View From The Ridge

View From The Ridge

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Modern day cattle truck

Sunset at 41,000 feet
Actually, this will have little to do with cattle or trucks, and everything to do with flying with today's airlines.  I love flying; the take-offs and landings, seeing the earth from various altitudes, clouds, sunsets at 41,000 ft., but all the rigor that you have  to go through to fly anywhere is rapidly diminishing the enjoyment part.  It is resembling the loading of cattle on a truck.

We are now in Portland, Oregon, staying a few days with our daughter, Lani, and son-in-law Randall and their three kids.  The trip here from Hawaii was the latest in adventures in flying.

We started out the morning of the 24th with the last minute packing.  One of the great joys of living in Hawaii is that I don't have to spend three hours preparing and winterizing the house for the three months we will be gone.  All I had to do was close the windows, lock the doors and unplug all the appliances except for the refrigerator.  Took me all of five minutes.  My sister, Sharon, and brother-in-law, Richard, picked us up for the 10 minute ride to the airport.  On our way I picked up a sub sandwich to share with Jeri on the airplane as past experience has taught me that the meals provide by the airlines can be skimpy and/or unappetizing.

Since we had left plenty of clothes in the 5th wheel trailer, here on the mainland,  we figured we could travel light.  HA!!  Boy was that a pipe dream.  By the time we packed all the Kona coffee and candy we were taking back to friends and family, plus the inventory of a small pharmacy of pills and supplements, lap tops, I-pads, chargers for everything, that pretty much filled a checked bag right there.  So we ended up with our four carry-on's and two checked bags.  Sorry, folks, but I don't go anywhere with out my sticks(golf clubs to the uninitiated). 

I have learned to wear long pants on the airplane because it is usually cool or down right cold.  The last time I wore long pants was the flight over last September.  Plus we would be arriving in Portland at 11 pm where the temperature would be in  the low 50's, hopefully not colder.  You have to remember that it has been almost a year since we have suffered temperatures below 60 degrees so we were not particularly looking forward to coming back this early.   Much to our surprise we have enjoyed temperatures in the high 70's and low 80's. 

I have also learned not to wear my cowboy boots since it is a real pain to take them off and on for the security line.  But, one more year and I won't have to do that.  TSA has determined that people 75 and older can keep their shoes and boots on.  Hopefully there are no 75 year old terrorist out there with a penchant for shoe bombs.  I now arrive with untied tennis shoes so all I have to do is slip them off and on and tie them later.   I also leave my belt off until I make it through the line.  We no longer pack any toiletries in our carry on but instead pack it in our checked luggage.  The stuff always had to be in a separate bag and set out by itself, which means you had to pack it on top so it would be accessible.

The Kona airport is small so it is not much of a walk from security to the gate. Now we sit and wait for our flight.  I liken it to a holding pen for cattle waiting to be loaded. Unlike cattle, people will fight to be on board first.   Gate personnel make the announcement that boarding for first class and Hawaiian Air Lines premium club members, families with kids under 6 and those needing assistance can now begin.  I swear half the waiting area stood up and started crowding towards the gate.  Maybe three or four families had small kids, half a dozen elderly that need assistance, there are no first class seats to Honolulu, so what's the big rush?  The plane is not going anywhere until everyone is on board. 

Departure time comes and goes, there are still people in the aisle, flight personal are shuffling people around, appears that the flight is over booked.  They finally get everyone seated, didn't see anyone leave the plane, and we finally get going only 20 minutes or so late. 

Arrival in Honolulu is at gate 57, the plane barely stops and two thirds or more of the passengers stand up and starts taking down carry-on luggage.  Have none of these people flown before?  It takes at least 5 minutes for the articulated stair way to be put in place and the door opened.  You would think the airplane was on fire.  Jeri and I always just sit and wait until the crowd thins out and then we can leisurely exit like civilised people. 

We were at gate 57 and, of course, needed to be at gate 27.  The only gate to our right was 56, the south end of the terminal, and it went to gate 80 to the north.  Confused, I start walking and finally find someone who can tell me where gate 27 is.  He says take the stairs to the next level and a shuttle will take you to gate 27.  Now I am questioning if I am even in the right airport as we have never had to do that before.  We make our way to the shuttle holding pen where we take a seat and wait.  About 10 or 15 minutes later a shuttle shows up, they call our gate number with several others and we board a bus that is crowded with people and carry-on luggage.  Jeri and I were going to have to sit in separated seats, until a nice gentleman with true Aloha spirit and an empty space next to him got up and let us sit together.  This old man and woman thing is starting to work out.

The bus pulls up to what the driver says is gate 27 and as we start to get up and grab our bags, a young lady sitting next to Jeri asks if she can carry her bag off the bus for her.  My first thought was "keep and eye on her and make sure she doesn't run with it".  Bad thoughts, Q, bad bad thoughts.  This young gal walked a few steps from the bus, sat the bag down and waited until Jeri got there.  And, yes, we thanked her profusely.  Not a big deal for her, but a big deal for us.

We then walked into this new holding pen but unable to discern what gate number it was.  No signage, just a reader board that indicated flight so and so had departed for Manila.  There is a line at the gate desk with a lot of people in it so we join the group.
I asked one lady if we were at the right gate and she said "I think so, but I haven't been able to find a number".  I looked around and saw that gate 26 was to our right and gate 28 was to our left, which one would assume that gate 27 was in between.   After about 5 minutes or so, and the line is not moving and the people behind the counter are busy with passengers, I ask the person behind me what this line was for.  She replied "for people with ticket problems".  Well FRITZ, we don't have any stinking ticket problems, what are we doing standing here!  Apparently we weren't the only sheep blindly following because I think two or three others left the line after hearing the explanation. 

Our plane finally arrives at the gate, about 10 minutes before the scheduled boarding time.  It is a new airbus 330 and I am thinking another late departure because it is going to take at least 20 minutes or more to unload the passengers plus then they have to clean and prepare it for the next load.  Then I notice that it is being towed into place.   Not a good sign normally, but Honolulu is Hawaiian Airlines hub so it was just being serviced.  For the loading scene, just refer back to paragraph 7 and double the number of passengers.  Again, we sit comfortably in our seats until most have cleared the boarding gate. 

We sat in row 11, seats were comfortable, adequate leg room, and to our surprise the meal was good. 
There was no choice, it was chicken in some kind of mushroom sauce, a salad and a chocolate Macadamia nut bar.    AND a complimentary glass of wine, thank you very much, and a choice of white or red.  Never saw that before, and no we were not in first class.  That was row 1 through 9.   Flight was supper smooth, very quiet, very enjoyable and the cabin crew were very nice.  We arrived in Portland within three minutes of schedule.

Again we waited until most of the passengers had cleared before our departing.  As Jeri was leaving the aircraft door, there were several aids waiting with wheel chairs for some disabled passengers.  One lady asked Jeri if she wanted a wheel chair, and knowing the loooong walk from the gate to the baggage claim, she said yes.  Turns out the lady had immigrated from Russia, spoke good English with a Russian accent, was very friendly and shared some of her past.  It was an enjoyable walk to the baggage claim. 

Our super son-in-law was there at 11:25 pm just as we were gathering one of our checked bags, but not my golf clubs.  Heart started to beat faster, panic was starting to set in, and several other passengers were also anxious about their bags.  Turns out the bags were waiting for us at the over sized bag station, two sets of clubs were there plus several other large parcels.  Heart rate returned to normal, blood pressure lowered, everything was back to normal. 

To most people this would have just been a normal, run of the mill flight, but to us, we could see God's hand in helping us.  I believe that the Holy Spirit motivated the two people on the bus.  As for the wheel chair, we had not ordered one, yet God knew Jeri needed it and provided it.  It is an awesome God we serve  when He provides and meets needs before we even realize the need, or even have time to pray and ask for help.  We are told to pray and ask, even in times when we have no idea how to pray or what to ask for.  Just continue to pray because the answer is already on it's way. 
Dick, Sharon and Jeri at the Kona Inn, Celebrating Mike and
 Jeri's 53rd wedding anniversary. 

And Sharon and Dick's daughter, Merrill, visiting from L.A.
Dinner sun set