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January 26th, 2003

Grab a drink, this is a long one...

I fiddled with the damn alarm clock in my room, and just couldn't get it to set the alarm. I even tried unplugging it to "reset it," as if it's a computer. It's worked the entire time I've been there. It was too late to connect to the front desk to get a wake-up call, so I called Robert (and woke him up) asking him if he'd call me at 7:30 his time. He was coherent, and even sweet.

I had a restless night, no surprise, and my most pleasant wake-up call rang promptly at 5:30 my time. I showered, dressed, and packed up the final stuff. I was down in the lobby, which was deserted, at 6:25. I made a pot of coffee, and had half a cup. At about 6:35, a Colorado Mountain Express (the company that was driving me to Vail) guy knocked on the door. It wasn't my driver, who wasn't due until 6:50. This guy was doing an "in town" run, and looking for ESPN guys. About a minute after he went back out to his van, an ESPN guy came up the stairs. I sent him outside.

My driver, Joyce, arrived right on time. There was one other guy, Bob, in the van already. We had four more to pick up. The next guy that got on, Gary, was an asshole. In the short time between the time he got on and the time we picked up the next two guys, Steve and George, I detected both self-loathing and passive-aggressive "issues" in him. We had trouble finding the last guy, and everyone in the van already got into helping Joyce find the hotel at which the guy was staying. Turns out it was not south of Durant as the directions said, but north.

Joyce had the heat way up in the van, it was way too hot. After a few miles, I said, "Joyce, could you turn the heat down some." (I refrained from saying "cut the heat down.") Gary mumbled behind me, "Yes, thank God. It's so damn hot in here."

As Joyce "cut the heat down," Bob sitting in front of me opened this very long window that went the length beside him and me. It was really too cold, though, and Mr. Passive-Aggressive behind me, instead of asking Bob to close the window, says, "Joyce, would you turn the heat up, please?" She groaned, and said, "Come on guys." And Gary said, "Well it was hot in here but somebody up there opened a window." Bob turned as if he only partially heard the conversation and said, "Huh?" I said,

"It's too cold with that window open." He closed it.

No one spoke a word the rest of the 1.5 hour ride, and Joyce didn't turn the radio on, which was a shame (for me) because when I first got on, she had a C&W station on, and I heard "The Good Stuff." I haven't heard country music since I left.

It's just as well she had it off, though, as I'm sure somebody would have complained about it being a country station.

I read a little on the drive, out of Bless Your Heart, Tramp!" This passage made me laugh out loud in the van:

"My 12-year old cat shoved the Home section of the newspaper toward me with a paw still wet with milk from my cereal bowl.

(Too bad I only made that connection AFTER finishing the bowl. Yuk.)

She mewed noisily and batted at a headline in the top right-hand corner: "Picky Cats, Litter, and Scents-ability" it said.

"What's this?" I asked while she rolled her eyes dramatically and tapped a paw on her temple.

"Hey, don't get an attitude," I said. "I'm not the one that coughed up a hair ball and then got scared and tried to kill it."


It was deathly quiet in the van, and Steve decides to call home to tell mom and dad "he's leaving." It's not like his flight was leaving. I thought, "Lord, do we have to listen to all this? Are you going to call them from the airport when the plane
is leaving, too?" After going through a whole conversation between him and his dad, "mom" got on the line and we got to hear it all again. What are these people thinking? As soon as I got in the van, I turned my phone off. I thought, "This place
is too confined, and too quiet, to have a phone call in." Evidently not. The last guy that got on, we never got his name, got a call halfway there. He was sitting shotgun -- far enough away from me -- and actually spoke low enough that I couldn't understand what he was saying.

Lord, Missy is now three aisle seats over from me at the gate, and she's making another phone call, and I can hear every word of the conversation way over here. Ridiculous. He's calling back to where he was staying telling the folks who are evidently still there, that he left his "gifts" there -- "you know, those t-shirts I bought for mom and dad." Something tells me before we board, I'm going to hear mom and dad's reaction to the forgotten gifts, or at least that we're about to board. Maybe the guy has a hearing problem. Uh-oh, she's dialing again. Let's see who she's calling.

Hey, watcha doin?
What time is it there?
How's your mamma doin? (I had to hold back laugh thinking, "How's ya mammaenem durin'?")
Is she awake?
Let me speak to her.
Hello?
I'm glad you're still kicking. Well probably not kicking.
When you coming back from Florida.
I did have a good time.
I had a good time.
Yes, ate a lot. I skied two days.
Yeah, it was fun. I can't wait to get home. I guess I can't wait to get home.
Yeah, I think I'm flying into snow.
Oh, it's beautiful here. The mountains. Beautiful.
When'd you get home from the hospital?
Was it a painful trip home?
When are they going to put you in rehab?
Oh, you're not?
Yup.
So even now, they want you up and walking.
What exactly did they do?
Yeah, well I've heard that back surgery is the worse.
Yeah, that's what mamma said.


Okay I'm bored with this conversation. Wish I could not hear it.

There is a flight boarding for Newark right now. Wish I could be on it, and connect through there to Raleigh. I did mention to the check-in agent that I'd go home any way I can to get home sooner. Evidently she didn't think that flight was a viable option. However, her competence is questionable at best, as I gave her my driver's license, she did all this check-in stuff, was printing off my luggage tags, and confirmed, "Going to Newark today, right?"

"No," I said, "Raleigh-Durham."

"Brian?"

"No, I'm John."

Hello! Did you even look at my license? As I was leaving I heard the agent next to her say, "Want me to throw these away?" (pointing to the luggage tags she had printed to Newark) "No," she said, "I need to uncheck-in that guy." I hope "Brian" makes it home okay. Bless her mess.

Passive-aggressive Gary was checking in next to me, and looked at my check-in luggage, my big suitcase, my ski bag, and my boot bag. He asked, "Did they charge you extra for the boots or skis?" I said, "No, they counted the skis and boots as one piece of luggage."

"They charged me 80 bucks on the way here for mine!" I had to bite my tongue to refrain from some comment about good karma and things that go around coming around.

However, there does seem to be a lot of confusion about this in the airline industry. I remember from my trip last year, that I called ahead to American Airlines asking them about the skis and boots. The person at the 800 number told me that the skis and boots are counted as one, so you can have one other piece of luggage. That happened without incident last year.

However, on the way out here on Wednesday, at RDU, the check-in counter person said, "It's going to count extra because you're checking three pieces." I said, "No, I called American Airlines and they told me that the boots and skis count as one piece." She checked with the agent next to her, and that agent said, "Yes, they count as one piece."

There was no issue here, they just took my three pieces. Since this is the Vail airport, I have to believe that, dealing with skiers all the time, they know what's going on. It really must be the policy that skis and boots are counted as one piece.

That's a lot of drama about some luggage, I know. That reminds me of one of my all time favorite lines from an Ally McBeal episode, when Georgia says to Ally (after Ally has been going on and on about something that's bugging here that seems rather insignificant), "Ally, what makes you think your problems are so much bigger and more important than everyone else's?"

Ally just deadpans, "Because they're mine."

Missy has left, returned and is sitting on the other side of the gate chairs here, and her phone just rang.

"Hello?"
"Oh, what else did I leave there?"

Grrrrrrrrr!

Oh, good, now the great American dysfunctional family has sat down next to me. Three little monster kids, which is no surprise listening to the mother. Tight-teethed, "Sit down right now, and study your religion!" Lord have mercy - really.

Oh, and yay, another loud-mouthed cell phone person sitting over there in the same row Missy was in before. This one's an all-coiffed up blond in her (RG) fur coat. Why can't people just talk quietly on their phones? Or at least put their head down and talk into their own space?

There are a buttload of kids on this flight. I hope none are sitting next to me, as unlikely as that seems.

Aren't I cranky? I'm going to type in some recipes now that I saw in a newspaper on the way out here. All this, and it's only 10AM. :-)

We left Vail a little late due to ground clutter in Chicago. (They would rather we wait here on the ground, instead of circling in Chicago waiting to land.) Just a few minutes, though, 15 or 20. We arrived in Chicago just a little behind schedule. My ticket said the RDU flight was leaving out of gate H13, but the announcement on the plane, and the monitor in the airport said gate H10, which is where I went.

After sitting there for a while, a huge line suddenly formed at the gate agent counter, and the monitor changed from "Raleigh-Durham" to another city. "Ladies and gentleman waiting in the lobby for the 4:03 flight to RDU, you are now departing out of gate H12. Cattle charge to H12.

At the new gate, we were supposed to board at 3:30. At 3:45, no boarding was happening. Not a good sign. Announcement: "Ladies and gentleman in the gate area waiting for flight 1648 to Raleigh-Durham, our plane is on the ground, but it's over on the International concourse at the moment. As soon as it arrives and we've prepared it, we'll start boarding. Right now, we're estimating a 4:25 departure. Oh well, gotta have some stroke of bad luck on this trip -- other than the gashes in my head, that is.

We ended up leaving at about 4:40, but evidently made up time in the air, arriving only about 5 minutes later than originally scheduled. I checked in with Will, he was at his office, and left immediately to pick me up.

On the way to Rockola to meet Steve for dinner, I told him about meeting James Dale in Aspen. When I told him that James had heard about TCW returning the check to the United Way, he got all choked up. He's so cute, and oh, so is Will. :-)

We had a fun dinner at Rockola -- totally fattening, and pretty much ignoring the Super Bowl, which was on TV. Afterward, Will took me home.

Robert arrived shortly after I got home. We ran out to Hardees to get him a burger, and while he ate it (back at the house), I showered. We got to bed early, and MMMMMMMMMMMMMMed. OMG, did he send me to the moon and back -- twice!

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