Sunday, April 9, 2017

Meet Me in St. Louis ... er.. Orlando

So a couple of weeks ago, I flew to Orlando, via Chicago, to attend a software conference.  This was a totally new experience for me.  Not the travel part, longtime fans know all about my adventures (and the medical procedures that resulted from same).  No, the conference part was the new experience.  I'm sure I've mentioned that I'm an introvert.  Not to be mistaken for being shy, the Paxil takes care of most of that.  Introvertedness has more to do with energy, how you spend it and how you recharge.  After spending a large amount of time with people, especially large groups of people I don't know, I'm physically exhausted and I need to be alone to recharge.  I can't say that I totally understood it myself until I started reading up on it.

But anyway, as I'd written about before, I was supposed to go with three other people.  Then it was announced that we were under a travel ban, for all unnecessary travel.  So the next thing I know is that the three people going with me were no longer going with me.  This was no big deal, I've traveled by myself before, but there were nerves, of course, but it wouldn't have been me without them.

My flight left Evansville at 6 am, the butt-crack of dawn.  The airport was surprisingly busy considering the hour.  Now here is the big question:  Did Rose get stopped for extra screening by security?  HA!  Trick question!  Of course she did!  I got pulled aside to have my hands wiped to test for residue of explosive materials.  I'm guessing that I must just look suspicious.  (I've since learned that putting hand lotion can set off whatever.)  I'm told that it is 100% random, and I do not believe that at all.  It happens with too much regularity to be random.  But it has convinced me to look into the TSA pre-screening thing.  But that's neither here nor there. 

I knew that since I was flying domestic that even though I might have to trek all over O'Hare for my connecting flight, that that one time should be the only security event I'd have that day.  And I'm happy to say that I was correct!  The flights went well, I slept for most of them, and I arrived in beautiful Orlando about 1-ish.  I had to find and wait for my checked luggage and then I had to find the rental car area, get the car, find the car, and then find my hotel.  Easy peasy, right?  Well, yes, but I have to say that at this point, I would not have minded having someone with me.  

The rental car didn't have GPS, so if Jesus was my co-pilot, Siri was my navigator and they (btw, Siri is a man with a British accent on my phone), got me out of the airport complex, to a Wendy's for water and nuggets, and then to the hotel safely.  The only damage being a very strong headache.  I've been struggling with tension headaches lately, but this wasn't the usual.

The conference was very good.  Several of the breakout sessions were nothing but thinly veiled sales pitches for programs we didn't have and I couldn't care less about, but outside of those, I got some good information.  Of course, each evening, I ended up back in the hotel room, with my laptop trying to catch up on the work I'd missed that day.  Every evening except...

One evening, the conference rented out Universal Studios Marvel Adventure Island for us.  Just us, and by us I mean three buses of about 50 people each.  The rides, all three of them, were open, the gift shops, the food and drink places were open and no charge.  There were bars set up about every 100 feet.  It was nice.  I, the introvert, really just wanted to be in my hotel room, but I forced myself to go.  This was another time during which it would have been nice to have someone there with me.  I rode one ride - the "mild" ride - Spider-Man.  After almost pooping my pants during said "mild" ride, I new that the rides were out.   I did roam around the gift shops, duh!, but while I like Marvel movies in general, I am not a big fan of any one of them in particular enough to actually buy their stuff.  Now, had there been a Batman gift shop....

There were characters wondering around - Spider-Man, Wolverine, two of the Fantastic Four.  The only one that I cared to get my pic with, and that was only because he didn't insist on standing in a stupid pose during the pics, was Captain America.  Still my least favorite Avenger, but he was nice.  We had been told that the first bus back to the hotel would leave at 9:30 (2 hrs after dropping us off), so I roamed around catching Pok√©mon until it was time to find the bus.

The conference was over at noon on Thursday.  My flight out of Orlando left at 4:20 on Friday afternoon.  I originally had thoughts of finding a beach (per Google, there are like 5 within a hours' drive of Orlando) but I was tired and wanted to go home to my babies.  So I attempted to change my flight - first to the 4:20 flight on Thursday, and then, having found it to be overbooked, to 9:00 on Friday morning.  There were seats available on that flight, but to change them would have cost $400 and since I figured Berry was paying much less for me to leave at 4:20 pm, it would be best to stay put.

Friday morning, I slept in, and leisurely packed my bags.  I didn't have to be at the airport until mid-afternoon, but since I had nothing else to do, I decided to start heading over there.  Found my way there, turned in the car, went to go check in my luggage and discovered that they don't check in luggage for flights that leave more than 4 hours away.  At that point it was 6 hrs away, so I found myself a chair near a USB port and watched Dr. Strange on my iPad, all the while watching the line to get through security grow longer and longer.  Finally I could check in my luggage and get in line for security.

Security.  We can play the game again, but what's the point?  Of course I was pulled aside.  This time it was because the sweater I was wearing had metallic thread threaded through it top to bottom.  So, I'm happy to say that I may now be engaged to a TSA agent.  If not, she at least got to second base as she frisked me, maybe third.  But, it was just once - I wouldn't have to go through security again in Chicago.

I sat and watch Dr. Who for the four hours until we boarded.  The flight was fine.  We even got to O'Hare early!  My luck stopped there.  As we landed, I looked to see if my boarding pass had a gate number on it.  It did not.  So I looked on the big screen.  The big screen said that my flight which was supposed to leave at 8pm, was leaving at 6am.  Well, that had to be a typo, right?  I asked a very nice woman at a miscellaneous gate - she confirmed it was not a typo, but told me that another airline had a flight to Evansville leaving at 9:30p, so I should go to customer service and they might get me on that flight.  I did.  They couldn't.  They put me up in a hotel, gave me vouchers for dinner and breakfast.  I had to trek a country mile to get to the shuttle, and keep in mind that I'm in Chicago where it happened to be under 32 degrees, and I'd come from 80 degree I'm not dressed appropriately.

It was next to impossible to sleep, worrying about getting up in time to be at the airport for a 6am flight, you know, so I gave up and got up.  I got to the airport, and security.  Now remember, I checked my luggage, so I am wearing the same clothes as the day before; and recall that the day before, I was thoroughly frisked by a TSA agent.  Sigh..  I mentally prepared myself for another intimate encounter with security.  Needless to say, my determination to investigate that pre-screening stuff was only strengthened.

The flight finally lifted off.  I slept the entire way.  Baby Blue was safely parked in the long term parking where I left her and I made it home.  The livestock greeted me at the elevator door, and after talking to mom a few minutes, I crawled into bed.  Other than waking up for lunch, I slept until about 4 that afternoon.  Even now, several weeks later, just typing about it is making me yawn!  I think I might go have a nap.