Blondie is the trend-setting American rock band from the 1970’s. A blondie is also a rich vanilla dessert bar. But just for today, Blondie is the newspaper comic strip that, remarkably, still runs after 92 years. Blondie is the female lead and Dagwood is her food-loving husband. Which brings me to today’s topic. A Dagwood is a tall, multi-layered sandwich… the perfect image for my travel nightmare from last Friday.
It all started with a bridge. Make that seventeen bridges. As my wife and I were motoring mid-morning towards the Charlotte airport, en route to my niece’s wedding in Los Angeles, the Maps app colored the interstate yellow here and there. No big deal; traffic slowed, then quickly started up again. All of a sudden, middle of nowhere, we came to a complete stop. Five minutes passed without movement. Ten. When I finally looked down at the Map app twenty minuets later, our section of the interstate was colored black. Wait, black? Never seen that color before.
For future reference, Map app black means “not an option” (or better still, “you’re dead”). Five miles of the upcoming interstate were closed off for nine days to repair all those bridges. We didn’t “eye-spy” so much as a detour sign before we joined the monstrous backup. When cars began leaking into the grass median and making U-turns, I sensed the presence of the travel gods, selecting a dawdling pawn for their vicious game.
Heading back the way we came, the first detour we encountered was the same idea as a hundred other drivers. The off-ramp was backed up forever. Instead, we continued miles further, finally exiting onto a two-lane highway to what can only be described as a drive through the backwoods of the back country of America’s uh… backside. Tight little curvy roads sprouting driveways to nowhere, bars with bars on the windows, churches with desperate Easter pleas like “It’s not about the Bunny, it’s about the Lamb”, and one-stop-sign towns you really don’t want to stop in. Eventually we emerged unscathed (physically, not mentally), flung back to a point on the interstate that wasn’t colored Map app black.
The travel clock ticks faster now. When the travel gods remind you bags must be checked forty-five minutes before departure, beads of sweat start to pop. The Dagwood sandwich gains another layer.
Our daughter (who I now refer to as “GPS Goddess”) expertly phone-guided us all the way into the Charlotte Airport hourly parking garage ($24 USD/day), where she offered a not-so-confident “you’ll make it” before hanging up. And so we dashed, from one end of the garage to the other, down the elevator, across the lanes of buses and taxis, through the under-construction section of the terminal sidewalk, finally bursting through the sliding doors to the American Airlines self check-in kiosks to declare our victory. Which was premature.
Just like the black of the Map app, I’ve never seen a self check-in kiosk dispense a piece of paper saying “See Counter Agent”. Uh-oh. Sure enough, we missed the deadline to check luggage. Our bags were also too big to gate check or they would’ve pushed us through. I thought we were done.
But at the ticket counter, I deflected phrases like “You can’t travel without your luggage, sir” or “We’re not finding any other flight options, sir” with “I have faith in you, American Airlines!” and “You can do this!”, and darned it they didn’t find an itinerary to get this “sir” (and his “ma’am”) to Los Angeles. Through Boston. Uh, sorry miss, isn’t Boston taking us in the wrong direction? She told me not to argue. Add another layer to the sandwich.
Cut to the Charlotte boarding gate. Flight to Boston delayed. Then again. Then again. In a phrase that sounds comical (just not at the time), the gate agent calmly informed passengers “the control tower can’t seem to locate our flight crew”. But then they did, then we boarded, and suddenly we’re flying to Boston… knowing we have, oh, ten minutes to catch our connection once we land.
For the record, you can make a connecting flight in Boston in ten minutes. You need five of those minutes to let the achingly slow passengers in front of you deplane. You need the other five minutes to hustle down the concourse (ignoring the bathrooms that beckon for good reason), cursing the loudspeaker blasting your name with “Flight XXX to Los Angeles, this is your final call. We’re about to close the doors”.
Which is exactly what the gate agents did, right behind us as we sprinted down the jetway, but not before shouting, “Don’t worry, your baggage has a much better chance of making the connection than you do!” [Wrong. Turns out only one of our bags made the flight. The other would arrive (mercifully) the next morning, just in time to change into wrinkled formalwear before the wedding.]
On the Boston-Los Angeles flight, sitting in the very last row (where you meet/greet every single passenger headed to the bathroom) I let out a slow breath and assessed the good and bad of our whirlwind journey. The good: we’d make the wedding after facing a dozen trip-blocks. The bad: the Boston-LA flight ended up having to go wide-right over Canada to avoid some nasty weather in the Midwest. Add an hour to an already long, seriously turbulent flight. We could’ve headed the other direction and made it to Ireland in less time.
In total, the travel gods played their game for twenty-one hours, leaving us bleary-eyed by the time we walked into the wedding venue the next afternoon. (Hey, at least they got married. After all, the wedding was on April Fools’ Day. A no-show at the altar would’ve been just another layer on the sandwich.)
Here’s a little Blondie trivia. Dagwood was the heir to the Bumstead locomotive fortune, but when he married Blondie the deal was off. I didn’t know that. I only knew about his namesake – the tall, multi-layered sandwich. Otherwise I might’ve thought to take the train to Los Angeles instead.
Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.