Those Soul-Deadening Travel Delays

The flight from Columbus to Dulles left on time and arrived early.  It left me plenty of time to take the train over to C Concourse to catch my connecting flight.  I wanted to get an early start on my holiday, and specifically picked early flights so as to avoid any travel snags, so all was working according to plan.

IMG_4248The screen at the gate showed an on-time departure.  Sitting in C Concourse, I heard the United Airlines rep explain that we would be boarding in groups.  And, then, with no warning or explanation, disaster struck.  The flight, which was supposed to leave at 8 a.m., was delayed until 1 p.m. for “aircraft servicing.”  Huh?  How did the need for servicing come up so suddenly, and on an early morning flight?  Wasn’t the need for “servicing” apparent more than 30 minutes before departure?

So now I’m stuck in the Dulles C Concourse, experiencing all of the soul-deadening elements of an aging American airport — lame food selections, cheap naugahyde seats, bad music on the intercom, a couple changing their baby’s diaper two seats over, and an unreconstructed hippie woman strumming a guitar in the waiting area.  I guess I’m just lucky she didn’t say we should all join in for a “singalong thing,” or a number of us would have had to give in to the urging of our inner Bluto from Animal House.

How has Edward Snowden managed to do this for weeks now?  The only good thing about this delay is that it will make the vacation all the sweeter — if I ever get there.

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Cleaning Out The Super Satchel

About 20 years ago, we bought a set of black luggage — hanging bag, enormous suitcase, smaller suitcase . . . and a little carry bag.  Two decades later, only the little bag is still be used.  And used, and used, and used.

IMG_4242I suppose you could call it a man-purse, but I call it a satchel.  It is the perfect travel accessory, and has been my faithful companion on countless journeys.  It’s made of some kind of nylon material that would have been called a miracle fabric back in the ’60s.  It’s light and ridiculously durable, capable of being stuffed to bursting with a laptop, books, files, stray documents, an iPad, or all of the above.  You can drop it, plop it, and toss it, without any damage or tearing.  It has a large main zipper section, a smaller zipper section that adequately carries pens, a collapsible umbrella, plug-in cords, aspirin packets, and other items, a side zipper pocket where you can stash your plane tickets, travel itinerary, and other papers, and a pouch where you can put the morning newspaper you get at most hotels.  With a shoulder strap and handles for hand carrying, it’s versatile and easy to carry even when you have your hands full.

It’s been so dependable for 20 years that I don’t even think about it.  And, as a result, it’s slowly accumulated random debris that has made a lightweight bag into a middleweight.  Today I decided to clean it out, and here is a partial list of what I found:  More than 35 pens of various shapes, sizes, and functionality, including the kind that helpfully explode when experiencing the pressure changes that occur on airplanes.  Two pen caps that have lost their mate.  A made in China “shoe mitt” provided by a defunct hotel chain.  An “Off!” Deep Woods towelettes packet that has undergone some kind of internal chemical reaction and swelled to the point it looks like a pillow.  Four tickets from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum dates June 30, 2005.  A “calling card” from the early days of the Bush Administration issued by a company that was acquired by a competitor in 2007.  A business card from a person I have no recollection of ever meeting.

All of this has been removed and pitched.  The satchel now feels feather light.  It’s ready to serve for another 20 years . . . at least.

At A Beijing Subway Station

More than 1.3 billion people live in China, and more than 20 million live in Beijing.  What is it like to live and work in Beijing?  This video of the morning rush hour at one of the Beijing subway stations gives you an idea of what happens when a lot of people try to get into a train to get to work.

You look at this short video and you wonder:  if it is this cramped and jammed outside the train, what must it be like inside the train?