Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Day 2 and 3

Day 2 - Saturday

Today we hit the Charlotte-Douglas Airport around 11, and take wing about 12:50, for Houston, Texas, where after checking into our hotel we will meet up with two of my cousins and their families who live nearby.

We got to the airport and that was not too difficult an event. Check in was pretty smooth as those things go. On the plane we found our seats, though getting up the aisle, if you could call it that, was interesting. This airplane was about as wide as a passenger bus, with an isle almost wide enough for a person of regular girth to move, so you had to navigate carefully so as not to brush against those passengers who had already found their seats.

The flight attendant announced, “Welcome aboard US Air Flight 5-0-0-8 to Houston.” I knew we were in trouble. We were supposed to be on Flight 5-0-0-3. We all waited in anticipation of what was to follow. It got worse.

Next, she informed us that we were capable hands of “our pilot, Captain Mickey.” This did not inspire confidence. Is it normal to identify those who have the lives of hundreds of people in their hands by their nicknames? Wouldn’t it have been better to give us his real name? Wouldn’t you rather know that “George” or “Jack” or “Marvin” or “Clyde” was in charge? Not “Mickey the airplane pilot.” I couldn’t help thinking of “Larry the cable guy.” I should have been happy it wasn’t Mr. Magoo, I suppose. I began to imagine the rest of the crew’s names: “Our co-pilot is Goofy, and your flight attendants are Minnie and Daisy.”

Did she really say, “The crew is prepared to provide you a safe flight to Houston; we’ve just come from the bar where we have been since our arrival at 9:00 a.m. and we are ready and rarin’ to get this bird in the air,” or did I just imagine it?

The rest of the message wasn’t much better. I noticed an annoying percussive sound after she would pause. You’ve heard people that do this. They make a sound by putting their tongue to the top of their mouth and then pulling it away, sort of a “tsk” sound. There were awkward pauses in the middle of sentences, and at one point she even said, “tsk In the event of an emergency just reach up to the compartment … tsk above your head and pull … tsk that’s p-u-l-l … the oxygen mask down and … place it over … tsk your face.” My wife and I just looked at each other, wondering if Minnie thought perhaps if she didn’t spell the word the passengers might think she said “pool,” which, given her diction was not outside the realm of possibility.

We got in the air only about 12 minutes after the posted take-off time; not bad, really. Eventually, they came by to offer us a snack and a drink. We were told the various soft drinks by brand name, and that they had an assortment of juices. Later they said that there was also beer, chardonnay and merlot available, for an additional charge, of course. I’m still not sure if the welcome announcement is not purposely designed to promote the sale of alcoholic beverages. It sure did work for us.

My wife and I looked at each other with a look that said, “I need a glass of wine.” We asked one of the flight attendants about the wines, Diane opted for the chardonnay; I went for the manly choice, the merlot. Upon delivery of the wines, we screwed off the caps of our respective bottles and poured some of the liquid into our plastic cups. As is our custom, we toasted before tasting, and then I watched intently as Diane took her first sip of the chardonnay. Her expression was not comforting. After I had tasted the merlot, I asked to try the chardonnay, and handed her my plastic cup in exchange for hers. I tasted: the frown that I felt gripping my face matched hers. Her expression after tasting the merlot wasn’t a great deal different than after tasting the chardonnay. “Interesting,” I said of the chardonnay. Although I thought the merlot was tolerable, she didn’t have much good to say of it. A little later I tasted the chardonnay again, only to confirm my original grim reaction. She said, “You get used to it.” We both began to wonder if they had their own winery on board the plane. I could only imagine the beer.

Somehow Captain Mickey managed to get the plane on the ground in Houston right on time, and without serious incident, unless you count the opening announcement and the dreadful wines. Then, after a 40-minute wait, the luggage began to slowly appear on the baggage carousel. We figured the Seven Dwarfs were moving the bags from the plane to the terminal. Waiting for and finding the luggage took nearly as long as the flight from Charlotte to Houston.

We got to the hotel around 3 p.m. local time, and encountered some of the most unusually dressed people I’ve encountered in my life. The first indication that someone was very wrong occurred nearly as soon as we walked through the door, as we were approached by a rather large girl of about 18, accompanied by a man I assumed to be her father. She was dressed somewhat like a Goth. She had a black top and black shorts that hit her about mid-thigh, and right below the knee began her boots. The ensemble was finished off with a couple of facial piercings. Dad must have been very proud. The rest of the females were dressed like fairies, in full, flowing dresses, some of them with headdresses. One had a multi-colored outfit or oranges and reds, with a feathered headdress. I took her to be the queen of the fairies.

The guys had a variety of outfits on, the most impressive of which involved kilts. One guy had long dark hair infused with some gray, and a long beard that nearly touched the kilt. He looked very serious, and seemed not to notice how onlookers were reacting to him. The others were nerds dressed like… well, nerds, with a sci-fi flare. We discovered that there was some sci-fi group having a gathering, called Apollocon, and in addition to the meeting they were have a casting call for some sort of thespian activity. Later we had some lunch and relaxed a little. We caught up with two of my cousins and their families and spent the evening at the Sam Houston Race Park. Son Ryan and I used some of the data in the racing form to decide which horse to bet our money on, daughter Katherine bet by the name of the horse. She won; Ryan and I didn’t. Go figure. We didn’t lose much, though, and had a good time.

Day 3 - Sunday

After a regular start, we had our check-through luggage picked up by the hotel and loaded onto two passenger buses for the trek to the port of Galveston. It was about an hour and a half from pull out at Houston until we were getting off the bus and going through an efficient check-in procedure and boarded the Rhapsody of the Seas for a 5 p.m. cast-off. Aside from being pleased to be on the ship and the anticipation of the week to come, this day was a good day, but not exceptionally exciting.

Except for the jazz combo that played in the Schooner Bar Sunday night. This group is a subset of the larger band that backs the shows in the theater, and the drums, bass and guitar were so solid and drove so hard, the band really cooked. The guys were from Eastern Europe and the U.S. I’m looking forward to their other appearances through the week.

Internet access is not one of the better aspects of this ship. There is a charge—50 cents a minute! Can you believe that? You can get better rates if you buy a package. I got a package of 90 minutes, and that lowered the rate to JUST 39 cents an hour!!


Anonymous said...

I was flying out of Charlotte last Fridat night. At the gate next to mine was a flight going to Gainesville Florida that was being delayed. Everyonce and awhile the gate attendant came on the intercom thanking the passengers for their patience and promising that boarding would start as soon as they could find the flight crew.

Made me glad I was going to Louisville.

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Anonymous said...

I always wonder what the citizens think when they see Sci-Fi folks at con! BTW, most of those kilts were not 'costumes' I wear mine every day. Too bad your group went to the track, our activities were likely cheaper, and surely more entertaining! We even had a wine and cheese party.

James Shott said...

Well, the track was fun and really not as expensive as I had expected.

The wine and cheese party would have been good.

Apollocon was an interesting experience. Here in small town America, we don't see that often ... ever.