Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Adventures in Air Travel – or – That Time I Spent the Night at the Airport

Due to a series of unfortunate events (blizzard, mainly), I was not able to get to Boston on my regularly scheduled flight. I could have waited in California until the next day, but then I would have lost a whole day of my trip. Southwest ticket agents are the best ever, and they found me a flight to an East Coast city that was not affected by the blizzard (Baltimore).

I thought that would be great, since Baltimore is near-ish to D.C., where my brother lives. He agreed I could spend the night with him. Too good to be true! Indeed. The catch was, Baltimore is actually about an hour away from D.C. My brother doesn’t have a car. And if I had taken the train, it would have gotten me there around 3 a.m. I would have had to turn around and go right back for my 8 a.m. flight. So that wasn’t going to work.

I looked online to find out if one could voluntarily sleep at an airport. It turns out, it’s quite a popular thing to do and BWI is a good airport in which to do it. Because my travel plans had gotten quite convoluted since I first checked in at 6 am, I wasn’t surprised that my luggage never showed up on the carousel. This was only disappointing because the suitcases had two warm blankets, my snow boots, and several warm coats.

I read online that the international terminal is the quietest and has padded benches, so I changed into sweats and headed over there. It was indeed very quiet. The only other people there were the airport cleaning crew and security personnel doing their rounds. It was so quiet I could hear the fluorescent lights buzzing. Loudly. No matter. I spotted a padded bench. It wasn’t actually padded. It was a metal mesh. Could have been worse. I curled up, pulled my hood over my eyes and tried to sleep.

Soon it got cold. Really cold. I pulled my fleece PJ pants over my sweats, and my snow pants on over those. I wrapped a scarf around my head and neck, and zipped up my coat. I even tried putting a layer of clothing between the bench and me. It was still cold. I realized they probably weren’t heating this empty terminal, and since it was 2:15 am I was quite hungry. Luckily, the Dunkin Donuts at BWI is open 24 hours. I got my first ever Dunkin Donut (wasn’t that impressed) and sat in the relative warmth of the food court for a while.

At 3:00 am I walked over to terminal A, where most people were curled up on wooden benches. I thought it might be warmer over there, so I did the same. It wasn’t.

Finally, at 4:15 the security checkpoint opened. I thought for sure it would be warmer by the gates, since that’s where everyone would soon be headed. I made it to my gate, found some padded seats to stretch across and tried to nap a little bit. It was just too cold. Around 7:00 I got some tea just to try to get warm.

Overall, it wasn’t a terrible experience. It felt as cold as camping in the mountains, so I’m guessing at night the terminal was in the fifties. If I had had warmer clothes or blankets it would have been fine. I was also lucky there was food available. If I sleep at any other airports in the future I will definitely plan on bringing snacks.

On Sunday night I ended up sleeping for 15 hours, so I did make up for all that missed sleep and was not jet lagged at all.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Real Winter - or - A California Girl Goes East

I have lived my 28 years with a very clear definition of “winter”:  The few months out of the year when the days may be cloudy, and one will occasionally have to deal with strong winds and lots of rain. Overall, not such a bad season.

I always thought winter was not so bad because each year I deal with months and months of summer: The five and a half to six months of the year when temperatures rival those in the deepest pits of Hell.

This weekend, I traveled to the East coast during a storm and got to experience what I will now call “Real Winter.” Real Winter is the reason people hate winter.  In Real Winter, the sky is gray. It always seems to be threatening snow. And when it does snow, the flakes will mock you. “Haha. You’re stuck now!”  “Haha! Your feet are cold and wet.” “Haha. I’m melting today but I will freeze overnight and then make you slip in the morning!”

When experiencing Real Winter, you have to actually wear something called “layers.” “Layers” mean you have to wear multiple pairs of pants, multiple shirts, a scarf, a hat, gloves, a coat, and waterproof shoes. Layers are very inconvenient when switching between indoor and outdoor environments. If you wear your Layers indoors, you will soon be sweaty. You could remove them, but they are heavy to carry around. And it takes longer to put them back on than it takes to walk to your car. So you could choose to not wear Layers. You might think, “It’s only 50 feet. I’ll be fine!” If you choose this route, just know that you might get so chilled in those 50 feet that once you get inside, you will wish you had more layers to put on.

Now that I have experienced Real Winter, I appreciate California’s excellent weather. I can’t wait to go back east in June and experience “Real Summer” (aka humidity and bugs).