Friday’s adventure in more detail

Last Friday, I left the house at 4:20 am, drove to Detroit Metro Airport, parked Leviathan in the McNamara Terminal deck, breezed through security, got a McBreakfast, and made it to the gate for my commuter-plane flight to Indianapolis (which was scheduled for 6:20 am) at about 5:30 am.

Yes, commuter plane. I had an exit row window seat. Full flight. My customer/colleague CL was a couple rows ahead on the other side of the plane. He had some difficulty at security as he was carrying a bubble-wrapped prototype water pump in a large tote bag, said pump weighing in at about 20 lbs.

Okay, we’ve established that I’m not small. I’m 6’4″, 250ish pounds. Seated in the aisle seat next to me on this undersized CRJ commuter jet? A transiting Pinnacle Air Captain who is every bit as big as me. Luckily for both of us, the flight was only an hour.

Hit the ground (figuratively), caught the rental car shuttle, selected a smoke-free car (not as easy as you think), and I had to figure out how to start the damn thing. It was a new Nissan Altima, and it doesn’t have a key. It has a fob that goes into a little slot on the lower left of the dash (and if you don’t do it exactly right, it spits it back out at you with enough force to bruise your shin just below the knee. Three guesses as to how I know that, and the first two don’t count). Then you have to step on the brake and push the “ENGINE START/STOP” button that’s located where a sensible person would put the key (on the dash just right of the steering column).

Drove off to Columbus, Indiana (about an hour) to meet with the customer, including a nice lunch (as the supplier, I picked that up. Thank you, expense account!). Drove back to airport, gassed car, turned it in, shuttled to terminal in plenty of time for 4:52 pm flight home. Security was interested in the water pump hub and bearing in my satchel. To the gate, stop at bar for a beer on the way. On the plane (full-size Airbus 320 this time), sit there, ready to go… and electrical fault. Mechanic summoned. Attempts to fix made. People are able to leave ’cause the fault prevents lavatory use, but the rest of us are sitting there (at least the AC works). After about 45 minutes of this, they get all of us off the plane… people are trying to make complicated connections through Detroit and 6 other airports in order to get to Swaziland or such. I call K to tell her I’m delayed; she gets on ‘puter and says next Detroit flight has 23 seats open. I stop counting heads in line at 70. Minneapolis? 10 seats open, and only open connection to Detroit gets to DTW somewhere in the 12:30-12:45 am region. After several “we’re still working on it, more in 10 minutes” announcements (I’m having deja vu for reasons I haven’t explained here yet dating back to return from the vacation we had in February), they say they haven’t fixed it and all checked luggage is being unloaded to Carousel 1. CL and I, with no bags, decide we can drive back to DTW faster than we can now fly there as it looks like an involuntary overnight stay in Indy otherwise (without any of our own provisions for doing that, and at this point I’m REALLY having deja vu back to February in Ft. Lauderdale except then we had our carryons… that didn’t have a change of clothes or our toiletries in them).

Back to airline ticket counter to “un-check-in” so we can exercise the refund provision of our corporate-paid refundable fares, then back to rental car counter. Guy in front of us has USAF bags and is trying to price a one-way rental to Minot, ND. Ugh. He ultimately decides to go the Minneapolis route. I have Emerald Club membership at National, and I’m told they have “corporate cars” for one-way rentals to Detroit, and all I have to do is tell the shuttle driver.

Who is the same shuttle driver who dropped us off a couple hours earlier. And she knows this. We are hoping there’s a Cadillac DTS on the one-way line. No dice: Chevy Impalas, Mitsubishi SUVs, and, hiding between two Impalas, a little dark-blue Volvo S40 we take ’cause neither one of us had been in one before. As the “pre-pay” fuel price is a good $0.25/gallon cheaper than any gas I’ve seen in Michigan lately, I opt for it, thinking (correctly, it turns out) that I’ll be able to turn the car in pushing empty and not have to put any gas in it on the way.

I do not have my radar/laser detector with me. This bothers me a bit, but I know the route so well from countless drives that I also know where the cops lurk, so we press on. We pull out of the National lot at 6:59 pm according to my receipt. Get a few miles up the Circle (I-465) and grab take-out from Wendy’s, then back on the road.

The cops cooperate and are exactly where I know they’ll be. At one point on I-69 in Michigan, I drop out of the cruise control and settle in at precisely 68 mph. CL wonders why… then sees the State Police Tahoe lurking in a wood-lined “AUTHORIZED VEHICLES ONLY” turnaround shooting radar at us northbounders. That past, I hit resume and we’re back up to normal cruising speed (84 mph, in case anyone was wondering. 14 over).

310 miles and 4 hours, 33 minutes after I checked the car out, it’s checked in and we’re on a shuttle bus from the DTW National lot to the terminal where our own vehicles are parked. I’m home by 12:30 am.

And when I call the corporate travel agent on Monday, I determine that with the refund, I saved the company about $172 by renting the car. And CL the customer thinks I’m pretty much unflappable.

And after a 20+ hour day, the boss is gonna give me some comp time off.



  1. I’m at the other end of the size-seating dilemma. I always feels crushed and hemmed in by the people sitting around me because they are larger than I am. And I have to admit that after reading about your day, I’m glad that my job has never involved work-related travel like this.


    1. K gets clausterphobic and prefers window seats. I prefer aisle seats for somewhat of the same reason. K will take a middle when traveling with me so as to not have Some Random Person between us, of course. 🙂 And I can understand your concern. I find myself acting small and trying to minimize the space I occupy in a lot of crowded situations such as on a plane. I’m sure Steve does this sometimes, too. In something like a big milling crowd at, say, a concert or sporting event, on the other hand, I play large and create as much space as I can around myself and my companions. During my single days, I once simultaneously impressed and somewhat frightened a date when I managed to get about a 5-foot “bubble” of clear space around us on a crowded arena concourse after a concert. She was teeny-tiny and had been bumped into/run over a lot in those situations, and I didn’t want that to happen to her on my watch. Anyway, the funny thing about last Friday is it really didn’t bother me. AsyouknowMary, I’d rather drive than fly anyway, and if there had been about 24 hours more notice on this trip, I’d have driven down Thursday afternoon/evening and back on Friday anyway (using a company-paid rental car, not my own vehicle) instead of even attempting to fly. Unless there’s enough of us going there to justify the use of the Bat Jet (one of the two planes we have partial ownership of) to fly straight in to Columbus and back, it’s right on the cusp of my fly/drive distance anyway. But the delay/change in method? I really found it far more amusing than annoying, particularly in the context of my experience in February (that I still need to finish the trip report on). Oh… there was one thing. We got to the NW ticket counter and were behind a young man, who was clearly annoyed and decided he wanted to pick a fight with someone, and that someone was CL, my colleague/customer. Who is British. So said yahoo starts mocking his accent and I’m trying to keep CL from responding (fight in airport = long chat with federal marshals) and the yahoo proclaims that he’s “calling both of you out!” (“you” meaning “us”). Where I come from, calling someone out is a straightforward challenge to fight (CL told me later he needed translation). At which point I simply say to the lady behind the counter “Would you please call security or the police? This gentleman has just threatened us with violence and I’d like him arrested, please.” The lady behind the counter (a matronly African-American woman who radiated “Do NOT F*** With Mama!” from every pore) asked said yahoo if he wanted to talk to the Feds or did he want to apologize… he “apologized” and just shot angry glares at us until his turn at the counter happened. Near as we could tell, he was trying to rearrange about 16 connecting flights on at least 3 different airlines, special dietary restriction meals, a North Korean tourist visa, and a tuberculosis isolation containment for his seat on all flights to go along with his Breathless Sense of Entitlement. It took a lot longer than our simple “un-check-in”, and I had sympathy for the poor counter clerk who had to deal with all that and the chip on this guy’s shoulder, which was about the size of Alaska. Receipts in hand, we retreated downstairs to the rental car counters, his high-pitched whine growing dangerously in volume as he realized he wasn’t going anywhere that night causing heads to turn involuntarily. I guess he didn’t get arrested — airport arrests tend to make headlines these days — but I could see NWA refunding his money and telling him to find another airline just to be rid of the problem.


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