Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Pre-Texas Life Business Trip to Dallas Recounted

Ready to embark on a business trip from Las Vegas (was living in Sin City at the time) to Dallas, I had the pleasure of sitting in my oh so comfortable AA coach class seat for nearly 2 hours while our 737 sat idle on the tarmac at McCarren. To allay our fears, the flight attendants put on a movie while the ground crew did a historical audit of the plane's mechanical health, upgrades, downgrades and every where in between. The pilot finally informed us that due to some noticeable toxic fumes in the main cabin, the crew was taking every feasible precaution prior to our takeoff. Was that supposed to embolden me with confidence or cause me to skip the business trip all together?

Feeling a bit skitterish, but unable to vocalize my obvious wavering faith in the maintenance record audit, I relentlessly sat still through the in-flight movie and eventual take off. This apprehension seemed to dissipate somewhat over the desert of Arizona but sparked anew when the plane's descent became obvious, much sooner than our projected arrival time. The captain confirmed my fears by proclaiming that "we are going down...to Albuquerque, NM" as the fumes were back in the cabin.

Oh joy, toxic fumes at 30,000 feet; what a great start to a business trip. And did it have to be Albuquerque, land of cacti and what, southwestern eggrolls? I thought about large bodies of water below us and could think of none though the thought of descending the inflatable ramp onto dry ground was somewhat more comforting than a submersible ascent to life-giving oxygenated terra firma.

Our first indications that we were in good, professional hands, were the Emergency Response Teams (ERT) that were following us from the runway to the terminal. I knew everything was just perfect when as soon as the pilot had set the e-brake, he hopped out of the cockpit and nearly made a new hole in the door as he calmly exited the fume-filled plane. What came next relieved all sense of dread and fear.

For the next 30 minutes, all passengers of the flight remained in utter shock as none of us were permitted to debark the plane. Our first "visitors" were strange men in Hazmat suits (aluminum foil colored full body suits, exterior seams tightly locked down with non-breathable tape and oxygen tanks built into the inner unit so as to not contaminate the organism's fragile biology. The beings slowly walked the aisles of the plane with Geiger counters measuring toxicity in the spoiled air while the exposed, and now likely left for dead, patrons of the flight laughed (breathing deeply of course) and took digital stills of their new friends. After the last alien like technician thankfully left the plane, we were finally permitted to breath the filtered air of the New Mexico flight terminal and gratefully pronounce that portion of the trip over.

The rest is mere details but should be noted as some may find the on-going irony just a tad humorous. I was the last of the passengers to embark on the last flight out that day from Albuquerque. The flight got in at 11pm instead of 7pm and by the time I arrived at my hotel (the Omni Dallas), my room had been given to another business traveler who decided to stay one more night of his conference. I was then given directions to their sister hotel, the Omni Mandalay, set up in a governor's suite (comp'd of course) and enjoyed my final night in an upgraded suite at my original booking's hotel.

So while the trip started off wild and furious, the outcome was a better stay at a fabulous hotel, and now a new favorite of my wife and mine here in Dallas. Still, wished we could have at least slid down the inflatable ramp ;)
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