By Jack Cumming
Most SLF readers know that I’m 85 years old and a resident in a CCRC. Today (actually it’s July 27th as I write this) I’m in Denver to attend the Pioneer Network Conference.
Most SLF readers also know that travel in the summer of 2022 is “complicated.” Today was no exception, but it all has a happy ending. There can be humor in misery, and I’m laughing now in the air-conditioned comfort of my hotel room.
Perhaps I shouldn’t share this, but my wife and I like Big Brother. Its watchword is “expect the unexpected.” I like the show because it’s so much like corporate politics. Some people have an innate talent for advancing themselves. Others, though, lag perhaps because their ability makes them a threat. The analogy, though, with travel lies in that simple phrase “expect the unexpected.”
To The Airport.
Imagine this. No sooner did I hit the interstate on the way to the airport than an urgent call of nature arose, and I mean urgent. Off at the next exit, mercifully I found relief. Back on the interstate, a jerk cut in front of me and slammed on his brakes. Luckily, those new antilock brakes did their magic, and I stopped with maybe six inches of leeway.
Phew. Then, the reason for the near miss. Carplay announced “accident” and indicated a 20-minute delay, which soon grew to 30 minutes. Suddenly, the extra time I’d allowed was disappearing. Deep breath. You can’t change the inevitable, so go with the flow.
Passing the accident scene is something I’d rather not have seen, but I arrived at the airport, Lindbergh Field in San Diego, with 15 minutes before boarding and a bag to check. Because of construction, only valet parking is now allowed at the terminal. Much confusion with drop-offs and double parking. Finally, an airport official told me that the valet is at the far end of the terminal.
All goes smoothly, and I race into the terminal, only to be told that my check-in is late so my bag might not make the flight. More stress in what was becoming a high-stress day. Thank heavens for Apple AirTag.
On to the gate (thank you, TSA trusted traveler qualification). Happy times. I find a seat near the Southwest Air lineup. You can imagine my relief to find that my bag is on the plane. That AirTag earned its keep in a flash. The loudspeaker blares that we should line up, and I do. A youngster jumps into my vacated seat. My legs ache with the standing. I check to find my valet parking ticket to put in my wallet, but it’s gone. Nowhere to be found. More panic.
With my mind racing about what to do about the lost ticket, boarding begins. The kid gets out of the seat, and lo and behold, there beneath the seat is what looks like the valet ticket. I give up my place in line, drop down and fish for the ticket. Mirabile dictu, success, it is the lost ticket. More relief. Life is good.
The flight is awesome. There’s a 45-minute delay getting off the ground but I have a page-turner on my Kindle so no problem. Miraculously, no one takes the middle seat. A happy flight. We land in Denver, and I’m reminded that space was no limitation when they built that airport.
The airport designers took full advantage of the boundless prairie so that passengers could get their daily quotient of exercise just navigating the place, and that’s without the train ride. Baggage claim is no exception to the age indifference of the human experience at DIA/DEN. There are no seats while waiting. By now, my aging legs were in agony.
Fortunately, my bag arrived (I now love Apple AirTag), and I found a parked airport cart to sit in while updating my rideshare info and regaining “go” for my aching legs. After that recuperating rest, I went to the outer lane of five where there was a line of perhaps 20 rideshare cars waiting for passengers.
After requesting a ride in the app, I was told that Kevin was ready for me and that I had one minute to find him from the lineup. That, too, was another adventure. The clock was ticking, but Kevin found me since he had my picture from Lyft. Life began to get better.
Kevin turned out to be a fascinating person, and it was good getting to know him on the drive into the city. There was heavy traffic, but that’s minor in the scheme of things, and it allowed more time to get to know Kevin. The hotel’s drop-off point is no longer the hotel entrance (that was across the street and down the block) but again that, too, was minor.
Our journey neared its end, getting better. Entering the hotel, I check the Bonvoy app to see if my virtual room key is ready. No luck. Sheraton still has work to do with its technology. But, at the desk, Jocelyn takes over and gets all in order. Jocelyn is the redeeming grace for Sheraton’s brand. Moreover, the hotel employees seem to have high morale which is an indicator that the local hotel manager must be topnotch. Sheraton, take note.
There’s a long trek from the elevator to my room, and from the elevators to the conference rooms, which is difficult for aging legs. Still, the conference is about old people. It’s not for them, or of them, so I can’t complain.
Does this travel day sound familiar to you? Welcome to 2022. All’s well that ends well. Yes, there is a God, and she was there for me every aching step of the way.