10:15 a.m. EST - Arrive at PVD for a 12:19 flight. This is my first flight since 9/11, and I'm a bit nervous about the stricter procedures. The check-in line for US Air is short, only about 5 people ahead of me in the e-ticket line, but at the end of the line was an unexpected touch screen, US Air trying to make things more efficient. You have to slide a credit card to prove your identity, then enter the number of the ticket, and then you choose your seat and such. First problem, the company I work for has made my reservation in my name, but without either my middle initial or the suffix that follows it, so the computer refuses to acknowledge that the person with the credit card is the same person that the ticket was issued to. Not much of a problem, but I can't use the touchscreen. The attendant checks me in the old fashioned way. My shiny new ticket says my flight will be leaving from Gate 3.
10:30 a.m. EST - The line for the security check point is short, and moves rapidly. My watch and spare change are in my briefcase, and I've carefully put any sharp objects in my checked luggage, so I breeze through. They don't even ask me to prove that my battered old laptop actually works. There are armed security personnel in evidence, wearing police style uniforms.
11:30 a.m. EST - The security police clear everyone sitting in one small area of our gate, chat with each other about security police type stuff for awhile, then let everybody back in.
12:20 p.m. EST - Flight leaves on time. I'm in an aisle seat, across the aisle from JR. We congratulate each other that our sales manager isn't seated anywhere near us. The captain makes an announcement that since we are flying into Washington National, nobody will be allowed to leave their seats for the last thirty minutes of the flight.
12:40 p.m. EST - Flight attendant hands me a small plastic cup of coca cola, and a small bag of pretzels, i.e. what the airline considers a light lunch.
12:45 p.m. EST - I manage to knock the glass of coke over, dumping most of the contents onto the tray table, and from there into my lap. Luckily, there were only a few ounces of coke in the glass when it was full, so I am not completely soaked. However, the single teeny napkin provide is inadequate for the task of cleanup, so I grab the pile of napkins JR had managed to talk the flight attendant out of earlier, and clean up the tray table.
12:50 p.m. EST - I go to the lavatory to clean up the coke I dumped on myself. As I'm washing my hands, I suddenly remember that we're still flying into Washington National, and that I have to be in my seat with my hands folded in front of me thirty minutes before we land. I'm concerned because we're pretty near the thirty minute point, and being shot by a sky marshall would just ruin my day. Fortunately, the captain does not make the announcement until I've managed to get back to my seat.
1:25 p.m. EST - We arrive at Washington National and deplane. According to the monitor, our connecting flight to New Orleans will depart at 3:30 from gate 37, and is on time. I check my ticket, and sure enough, it says gate 37. Yay! It also says the flight leaves at 3:00. Whatever. We find a sports bar near the gate, where we watch Duke play Notre Dame while we have lunch.
2:45 p.m. EST - Because of the flight security rules for flights out of Washington National, the personnel announcing the flights are constantly reminding people to go to the lavatory before they board the plane. It's just like what Mom and Dad used to do before we went on trips.
3:10 p.m. EST - They still haven't begun to let us on the plane for the flight to New Orleans. One thing I notice is that I haven't seen a single uniformed security officer in the hour and a half that we've been here. This strikes me as odd in an airport for which the outgoing flight path goes right between the Pentagon and The Lincoln Memorial.
3:20 p.m. EST - They begin to board the plane. Our sales manager decides to tease the person who is checking our picture IDs as we board about a mistake she made while announcing the flight. I'm hoping she'll be annoyed enough to pull him aside for a body cavity search, but she just laughs. Rats.
4:00 p.m. EST - They still haven't closed the door yet, and I can see maintenance people in the cockpit. The pilot announces that a warning light is showing, and they're trying to figure out if it's a real problem, or just a bad bulb.
4:30 p.m. EST - Pilot says they're working on it, but it'll be awhile, so feel free to wander about the cabin. Bunch of people get up to use the lavatory. I guess they missed all those announcements in the terminal earlier. There are now people standing in the aisle chatting away. This is annoying, because I'm trying to read, and there's some guy looming over me in the aisle. Also, it's like ninety in the plane.
4:45 p.m. EST - I glance over, and notice that the guy who's been in the aisle looming over me is standing there with his belt unbuckled, with his pants unbuttoned and partially unzipped. This is way more than I needed to know, so I stare intently at my book again.
5:00 p.m. EST - Pilot says they've worked out the problem, but in the meantime the wind has shifted, and since we're now going to take off in the direction of the Pentagon, we're overweight and they have to offload some fuel. Since that won't leave us with enough fuel to get to New Orleans, we'll be making a quick pit stop in Greensboro, NC.
6:15 p.m. EST - On the ground in Greensboro, plane is refueled, and that pesky light is back on again. Pilot doesn't feel comfortable flying this particular aircraft anymore, so we're going to transfer to that plane sitting there at the next gate. After they get it ready.
6:30 p.m. EST - Security at Greensboro is National Guardsmen with M-16s. I decide to be very polite.
8:00 p.m. EST - In the air, the flight attendants give us two bags of pretzels and a can of coke for our trouble.
10:30 p.m. CST - In New Orleans finally, we get a cab to our hotel in the quarter. On the ride in, sales manager decides to engage the cab driver in conversation ("So what's it like to be a cab driver in New Orleans?"). We find out everything we ever wanted to know about the politics of getting a medallion in NOLA and then some, along with a nice little diatribe about those people, you know, the ones who get away with murder. Sales manager asks one last question of the cabbie as we arrive at the hotel on Bourbon Street. "So, are there any good places to eat around here?"
In other news, I'm listening to music on my headphones, and I can hear my roommate snoring over the music. Sigh...