Thursday, October 29, 2009

Our Day At ABIA

So the other day, let's say two weeks ago, we were forced to stay at the Austin Bergstrom International Airport for roughly 10 hours. Let's not get into why exactly we had to stay there for 10 hours, but let's just say there was a confluence of events involving, among other things, lack of transportation, a misunderstanding about Southwest's stand-by rules, Columbus Day, and bad weather in Houston. In other words, it was a huge clusterfuck of events, most of which were my own damn fault.

Anyway, I had about 10 hours to kill, so, naturally, it's important that I write about it. And it's more important that you know about it.

10:00 AM. About 8 hours before scheduled takeoff. Even though I'm ridiculously early, I figure within the really cool innards of ABIA, I can waste several hours wandering from kiosk to kiosk and bar to bar. No big deal right? WRONG. As it turns out, passengers are not allowed to check bags more than 5 hours before the scheduled takeoff. The lady at the counter literally says, "Why are you here so early?" The rule was enacted after 9/11 and I have to assume this is the first time it has ever been invoked. I mean, what kind of moron shows up to a flight more than 5 hours early?

*This guy!*

Great. So instead of squatting at Earl Campbell's overpriced bar for the next half-day (more on that later), I have to spend half of that time sitting at one of those stupid non-beer-serving coffee bars. As I'm walking away from the check-in counter, the lady mentions, "call one of your friends and tell them to come pick you up!" Well, dammit, it's Monday and every one of my friends has a job! Not one unemployed loser or grad school flake to be had amongst them. So I've got a coffee cup with free refills (I'm taking this motherfucking coffee bar to the CLEANERS!), and a slew of podcasts to listen to for the next few hours. If my iPod runs out of juice, I am screwed.

12:00 PM. 6 hours before scheduled takeoff. I've been sitting at a coffee bar for two hours and it's still another hour before I can even check my bag, thereby allowing me through security to pay for overpriced Amy's Ice Cream (worth it!). I've considered seriously about just leaving my bag in some dark corner and heading through security to grab some Salt Lick BBQ or something. I know that violates all sorts of FAA regulations, but hey, they don't ask that, "Have you always been in contact with your bags?" question anymore. I always loved that question, I always wanted to say, "yeah, actually I left my bags with that guy in the turban over there while I took a piss. Is that cool?" But of course I never did, because I'm a big fraidy cat.

1:00 PM. 5 hours before scheduled takeoff. The lady at the check-in counter looks at me like, "oh my god, seriously?" I check my bag.

1:30 PM. 4 1/2 hours before scheduled takeoff. Ahh, through security. Time to wander.

I start calling everyone I know, even though they're all working. And even though I'm burning through my Anytime Minutes like crazy. I'll probably be charged $600 for my day at the airport. Good thing I shrewdly bought evening tickets, thereby saving me money!

2:00 PM. 4 hours before takeoff. So as I'm talking on the phone to whomever is willing to shirk their work for a while I walk up and down the ABIA terminal, which only takes about 7 minutes end-to-end. After about four trips up and down the terminal I wonder if people are wondering what it wrong with that wayward weirdo. Is he so engrossed in his conversation about the baseball playoffs that he missed his flight? Why is he coming back for the sixth time?

2:30 PM. 3 1/2 hours before scheduled takeoff. I decide to grab some lunch and drink some beer at Earl Campbell's little BBQ place. $9 BBQ tacos and $8 pints of Sam Adams? Sold!

3:00 PM. 3 hours before scheduled takeoff. Here's a fun fact: I hate people!

You see, I'm sitting at the bar nursing my second Sam Adams, trying to drink it slowly since it's so damned expensive. And there's this incredibly friendly guy sitting next to me. A little undergraduate-douchiness, but friendly more or less. And he keeps trying to engage me about whatever's happening on the TV screen, which is just tuned to ESPN2. So he's trying to talk to me about sports or whatever and I just wish he would shut the hell up. And I love sports! I'm thinking, "I wish this guy would shut up so I could hear what Trent Dilfer has to say about Jamarcus Russell." Trent Dilfer! I'm clearly not in the mood for talking.

I chug the rest of my $8 Sam Adams and get walking again.

4:00 PM. 2 hours before scheduled takeoff. When I have time to kill, I eat. I hate not eating when I could be eating. So I head over to Amy's Ice Cream.

Dear ABIA, under no circumstances are you to put Salt Lick BBQ next to Amy's Ice Cream. It's incredibly disorienting. One of the last things I want to smell before I enjoy my Mexican Vanilla with Heath Bar crush'ns is barbecue sauce. Makes me a bit sick.

5:00 PM. 1 hour before scheduled takeoff. At least now I'm in the "plausibly early" range. Not "terrorist early" range.

6:00 PM. Time for scheduled takeoff. That's funny, we're supposed to be taking off right now, but I'm waiting at the gate, clearly not on the plane. Actually the plane isn't here yet. YOU CAN'T FOOL ME AIRLINE! WE'RE NOT TAKING OFF RIGHT NOW!

6:30 PM. 30 minutes after scheduled takeoff. Here's the thing. The time you spend waiting in an airport is inversely proportional to how much you care about your own safety. And if you're sitting on the plane on the runway and not taking off, you're thinking, "I don't give a damn about de-icing the plane! I don't care if this plane crashes into the ground, just get me OUT OF HERE!"

7:00 PM. And sure enough, it did. I got out of there, back to Denver, where it was 40 degrees colder. Finally.