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Monday, March 28, 2005

The Bloogeyman Travels

If you’ve ever taken a flight out of Los Angeles you know that LAX can be a nightmare – in fact, it’s almost always a nightmare. First, the 405 freeway in LA (near LAX) always has a traffic jam – I’m not talking about jams between 6 and 10 a.m. and between 3 and 7 p.m., I’m talking about all the time – you could be on the 405 near LAX at 1 a.m. in the morning and find yourself in traffic (trust me, it’s happened to me…). So, from the first step, even getting to LAX is a hassle.

Once you get there, what do you do about parking? Well, I like to use Parking Lot C – it’s pretty much the cheapest parking for a couple days – the only problem is that this parking lot is large enough to qualify for its own zip code. Theoretically, this isn’t really a problem – they have shuttles that come by every 10 minutes or so and take you to the airport – there’s just the dreaded possibility of forgetting where you parked your car. Sure, you make sure to write it down in two or three places and find yourself muttering “area 7C…area 7C” as you board the shuttle.

Now, I’ve never lost my car in Parking Lot C, but I can only imagine what would happen if you did. This isn’t a normal parking lot, in which if you lose your car you can just wait till 9 or 10 p.m. when everybody goes home and only your car is left, this lot has thousands of cars and is always packed. One car leaves, another car takes its place. I imagine that if you don’t remember where you parked your car you’d just have to write it off and go buy another one. I’ve tried to mentally prepare myself for what would happen if I forgot where I parked my car. Sure, I could wander the desert that is Parking Lot C in a vain attempt to locate my car – I figure I’d eventually die of thirst. No, better to just go buy a new car and forget my old one ever existed. What’s the probability that you actually forget where you parked your car? Pretty slim, I gather, since most people seem to understand the danger of Parking Lot C. But, in the same way that I figure everybody’s bound to lock their keys in their car sometime, I figure that if you use Parking Lot C enough, you’re bound to forget where you parked sometime…

Yes, it’s not the threat of terrorist WMD attacks, the loss of social security, or the loss of civil liberties that keeps me up at night – it’s the fear of forgetting where I parked in Parking Lot C.

Well, this time as I get on the shuttle to the airport I’m pretty confident that I won’t forget where I parked (I wrote it a dozen times on my arm…). Now comes the next ordeal in the gauntlet that is airline travel: getting to your boarding gate. First, upon getting off at your correct terminal (you hope!) you’re faced with a couple choices of how to check in – -there’s regular check-in, e-check in, and e-check in with self-baggage check. Liking to feel self-reliant at all times, I choose e-check in with self-baggage check. Ok, I just slide my credit card in and it pulls up my name…all’s good…it shows my flight (to San Francisco!) and the gate…good. I push “Continue” and it takes me to a screen where it asks me if I want to upgrade to ‘Economy Plus’. This ‘Economy Plus’ costs $19 and gives you an extra five inches of legroom. Gee – a whole five inches…wow, and only for $19! I push “No” as I think to myself “Good lord, if the airlines have come down to hitting people up for $19 to upgrade to five more inches of leg room, they’re in more trouble than I thought” Of course, we all know that Delta announced this week that they were close to bankruptcy again.

Now comes the dreaded security perp walk. The funny thing about security is that if you fit the ‘profile’ you potentially have a lot to be worried about. Now, I’m not talking about your stereotypical bearded, middle-eastern man wearing a turban (do they even bother going into an airport anymore), but just the broad profile by which you might be considered a threat. I’m talking about any guy traveling alone, between the ages of...say…18-45, who has black or dark brown hair. Yep, I fit that profile. So, knowing that you fit a broad profile of the type of person they’d be interested in (somehow, little girls between the age of 12-17, with blonde hair don’t seem like the type of traveler that gets a lot of scrutiny) you now try to show that they’ve got nothing to worry about regarding you. You try to act non-chalant. The interesting thing about this whole little mental game you play with yourself is that you try to act non-chalant without acting non-chalant in a clichéd way. You sure as hell don’t whistle and tap your shoes. You try to kind of look at people, but not stare. You don’t want to look spaced out, or constantly look at your shoes either. Given the recent 60 Minutes report about how people are randomly being abducted and spirited off aboard ‘phantom airplanes’ to countries that use torture to get information out of you – I wasn’t looking forward to the possibility that I might draw any unwanted attention…

That's all for now, the Bloogeyman will get back to you with more tales of travel as his week of traveling adventure goes on.