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Saturday, March 28, 2009

JFK International and Beyond

I appologize for this late installment in my story but I was out of town again. That is fodder for another blog.

So the big silver bird that carried me in extreme comfort half way around the world in a few more hours than a normal workday touches down at JFK International Airport. Technology is great!

I thought that I would experience a wave of emotion upon setting foot in my Homeland after 7 months away but I didn't and that surprised me. Just another trip and just another airport, I guess I am getting jaded to it all which is fine by me. Or maybe I was just tired.

I walked out of the jetway into the big international Terminal 4 and was surprised how empty it looked for a weekday morning. In the past, this place would have been buzzzing with the movers and shakers of the world travelling to do their out-of-town deals. Another symptom of the bad economy in the U.S.

Immigrations and Customs were a breeze (due in part to the lack of passengers). I had to make my way to Terminal 3 which is one of the terminals Delta Airlines flies out of. I got there in a few minutes and settled in to wait for two hours for my flight to Atlanta. I sat across from a couple who appeared to be well-to-do in their mid-sixties. I don't think they said a word to each other or made eye contact the whole time. She kept fiddling with a book I doubt she was seriously reading and he kept getting up and wandering around for a few minutes and then sitting back down. They looked miserable.

Finally, the boarding call to my flight and I got situated in my seat. The engines were started and we pushed back from the gate and taxied for what seemed like forever and stopped for awhile on an isolated ramp while several other planes taxied by. I think the Captain screwed up somehow and was being "punished" by the ground control folks in the tower. This happens alot at large airports. The flight crew misunderstands instructions or gets out of sequence and they are sent to a remote ramp "to think about what they did" much as a child being made to sit in a corner after misbehaving. At Chicago O'Hare, these are actually called Penalty Boxes and are labelled as such on the official FAA airport diagrams that pilots carry around. Chicagoans are big ice hockey fans.

After 15 minutes, the JFK ground controllers decided to grant our flight a pardon for "time served" and let us start rolling again into the queue. Soon we were in the air with an astonishing view of Manhattan, I never get tired of looking at that skyline, but there will now always be something missing from it if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

Those of you who fly internationally must notice the difference in levels of service between foreign and domestic U.S. airlines. One tends to get much better treatment on let's say Lufthansa between Amsterdam and Frankfurt (I have done that leg) than you would on a U.S. airline between New York and Atlanta. All the airlines throughout the world are facing a tough situation, but why can I get a smiling flight attendent, free drinks, a free meal and free checked bags in coach on Lufthansa when Delta charges me $7 for a can of beer, no food and grouchy flight attendents that treat me as an intrusion in their day on basically the same distance flight? In JFK, Delta wanted to charge me $15 to check a ratty gym bag that wasn't even worth that much but relentented when I told them I arrived from overseas. I don't want to pick on Delta as most other domestic U.S. airlines are the same way.

So I get to Atlanta Airport and endure another 2 hour wait at that hellhole with the help of a few big lagers at the bar. This airport is always stuffy, crowded and too big. In fact, I understand it has more flights than any other airport in the States. There is a saying that when you die, you have to connect to heaven (or the other place) through ATL.

So now I am on the flight to my final destination, Fort Walton Beach, Florida (VPS). It is a short one hour flight where I will find my loving mother waiting for me at the arrival gates there. Despite my extreme fatigue and the fact that the Atlanta beers are wearing off, I am getting excited to see her and my childhood home, the "Redneck Riviera". Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Next: Family, good friends, sun, sand, palm trees, raw oysters and snow!

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