My house guest, Casey, who is here in Raleigh until Sunday, dropped me off at the airport. It was weird being dropped off there by someone who doesn't live here, and in my own car. Casey flies out on Sunday, which is when I return, so we agreed to park my car in the Purple Lot (Satellite Parking Lot #3) and for him to send me an e-mail noting the closest pole number to which he was able to park to help me find it when I get in at 11PM on Sunday.
I checked in and got through security uneventfully, which is just how I like it. As I approached my gate, I heard, "John Martin," delighted to be passing by Anna who was waiting for her flight, which left before mine and arrived in Salt Lake City after mine. We quickly tried to do a last-minute flight change to try and get on the same flight, but it was too close to the departure time of her flight to complete the transaction. We probably wouldn't have been able to sit next to each other anyway.
When they started boarding my 11:10 flight, they called all the head muckety-muck levels of frequent flyers (i.e., gold, platinum, and so on) and first class passengers, and I looked at my boarding pass to see what zone I was in: (this is actually my boarding pass coming back, but the point is made in it)
Not seeing a zone, but seeing "First PriorityAAccess," which I thought might be there because I had used my frequent flyer points for this flight, I just got at the end of that first group that they'd called, and when I got to the attendant, I said pointing at the notation on the boarding pass, "I don't know what this means. Am I supposed to be boarding now?"
To which she replied, "Yes, you're in first class."
"HUH???" I thought, but I didn't stop to argue, debate, or question it in any way. As it turned out, I was booked in first class on both legs going and coming for this trip. I have no idea how that happened.
We backed out of the gate, and a minute or two later, the pilot announced that some warning light had come on that maintenance was going to have to come aboard to check out. We rolled back to the gate, and by the time maintenance came aboard, did their check, and the paperwork was completed "on both ends," we took off an hour behind schedule.
I sat next to a nice British lady, who was on her way to Louisville, and who was reading some kind of scientific paper that seemed to involve medicine and animals. I read some of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which I was looking forward to finishing on this trip.
Now, I'm no yahoo, and I have traveled a step-up from coach class before—in business class—for many IBM business trips. However, I couldn't figure out how to open this little mini tray for drinks that was folded down and tucked in between our seats. The Brit helped me, and when she went to the bathroom, I took advantage of the alone time to make sure I could open the full tray table without her help, since its use was imminent. Then when it was time to use it, I was like, "Yeah, I know how this stuff works." Yehaw.
The first bit of food to arrive came in a small, round dish that looked like the ones crème brûlée is often served in, white with vertical ridges all around it. It turned out to be mixed nuts, consisting of almonds, walnuts, cashews, and pistachios, and they were hot, presumably popped into the microwave for some seconds before serving. One would expect one's nuts to be warmed in first class, I suppose. But I digress...
I ordered a Bloody Mary to help those nuts go down better, and that was followed with a lunch of a BBQ Chicken Salad, which was salad with chunks of chicken on it, not a chicken salad spread. I pushed the crumbled blue cheese to the side and doused the rest of it with the Creamy Peppercorn dressing that came on the side to cover up any lingering taste of blue cheese, which I hate. As if that wasn't enough, it also came with a small bag of pita chips and a container of cream cheese to spread on them. Dessert was a warmed—of course—cookie.
After lunch, the Brit opened her Mac Book Pro, and began to work on a PowerPoint presentation. You know I immediately switched into Yenta mode, looking out of the corner of my eye—okay and slightly craning my neck—to see that one of her slides used both the words "epilepsy" and "dogs."
She then started a new slide giving it the title of, "Case 2: What are your recommendations?" I captured two bullet points before officially declaring it dull: 1) Start Phenobarbital and check blood levels in two weeks, and 2) Check CBC and Chemical Panel and bile acid balance, starting KBr.
Ever the editor, I found myself looking for typos on her slide, as well as for parallel construction in her bulleted list items.
At some point during the flight, The Office came on the monitors, and particularly watching it without sound, I was immediately reminded of what I can't stand about that show. I hate, hate, hate that shoulder-mounted camera technique. Almost every single scene change to a face in that show stops for a second where it lands, and then zooms in for what looks like about two inches. Why???
I really wanted to work on my blog, but my laptop battery lasts no more than five minutes. If I'd've known I was going to be in first class, I would have brought a plane power cord that I got on the cheap once from my friend Rob Shook.
Because we ended up leaving RDU an hour late, we arrived in Chicago at about 1:20, causing me to miss my 1:10 connection to Salt Lake City. American Airline's next flight out to SLC was departing at 7:50PM.
They switched me to a Delta Airlines flight departing at 4:20, which I was happy about in terms of not having to wait until 7:50 to depart, but I lost my first class seat in the process, which I was not happy about. My new arrival time in SLC was now 6:37, and I made the mistake of imparting that information to Anna by an e-mail on Facebook, when I should have left her a voicemail message.
I spent some of that wait time in the United Red Carpet Club, where I had some free munchies and ice water, and completed Tuesday's blog entry, although I couldn't post it as there wasn't free wireless access. There were mostly business travelers in there, and I was by far, the most comfortably dressed person in the place—and there were a lot of people in there; the place was huge.
I took a table next to a window, and there was a guy sitting at the table next to me along the window, facing me. At one point, this older lady speaking incredibly loudly on a cell phone business call, walked over and stood between our tables, but much closer to him and with her rear-end to him.
He looked at her, then at me, put his hands out, palms up, and then raised them an inch or so, as if to say, "WTF??? You're going to stand here, right in my grill, and scream into your phone?"
I laughed at him, and he moved his hands in that "Huh?" motion again, and I mouthed to him, "She WANTS you."
When it got close to boarding time for my new 4:20 Delta flight, I made my way to that terminal, concourse, and gate, and when I arrived to get my seat assignment, the agent said, "I need you to wait about ten minutes before I assign your seat, as I only have back row seats available now, and you don't want to sit in the back row. Believe me, you don't," she repeated.
At some point, my name showed up on the "Awaiting seating" list and I saw that I was assigned 10D. "Oh well," I thought. "At least I didn't go from First class to the back of the bus all in the course of a couple of hours."
Having resigned myself to a middle seat, I was pleased as punch to find out upon boarding that First Class consisted of the first 10-12 rows of this plane, which wasn't even sectioned off really, and had one seat on one side of the aisle and two seats on the other side of the aisle. They were just normal seats, though, not the big wide ones typically in First Class.
After those rows, it changed to two seats on each side of the aisle, which I was thrilled to see, because that meant that a "D" seat was not a middle seat. And just to put a little icing on the cake of this fiasco plane change, when I got to 10D, a young lady was already in that seat.
As it turned out, 10B was available, the aisle seat that was really assigned to her, and with one look at the guy sitting in 10A, I said, "Oh, I'll just take this one if it doesn't matter to you.
"Not at all," she said.
This guy was probably in his mid-to-late thirties or early forties, was bald, had not a lot—but enough—hair on his arms, veins that popped out on the upper side of his wrists that lead up into the back of his hands, and he sported a shiny, gold band on the ring finger of his left hand. He fiddled with his iPod Nano for almost the entire three hours. Not that I was watching him or anything.
I was pleased to have the time to finish The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time on this leg of my trip.
The two flight attendants on this flight put the gay in gay flight attendants. They were both wearing bright pink in honor of Breast Cancer month, I assume, which didn't help things. In particular, the guy serving the coach cabin seemed to be taking Sue Sylvester's advice to "Swish it up a bit, gays!" totally to heart.
At one point, he came down the aisle with the drink cart, and when he got right beside my seat, he said, "Uh-oh" while bending over and returned upright holding a pair of black-rimmed reading glasses with one of the earpieces snapped completely off. "These anybody's?" he asked, to which no one replied.
Quite a geeky guy sat across from me in 10C, and whose "seatmate" I would have been if I'd've taken my 10D seat. He was reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. At one point, he was sniffling a little bit, and he reached into his carry-on to pull out what I thought would be a tissue, but what turned out to be the end of a roll of toilet paper. Klassy.
In an interesting coincidence, I could see the back and bottom (it was upside down) of a book sticking out of the seatback of the girl sitting in front of Toilet Paper Boy, and it had the same distinct colors of his book on it. She, too, was reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Cue up Twilight Zone music.
It was absolutely beautiful landing in Salt Lake City. It was nearing sunset, and sun rays beamed out between clouds, shining over a completely still lake as we flew over and by it.
Anna was totally gracious once I connected with her by phone, even though I'd received two voicemails from her when she'd landed asking where I was and why she couldn't reach me by phone. I was originally supposed to land about an hour before her, so I should have been waiting for her when she arrived. She had eventually gotten to Facebook and found my e-mail. Again, in retrospect, a very poor decision not to just leave her a voicemail about my re-routing and later arrival.
We secured our "mid-sized" (such hyperbole!) Toyota Corolla, and our 30-40 minute trip to Park City was uneventful. We checked in to The Yarrow, where we each had a non-smoking king room, and we followed signs, one of which included the words "Mountain View," to our rooms.
As I was settling in, Anna called to tell me to meet her down in Room 140, which was Kim's room, where we had a little reunion and then walked down to the hotel restaurant, The Mountain Grill, for cocktails and dinner. Ironically, on the way down to cocktails, we passed an AA meeting that people were arriving for in one of the conference rooms along the way. I had the sudden urge to utter, "Sure am thirsty," but my superego squelched my id and I didn't.
We had a nice dinner. Anna and Kim started off with an appetizer:
|Mediterranean Bruschetta 8.95|
Slow roasted red tomatoes, artichoke hearts, black olives, basil and olive oil a top a seasoned grilled Baguette finished with a balsamic drizzle.
and they shared two meals, one being this, except for a Goat cheese substitution for the Gorgonzola:
|Roasted Pear and Arugula Salad 9.95|
Roasted pears in a balsamic glaze, crumbled Gorgonzola, candied walnuts and red onions on a bed of baby arugula with a drizzle of lemon vinaigrette.
Their other order, as well as what I ordered are not on their online menu, so I can't clip the information, but they had trout and I had the club sandwich, although I really wanted this, because I love Gouda cheese, and it sounded so good, but I was very hungry and I didn't know if it would be filling enough:
|Mountain Grill Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese 12.95|
Orecchiette pasta tossed with a creamy smoked Gouda cheese sauce, steamed broccoli florets, topped with bread crumbs and baked until golden brown.
After all that, I ended up eating only half of my club sandwich, and later took the rest to the fridge in my room.
We stopped into the hotel bar, where I had two or three drinks, Anna had "sipping whiskey" (i.e., Maker's Mark on the rocks) and Kim had (I think it was) vodka, with some seltzer water or club soda. The bartender was slightly intrusive and came off as being a little pretentious, in my opinion, particularly in talking about the virtues of various types of liquor.
At one point we made a comment about the AA meeting going on in the place, and the bartender mouthed pointing at the guy sitting behind us, "He's one of them."
By the time we headed back up to our rooms it was about 10:30 or 11, so after midnight Eastern time, and since it had been a long, long day, I flopped right down in the bed.