Observations of a (No Longer) Dormant Traveler

So I was fortunate to attend a conference this past week for the main software I support at work.  Said conference took place in beautiful Marietta, GA.  But this post is going to reflect on the travel-related portion of said trip!

Now, based on my older posts here, you know I used to have significant business travel in my career.  Not so with this new job, this was my first trip.  And overall it was not that bad and, let’s face it, conferences are pretty cool.  Free food, free alcohol, and you get to chat with mutual software users and they offer lots of dirt!  So, as far as business traveling goes, this is top of the list.

It started fairly early Wednesday at DFW Airport, Terminal E.  I have to say this leg was pretty uneventful until I went to security.  I am used to FLYING through security at DFW – 5 minutes tops – so I was surprised that the security for the Spirit Airlines area was LONG!  45 minutes long!  I almost got nervous, except for the fact I am pretty anal about getting to the airport early (can I say anal here?) so the safety buffer I usually build in saved me.  But while in line I saw some interesting things.

First, there was an older couple being dropped off by their middle aged son (and I can say that, because I will admit, he was around MY age.  And yes, I am slowly accepting I am middle aged).  They were Spanish nationals based on the passports I viewed as they said their goodbyes before the security line (which ran about 50 feet from the actual security area) lead into the roped off area.  But what REALLY caught my eye was the mother, who was fighting valiantly not to cry, but instead silently sobbed, her body racking with spasms, as her son and husband discussed the details of the upcoming roped off maze of the security line in Spanish.  My heart soared with compassion and pity for this woman as I imagined her thinking this may be the last time she will be able to see her son, as she and her husband were obviously in their late 70’s and may not be able to make the long flight again.  Her son and husband seemed oblivious to her pain, though it was not malicious, nor was her tears dramatic in nature.  I watched her anguish evolve with each bend of the security line, as we passed each other every few minutes, and wanted to reach out and whisper, “Entiendo (I understand).”  Over and over this overcame me, as I silently prayed for the peace of the Lord to touch her love and her heart, until at last I was distracted with the busy tasks of loading my items onto the actual conveyor of security.  My heart melted as I saw her son standing just on the other side of the rope, having waited for nearly an hour, saying one last goodbye to his parents, especially to his mother.

The emotions didn’t last long as I realized I was pretty darn close to calling time for my plane boarding, so warm feelings and all aside, Gina got her butt to my gate.  And I have to say, “Budget Spirit Airlines” do some things right, but I give a shout out to Johnny for whatever he did to get us in Zone 1 and in the emergency lane on the plane!  EASY, CHEESY!  But the airline otherwise, well, is “very different”.  EVERYTHING costs extra!  Want to check in at the airport and print your boarding pass there?  $5.  Want some water during the flight?  Pass the moolah!  Seriously!  But the plane itself was very nice and the flight was on time.

Johnny, who actually didn’t make this trip after all, warned me about the size and perceived chaos of Atlanta Airport and how to make my way to the rental car area.  It was very helpful, and I survived without a scratch!  Thanks Johnny!  I was able to drive to my company’s Atlanta plant and meet some of the people I support on a daily basis and also received an amazing tour of the manufacturing facility.  Then, to the beautiful Marietta Hilton for my stay and conference!  And it also included historical Brumby Hall & Gardens!

This hotel is quite beautiful actually!  And I have nothing but great things to say about almost EVERYTHING – the art lining the walls throughout, the decor, the meeting rooms, the hotel rooms themselves, the food, the staff, the city golf course that I was able to view from my room each day……the list goes on!  The only downside was that, at least on my floor, there was NO insolation between rooms!  Night one was tough as I had an all night TV watcher and 2am phone converser.  Night two was quiet and nice!  πŸ™‚

One snag – a flat tire on my rental car.  Did you know if you waive the rental car insurance, flat tires are not covered?  I didn’t know that, either.  And I still can’t lift due to my surgery, and who wants to change a freaking tire anyway?  So $49 bucks later, it was changed.  I am very blessed with this, however, because it could have come to my attention right when I NEEDED to leave for the airport!  However, by the Grace of God, I was compelled to take my luggage out to the car at 7:15am and saw the tire.  So it was easy to get someone out, attend the last day of the conference, and there was really not much stress added.

Now, heading home was a bit stressful, at least a little bit.  The address of the rental car facility was NOT the “real” location of the return area.  Caused a bit of a stressful moment, but fortunately I found a security guard at the “mailing address” to give me some directions.  I gave myself a HUGE buffer going home as Johnny laid out the security structure of Atlanta and what not.  So it wasn’t too scary once I got in the airport.  What WAS scary were the men travelers!  I mean SERIOUSLY, they were, how shall I say this?  RUDE!  I have never been man handled, pushed, bumped, or otherwise trampled upon more in my life!  And I’ve been to Europe and Russia!  I was SHOCKED!  In fact, a man actually pushed me aside so that he could get on the airport tram ahead of me!  And all the limited seats on the tram were filled with YOUNG men as woman stood around.  Maybe I am just old fashioned, but even I won’t sit down if there is an older couple standing.  Now, let me say that I do NOT think these were “Atlanta Men”, but travelers in this airport.  Maybe they didn’t know about the security or were stressed about missing their planes, but I was very discouraged about the lack of chivalry across the board during my route to Terminal D.

One amazing realization really happened twice on this trip – the TSA is not as concerned about some things as I expected.  First flight, I realized I had packed a small Purell container that I did NOT put in the “liquid bag” for screening, but it did not raise any problem.  Going home, I didn’t realize a gift that was handed out at the conference contained liquid, which also was packed and didn’t raise a flag.  Fortunately, it didn’t hold things up and no harm, no foul.  But I would still recommend you follow the rules!  πŸ™‚  Said from the person years ago who had carried a fork in her purse through 3 airports with no problem, even unaware it was there, and almost got arrested in Mexico when they found it.  πŸ™‚

So Gina is safe and sound and hanging with her family!  And she can now share all sort of great ideas for the software, don’t forget about that!  πŸ™‚

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