into the trunk then open it. Sigh. It’s there. I drive off. I am increasingly convinced that Florida drivers are either oblivious to this invention called a “mirror” or are simply intent on killing me during my the state. I think this is probably the largest reason why I will not have fond memories of Jacksonville: The city is urban sprawl personified: While the wide avenues and endless look alike housing developments and shopping centers remind me of home they lack meaningful character; aside from the occasional marsh there was nothing to distinguish where I was from Any Town, Southern USA. Except the crazy drivers.

I am discovering that while I am more dependant than I would like on my car at home I value walkability and functional mass transit: New York and San Francisco, both rank highly on my favorite cities list, in no small part based on the fact that I could do everything I wanted on foot of by hopping on one of the plentiful transit vehicles.

I make it to the airport without contributing any additional damage to the tin can I’ve been carefully folding myself into for the past week…curiously, there are no guide signs for rental car return until immediately before the turn; I hedge my bets by keeping to the center lane and quickly veering to the left when I see Rental Car Return. After veering, the course is somewhat unclear, but I make my way to Hertz return. I get out of the car doing one last sweep for anything left behind, and I check in for my flight.

While waiting, I make my way over to the airport Chili’s: I’m having a craving for their Chicken Crispers and…score…they’re on the menu. For the first time in more than 176 flights, I have a sit down meal at an airport. I probably ate more than I should have, but my craving satisfied I return to the gate to wait for my flight. Miraculously, my flight to Newark departs and arrives on time and I make my relatively tight connection with time to spare.

For the flight from Newark to Cleveland I settle into my seat, 2A. One of the flight attendants tells the woman in 1F that she has to properly stow her purse before departure. She ignores him. After the door is closed he returns, and again politely tells her that since it’s a bulkhead seat, her purse has to be stored in the overhead. She gets all snitty and starts screaming. Oh great. I bite my tongue as long as I can, but as she is now the only identifiable obstacle standing between me and my bed, I’m on the verge of saying something I might—but probably wouldn’t—regret. She demands a supervisor who…surprise, surprise, tells her the exact same thing. She wants to make a complaint. Lovely. While she’s whining my seatmate and I quickly agree that she’s a moron and can’t understand what the issue is… especially since there’s a sign in front of her that says exactly what the FA was telling her.

The purser wenches the purse from the lady’s curled fingers and puts it in the overhead. We push back. We’re in the air and the remainder of the flight is uneventful. We land. After the rest of the first class cabin has cleared out, I approach the purser, “If that ‘lady’ does file a complaint,” I say while offering my business card, “I’d be glad to offer a statement: I heard both sides, and your colleague really was quite polite about it.”

Off the aircraft, I’m at the end of the concourse and head for baggage claim. My bags are sitting there, but curiously my hard-sided tool bag has zip ties through both lock holes. They weren’t there when I dropped my bag off. This makes me suspicious. A quick visit to the Baggage Service Office, wherein I borrow a pair of scissors and cut them off. I open the bag to check… not only is everything there; it’s actually better packed than when I left it. Score one for Jacksonville TSA Agents.

I make it to my car, and drive home.

I get home, unwind by checking email, and find that the acquaintance who I’ve invited to join me for Cleveland Public Theatre’s Pandemonium will be unable to attend. Due to a unexpected and pressing engagement in Florida the preceding Friday. Sigh. I can’t win.

Anyone know anyone (preferably around my age) who might be interested in joining me for Pandemonium next Saturday, September 11th? I’d really hate to let the ticket go to waste. (Drop me an email if you do -- l at lincolnincleveland dot com)


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