Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Dulles airport of all

Sometimes, when I’m wandering around airports, I get the sinking feeling that no matter how much good I’m able to do in my life, or at least the parts of my life that are left over after running over pedestrians and extorting shop owners in Grand Theft Auto IV on the PlayStation 3, I will never even come close to matching the accomplishments of the person who first thought to take a piece of luggage and attach little wheels to it. I hope that person got a big raise, along with the people who invented EZ-Pass and pepperoni, respectively.

I had plenty of time to think about these kinds of things in my hotel room during my short, accidental vacation last week to Washington, D.C, Home of the Connection That Doesn’t Connect, And Also Several Phallic Monuments. After foolishly booking a connection on the last flight of the day to Raleigh-Durham through D.C., I found myself stranded at Dulles Airport, the most beautiful and state-of-the-art airport within a 500-yard radius of itself.

As the man at the ticket counter mashed buttons on what looked to be a keyboard with no corresponding screen, I wondered if he was going to force me to be Mr. Irate Customer Man. I hate being Mr. Irate Customer Man. When the occasion calls for it, my wife Kara makes a terrific Mrs. Irate Customer Woman, getting all sorts of discounts and refunds that we never would have received if she wasn’t willing to hulk out every now and again. But this time I was on my own, alone in a long line of distressed travelers for whom a connecting flight had been the most recent broken promise to come out of our nation’s capital.

As the ticket agent’s fingers continued tapping, a printer under the counter shot out a couple of “Get Out of the Airport Free” cards. The tapping continued with one hand as the man wordlessly slid vouchers for a free hotel and shuttle across the counter, and with a wave of his finger he performed the trick of making me disappear. Without Kara there to negotiate, turn green and fling trash cans around the terminal, I figured I’d be lucky to walk away with a voucher for a free frosty at Wendy’s. Hulk happy.

There’s a certain freedom that comes with staying in a hotel room while your luggage remains stranded in the nether regions of the transportation system. Brush your teeth? Can’t. What to wear tomorrow? Exactly the same thing as today. It’s like being eleven again.

Back at the airport with the same clothes and much different breath the next day, I noticed for the first time that the security lines asked you to pick a category that best described you: casual traveler or expert. While I usually arrive at my destination at the same time as everyone else on the plane, I wasn’t sure whether that qualified me for the black diamond security trail. How do you gain the confidence to label yourself an expert traveler? I guess, to practice at home, you could wedge yourself between the toilet and the tub and have someone jam a serving tray into your knees.

I decided not to hot dog and stepped into the novice line. As it turned out, both lines ended up at the same place, though there were a couple of people in the expert line who looked intermediate at best.

When I got to the front of the line, the security attendant informed me that my airline, possibly because of my hygienic state, had chosen me for extra security screening. That sounded scary at first, evoking images of windowless rooms and latex gloves. But really, the only difference is that you get your own private escort through the X-Ray machine and then they give you a little massage afterwards as a reward. If you ever get a chance to take the extra screening, you should treat yourself. Just book the last flight out of D.C. and you’ll be on your way. Sort of.

You can request an aisle seat at


  1. Oh GAWD, you make me scared of that airport. I have to take Thing 1 there on freakin' JULY 4TH, to catch a plane to Germany.

    WHO, I ask you, books a flight out of WASHINGTON, D.C., on JULY 4TH?

    Why my eldest daughter, that's who...

    Jesus, take the wheel... er, whatever that thing is that steers the plane...

  2. EZ-Pass and Pepperoni. I can't image life withouth them.

  3. I can imagine Kara hulking up. She seems like she has the potential to kill several people.

  4. You don't know how lucky you are to be able to travel with someone who is able to ""Hulk up"".........would your wife please consider opening a service to aid the less fortunate? PLEASE? PUHLEEEEEZZZE!!!

  5. lol... poor Mike! Kara probably could have gotten you on a flight, upgraded to first class AND a free hotel stay AND free tickets for the next time. See how much men need their wives?

  6. Sheri- Don't make broad generalizations....Men like Mike need their wives. The rest of us have testicles.

  7. Miss Anne -- At least you'll be able to catch some bitchin' fireworks while you're sitting in traffic. Good luck!

    Parlson -- Your comment's typo gave you a lisp.

    Allover -- Careful, or you'll be next!

    Loon -- The Loon doesn't like being Irate Customer Bird? I bet you'd be good at it.

    Sheri -- Dang, free tickets for next time! Didn't think of that. I was just happy not to have to sleep under the pretzel cart.

    Perlson -- Oooh, look who's the spokesperson for the testicled now. Congratulations. Now tell the internet what you went shopping for last weekend.

  8. Does Kara become the "Lou Ferrigno Hulk" or the "Edward Norton" Hulk? Just wondering...

    Also, I'm now curious as to what Perlson went shopping for last weekend... Spill it.

  9. Pjmom -- OK, I'll answer for him. Mr. Testicle went fancy purse shopping last weekend. Nothing screams testosterone like fancy purses.