As you recall, I was on tour a week or so ago. Here’s the triptych:
I began my trip with a plane that was delayed leaving. So, it being a 4:55 p.m. flight orginally, I decided to console myself with a drink in the bar before hand. Which turned into two, but what the hell. Peach Cosmos. Of which I ended up wearing a half of one on my skirt (drat!) Eventually I made my way to the plane which was still more delayed and finally found myself wedged in between two very quiet women on a fully-packed aircraft headed to San Jose.
I was stuck in the middle. The woman on the window side was reading the seventh Harry Potter novel (she didn’t look like she was terribly long out of school herself) and the woman on the aisle was doing Sudoku puzzles in a book. She continued to do her puzzles from the moment we sat down until the plane finally made it to SJC….
Which was quite a while since the plane, already delayed, finally left Seattle thirty minutes later than it should have arrived in San Jose.
At first, the problem was luggage. For some reason, our luggage wasn’t being loaded or couldn’t be found or something and once it finally was, the baggage handlers had some problem removing the truck that had held the luggage from the area. At last it pulled away and we were ready to go. Something over forty minutes had now elapsed since we’d boarded. A few extra minutes were spent waiting for the tug driver to come back to our already tardy craft and push us away from the jetway.
Happily backward, the aging MD-80 finally trundled away from the terminal and nearly into the taxiway. Until there was a small bump. Then a pause. And then a longer pause.
The pilot informed us that the tug’s pushing pole had become disconnected from the forward landing gear and bumped into the front strut. As a potentially dangerous bit of equipment to lose on landing, it was thought to be a good idea for us to be ferried back into the gate so the front gear could be inspected for damage. Thus, the infamous maintenance department would have to be contacted and a safety inspector sent with the right paperwork….
We sat a while at the gate again. Even the pilot got impatient and hopped out of the plan to take a gander at it himself, coming back to inform us that he thought it looked just fine but we’d have to wait for the inspector and switch planes if he deemed it borked. Luckily, another forty minutes later, the inspector declared our sad little plane to be safe to fly.
Again we waited for the tug driver to return from his lair and push our grumpy little plane back out into the taxiway. My window-side seatmate finished Harry Potter and moved on to Sandra Brown while the aisle side one continued unabated in her quest for Sudoku perfection. And at last we were allowed to leave SeaTac and take to the air. Which was a bit turbulent, but had no recalcitrant luggage trucks or mischievous tug spars in it so we merely made do with the usual clear air whoopsies and rollercoaster humps, finally arriving in San Jose two full hours later than expected for a 90-minute flight. Neither of my seatmates had uttered a word other than drink orders, nor moved except to turn pages and mark boxes for the entire duration of our trip, which had lasted four hours from the time we boarded until we escaped the beleaguered MD-80 at last.
But our luggage was actually there on time.
So a pretty good, if sleepless time was had until Saturday night when the hotel room I’d booked in San Francisco, which Hotwire had informed me would be a Queen with a pull-out sofa, turned out to be a single with a sofa bed the furniture blocked from unfolding.
Being a stubborn wench and having a drunk and tired friend in need of a bed (and the single being far too small for us to share) I was up until 4 a.m. supervising a sad-eyed, but accommodating member of the housekeeping staff as he rearranged the furniture to create enough room for the sofa to unfold and be made up into a bed (even if the mattress needed to be dusted off first). And into bed we fell. Though I didn’t sleep–we’d managed to find what may well be the only smoking-allowed bar in San Francisco and as a non-smoker I found myself lying in bed, vibrating from the nicotine I’d inhaled over two hours. I should have let Mara have the bed….
Sunday was easy and eventually I found myself on the way to the airport again on Monday with the help of Alan Beatts from Borderlands Books (where I’d signed books the previous afternoon, after making a hit-and-run stop a the Union Square Borders to leave my scrawl on their few copies of Poltergeist.) Alan was great company and I felt a little sad trundling off into the wilds of SFO with my rolly bag to seek out the United ticketing counter. (Couldn’t I just move in with Alan’s cat, Ripley?)
Remembering Mara’s tale of being detained and searched because she’d inadvertantly left a tube of lip gloss in her purse the last time she flew, I dutifully moved all my suspect objects–cosmetics, hand mirrors, pills, etc–to appropriate baggies or checked luggage and hoped my best hair clip wouldn’t be lost over the Pacific or my fountain pen mistaken for a detonator. Now braced, I carried on, into the fray of flying.
Luckily, I’d checked in online and could merrily trot to the “checked in and ticketed passenger bag-check” line but this was not such a consolation for long. I found myself standing in a huge line that wound back beyond the place I’d checked my bags so I could pass through the security zone.
Unlike Seattle, there is very little instruction or signage at the security stations in SFO and I wasn’t sure if I had to remove my shoes or un-case my laptop. Luckily, a harried TSA guy was kind enough to reply “yup, take ’em of, remove the bag” to my inquiry as he hustled past. I made it through the security point just fine, in spite of my fountain pen, half-dozen magnets, and a pair of chopsticks I’d forgotten were lurking in the bottom of my bag.
Now I was looking for breakfast, since it was 9:40 a.m. and I was due to sign books again at 7 p.m. with a flight and a hotel check-in in between. I found a nice spot for breakfast near my gate and had a delicious meal. Which was accompanied by a full set of heavy steel cutlery–or I should say non-cutlery since although the fork was strong and tine-y enough to impale a small ham with and the spoon of sufficient heft to double as a blackjack, the knife was a flimsy, out-0f-scale, plastic picnic unit. Just in case.
Apparently no one was worried about anyone getting forked to death or fatally spooned, so long as all shoes were properly x-rayed and laptop computers exposed to the free air. Without lip gloss.
I even found a copy of Poltergeist on the shelf of the Compass Books next to my boarding gate and felt quite giggly about it.
The flight was so uneventful that all I can remember is that my luggage was the eighth piece off the conveyor and I was on the MAX for my hotel within twenty minutes of landing. On the way I recieved a call from Steve, my agent, and I think I actually made sense in spite of my lack of sleep.
At the hotel, a pleasant young woman looked up my reservation, eventually finding it under the publisher’s name. She handed me my keys and told me not to worry about anything as all expenses were being covered by the publisher. (yay!) So I trotted up to my room, let myself in, and threw a few things around, ironed a blouse for the signing in the evening and tried to set up my computer to talk to the free wifi.
The hotel wifi claimed it had never heard of me or of Penguin and I had to call the tech desk to get connected. This took very little time, but in my tired state, I didn’t notice the strange fact that the technician, while she had no trouble finding me, had a lot of trouble confirming me and had to force the system to accept my IP by hand. This should have warned me that there was something… odd going on.
I dealt with my e-mail, took a nap and went off for dinner before my signing in Beaverton. All was well, except for the MAX ticketing machine deciding to charge my card and print no ticket. Grrr…. But I made the dinner and the signing at Powell’s Beaverton branch–which was great and many thanks to Peter and the staff for a great time–and had a lovely drink afterward with still more friends (do we detect a trend?)
In the morning I got up early with the intention of hunting down the main branch of Powell’s and as I was dressing, somene knocked on my door. It was 8 a.m. so I thought it a bit odd to find a woman on the doorstep saying she was there to service the minibar. I shooed her off thinking “surely if I’d been drinking out of the minibar the night before I wouldn’t be up and wiggling at 8….” But the mystery would soon deepen.
I went downstairs and had a very delicious breakfast, prepared to charge it to my room and this where were the weirdness hit: I wasn’t in my room and there was no record of my presence in the hotel. I though this was kind of strange since my luggage was in it. I paid for the meal myself and went on my way, a little confused.
When I went to check out I mentioned the oddity at breakfast and the clerk informed me, according to the hotel computer, I had never checked in and my room had been vacant. No wonder the minibar lady was stopping by so early. For twenty-four hours I’d been a ghost in the hotel, haunting the internet and my room without even knowing it. Lucky for the next tenant they’ll never have to know their room was haunted for a day….
Maybe I should have used the minibar….