Don’t fuck with Baltimore, I’m here to tell you. Literally. Here. Stuck.
After talking all kinds of shit about Baltimore in my last entry and on the phone with Beth and over lunch and dinner with the coworker I’m out here with… Well, apparently Baltimore didn’t take too kindly to it. And so to punish me, Baltimore has made me stay. Technically I’m in Herndon, VA, at the Dulles Airport Hilton, but figuratively I’m still in Baltimore.
First I got hung up at work and didn’t leave when I planned. My flight was at 7:03 and my hit-the-road-at-4:00 plan would have gotten me there, only I didn’t leave until about 4:30. Then I couldn’t find the frickin’ airport. Three thousand fucking highways they have here — all ending in 95 (95, 495, 695, 395, etc.), by the way — and they can’t put a fucking sign up on any of them saying “This way to the airport”? Then I finally pulled a cop over (Ha — I pulled him over instead of vice versa. Who’da thunk it?) to ask for help and the fucker gives me directions that have me getting off the 495 about a mile before a huge (and the only) big-ass sign saying “This way to the airport” and instead going 20 minutes out of my way in crawling bumper-to-bumper traffic. Then I finally got going the right way and got stopped by every red light on the way to return my rental car. Then the rental car shuttle driver decided he needed to stare into space for ten minutes while a busload of people waited before finally driving over to the terminal. And as a result of all that, I got to the check-in counter for my 7:03 flight at about 6:40 and the agent wouldn’t check me in — I had missed the 30 minute cut-off. And this was their last flight of the day.
But I’m an intrepid traveler. A little thing like missing the last flight doesn’t stop me. So I took my ticket over to United, who had a flight to LA in two hours, to see about trading it in over there. First I had to wait in a short line to speak to an agent. But we were waiting because of the amateur-hour traveler at the counter, who was unpacking and repacking and unpacking and repacking all of her overstuffed bags in a vain attempt to distribute her voluminous piles of crap across her multiple bags in a such a way that every single one of them wouldn’t be subject to an over-weight penalty fee. And after waiting for about 15 minutes, another agent finally called me over and then interrupted me halfway into my “I missed my American flight and want to see if I can trade my ticket in here” spiel to tell me that I needed to go to the ticketing window on the other side of the kiosk. So first I headed off in the direction she pointed, and 50 yards later discovered there was no exit in that direction and I had to go the other way. So I walked the 50 yards back, and then another 10 yards to go around the other end of the kiosk, only to find a line 100 people long. So I got in line. And waited. And waited. And waited. And finally I stepped out of line and got pushy and interrupted someone and asked another agent if she could at least check to see if there were any open seats on the LA flight so I’d know if waiting to trade my ticket in was a waste of time or not. Her response? Oh, you’re in the wrong line. You need go to ticketing, 50 yards down on this side of the kiosk.
So I headed over there and got in the right line. A short line, just three or four people in front of me. But we were waiting on the world’s stupidest ticketing agent who was helping the world’s second stupidest passenger (the world’s first stupidest passenger was on the other side of the kiosk packing and repacking her bags) with some incredibly complicated ticketing scenario that involved much staring into space and listening to the telephone and generally ignoring the growing line of passengers needing help. And when I finally got to the counter to do my spiel about trading my ticket in, the agent interrupted me about 5 words in to say that he wouldn’t (wouldn’t, not couldn’t) take it because American hadn’t “endorsed” it. So I was fucked. Stuck at Dulles Airport.
Back to American, where they put me on the stand-by list for the first flight out tomorrow at 7:55. But stand-by, not confirmed, which means I might not get on the flight at all. Only way to know for sure is to show up in the morning — 90 minutes early — and cross my fingers. But I was in luck: they could get me a distressed passenger rate at the Embassy Suites: only $130. Such a deal. And they’ll even send a shuttle for me. Just go half a mile to the shuttle area and wait — it’ll be there in 20 minutes.
45 minutes later, after watching shuttles for every hotel under the sun — including friggin’ low rent Days Inn — come and go with no sign of the Embassy Suites shuttle, I gave up. I called Hilton — because their shuttle had come and gone four times by that point — and worked the system. I used my high-level frequent flier Hilton status and 25,000 of my carefully hoarded Hilton points for a complimentary room. So it was free, only not really.
So here I am at the Hilton. But the fun hasn’t stopped yet. First, I’m starving, so I wanted to order some room service. Only guess what? There wasn’t a menu in my room. But no problem, the front desk will send one up in 5 minutes. 20 minutes later it got here. So I ordered some food but balked at their $2.00 price for a soft drink. Instead, I asked them to send the server up with change for a $5 so I could get a drink from the machine down the hall. The food got here pretty quickly but the server didn’t have my singles. Too bad for him: no tip for you!
So I grabbed my five, grabbed my room key, and headed down to the bar to get change. I came back upstairs and found the Coke machine was behind a locked door that my room key wouldn’t open, and it took me a minute to figure out why. When I first came into my room I had thrown my room key on the counter by the door, along with the three room keys I forgot to turn in when I checked out of my other hotel this morning. Three guesses which room key I took downstairs with me. Meanwhile, my food is up in my room that I can’t get into, getting cold.
Back down to the front desk for a new room key. Only guess what? No ID — that’s in the room too, and the desk clerk wants to see it before he’ll give me a key. I finally convinced him I was me by answering a number of security-type questions, the trickiest of which was: “What’s your last name?”
Back upstairs and into the heavily guarded Coke machine room. I feed my dollar bills into the machine and begin to make my selection. I want a Diet Pepsi, and wonder of wonders this machine has Pepsi products. It has several bottles of regular Pepsi and one bottle of what looks like it might be Diet Pepsi, only the label is turned away from me so I can’t read it. But it has a different colored cap and there’s a Pepsi logo on the back label, so I figured it’s a Diet Pepsi. So I buy it. And a Lipton Brisk Lemon Iced Tea comes out. I gave up. I took it.
So now I’m fed and watered and internetted and watching TV and about to be bedded down for the night in a bed rather than on the floor at the airport, so things could be worse. But on the other hand, there’s a long black non-pubic hair clinging to the toilet rim in my bathroom right now — and I’m bald. So Baltimore clearly still has me in its crosshairs.
But what the fuck. I’m in another hotel, so here’s the requisite “View From Here” picture, the view from Herndon, VA:
And a new feature I think I’m going to start doing, “The Room From Here” — what the room looks like when I first check in, before I turn it into a pigsty. So here’s tonight’s room:
Don’t fuck with Baltimore. Seriously.