Preventing Five Hours of Mind-Numbing Boredom

Last week I went to San Diego for work. The trip was nice, got some good work-type stuff accomplished in San Diego while in-the-office work stuff threatened to completely fall apart. Always fun to be out of the office when you’re really needed there. The weather was perfect as it tends to be in San Diego, and the company was delightful.

Still, I was ready to be back home on Friday afternoon when it came time to leave. My flight plan was a 5:45 p.m. from San Diego to San Francisco, a three-hour layover and then the red eye back home. Both planes looked incredibly packed when I checked in online, but I managed to get an economy-plus upgrade for the red eye. More about that later.

When I finished at the meeting, I grabbed a quick lunch in the hotel restaurant and decided to play Amazing Race to get home. I headed to the airport early, threw myself on the mercy of the counter agent and asked what other options there were to get to Philadelphia before 7 AM the next day. She thought it was doable so put me on the next flight to SFO and told me to take my chances there on a slightly earlier flight east. She also gave me new seating assignments, both in economy plus.

The first leg was a middle seat but the flight was short and I was exhausted so I slept and didn’t care. Maybe the middle seat was a sign of things about to take a downward turn. Because when I got to SFO, the ticket agents chuckled at my getting out earlier. There was nothing. I had my seat on the red eye and that’s how I was getting home. The flight, however, didn’t board for FIVE MORE HOURS!!!

It may have been enough time to get to the city and back to the airport, but I knew I’d feel rushed and didn’t feel like dealing with lugging my luggage all over. So I camped out at the airport.

I did find what may be the only airport restaurant that serves food made on the premises rather than shipped in and reheated. Yankee Pier. I had a fine New England chowder and salad. And the staff was actually pleasant. The meal killed 45 minutes. I ate slow.

Then I wandered around the terminals. Like most airports, SFO has art displays. Have you ever looked at them? I mean, really looked at them like the art they are. Not just glanced at them as you raced to your connecting flight or to baggage claim. Terminal 3, where I took up residence, had an exhibit about space and pop culture in the early 50s and 60s. It was interesting and killed another 30-45 minutes. I read everything. And took pictures.

Then I wandered through every shop in the terminal, buying nothing. This was followed by 90 minutes sitting against a wall while charging the phone and reading about the Zodiac murders. Hey, they took place in San Francisco and the guy was never caught. Great, the killer has just seen me reading about him and will now follow me home and kill me.  Boredom does strange things to the mind, people.

The rest of the time passed in a haze. I think I bought and drank a bottle of water. There may have been some Tylenol and Chips Ahoy. Finally, I got to board. I was so excited to be sitting down on the plane and looked forward to five hours of sleep. Whoo hoo, the ticket agent hooked me up with an exit row and a window that I can lean against. Oh sweet sweet sleep. Oh crap. The seat doesn’t recline because there’s another exit row behind me. And the plane was showing Speed Racer so even if I could fall asleep sitting completely upright, the epilepsy-inducing visuals of the movie would flash through my eyelids and wake me up every 4.9 seconds. Swell.

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