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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Trip Report: Dayton to Chicago to SA - Almost...

I have a long history of insomnia and this is compounded when I travel. Late is never an option, so like a lot of people, I tend to wake up every twenty minutes looking at the clock to make sure I haven't overslept. Not likely.

This morning was no different so by 3:30am, I was flipping through channels on the TV in my room trying to find something besides an infomercial. By 4am, I was up, checking e-mail and it occurred to me to use Google Maps to locate a place near the Dayton Airport to put gas in the rental car and grab a bite to eat. Turns out that Dayton has the Waffle House, so by 6:15am or so, I was on my way.

If you aren't familiar with the chain, they are a staple of the south (and apparently the north, too). A 24 hour place to grab breakfast or a steak. Maybe not as classy as your Denny's or IHOP, but certainly a lot better service.
I opted to sit at the counter and order two eggs over-easy, some grits and an order of bacon. My breakfast normally consists of fruit and yogurt, so this was definitely a splurge.
I love me some grits and these were nice and sticky with just a dollop of butter added for good measure. Some people throw in cheese and such, but I didn't want to push the cholesterol envelope.The two ladies working had quite an operation going. One lady was running the grill while the waitress bounced from customer to customer, filling coffee cups and taking orders. In some places, the waitress takes the order and either the ticket is passed to the cook or it goes into some sort of computer so the cook can see what to cook next. Not these ladies. The waitress seemed to be calling out partial orders so as to keep the timing of the food worked to have everything finish at once. As she was calling out the egg order for one customer, she was calling out my bacon order. That sounds easy enough, but then she started going into serious Waffle House lingo, and the lady doing the cooking never even as much as looked up or nodded. She simply took in the various menu items coming her way and threw down the food on to the grill as it was called out. The surprising thing was, the food all seemed to end up on the correct plates.

The Waffle House contained a variety of characters, all of them addressed as Honey, Sweety, or Sugar. Most of them seemed to be regulars, although I guess since I was also referred to as "Sweety" and "Honey", they may have been in for their first time as well.

I love a place quick on the coffee refill and tipped accordingly. As I finished up, the waitress asked me if I'd like to take a cup of coffee to go and I did. No charge.

So, I went across the street to fill up the rental car, and even though it was still dark, it occurred to me that the fog on the road was really thick. There was some road construction so I had to take a really round-about detour in order to get back on to I-70 West. The detour took me way off through some sort of industrial area and the further I went the worse the fog got. Accordingly, the folks on the radio were reporting school delays of two hours and more.

Suddenly, my idea of not trying to go back to sleep wasn't seeming to be such a great idea. I was already at least an hour and a half early for my flight (Dayton is a really small airport - you can get your luggage checked and be at the gate in 5 to ten minutes), and no doubt, the flight departure would be delayed.
Sure enough, my 9am departure for Chicago was going to be closer to 10am.
While I was waiting in the airport, I found a seat near a power outlet; for those of you who have a laptop with a crappy battery, you can appreciate such a find. Several seats away from me, an older lady was seated reading a book when all of a sudden, the relatively quiet airport, only occasionally interrupted with TSA announcements, was disrupted by a man with one of those Bluetooth style phones. For some reason, you have to yell into the air in order for the Bluetooth device to pick up what you are saying - or at least that seemed to be this guy's situation.

I have no issue with people having private conversations in public, as long as I'm not involved or they aren't interrupting a movie or something. I am also not so easily offended that the occasional slip of a profanity for emphasis in a conversation will cause me to blush. But this guy was suddenly ridiculous.

He seemed pretty upset that someone was trying to screw him and his company over, and he was more than F'ing mad about it. Enough F'ing mad that he was screaming into the air for everyone in Dayton to hear. I looked up to assure myself that there wasn't another person near him that he could be yelling at, but sure enough, it was just him and that Bluetooth device. What an ass. He was oblivious to the fact that everyone in the terminal had turned to watch him walk circles into the carpeted floor as his arms and hands flailed about his body.
When the older lady put up her book and walked away from the area, I felt almost tempted to get up and ask the guy to chill out, but I opted not to. Instead, I had visions of the older lady flipping the guy off. When the guy abruptly ended his call, and saw several people looking at him, I think he got the point and slunk away to the men's room.

Well, apparently not. By the time the flight was ready to depart Dayton, Mr. Potty Mouth had already launched into a new tirade via his cellular phone and Bluetooth device. Of course, he left his luggage and laptop in the care of some disinterested guy sitting near him so he could move about, all the better to rant and gesticulate wildly. Some people must gesticulate wildly as they talk, simply because Gesticulate is such a funny word.

It was obvious by the time the aircraft doors closed (and thusly, Mr. I'm a Big Ass With a Tiny Phone had to end his call) that I would miss my connecting flight to San Antonio. I knew this because my flight in Chicago was departing as we were still learning about the safety features of of our regional jet.
Once in Chicago, I got my flight changed, called my wife and then called work. Then I decided to walk around the terminal I was in to figure how best to kill a three and a half hour delay. ((Oh, in case you were wondering, in the picture above, the man in the bottom right was not in fact urinating)). I did walk around looking for a a wall outlet that I might use for my laptop. The one I did find seemed to be perfect; located in an empty row of seats and waiting just for me. Unfortunately, there was no power to it. When I put my laptop back into the bag, I noticed at least three other computer users giving me the Ha Ha look as they had no doubt tried the plug themselves, or were smart enough to own a battery for they're laptops that worked for more than ten minutes at a shot. Bastards.
As I continued walking about the terminal, I noticed that Chicago was pretty darn smart. They actually have some specific seating areas with individual outlets for people to plug in laptops, cell phones, PDAs and such. Of course they were mostly occupied.Next up, what I do best of course, eat. By now my breakfast was just a memory and I found a Chili's Too in the terminal. Chili's Too is like a regular Chili's, but with lots of small tables to accommodate people traveling alone or with one other person. In other words, they can pack a lot of customers in there without having huge tables holding only a single person.

Smartly, they don't put electrical outlets in the booths, or someone like me would spend the next three hours there asking for occasional refills of Iced Tea.
Instead, I was forced to bust out paper and pen to Blog the old fashioned way, but with much worse penmanship.
I had my standard Chili's fare of a house salad with Ranch and a bowl of chili. When a man sat down at the table adjacent to mine, he asked how the chili was and I told him "consistent". That's the good thing about Chili's. If you like it, then for the most part, wherever you happen to be, you'll be happy with it.I finished in Chili's and made my way back to a row of the seats with power. Kudos to Chicago O'Hare. This really should be the standard. I did notice this little kiosk that had a series of cell phone power cords hanging out of it.

Basically, you find the cord that fits your phone, swipe your credit card and pay about $6.00 a minute to charge your phone. Hmm, at some point, I'm looking for a pay phone if it comes to that.

But luckily, they gave up the laptop power for free and I appreciate it. Oh, and Internet for a small fee, hence my ability to Blog from Chicago about my flight home, before I even get there.

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San Antonio, TX, United States
I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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