Sunday, May 20, 2007

Deliver Me!

It is so good being quit of that Airport! There were times that I thought I would never see the last of it!

It is a fairly standard process to have to collect your own baggage and re-deposit it with the TSA to be re-screened and forwarded to your airlines for your connection with arriving on an international flight. The problem is that at the Newark International Airport, if you arrive after 17:00 on a Saturday afternoon, those people lounging about by the big X-ray machines are not really working.

When I followed the directions I was given to get my bag re-screened for my connecting flight, I arrived at the TSA checkpoint and was told: “We’re closed. Go to your airline!”

Fair enough! So I find a uniformed staff member of Continental airlines and ask where to go for my flight to Tampa. “Terminal A” comes the cheery response. “Go up two levels on the escalator and then look for the Sky Train to terminal A.”

The two problems with these directions, are as follows:

1) The second escalator that you need to take is beyond the sign (for which I wasn’t looking after only one escalator) saying “Sky Train” some fifty yards away from the escalator banks.
2) The flight to Tampa departs from Terminal C.

As luck would have it, there was a display board in the train station (which I was able to consult once I actually found the train station) displaying flight information. For Terminal A there were two Continental flights listed, for Terminal B (where I was) there were none. Everything at Terminal C was Continental; I opted to go for Terminal C.

The Sky train, much like the monorail at Disney, whisks the weary traveler between stations at speeds that could be outraced by a walker going at average speed. (By “walker” I mean the appliance used by OAPs.) Eventually, however, I arrived at Terminal C where, by dint of following the directional signs (electronic signs showing directions) I arrived at one closed desk after another in various parts of the terminal.

Once I found an open check-in desk, the act of actually explaining to someone that all I needed to do was to re-check my bag bordered on the impossible. (To steal a line from Douglas Adams, I may as well have tried having an argument with a Coca-Cola vending machine.)

I did eventually get my bag checked! And then it was off to find an open security checkpoint. I wonder, now if somehow the TSA has gotten the idea that Newark closes after five on weekends. Never mind that we had all these flights going out and so the two open positions had a line that was at least an hour long, the people there that check that you are in the right place apparently neither read nor speak English.

“Is there a first-class security line?” I asked. It was a simple question as I proffered my first class ticket.

“Yes.” Said the TSA official.

“Really?” I said pulling my ticket back. “Where.”

“No.” said the TSA official.

Giving up, I surrendered my ticket, which he glanced at and handed back. I then waited in the line. Oh well, that was last night. I’ve now had a nightcap, good night’s sleep and breakfast with my friends in St. Petersburg. The prospects for the day look hopeful!

Wherever you are today, I hope your day is going well (and hassle-free)!

Don Bergquist - May 20, 2007 - St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

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