Nov 2, 2007

Bakersfield, California

Avoid it if at all possible.

I set off from my place yesterday at approximately 11 am EDT to start on my voyage to visit my sister in San Luis Obispo. At 1:30 pm, I left Delaware to get to the Philadelphia airport. My flight was at 4:05 pm, but my sister had called and emailed on numerous occasions about the generally abysmal state of the Philadelphia airport. How long the security lines were, how bad the traffic was, how I must at all costs get there at least one and a half hours before the flight took off if I was ever going to make it.

I arrived at the airport at 1:45. It took five minutes to check my bags curbside. It took five minutes to go to the bathroom and wend my way to the security line. It took 30 seconds to get through security, which left me more than two hours to get to know the Philadelphia airport, which by the way, doesn't have a Starbucks. It has an expensive coffee place with signs and graphics eerily similar to Starbucks. This Starbucks imitation actually charged $1.50 more for my customary large iced latte with an extra shot.

Anyhoo, my plane left on time and I actually got to Phoenix for my connecting flight with time to spare. It was now 5:45 Pacific Time, or for those keeping score at home, 8:45 my time. Bought a soda, shuffled around the airport for an hour, went to my gate. After boarding time arrived and departed, it was announced that we were waiting for the backup pilot to arrive before we could board. We were able to board and take off about 30 minutes after the scheduled time.

The stewardess, excuse me, flight attendant, served our beverages. The pilot announced we were approaching SLO. I closed my eyes in half sleep. I felt the plane descend. Then I felt the plane ascend. The passengers started buzzing. Ten minutes elapse. The pilot announces that we will land in Bakersfield soon because "bleep, bleep, bleep, inaudible."

The stewardess calls the pilot. We're informed that it's too foggy to land in SLO. We'll go to Bakersfield and await instructions. We go to Bakersfield. We get off the plane. Instructions are not forthcoming. I go to the bathroom. When I emerge, my fellow passengers are heading to the baggage claim. I'm not sure why. No one seems to know why. We just do. We wait for our baggage. There's speculation that we'll take a bus back to San Luis Obispo, but no one knows for sure. After we get our baggage, we all start heading to the information desk for US Airways. There's a line, at the head of which are three airline personnel who are joking and joshing with one another but not telling us anything.

Word passes down the line that we're going to take cabs back to SLO. There are no buses. This is confirmed when I and four other suckers get to the top of the line and I ask what's to become of us. A hugely fat man approaches the US Airways personnel, wheezing. They confer. He's the last cab and we'll all have to squeeze in to get it. Luckily, he's driving a van. Especially lucky since the vehicle will have to accommodate us, our luggage and his equally fat trainee companion. It's 10:45 pm. Our flight was to have arrived in SLO at 8:40. It's a two-and-a-half-hour drive to SLO. And our driver has never been there before.

In case you were wondering, there's nothing between San Luis Obispo and Bakersfield but a foggy, unlit two-lane highway peppered by tractor trailers driving erratically and the occasional accident such ingredients are bound to produce. I had to pee early into hour two, but as there is nothing between San Luis Obispo and Bakersfield but a foggy, unlit two-lane highway, I really had no options.

The ride was largely uneventful. There were some moments of heart-stopping action when our driver shifted into the oncoming traffic lane in order to pass the caravans of semis on the road. But nothing major.

Sometime around 2 am, I arrived at SLO to find my sister waiting for me at the airport--a mere 18 hours after I set off.

No comments: