Virgin Airlines

Well, I’m not a virgin any more. I’m writing this to you from San Diego, site of the aforementioned ELI Conference. I will start full time blogging when the conference starts officially on Monday, but I’ll do some unofficial blogging tomorrow.

Before I sign off, I need to get my mind clear of the thoughts of my first flight in one o’ them there jet planes. Airports, airplanes, terminals, and concourses. It’s an entire sub-culture that frankly fascinates me. Look, I’m the first one to shake my head in disbelief that I have never flown before. It has never been that I was afraid to fly, it’s just, to me, it was always so damned expensive. I never mind driving. I almost took a plane once. I had an interview at the College of William and Mary in 1998, and they offered to fly me down from New York State. I declined, mostly because my interview was in combination with other interviews that I had in Virginia, and I didn’t feel right about it. I had one interview at George Mason, and another at Mary Washington College. You may know how that story turned out. I didn’t get the job at William & Mary. I’ve been at the Mary Washington now for 7 1/2 years.

Back to the flight. The first leg was from Dulles to O’Hare, and after a few words from my sister, who loves to fly, I was throwing my coins and keys and sneakers (???) in a plastic bin. I now know in retrospect that I was spoiled just a bit on my first flight. The plane was half-full and I had the chance to spread out, a sharp contrast to the second leg of my journey. Anyway, so there I am, a rookie in Concourse C. I get to the gate just as the steward is talking about boarding. Seems there is some delay, but he insures us that the plane will board quickly because of the number of passengers is, as I said, about half what it should be. More waiting while the steward informs us of necessary maintenance that needs to take place. Then what appears to be a police detective, a TSA officer and a D.C. uniformed police officer show up. Then a very excited German Sheppard makes an entrance accompanied by his trainer. Then, what appears to be an FBI agent, arrives with a young gentlemen, and this is unfortunate, who appears to be of Middle-Eastern descent. Now the steward has to level with us. OK, it was necessary maintenance and a slight security breach. We eventually boarded and the nice captain explained that the young man, at the last minute ran onto this plane, thinking he missed his flight. This is the story we got anyway. So the pooch that I mentioned previously turned out was an expert at sniffing for bombs/explosives. I’m not scrared off by any of this, I am grinning from ear to ear.

Next comes the safety and evacuation theatre performance. What a macabre piece of kabuki this is! In the event of a water landing? I’m supposed to find a red tab and place the mask on my own face before I help others. This is just priceless.

Finally it’s time for the take-off. Keep in mind that your humble narrator does not do well with merry-go-rounds, so I have some trepidation about all these G-forces and pressurized cabins and such. No problem as it turns out. Though I did set a record for number of times my ears popped. I remember this happened once, maybe twice on the trip to the mountains in the family Rambler stationwagon. The gum my wife offered me pre-flight came in handy. Now the landing on the other hand was a different story. It felt like they had substituted two cinder-blocks for the pnuematic wheels that should have been under the plane. Once we came to a stop, I did feel like high-fiving a few people, but again, I didn’t want to call attention to myself in that manner. Once inside the terminal, at O’Hare, I called a few people to announce my accomplishment. Argh! Voicemail in all instances.

I did have a stupid question pop into my head. Do I need to go claim my luggage and then re-check it for the next flight? I know, how silly. I make my way to the gate for the flight to San Diego. What the hell are all these people doing here? This plane is smaller that the first one (757 vs. a 767) and there isn’t an open seat. Now a flood of smiles come to my face as I remember the Seinfeld episode where Elaine gets stuck in coach and Jerry gets to ride first class. That particular show just got 1000% funnier. Overhead cargo storage is at a premium, and I started to expect a fight to break out over it. Surprisingly it was incident-free. There was more turbulance to deal with on this flight, so much so that there were quite audible groans several times as passengers queuing for the WC were asked to return to their seats. However the woman two seats from me is feeling no pain as she orders back-to-back glasses of white wine. The flight ends with a nice smoooooooth landing.

Now I’m hear in San Diego, and it hit me quite hard as I was dining on a Baha Fresh Fajita Burrito. I’m in California! More to come . . .

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