Return trips home can often be the most challenging especially when things don't go according to schedule. When you have been away you just want to get home. The trip back from my two week sequester had no hiccups whatsoever. All was going very smoothly...my clubs were nestled safely in a Fed-Ex box probably waiting for me to get home (A tearful reunion a certainty) and my flights had been on time. Everything was running like clockwork. That is...until I landed in Philadelphia...
My typical routine is to depart the plane, make a quick pit stop to grab something to drink for the ride home and then reunite with my car in the parking garage. I even take the same route slipping over from Terminal D to Terminal E (which is the side of the parking garage where I leave my car). Today however, I knew I had to go to baggage claim, not because I checked my bag...I didn't... but because my ride was waiting for me there...the dreaded car service.
On the way as I was walking to meet the driver I heard a man behind me apparently trying to get someone's attention. That someone was me. He was on the moving sidewalk while I was not...so he quickly gained on me. I turned and he said in a very loud voice "Delta"? I said "I'm sorry"? "DELTA" now much louder... I still did not understand. "What about Delta do you mean"? "BAGGAGE CLAIM!! WHERE THE HELL IS IT"? He was actually angry with me...the person from whom he had just requested help. This did not sit well with me and so we had a bit of a discussion while he was "riding" and I was walking and I let him know that perhaps when requesting help he could find a more appropriate tone for "Someone with hat in hand". He did not care for my tone back and we continued to exchange "False pleasantries" for another 15 seconds before I finally said "You need to go to Terminal B"... As I expected, he "rewarded" me with a "Now that wasn't so hard was it" as he turned to go back to terminal B. Delta baggage claim is in Terminal D/E.
I left "The Happy Traveler" and was greeted by my driver. He was seemingly a pleasant enough twenty-something who took my luggage and outside we went...where he deposited me at the "Limo Drop-off Area". Then he went to go get the car. This did not make sense to me but apparently it is how things are done with car services in Philadelphia. I am not sure why they cannot use the cell lot but I decided not to ask. Ok, I did ask but his answer made no sense to me so I nodded as if I thought he had a point...a kind of side head nod that says "ok, got it". I didn't get it. Eventually the driver returned and we were off...after he explained where the water was, the newspapers and the AC controls...all very nice...just not necessary.
One minute in my driver began to ask me questions about my trip. I don't like this and usually provide one word answers. "Was your trip business or pleasure"? "Both". "How long were gone"? "A while". "Do you travel often...Do you like it"? "Yes and no". He wasn't catching on...about that time he informed me that at this time of day (it was around noon) we were not likely to hit any traffic. He said this as he locked up the brakes as a car in front of him had stopped abruptly. I saw this well before my driver did. We nearly crashed. He swore at the driver under his breath and screeched around him into the next lane without looking. Another car nearly hit us. My driver shook his fist at them. I was concerned although it was hard to have clear thoughts since the driver was blasting music on the radio flipping stations almost as often as he switched lanes. We had a few more close calls with him tailgating, lane hopping and starting and stopping. All the while, he critiqued the "Bad Philadelphia drivers".
Less than halfway home he nearly hit a guard rail and had to make a sudden maneuver to avoid losing his lane altogether. I looked up (I had been trying to go into a travel coma and just get through the ride). and to my disbelief he was texting. Yes indeed. He was looking down and texting with one hand. I bit my tongue and carried on while watching the road. The texting went on for three or four minutes on and off. I was fuming but was also a bit of a hostage on this roller coaster ride from Car Services Hell.
We managed to not have (or cause) an accident and were now on The Pennsylvania Turnpike which in the eastern part of the state is fairly straight and mostly flat. Even my "Driver Trainee" could handle this. I eased back in the seat (finally) and looked out the window. We weren't changing lanes as much and we seemed to be basically in the appropriate flow of traffic. Then we weren't. We drifted in and out of our lane a couple of times so I looked up into the rear view mirror. My driver was fighting off sleep. I watched his eyes close oh so briefly then open with eyes crossed and eyebrows lifting to try to keep his lids open. He recovered...then briefly faltered then recovered again. My eyes were glued to him and the road. Suddenly he faltered again and this time his head bobbed. I was done...or done for. I smacked his shoulder with a wrist flick I am sure left a bruise as my fingers left a stinging "smack" and yelled "Hey BUDDY...DO YOU NEED ME TO DRIVE "? He jolted awake and said he was "fine". We debated that for a couple of seconds and I sat back...watching him like the trapped passenger in a limo with a narcoleptic driver that I was. He faltered one more time so now I had no choice. I had to talk to him to keep him awake.
We talked the last thirty minutes about things I did not care about but that seemed to make him happy and kept him awake. He had a poorly thought out economic plan for the country that involved small planes, he told me how he was terribly underpaid for what he did (all I could think that unless he was an actor for Punk'd, he was grossly overpaid) and that he had driven another car yesterday to the airport with the emergency brake on the whole time...this made complete sense to me. We arrived home where I resisted the urge to kiss the ground. My driver left with a squeal of the tires and I contemplated how to report him without having him know it was me...still working on that.
My thoughts shifted to home where the only greetings I received were from two stunned canines who thought I had left for good. My wife was at work and the kids were sawing logs deep in sleep. It was nearly 1PM. I walked through the house and saw a note stuck to the door. It was Fed-Ex...My clubs were "home" but since there was no answer they would return Monday... by 5PM. It was official...I had the hiccups.
NOTE: The Blog will continue but most likely at a reduced "rate" (see Blog Worthy I). However, I have been a bit more active on twitter where I find 140 characters easier, quicker and more satisfying for my supposed "quick wit". If you'd like to follow me please do...my address is @Themiddleseat. You will get more of my travels in real time. Thanks as always for "Sharing the pain".