I have a feeling today's column on airline travel is nothing new to most readers. I'll bet everybody has had a plane-trip-from-hell experience. In fact, while enduring mine over the weekend, along with a planeload of other disgruntled passengers who were trapped at the Washington, D.C., airport, I heard them all.
Now there's one more. Mine.
The trip from SFO to National was uneventful -- five hours cramped into a space the size of metal straitjacket (but not as comfortable). I spent a wonderful weekend at our nation's capital doing an event at the International Spy Museum for a bunch of wannabe spies who were eager to learn secret codes, crack cryptic messages, search for "dead drops," locate the clues and return to base to open the lock box filled with spy gear (invisible ink pens.)
After choosing their codes names (Agent Scooby-Doo, Double-oh-Twelve, Bond/Trevor Bond, and I-Heart-Harry Stiles), the kids put on their disguises (furry mustaches and washable tattoos), and were ready for their mission. By the end of the two-hour event, they'd found the enigma machine, broken the alphanumeric code and couldn't wait to unlock the lockbox.
Unfortunately, the lock box wouldn't open and had to be broken into with box cutters. So much for authentic espionage. But the minis-spies had a ball and will no doubt work for the FBI, CIA, NSA or S.H.I.E.L.D someday.
Mission accomplished, it was time to head home. But the 18-hour experience was enough to make me give up flying forever. We woke up at 5 a.m. (2 a.m. Pacific time) in plenty of time to make the 8 a.m. flight. After boarding the plane and contorting myself into to my allotted space, I relaxed as the plane took off. Moments later I heard the captain say, "I have some bad news."
Hijacking? Fire in the hole? Martian on the wing?
"The landing gear won't close, so we have to circle around for a few hours and then land at Dulles and see if we can fix it."
They couldn't. We spent the next eight hours trapped at the airport like Tom Hanks in "The Terminal." The first hour I pleaded with the ticket agent to get me home. He sympathized. The next hour I spent crying because I thought it might help. It didn't. Then I ate a bag of Dunkin' Donuts since we don't get them back home. I felt sick. Then I tried to sleep on the uncomfortable waiting area seats. I couldn't. Then I started to pull out my computer to do some work but remembered I'd packed it. It was still trapped on plane. Then I bought trashy magazines to kill time. I finished them in 10 minutes. Then I tried to call home and complain. My cell phone was dead.
"Da plane, da plane!"
Eight hours later, with little information in between, we finally boarded a different plane. I was almost giddy with excitement and couldn't wait to snuggle into that torture chamber of a seat, lay my head on the grease-covered window and go to sleep for the next five hours.
I'm done with flying. Good thing I'm not a real spy. If I had to jet off to Casablanca to do some espionage or crack the enigma machine, I'd just take the bus.
Reach Penny Warner at www. pennywarner.com.