Door-to-door from Bozeman to Dallas took 12 hours. Not so bad, I guess. Twenty four hours will pass when taking the same trip in a car. I am trying not to think of the travel at some sort of horrible, largely uncontrollable, series of near disasters at every turn; but rather an extended zen-like trance that ends when you pop out the other side in a rented auto.
Here's the trip in a nutshell and largely, in fragments:
Get to BZN early. Eat patty melt. Stare at looming snowstorm out large window. Take of shoes, belt, un-pack laptop bag, take off jacket, empty pockets, shuffle through security. Re-dress myself in front of strangers. Which, by the way - what the EFF are they staring at anyway? I mean, did everyone else in the terminal just use some other entrance? Why does a chap in his stocking feet and dangle-y belt draw stares? Back on point....
Listen to TSA's sing x-mas songs. The real ones. Thinking it would have been better if they made up x-mas about how screwed you are as a traveler during the holidays...
An interpretation of "The Christmas Song" could have gone something like this: "effed up passengers waiting for cancelled flights, iPods playing G-n-R...x-mas songs being song by some cops, and folks, sleeping on the floor..... Although it's happened many times in many ways, you're screwed...on this Christmas Day!"
Where was I? Plane arrives. Ramp crew takes smoke break in plane. Gate agent boards by shoe color. White goes first, in case your wondering. "Darker" shoe colors allowed to board some time later. Think to self that shoe color boarding is not good and maybe a bad omen. Take seat 2D. Gloat internally about my forward seating position and ability to deplane quickly for looming narrow connection in DEN. Andre the Giant takes seat 2C. Fly to Denver. Learn that Andre the Giant is a wuss and must give him verbal command that "you gotta just step out there!" as rows 3-10 deplane ahead of us in DEN. Sprint like a track star to gate B15 - starting from B92.
Airplane! the movie internal thought: Looks like I picked the wrong day to quit taking performance-enhancing drugs.
B15 is dark and empty. Told by B18 gate agent that I missed DFW flight and I must go to customer service. Go to customer service. See giant line of doomed humanity. Realize how effed I am now. Not giving up hope just yet, I dial the 800-United number. Speak to really nice Indian national, get good news that I am booked on another flight. Get bad news that it departs at 8:00 pm tomorrow.
Ask to speak to new, higher-ranking Indian national. Get booked on 7:00 tonight. No seat assignment. Seek out lonely gate agent. Get boarding pass with the word CONFIRMED on it.
Go to gate for new flight. Wait in a state of cat-like readiness to board. Consider dumping centenarian out of wheel chair to board early. Resist.
Realize that lonely gate agent hooked me up exit row. Stretch out. Fold legs. Try not to smirk. Fly to DFW. Chat with affable sky-cap about how my bag pretty much isn't going to make it. Bag doesn't make it. Make lost bag claim. Learn bag is still in DEN.
Take empty shuttle van to rental car lot. Stand in line with other stunned travelers in rental car line that has twenty terminals (counted) and two staff. Also seen are five un-attended "self-service" terminals. When I inquired with those ahead of me if they were working...the person in the front of the line advanced to a terminal; apparently unaware of its existence until my mention of it. Wait for terminal. Play super-rent-a-car video game on terminal. Slide Amex. Give hair sample. Terminal declares "reservation unavailable, see attendant." Attendant asks if I want to "upgrade" to a mid-size Camry from a compact. I decline. Earn respect of attendant and get "full size" Accord with a v6 and all the trimmings.
Sleep very soundly in a way that Dramamine and beer can produce. Awake not so refreshed. Wait for bag.
To be continued...