Wednesday, June 5, 2013

6/5/13 from Michigan

So when we were taking Sam to the airport yesterday, we remarked about how full the parking garage was.

When I showed up mid morning today for an overnight work trip to Michigan, apparently a whole lot more people had showed up before me.

The entire economy and garage lots on the east side (my side) were full. I had to navigate over to the west terminal (which is a mess due to construction) to find that its economy lot was also full, but there were a few spaces still available in the expensive garage. This also meant I made several passes around Blucifer, who was staring with his orange eyes down at me with really ugly gray skies all around. 

All of this searching for a spot had put me far enough behind that I didn't feel like there would be time to circle all the way out of the airport and backtrack to the far offsite shuttles and make the flight, so I bit the bullet and ponied up for a garage place. 

Everyone decided this is the week to head out into summer, it would seem. Security was unusually slow, too, so by the time I had my shoes back on and got over to the monitors to double check the gate, I was thinking I wouldn't even have a chance to grab my essential magazine  much less anything to eat.

And then I saw the dreaded "DELAYED" beside my flight number. Instead of departing at 11:20, the new time was 1:30. Greaaaat. 

First order of business: to the newsstand to buy the current Atlantic Monthly. I don't fly without it, even though flying is the only time I ever buy one. It's just my ritual. (If I can't find The Atlantic, or have already flown that month and have purchased the current one already, I can default to The New Yorker.)

Once that was accomplished, I contemplated sitting down at one of the restaurants to kill some time, but opted to grab something and go sit at the gate anyway. At 11:30, as I'm finishing up my Kung Pao Chicken, the attendant announces that Flight 626 is changing gates and, surprise!, leaving at 11:50. All of us haul ourselves out of our chairs and head for the new gate, which starts boarding almost immediately. I had a vision of myself blithely surfing the internet at some cafe thinking I had hours only to discover this wrinkle when I would have sauntered up to the original gate far too late. I've got imagine that happened to at least a few people. 

I had seat 2F -- on the window where I like to sit, right up front but not in the bulkhead where I can't stow my laptop, for quick exiting. The only issue is making sure there is an overhead bin right at the front to put my carry on, else it is all for naught. And sometimes people tend to plop their bags in a compartment ahead of their seats, figuring they'll pass by on the way out and leaving no room. Have you ever tried to retrieve luggage from halfway back in a plane when everyone is trying to get out? Might as well sit in the back. I got lucky this time and there was still space in the first compartment. We pushed off right at 11:50 and hit the ground in Detroit at 4:40, having lost two hours.

Last year, I waited in the Dollar Rental line for a very long time, so this year, I got smart and joined their Dollar Express Members (for free) which gives you access to your own priority line since you'll filled out everything ahead of time and they just plug in your member #. Sure enough, there were five people in the regular line and no one in Express, so I was out on the lot in under five minutes. There also weren't any compact cars on the line, or economy, or mid-size. There was one mini-van. I'm telling you, everyone is travelling this week. Within another few minutes, however, two came pulling around freshly washed and another couple had joined me in staring at the empty spaces. The guy said one of us could take the compact and the other could have the midsize. The lady thought I was being really big to say, "There's two of you, you take the bigger car." What I was thinking was, the compact that had just been pulled in was a flex fuel Ford Focus and I have to fill it up within ten miles of this place (where the gas is $4.49 a gallon!). Yeah, take the lower MPG vehicle, please.

The Focus is a zippy little car, as long as no one needs to sit in the back seat, but I had two issues with it: the auxiliary port (more on that in a minute) and this:

Why do I need a picture within picture sideview mirror? It was really disconcerting. 

I'd brought the Garmin along, even though I have a hate/hate relationship with this thing. I swear, it's possessed and says things to me when I'm alone in the car and then reverses them just to screw with me. It never does this when anyone else is around. It's the Talky Tina of Garmins. I plugged in the address of the Red Ox Tavern where the Audi group was having a get together this evening before class tomorrow. I had also printed out the Google Map instructions (knowing Talking Tina might try to kill me) and vaguely knew the main route from Detroit up to Auburn Hills. She tried to take me a different way but when I ignored her, she recalculated to the path that matched Google. Then as I am cruising along I-94, knowing I will need I-75 north, I hear her say, in .4 miles blahblahblah exit on the left. I'm driving in the center lane, so I scoot myself over expecting a left ramp. Then she says, in her stupid stilted computer voice, "take the next exit, on the right" and in 5:00 traffic with eighteen wheelers everywhere, it ain't happening. I manage to get one lane away before I watch two big wheelers peel off and I'm stuck on I-94 swearing at the Garmin woman who is trying to kill me. So, as she's "recalculating" I just take the next damn exit, thinking I'll go under and turn around. And, as I'm on the off ramp, she tells me, "drive .9 miles to exit blahblah" which means this one doesn't have an under and around. In fact, this one leads me into the belly of the beast that is crumbling downtown Detroit, replete with abandoned buildings covered in graffiti when they haven't fallen down. I think about taking out the iphone and snapping some urban decay shots, but decide against it. About the time I'm cruising past some homes that have a lot of menacing looking men standing around in the front yards and front porches with several Detroit cop cars going up and down the street that I begin to think I should have studied the map a little more carefully. 

Talky Tina, however, has recalculated and gets me merging onto I-75 soon enough and into larking lot traffic. My little tour through the 'hood was actually far more interesting that what I'd missed hitting the exit. Because those two 18 wheelers that had hogged the off ramp? There they were, right beside me as I merged into the poking traffic. So as we move along at under 10 miles an hour, I do what any self respecting rental car driver does, and start changing the pre-set buttons on the radio as I find channels that aren't excruciating (or maybe just less so) to listen to. I'd brought my ipod and cord, since the car last year had a port, but I didn't get as lucky this time around. Well, I couldn't figure it out, anyway. There is an Aux option on the radio:


but darned if I could find the port -- not in the center console, not in the front dash, not in the glovebox. So I went without. I have, however, since Googled the problem and for some inexplicable reason, Ford hid it in the ceiling of the glove compartment. At least I'll know on the ride back tomorrow.

As I'm exiting to the Red Ox, "Bohemian Rhapsody" comes one, which causes me to laugh, as this song follows me everywhere. On the way to Mt Evan's on Memorial Day, Nick played it (he was playing DJ) and, as always, the opening of that song just frustrates the hell out of me. So as he sings "Put a gun against his head, Pulled my trigger, now he's dead" I reply with, "Well, what did you think was going to happen?" and the whole car cracked up. Yesterday, taking Sam to the airport, there it was again, and she leaned over with my phone, snapped a picture of the XM radio screen and sent it to Nick with the caption "WHAT DID YOU THINK WOULD HAPPEN?" So that fact that it graced my drive today was just icing on the cake. 

Dinner was nice, met up with several administrators, one from Denver and another from Texas who I chatted with for a good while, as well as one of the instructors for tomorrow's class and one of the Audi adjusters I work with on the daily basis via email. It's always nice to come to corporate and put some faces with names and voices you've only heard on the phone. 

I made it over to the Hampton Inn, a different one than last year, and this one is loads better. (Last year's post here.) I remembered to pick up half and half at the coffee station before hitting the elevators, and I didn't get the PIE room, but probably the next best thing:

The room is amazing: huge, clean and, thanks to last year's events, I remembered to bring my super handy dandy wall outlet that swivels to accommodate any space and lets me plug in three appliances and two USB ports into one spot, so I'm happily connected from the big king size bed and its four super fluffy down pillows. Which probably explains why I just spent this past hour blogging about what essentially was a day of  "Drove, flew, drove, slept."


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