Thursday, May 21, 2009
Remember that we went to bed around 12:10. 3:40 came really fast, and Sheri's alarm clock doesn't have a volume. It's always set to the "piss your pants" level. We were both in a deep sleep when that dang thing went off, and I nearly fell out of bed (seriously). While I try to get my heart rate under 350, Sheri (also on the adrenaline rush from the alarm) flies into the bathroom and the screams downstairs to get one final load of laundry going. I consider sticking my fingers into a socket to defibrillate myself when I hear Sheri saying something out loud. Great…she's finally joined the dark side and lost her mind. Then I hear another voice. Casey?
Apparently, she got home about 3 minutes after we woke up. She came in through the garage door quietly so she wouldn't wake us. Unfortunately, the laundry room is right next where you come in from the garage and, well, let's just say Sheri wasn't quite expecting someone opening the garage door at 3:45 in the morning. I almost had to defib wifey.
I hop in the shower and throw on the clothes that Sheri had ironed…still not sure why she did this…unless she wants to impress the airport employees at 5:00 am, they're going to be a mess approximately 30 seconds after we sit down. We're flying Delta for the first time, so we don't quite know what to expect. According to reports from the previous week, they emerged from bankruptcy, so I feel safe that they won't turn off the power half-way through the flight. Now, last night, the wifey wasn't feeling much like celebrating, so I decide to go a little low-key this morning. In the airport, Sheri asks if I'm feeling okay because I don't seem too excited.
Sometimes, I just cannot win and need to accept that fact.
I get back to my normal self once I realize Sheri is like a little kid. I start with the plane stuff and how I swear they made up the altitude because we were to fly at 32,000 feet. Anyone with any knowledge of air traffic control knows that FL320 is reserved for flights on a main heading of 181 degrees to 360 degrees and that ATL is clearly in a southeasterly heading. After watching several other aircraft depart before us, I start getting a little concerned. This must mean that we're on a ground stop for the inbound ATL traffic, which means the arrival gates are going to be swamped with aircraft. We were told 9 minutes. Ten minutes later, we were told it would be another 7 minutes. While waiting, I tell Sheri that it's probably going to be a fun approach, especially since we'll probably be on the ERLIN3 Arrival Route. She looks at me and says with a straight face "We haven't taken off yet…I can still bitch slap you." That caught me off-guard so much that it took me a good ten seconds to start laughing.
About 30 seconds later, the captain gets on the intercom with "here we go." While most think this is great that we get to leave "early", I'm a bit concerned about getting squeezed into a small arrival window.
Sure enough, about 20 minutes into the flight, we start doing S-turns (turn one direction 30 degrees, then the other direction 60 degrees then back to the original heading with a final 30 degree turn…they're used for sequencing and spacing of aircraft). To be doing it this far out can only mean that the approach controllers for Atlanta are having a helluva time trying to handle all the planes. I know by the turns that we aren't on anything that really resembles the ERLIN3 or any STAR for that matter. I see an aircraft at our 3 o'clock low (about 4,000 feet below us to our right), and we slow down to a crawl. ATC was probably going to vector us behind that one. Sure enough, that aircraft goes ahead, and a few seconds later, we drop like a rock and turn towards him. Okay, we're on final approa….WHOAH! Sharp right turn that had to be done manually (the autopilot doesn't do anything that abruptly), followed by a sharp left turn. We got sidestepped to the south runways, which are usually reserved for the southwest and southeast arrivals. My guess is that we were a little too close to the aircraft in front of us. We broke out of the clouds at about somewhere around 3,000 feet, and our location confirmed the sidestep over to 9R. We touch down and roll almost to the end of the runway.
And we sit...
...along with 7 other aircraft. We had to wait for departures on rwy 9L, and they were stacked about 10 deep. We knew we had to go soon because all of the taxiways off of 9R were full of just-landed planes, and you can't park on the runway! A 767 blasts off in front of us, and 7 planes scream across 9L and then perform a ballet of avoiding each other to get to their gates. We only have a 40 minute window to make our connection, and we landed 20 minutes late. We're supposed to deplane at the D terminal and make the connection at gate A-10 (about as far away as possible). We get off the plane and do a Chariots of Fire through the terminal. I'm looking for departure information consoles but don't see one. I glanced up at CNN on one of the TVs, where they were talking about a cruise liner sinking off the coast of Alaska. Any other time I would have stopped to see what that was all about, but we didn't have time!!!! No departure information until we get to the center of the terminal…crap, they're on time and boarding now! Wait…did that say gate E-11? It's close! Just one subway stop away!
Sheri had to hit the bathroom for a while but agreed to wait until we got in the air. We see no line to board and run up with our boarding passes, but they wouldn't let us on. Apparently our boarding passes don't have EQP on it, indicating that it's a different plane than expected with a different seating arrangement, so we needed to check at the desk.
The one with two lines of 40 people in it?
And the plane is supposed to leave in ten minutes?
I get in line and Sheri races for the nearby bathroom. The line does move fast at least, and we are issued new boarding passes with the exact same seat assignment.
We get on the plane, and Sheri is a little surprised at the size of it. She's never flown in a widebody before (we're in a 767). We sit down and wait for another 20 minutes before we push back. Our seats are on the aft part of the wing, and you can hear/feel all the hydraulics as they set the flaps. Wifey's getting a touch freaked out at the noise, I think.
Now, this plane is advanced in that it has a monitor in every seat back. It's not so advanced, however, to realize that it needs to alert someone on the flight attendant detail or ground crew when something's wrong. We sat down, and Sheri's monitor is showing a reboot with Linux commands. A pretty little penguin pops up in the upper-left hand corner (typical for a linux operating system). He looked like this:
They tell us we're 4th in line for departure. Yeah, right…we're in a 767, and a 757 is right in front of us. Tower's gonna get all the smaller planes out before us to avoid holds for something called "wake turbulence" (air coming off the wings of large planes that cause bad things to happen to smaller planes). I counted 12 departures before the 757 in front of us blasts off. We position and hold for a minute, and then we're off. The contrails off the wing were awesome! The captain hops on the intercom and tells us that, because of weather, we'll be coming in from the southwest rather than the northwest (they could have just said it was the smoke from the fire at the Florida/Georgia border). We'd be landing later than anticipated.
Now, the monitors in the seats offer GPS flight information as well as some basic programming. The two guys in front found trivia, and I got it on my monitor. Sheri, however, was still staring at that penguin.
I log on with my usual moniker for trivia: Mush (original, eh?) and proceed to come from behind to kick the entire plane's ass! The 2 guys in front of us got sick of getting stomped and switched to a showing of Planet Earth. The next game starts, and I annihilate the plane again! During the game we both hear this weird whooshing noise behind us that neither of us could identify. Come to find out, it was the toilet just behind our seats. I hit the toilet while Sheri tries her hand at trivia. I come back, and Mush is now 9th in the trivia standings. To top it off, I'm now sitting in front of the penguin from Hell. After about ten minutes of it, I shout "QUIT MOCKING ME!!!" to the monitor.
That got a few laughs from some of the folks behind us who could see what was happening.
Part 2 is continued HERE.