Monday, September 11, 2006

Shotgun at 33,000 feet?

Sounds like a title of some movie thriller. However, we are not talking about anything that the TSA or some trigger happy air marshal would have a problem with. Let's review the leadup.

We're at the Chicago Heavyweights Tournament (normal writeup to occur later, perhaps after I finally get to the ECC writeup). Seigs and I flew in Friday afternoon on Airtran to Midway. After an hour delay, we landed at 4:15PM. We had to pick up Paul V. and 7:15 at Midway, so we had some time to kill. Our return flights were at 7PM Sunday night. I had checked the schedule, and the finals were supposed to be capped at 4:30. I estimated we could return the rental car by 5:30PM. The National rental car line was HUGE, so Seigs and I took the bus straight to the lot (I had an Emerald Aisle reservation). At the lot, we asked what their 'grace' period was (how much time you have after your 24 hour allotment before they charge you another day) and they said 20 minutes down from an hour. It was 4:30PM, so we had to wait until 5:10-5:15. We got into a sporty car and settled down for a little bit, before I realized we were in the premium car slot, not the intermediate. A boxy Chevy HHR showed up, and we moved to that car. For the next half hour, we did a lot of 'back in the day' discussion before we pulled out about 5:15. We drove around aimlessly, looking for something that might have free WI-FI before we gave up and saw a liquor store/restaurant combination. Had dinner and then drove to the airport to pick up Paul, who was also slightly delayed. Picked him up, and then got to the hotel about 8:30, got a room, then all 3 of us whipped out laptops and nerded for the next hour before doing groceries. Highlights of the grocery trip was Seigs purchasing a 4-pack of large bran muffins, then finishing 2 of them in the car on the 4 minute ride to the hotel, and another one in the room. Impressive.

OK, now we have the setup.

We make the finals against Sub-Zero. There is some discussion about extending the time cap because of a slightly late start, but we squelch that because of the number of 7PM flights. I'm less concerned about missing the flight than I am about missing the 5:30 drop off and paying for a 3rd day, figuring we have the flight in hand. Zero takes half 8-7, we break twice coming out, some more breaks back and forth before we pull out the game 14-12. I had already asked Adam Goff for the quickest way to get to I-55. Quick post-game huddle, then O'Dowd wants us to hang out for the trophy presentation. The 3 of us say sorry, gotta run, and grab our bags and start jogging go the car. We get to the car, and on the road. Leaving the parking lot, I have to blow by one car who is going along the dirt road about 5 miles per hour, and they have the gall to honk at me. We get on the main road, pull into a gas station, and then zip onto the highway. I'm driving pretty aggressively as we are watching the clock. 5:25 we reach the airport exist, and then realize we have to drive through actual city streets instead of a dedicated exit straight to the airport. Nasty traffic, I have to pull of some more shenanigans, and we get to the rental return at 5:35 and there are 4 cars ahead of us. The guy finally gets to us and I start explaining how we were there at 5:35, and I know we are on the hairy edge... He scans the car barcode, and says you made it no problem.

Now we get to the actual airport around 6PM. Logan from Slow White is already on line and informs us that our flight is delayed until 8:56. And that was fortunate for us, because AirTrans was a disaster. The computers weren't working so everything was manual, which stunk for me because I wasn't checking a bag but still had to wait in line. Took AT LEAST a half hour to process us through the line (Seigs and Paul were checking bags). Get our tickets only to find that we haven't been assigned a seat so they tell us to go to the gate to get a seat. Then security is a disaster, disorganized and long. I finesse the lines and get through about 15 minutes ahead of Seigs and Paul, so I go to the gate (4B). I'm a little nervous about the B, and my fears are confirmed, as gates 4 A and B are down this LONG spinoff corridor feels like a quarter mile. I'm carrying a heavy bag, and bumming that I'm going to have to walk back down this corridor to get to the food area for some celebratory beers. The woman at the end of the corridor says that she can't give me a seat yet, as they are waiting for some people to NOT check in, so I'm a little worried now and I have to wait here in the middle of nowhere instead of going back to the bar. And I'm STARVING, as I had almost no lunch.

Seigs and Paul show up, as Seigs had the same seat issue, and Paul was flying to Atlanta, and his flight was supposed to be leaving soon. We wait about 10 minutes, and all of a sudden (seems like 7:15 or so), they announce boarding for the Boston flight!?! The woman waves me over, so I go to get my seat. I get seat 1D, grab my bag and walk down the hall onto the plane. Sure enough, they have given me a seat in first class. I figure Seigs will probably get the same, and he walks in a minute later with seat 2C, also in first class. We laud each other, I switch seats with his partner so we can sit together, and proceed to celebrate. I start with a rum and diet coke, Seigs with an Amstel Light. As we are sitting there, I'm realizing that Logan hasn't walked on the plane yet, and that they are probably at the bar. I mention that I with I had Logan's cell #, Seigs says he has a contact, calls them at the bar and tells them to run, the flight is boarding. They show up out of breath a couple of minutes later, and inform us that the gate agent said they were very lucky, they had kept the door open 10 minutes longer than expected. Immediately after they get on, the plane pulls away from the gate.

The plane takes off, we get another round, this time both Amstel Light. We toast our victory. A little later, another round. Chelsea (from Slow White), comes up to thank us some more and talk to us for awhile. While she is there, I come up with the idea of getting a final round and doing a shotgun on the plane by the rest of her seatmates in the back and hopefully inspire them to do the same (purchasing their beer, of course). Fortunately the attendants had been providing the beer unopened. I get two beers, we bring them to the back along with a camera and digital video recorder, and sure enough, we gun away. Success! And there was much celebration. I'm still trying to extract the video, although it is pretty dark except for the picture flash. Naturally, I smoked Seigs. You can hear Teddy complaining in the video that Seigs soaked him. Note Seigs wet hands

Final coda to the story. We land around 11PM and of course are the first few off the plane. I have my bag so I go straight to the taxi stand, grab a taxi to Sullivan Square where I have secreted a car in the only non permit parking in that area, drive home and get there around 11:45PM. Just as I enter the house, I get a text message from Seigs saying 'Checking was a very bad idea.' I'm assuming he was still at the airport at that point. My understanding is that a number of other teammates had badly delayed flights also, including some that didn't LEAVE until midnight. Don't know yet if anybody had to stay overnight.

So, despite some frantic scurrying and almost problems, a successful trip.

Tournament summary to follow soon.

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