2009-05-25

Aloha

I am 1500 miles into a 3000 mile journey, at 35,000 feet somewhere over the inky blackness of the Pacific. There’s a baby crying a few rows ahead, which I can clearly hear through my less than capable noise canceling headphones. I’m tempted to offer it a xanax, but I have no idea how to how to dose psychoactive medications for toddlers.

I’m also in a race against time…the ├╝ber laptop I am using for this composition destroys batteries as quickly as this flight is draining my will. A five hour delay will do that to you.

I’ll spare you the cattle analogies, but at 5:00 PM, 250 of us found ourselves in herded onto 767 at LAX waiting to take off. The airplane never moved. Instead, a platoon of mechanics started to disassemble the right engine. Nothing too serious, we were told, just a diagnostic failure. Still, parts of your aircraft on the tarmac is, at best, disconcerting. The flight crew was not unsympathetic, but not terribly informed. They did their best to keep the masses appeased while coming up with various ways of explaining that the thing is broken and they don’t know when it might be fixed. Here’s the timeline:
  • 5:30 pm. on the ground beverage service: 12 oz plastic cup with far too much of that magic hollow ice and not enough ginger-ale. The irony of participating in this ritual while buckled into a multi-million dollar stationary object is not lost on me.
  • 6:00 pm: free movies on the seat back cinema. We are informed that they have identified the broken doodad, but it doesn’t actually appear to be broken, and they don’t know why it keeps saying that it’s broken. Apparently it looks fine to them.
  • 6:30 pm: they let us off the plane. Are they admitting defeat? Doo-dad is still reporting broken. They’re going to be turning the power off and on in the aircraft; this is strangely reminiscent of me rebooting my computer when it stops behaving. So if you want to watch the first 5 minutes of Yes Man over and over, you’re welcome to stay aboard.
  • 7:00 pm: food vouchers for dinner. Want to know what you can get in the LAX terminal for 7 bucks? I got an ice cream cone. A lot of other people got drunk-ish. My traveling companion bought his food BEFORE the vouchers were offered. Delta seems unconcerned about his seven dollars.
  • 7:30 pm: they do finally admit defeat, and report that we’re changing planes. Everyone that’s left on the plane exits, bringing their luggage, while those of us without our luggage wait to get back on. When everyone is off, we line up in shifts to go into the empty airplane and get our stuff. This is at least 20 times slower than the initial boarding process.
  • 8:00 pm: stuff retrieved, new gate located. We realize that we are now going to arrive in Hawaii at midnight or later. Rental car places closes at 1:00 AM. Disaster looms. There is a large woman seated across from us who whips out her book of Sudoku and stares at it with a ferocity that might set it aflame. She is slightly cross-eyed. It’s all we can do to not laugh.
  • 8:30 pm: located seat near new gate with the all important wall outlet. I plug in the laptop, and promptly fill every USB port to charge our techno junk. One blackberry, one cell phone, one iPod, all sprawled out in the terminal, while I yearn for an open WiFi hotspot.
  • 9:00 pm: our plane lands. A flotilla of empty wheelchairs arrives at the gate. Disembarking passengers seem slightly confused as to why they’re being hustled off the plane. (Again, cattle metaphor omitted.)
  • 9:30 pm: we board the plane, looking at our watches and finding it rather difficult to compensate for flight time and time zones in our calculations. Are we going to arrive at 3? Or is it 11? Apparently we need to repeat 2nd grade. The pilot reports our landing time as right at 1, so it looks like we’ll make it. This is an odd sensation – worrying that the plane leave on time rather than hoping that it leaves late so that I'm on it.
  • 9:50 pm: Plane leaves LAX. Passengers clap and cheer. A little over dramatic, really. It's not like we cured cancer or anything.
  • 1:00 am: The rental car shuttle picks us up. A huge Hawaiian rumbles to the door. He kindly shakes his head and says, “You know, normally we close at 1:00.” He repeats this at least twice more before dropping us off at the rental counter.
Welcome to Hawaii.