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Vacation report: Thursday (3/9)

All too often, the tiring task of travel is preceded by a minimal amount of sleep, which certainly doesn't help. With an eye toward preventing this, I had scheduled my flights for afternoon and evening. Thus, I left home at about 10:30 to drive to the Philadelphia airport, leaving far more time than needed to get to a 4 PM flight.

I decided on the drive down that being prone to anxiety issues has some distinct advantages while traveling. I'm going to worry about all the things that could possibly go wrong, no matter what. This means that when something does go wrong, as it generally does, I should have already thought about it and have figured out what to do.

At least, that's the theory. In practice, it turns out that I can't think of everything, and this plan was upset as soon as I reached the airport. The economy parking lot was full. This Made Stephie Sad (TM). Of course, there really weren't choices involved in this, I just needed to park in the regular parking garage. Which I failed to find. Twice. On the third pass through the airport, I finally found the garage entrance, and then spent still more time driving in circles around the parking garage trying to find a spot.

I still don't know how I managed to scrape my hand while getting out of my car. This is when I discovered the first thing I forgot to do: I had not packed the Band-Aids. Bleeding did not improve the check-in process. Neither did my general lack of recent flight experience; I kept looking for someone to issue my boarding pass and ask if I'd packed my bags myself before taking them away. I like the self-check-in machines, now that I've met them, but it took me a while to figure it out.

Security, however, was a breeze, since I'd asked lots of questions and read all the guidelines ahead of time. There was no line, and the slowest part of the process was putting my shoes back on. I found my gate, and was left with about three hours to kill before the expected boarding time. I bought a book (Rage by Jonathan Kellerman; yay for reading a best-selling author), had some lunch, and made it about halfway through said book before we finally boarded, about 25 minutes late. Here I began my love affair with seat 26F. I had the same seat on all four flights, I suppose because I booked early. Fortunately, it was a decent seat, by the window and just back of the wing.

Takeoff was delayed a further half hour on the runway, making us just under an hour behind schedule. My layover in Dallas-Fort Worth was scheduled to be just over an hour, so I would have missed it if it had been on time, but it was delayed as well. My first visit to Texas lasted just long enough to use the ladies' room and buy dinner, and then I boarded the plane to Tucson.

We arrived less than 40 minutes behind schedule, so I figured I was close enough to on time for the rest of what I needed. I claimed my suitcase and staggered to the rental car desks.

Dollar Employee (DE): Would you like to upgrade to a luxury car?
Me: No, I really want a compact car.
DE: Well, we're giving you a complementary upgrade to a luxury car!
Me: . . . (But I wanted a compact car!)
DE: And would you like to get the insurance?
Me: What does it cost?
DE: $18.99 a day!
Me: (which is more than the car is costing a day, I believe) No, I think my regular insurance will cover me.
DE: (pushes buttons) How about the reduced coverage at $12.99 a day?
Me: Um, no.
DE: (pushes more buttons, paper starts to print) Well, we do have a basic insurance plan for only $6.99 per day...
Me: (Look, pal, it's 10:10 here. That makes it after midnight on my personal time, and I've been traveling all day. All I want is to drive to my hotel, check in, and go to bed. Just give me the papers to sign and let me have a car NOW!) . . . Nooo...

At which point DE must have recognized the signs of imminent maiming, because he produced the paperwork and keys. My luggage and I struggled out to the far end of the parking lot, where I learned that "luxury car" translates roughly to "land-going boat". However, while I prefer smaller cars, I learned to drive in a minivan, so I piloted my boat out of the airport and into Tucson itself.

The directions were straightforward enough, and I checked in quickly and went to my room. I turned on the TV, although I didn't expect to find anything on. I then realized the second thing I had forgotten: I didn't program my VCR to tape CSI, or 24. I made a mental note to check with oidhche, King of TiVo, and finished my book (A Brother's Price by Wen Spencer) before going to sleep.

To be continued...

Coming next installment: demongrey and the Border Patrol.

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