Thursday, October 08, 2009

8 OCT 09: Texas Toadstrangler

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: While we're out of town, we're remembering other trips of recent years. Here's a Texas tale we mentioned for a national audience in LaughLine, during the week of 30 Sep 02.)

We returned Sunday from a memorable vacation in Texas. The most memorable moment may have come when we had to sleep overnight inside the Houston airport! Truly everything IS bigger in Texas - even the sleeping dorm....

But let's start from the beginning: We traveled by air for the first time in several years, starting at Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport. We should have known trouble was coming when we saw a door in the terminal marked "War Room." [True!]

This was our first flight since airport security became much tighter last September. We found out we CANNOT carry cassettes and diskettes past the checkpoint by hand - it ALL must pass through an X-ray. Why they gave Cuba's Guantanamo Naval Base the name "Camp X-Ray," we're still not sure....

The security guard stopped us from walking through the checkpoint with hands full of change and diskettes. We needed several minutes to track down a plastic container to hold such things for the X-ray machine. Now we know who's making big money from "Homeland Security" - it's Rubbermaid.

(As we were sent back, a man behind us asked us to pass through HIS change with ours. But in the confusion to find a plastic container, we lost track of that man. Is that 75 cents considered "other income" at tax time?)

We arrived in plenty of time to fly from Atlanta to Houston - but the flight to Texas was delayed. We were paged to be told we might have trouble connecting to Corpus Christi, our final destination. We walked away from the Cinnabon line just in time to save three pounds.

We finally boarded the flight to Houston more than an hour behind schedule - and of all things, the airplane's public address system was playing "As Time Goes By." We thought about singing a commercial jingle in reply - "Gotta go, gotta go right now...."

It turned out Houston had a nasty thunderstorm, which closed the airport to all flights for awhile. While we sat in the plane awaiting takeoff, the flight crew showed us the movie "Spiderman." When it was over, we were stumped about how Peter Parker repaired that ripped mask without giving himself away.

We finally reached the Houston airport three hours behind schedule. By the way, the proper name for it now is "Bush Intercontinental Airport." If the former President had spent a bit more money on transportation, maybe the delay could have been shorter....

(If Houston can build domed stadiums for baseball and football -- even now with retractable roofs -- why can't they build an airport that way?)

We learned in Houston that we'd missed the last scheduled flight of the night to Corpus Christi. While the staff member discussed it with us, another traveler interrupted to ask when a different flight was leaving. All the staff member could say was "soon." Statements like this make it hard to believe those "on-time airline" claims.

We went down the escalator to search for a motel near the Houston airport to spend the night - but the more we dialed the courtesy phone, the more we found every room was booked. Someday they should make those motel signs like "Jeopardy" boards, and blank out the full ones.

(We knew we were in Texas when a man behind us walked by the long line of people waiting to make motel calls and said, "It must have been an Aggie that thought this up....")

We had no success in calling motels, no experience in traveling around Houston late at night, and no flight to Corpus Christi until morning. So we finally decided to go back through security and sleep on the floor overnight. We found a spot away from the piped-in country music -- fearing we might hear Larry Gatlin sing, "Houston means that I'm one day closer to you."

Someone from the big airline in Houston offered us a small pillow and two thin blankets as we tried to sleep on the floor. We suppose it helped - but did the airport have to play loud announcements about securing our bags EVERY half-hour, all night long?

Morning finally came and the rain left Houston. As we waited to fly to Corpus Christi, a Wal-Mart employee told us his flight from Bentonville, Arkansas to Lake Charles, Louisiana took more than 24 hours. He could have driven it in five! If "Sam's Club Airlines" begins service soon, this could be why....

(What happened once we reached Corpus Christi? That part of the story is coming Friday.)

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BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: Suspended for vacation

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