Escape from America...The Sequel!
This time it's personal.....!
August 20, 2006
What would another escape from America be without a little departure drama story to tell?
Well, I'm sitting here on flight 333 to Houston. But once again, I almost didn't make it! No, I didn't need a visa this time. All my tickets were paid for. No this would turn
out to be a different drama. But I'll get to it all in a second. Let me start from the beginning.
At 5:00am on Thursday Sept 14th, I stepped out of my apartment with 3 bulging bags of undetermined weights. (I wasn't able to procure a scale to weigh them in advance. )
As I stood in the dark morning drizzle on Lennox Avenue and 119th Street, a taxi honked to get my attention and I indicated my assent to ride. So far so good, but I first had to convince the driver to take me to LaGuardia for all of the $28 I had in my wallet at the time. As he explained to me, with $9 in tolls to and back, he would net only $19 for the trip....apparently way below the going rate.
As we stood in the rain with him contemplating the feasibility of the fare, I shoved the money in his hands, showed him my empty wallet and waited for him to decide. (I've always found that "cash in hand" is a great persuasion tool.
Since rush hour traffic was just beginning, we make it to the airport in good time.
I thank him. He wishes me good luck, and I hobble inside.
Once at the ticket counter, my bags are weighed and they're each coming in dangerously
close to the the 50lb limit. One bag was 53.5 lbs, another was 48.5lbs and another was 33.5.
So I was told I'd have to move things around to reduce the heavier one. So there I am with my
garment bag spread eagle on the floor in front of the ticket agent while I'm searching for 3.5lbs of items to move around.
As I find various objects to move, the ticket agent says,
"Mr. Goodridge? Do you have a receipt for your return from Saipan? You have to show a return ticket, or you can't go."
I freeze like a deer in headlights, as I ponder at lightning speed what the heck
I'm going to do now.
"Well, I thought that was a two way ticket," I said weakly.
"Well, I'm not showing a return booking. When did you book to return?" she asks.
"October 29th," I lied.
"I'm not showing you booked on any flights. You either have to show a receipt....Or you can book one now," she suggests.
Book one now, I think to myself. That's easy for you to say. I just gave my last $28
to a taxi driver who's on his way back to Harlem."
"How much does a flight cost?" I ask.
"When do you want to fly?" she asks.
"Who gives a crap!!!?? Just find a da&$(*%$(% flight," I wanted to scream. I opted instead to say: "Anytime, I'm flexible.
Make it for Oct 29." I suggest.
"What time do you want to leave Saipan?" she inquires further.
"Look, lady, you're trying me!" I want to reply, but again opt instead for: "There's a morning flight every day out of Saipan if I'm not mistaken."
She finds a flight from Saipan to Guam for $91. Whew! That's a relief. I was fully expecting
a $600 plus fare to add some more intense drama to this story. But it didn't really matter either way as
I still had no space available on my credit card (yes, even Passion Prophets have occasional cash flow "situations.")
So, I handed her my credit card nonchalantly (knowing fully well it would probably be declined.
"Do you have another card?" she asks after a brief pause. "This one was declined."
I nonchalantly hand her my other card. (Wonder how long I can play this game until a better strategy comes to me?)
"Sorry, sir, this one is declined also."
"I'll need to see a receipt for an outgoing flight."'
"I'll book it online," I said.
"Well, we don't have a computer you can use," she says."And we don't have internet access."
What is she in the dark ages??
"I have a laptop," I explain, and the concourse is wired.
"Ok, but you only have 20 minutes to make the booking."
Twenty minutes!? Is she kidding me? Doesn't she know I've designed websites launched them online and started getting customers in less time? Twenty minutes is a friggin' lifetime! Booking a ticket online should be a piece of cake. All I need is um...a valid credit card.
So, I'll have to call my friends. Yep, that's right, it's 5:45 AM, as in morning, and I'm going to call my friends
to beg for money! (This would be embarrassing, if I really cared.)
I call my friends A. and S., a married couple with two kids. No answer. Voicemail. Drat! Sleeping, perhaps? (You think??)
I call my buddy E. He'll be awake. But as the call starts to connect, my phone goes dead....battery charge ran out.
I ask a ticket agent if there's an electrical outlet I can use to plug in and she directs me to one
a few feet from the ticket counters. So I leave my bags open on the floor, with stuff strewn about and
go sit on the floor next to the outlet. I plug in my phone and wait a bit for the charge to take.
E, a motorman for the MTA, is actually in the middle of this shift.
Yes, he's driving a #3 train somewhere in Brooklyn. I get through to him, and through a barely audible, touch and go cell phone connection,
I tell him I need his credit card. He tells me he's one station away from going underground at the Utica Ave station. FYI: Once underground
it'll be at least another hour before he's above ground again and able to receive any calls.
His signal starts breaking up, as he starts reads the credit card number to me, (tick, tock)
I can hear the conductor in the background saying "Watch the closing doors, signaling
E. to start the train and get moving to the next station.
Having ridden in the motorman's cab with him before (don't tell the MTA), I can picture him steering the train with one hand, going a bit
slower than usual to keep from losing our connection, while reading the credit card numbers in the darkness of the cabin. (tick, tock, tick tock)
I repeat the numbers back to him, ring off, (or perhaps we were cut off) and then I use the card first to log into the paid wi-fi service available in the concourse. After two attempts, (sorry, E, I'll paypal you the 15.98) I get through. (Time is ticking away!) I log on to continental.com, find the same flight and price the agent had found from her terminal, and I book it as quickly as I can. (tick tock, tick tock)
"Have you booked it yet, sir?" The agent calls out to me. "You only have about 5 minutes."
It's now about 6:15am. Boarding for my flight is beginning about now.
I get an error message!! Says the card number is not valid! Uh-oh. But I know it should be ok, so I
check it again and realize that when I had copied it to paste it into the form, it had inadvertently included an extra blank space at the end of the numbers.
I deleted the space, tried again, and.....
"Your ticket purchase is confirmed!" That screen was music to my.... eyes???!! Anyway, I walk over to ticket counter, show the agent the confirmation number, she finds it in the system, but says
it's not ticketed yet. I show her the confirmation screen on my laptop which shows the completed purchase. But she says she can't do anything until it's actually ticketed. No one knows just how long it takes for a just-purchased ticket to get ticketed, so we wait--me with baited breath, while she's probably thinking "when's my coffee break?"
In about a minute, she says "Ok, you're good to go!"
I gather and continue packing my bags, having been laid out on the terminal
floor with books and an external drive (about 3.5lbs) resting on one of the bags.
I rush to the security checkpoint where I'm instructed to remove all metals from my pockets,
remove my sandals, remove my laptop from its bag and place all objects on the conveyor belt.
I then pass through the metal detector and wait for my things on the other side.
As my carry-on is going through the x-ray machine and being inspected, I hear the agent say to a coworker,"Pots?? What's the story with pots?" referring to my pressure cooker and stainless steel pots that are bulging the seams of my carry-on. His buddy comes over and looks. I'm sure neither of them knows whether this presents a hijack risk (who knows, I may whip out my utensils and start a food fight at 30,000 feet, you never know), but at that time of the morning, I'm sure neither of them wants the hassle. So everything's approved.
I proceed to gate A-4, and discover that boarding is indeed in process. But I have a few minutes,
so I head to the men's room, change from my sweatshirt and jeans and into my Guru Gear. (Have to look spiffy for the Prophet's return to Paradise, right?)
I board the plane, settle into seat 5F and get ready for takeoff.
ESCAPE IN FOUR PART HARMONY
The rest of my trip proceeds slowly, but without
PART 1: HOUSTON
-Leg one of the journey (to Houston) is complete.
PART 2: TOKYO
3:05pm local time Friday afternoon
I'm now in Tokyo's Narita airport for a five-hour layover until
my flight to Guam. It's 2:05am Friday morning for you guys back in New York.
So I've been up and traveling for about 22 hours so far, and only half way home!
PART 3: GUAM
They took my tea tree oil!
"No liquids on the plane," he says!! Sheeesh!
PART 4: SAIPAN
Just landed at 3:00am local time Saturday morning!
That's 1pm Friday afternoon New York time! So after
31 hours of travel from door to door, I'm finally home!