Monday, September 26, 2011

The Saga of the Odyssey of The Return, or, How I was almost forced to eat a passenger on a Continental flight from Houston to Huntsville.

We had the story of our dreams. All I had to do was get from Chicago back to Birmingham to write it up and post it. Flying up was just a two hour hop. My ticket for the return said Chicago to Indianapolis to Birmingham. I planned to use the long layover in Indy to write the story and send it to David for vetting. He was driving back to Ohio and had the additional assignment of posting The Letter on Scribd.

Made it to Indy, set up my laptop, and began to churn out some of the best prose reporting I've done in a while. (Much of which I could not later remember and so it didn't make it back into The Story. But I'm getting ahead of myself.) Finally, I was done, I called David (still on the road) to read it to him. Almost finished, my computer screen went black and my cell phone went on the fritz at almost the same time, both of them proved to be temporary but I couldn't get back on the computer to finish. Frustrated beyond belief, I go to ask the United ticket counter person how long until the Birmingham plane arrives. She looks puzzled. "There is no direct Indianapolis to Birmingham flight. Let me see your original ticket and boarding pass."

Turns out when United handed me over to Continental, they neglected to mention that Continental was going to fly me first to Houston and then on to Birmingham. OK, fine, I said. How soon will I get to Birmingham? About 10 PM Central, I was told. OK, fine. Whatever.

But I must confess the double fritzing of my electronics shook me up a bit. How in the hell had that happened? A power surge might have got the computer and knocked it off, but the cell phone wasn't plugged into anything and it went out at nearly the same time. Solar flare? EMP? Captain Kirk's photon torpedoes bursting on the near side of Venus?

Whatever. It all came back to The Story. We had to make sure The Story came out. I called David back and told him, I would rewrite it by hand on the flight to Houston, but don't do anything until I post it.

David gets home, I am still in the air. He cranks up his computer, checks Sipsey Street and Holy Excrement, Batman!, there's my post, or at least the first part down to the letter transcript. The rest seemingly disappeared, but that's not the mystery. The mystery is how in Hell did it post, in part, all by itself?

I do not know this. I am still flying Continental to the heathen side of Texas. But although it is posted, David does not know that it is incomplete. He's actually puzzled that it is different -- far shorter -- than what I had read to him, but, hey, there it is. I don't blame him. Neither of us got much sleep at the conference, so we're both beat. He proceeds with the rest of what we agreed upon: his version, the Scribd post, sending me his link.

I get to Houston, having had to fly around a thunderstorm. First thing I do (the plane hadn't stopped rolling yet) is call David. David tells me it is all done, no worries. W!?! T!?! F!?! I bust out, frightening my fellow passengers. Immediate fix to problem (his idea I think because I was not thinking too clearly at that moment): I give David my password to Sipsey Street, and he changes the post, pulling it back down into edit mode. He does the same for his, then he notices the Scribd post already has hits so he locks that up in private mode until I can get to Birmingham and fix the whole damn thing.

The Story still is not out. Worse, we have obviously tipped somebody off prematurely that there IS a story and a damned important one at that. It gets worse.

I get off the plane. I am instructed that plane I just debarked from must be cleaned and then we are going to Birmingham. I sit where I am told. After about five minutes, somebody comes to man the little boarding booth. I explain I was told to get off and wait, but when, please ma'am, will the plane arrive in Birmingham? Quizzical look. Oh, no. I've seen that before.

That plane is not going to Birmingham. The plane going to Birmingham left at 25 after the hour. I look at my watch. It is TWENTY SEVEN MINUTES PAST. Lady, I explain, it has only had the door shut for two minutes. The flight attendant hasn't even made it to the oxygen mask explanation yet. Too bad. Doors closed. Heap bad juju if they open again. Someone will be tortured to death by Human Resources.

Well, I demand, when is the next plane to Birmingham? I am becoming frustrated and a little tetchy. "Tomorrow morning" is the answer. I am directed to the inaptly named "Service Desk." Gritting teeth, explain problem. Must get to Birmingham. MUST GET TO BIRMINGHAM. Answer same-same. No Birmingham. Too bad. Where the hell am I going to sleep? (Here I am hoping that because they screwed up they will put me up in a hotel WITH AN INTERNET CONNECTION, hint, hint, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more.) Blank looks. Dunno. They look at seats around the concourse. I am thinking now is a bad time for a heart attack due to stress and hypertension.

Then the girl on the end (really, she was a girl, but obviously more creative than her elders) clicks some keys and says, "We can get you on a flight to Hunstville, sir, would that be fine?"

Through gritted teeth I reply, "Fine? Why just as fine as my first marriage I suppose." She did not get the menace behind it. A passenger behind me guffawed, but when I turned on him he looked all innocent, like "Who me?."

And there was STILL The Story.

Using superlative self-control I turned back to the girl and asked, when will the plane arrive? She told me. And when does it leave? Well, uh, it seems like, well, right now(?). I call Rosey, who has just driven four hours back from Hattiesburg, MS, after visiting Zoe for the weekend. Explain problem tersely. Can you get to Huntsville in the car and pick me up if I land there? Sure, no problem, well maybe a problem. Hour and a half away. No gas, little money. Gave all of hers to Zoe because "she needed stuff." Quarter tank of gas. Little money. How much is little? Three dollars and some change, besides she says definitively, "YOU were coming home." Yes, but I are not home. Must fetch me. Find money. Go to PO Box see if there is subscription money. Uh, huh. And if not go to good friend in Pinson and borrow some gas money until tomorrow. OK? Well, yeah, okay. She goes to box. No money. Goes to friends, borrows ten dollars.

I turn to girl. OK, now how to I get to plane to Huntsville? Long way, can't get there, must have help. They call a little shuttle car that runs up and down the concourses when summoned, if you're lucky.

I am lucky. We load my carry-on laptop and meds (my check luggage, they say, will be efficiently sent on to Birmingham, no worries). Whatever. Worries, but whatever. Not a priority. The Story. THAT is the priority.

Shuttle guy breaks all land speed records getting to Huntsville bound plane, almost flattening two small children. I am amazed at how indifferent I am to their near-death experiences. Realize I am getting low on sugar. Go to boarding desk. Hand her new paperwork. Are there snacks for sale on plane? No, too short, big hassle, no can do. I reply, no problem, I'll just eat a passenger when my sugar gets low enough. Ha, ha. You are late, must board now, don't eat passenger where anybody in authority can see you.

Get on plane, last guy. I must look deranged. Guy in seat beside me moves to empty seat. Too bad, he was small and it looked like it would be easy to eat him.

Plane takes off. Flight attendant comes by with drinks. I ask her about possibility of snacks. No, too short, big hassle, no can do. I repeat my by-now very serious threat to eat a passenger when my sugar gets low enough that I can plead temporary insanity afterward. Then, A THOUGHT occurs to me. Do you have any orange juice?

No. Ran out. Have apple juice. Enough sugar, Mr. Cannibal? I look at can. 37 grams. Yup, that ought to do it. Still no food, but what I most need is sugar and this is packed with it.

She comes back afterward. Sugar up. No eat passenger now. Tell that guy who fled he can come back. He hears me and without making eye contact he shakes his head.


Finally land at Huntsville. Another Bataan Death March to the pick-up lane. Ask for assistance from a bored cop, the only official looking guy around. No. No help. Short way. You can crawl it. He still looked bored, but he had a firearm and I didn't.

I make it to the exit. Rosey is there. We load my stuff. You look beat. How'd it go? I almost ate a passenger, I replied. She doesn't bat an eye. Oh, OK, she says. "I'll drive," she says.

I get home, crank up the computer, still had no food but on a sugar rush from the apple juice. Finish The Story. Notify David who is dozing next to his computer waiting for my sorry ass to crank it out. I crank it out. He cranks his out.


Had to delete all premature comments on the blog and answer all pissed off emails -- "Where the hell did the story go?"

Look, don't dick with me. I almost ate a passenger. But I got The Story.

I'm going to bed now, OK? I'll eat tomorrow.

Wait, this IS tomorrow.



Anonymous said...

I can't wait to read the story. Glad you've made it back home safely.

Grog said...


Glad you made it home.


Anonymous said...

"Had to delete all premature comments on the blog and answer all pissed off emails -- "Where the hell did the story go?"

Look, don't dick with me. I almost ate a passenger. But I got The Story."

I'm guessing mine was one of the "premature comments" that got deleted. I feel sooooo special!

Nevermind. If you can type a story twice then I guess I'd be some kind of putz if I couldn't retype a comment.

But your near brush with canibalism raises an important point. As an apex preditor, humans tend to accumulate all sorts of biotoxins and are not recommended for human consumption. EMERGENCY USE ONLY!

swiontek3625 said...

I have found that packing a small amount of home-made trail mix can help alot in avoiding a blood-sugar crash. Raisins, walnuts, and (of course) M&Ms. Well done on the exclusive!

Ashrak said...

I was puzzled by the story that popped up and then popped , well exploded to never never land.

It seemed quite odd and I was left wanting the ever present commentary that is terse and blunt explanation.

I submit that this piece here, about The Story, is an example of responsible journalism. As I was left wanting explanation to provide understanding, patience paid off and, kaboom, there is one here, in spades, that answers all possible questions on the WTF front.

Thanks so much for effort above and beyond, Mike, and do get some much needed, not to mention earned, rest, please.

Longbow said...

Take care of yourself, Mike. No one else will.

Anonymous said...

If only there were backdoor lines of communication between the JCS and NSA to explain your tech woes.

Anonymous said...

Edit: NSC, not JCS. Too early in the morning. ;-)

Chuck said...

Happy to hear you made it home safely Mike.

Now I know what happened with the
vanishing story last night. I enjoyed the preview.


armed_and_christian said...

Mike, did you forget I'm in Indy? Should you ever end up here again, you know my princess & I will do whatever we can for you. We don't have much, but what we do have is as much yours as ours. Do you still have my cell phone number?

Dedicated_Dad said...

Wow. Sounds like Conti really screwed the pooch on THIS trip, huh?

Hopefully you suffered no lasting harm....

All that said, a pack of glucose-tabs should be a required, essential part of your travel kit!

Though I'm not diabetic, I've found them to be invaluable - they've got me through more than one rough patch!

L. Simon said...

If it makes you feel better, your readers are an honorable bunch. The incomplete story was spotted by an Arfcommer, and I even wrote a blog piece on it. Before publishing my own take, I popped back over here to see if anyone had commented... and it was gone.

I went to Arfcom, and the poster that had linked to it had edited the post to say something completely different.

Putting two and two together, I held my own post and now I'm just looking forward to seeing what version 2.0 looks like :)

Mt Top Patriot said...

They are messing with you Mike.
Your snail mail is not all they are in to.

Remember: The scope of this lawless disregard expands by the day.

If they can use every Federal law enforcement agency, along with the entire Justice system in the nation to create a narrative to be used to back door the 2nd, playing with you is a fart in a mitten.

And brother, you are one hell of a thorn in their side.

Watching you through your electronic devices is easy pie.

Believe me, they have trolls and obots working in IT Dept's of many service providers.
Hell, Google is a private sector branch of the obama administration executive.

Who is it that controls the Aerospace Industry with an iron fist?

Being broke is part and parcel of the tyranny breathing down our throats.

Prosperity under assault = Liberty that is that much more difficult to come by and live by.

There are no coincidences in the land of obama and his ilk.
these folks are dead serious and will never give up the power they have acquired. not after a century of work.

I'm sorry you had troubles.
I wish I could hand you a million bucks right now.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mike, Fox can't remember the name "According to a story posted Sunday on a website dedicated to covering Fast and Furious

Read more:

No big deal. I'm sure someone will get the credit.

Anonymous said...

And THAT"S why I'll never fly again!

Anonymous said...

The electronics fritz may be from strong solar activity - check out for info.

Of course, it could also be static generated by all those suits rubbing together in Rahmutopia, too!

Either way, thanx for all you've endured to get the word out.


Anonymous said...

I too am diabetic and have been know to be "tetchy" when the blood sugar bottoms out.

It so happens that one such episode occurred when I was already in the ER for an unrelated issue. Explain this to the nurse. Ask for food. Sorry - they've stopped serving.

Informed nurse that she could arrange for food to be delivered or I'd just start biting passing blood or x-ray techs at randomly spaced intervals. Amazingly, a ham and cheese sandwich, a bag of chips, and a diet coke appeared within about 15 minutes...

Sometimes ya just gotta let loose with your inner cannibal Mike.

Glad all turned out "well" in the end. And hey - you got the story!

Snaggle-Tooth Jones said...

My blood pressure spiked and blood sugar tanked just reading this, and I'm not hypertensive or diabetic. I really felt your pain. One of the signs of a great writer. Keep it up, Mike. And thanks. And welcome home.