Perhaps this thread can be an opportunity for us to share our experiences these past few days - something to reflect on now and to return to later when, for a moment, we miss a step and lose our way.
To start, here is my story.
As I pay the taxi driver I step out to see that the Air Disaster terminal seems strangly vacant. An over head sign is hanging down and a crowd of people is milling about on the sidewalk. Empty bottles of beer are underfoot and there is a whif of ammonia in the air. Off to the side a sky cap is arguing with a man pulling grips from a Mercedes Benz, a pilot's cap perched rakishly on his head. Next to him a woman wearing a turquoise necklace is helping a man down off a horse - he appears to be wearing a faded a WWII pilot's uniform. Grabbing my carryon I push though to the front of the crowd only to see that the glass doors are locked. Taped to the inside is a scrawled note:
At about 3 pm U.S. Pacific Time today, the web server that hosted the AirDisaster.Com forums suffered a catastrophic failure which rendered both hard drives useless and irrecoverable. Unfortunately, one drive in this server contained the live forums database, and the other contained the daily database backups.
With this in mind, I'm sorry to report that, effective immediately, the AirDisaster.Com Discussion Forums are closed permanently.
Clearly this is hopeless. If only I can get over to the shiny new Jet Photos Terminal, perhaps I can rebook my flight. I press through back over to the edge of the sidewalk. There is a pale young man standing there holding a sign saying "My Dog Died Today." Ignoring him I dodge a careening Supershuttle van and skip back onto the curb. Between the two terminals I can catch a glimpse of the ramp area. A fuel truck is backing up, barely missing the rotating propeller of a Metroliner. The driver is sticking his arms out the window looking at the pilot with a sort of, "What the hell is your problem" look on his face. In the distance I can see flashing red lights next to an A340 that seems to be parked at an unusual altitude. While these are generally very long planes, this one seems somehow shorter in the late afternoon gloom.
Pressing through the doors of the Jetphotos terminal I see suitcases spread haphazardly on the floor and gate agents are shouting something at the crowd. I can't understand what they are saying through their cupped hands so I make my way to one of the check in kiosks. Next to me a man is patiently explaining that economic globalization inevitably claims its victims to a man wearing a leather belt clip holding a slide rule.
My American Express card seems to work as the kiosk instructs me to log in. I figure I'll simply use my AirDisaster name but the kiosk indicates it must have at least three characters. I fumble with various instructions on the screen and finally get what I assume is a bording pass. Again elbowing my way through the crowd I find the security line snaking back and forth almost all the way back to the shuttered AirDisaster terminal. It seems like hours wading through the line as back and forth I catch snippets of conversation from the same people each time we pass. I hear a Canadian discussion "aboot" how heavy the snow is this year in Moncton. The next time we pass there is something about the absolute ceiling of an MD11. Then there is that couple - the woman suggestively snuggling up to the man and laughing discreetly about something I can't hear. A man in dusty work boots is carrying a battered leather grip with a Quantas sticker. I heard him saying something about a pickup truck being flattened by a mining truck.
At last I have arrived at the front of the line and hand my boarding pass and passport to the sleepy-looking security clerk. The person takes a fat pencil and scrawls and "X" on the pass and thanks me for shopping at K Mart.
Now the line splits into several security lines. Which one should I choose? There are a couple of students with bulging backpacks. No, I'm not going to wait for them to empty their pockets of I-Pods, Game Boys and all the other junk that the Entertainment Generation cannot live without. On the right I see a deadheading captain approaching the table with the grey bins. He's already removed his boots and is holding his laptop computer in his other hand. That's the line. Stepping behind him I removed all metal items from my pockets and place them in my computer bag. I place my compute in the same bin as my plastic bag of liquids and gels. I place my shoes directly on the belt and step through the magnatometer, handing my boarding pass to the TSA agent. Scowling he announces, "This Boarding Pass Has Not Yet Been Approved by the Moderators!" I then hear those six words that strike fear into any traveler: "Would You Mind Stepping Over Here?"
I don't have a problem with authority. It is always, "Thank you for taking the time to be so careful with your duties. It makes me feel so safe knowing you are on the job!" This time, however, I apparently failed to stifle a grimace and the agent next advises, "We'll need to take a careful look at your bag and would you please remove your belt." I am directed to a plexiglass-walled area and patiently wait while the agent upends my bag and dumps several Playboy magazines and a Payday candy bar on the counter for all to see. In the distance I can see into an adjacent room where a clear toilet stands. Looking back, the agent is now squirting ink from my fountain pen into a trash can. Some of it drips onto one of my neckties. A woman is walking by the clear partition shielding her daughter's eyes with a ticket wallet as I remove my belt. I should explain that each Christmas as a little joke my wife buys me another pair of novelty boxer shorts. As the years have passed, most of my regular shorts have become car rags and today I'm wearing a pair with a big smiley face that says, "Lucky in Love." I'm not lucky today and the agent grunts in disgust as she instructs me to hold out my arms and my pants fall to the ground. Ignoring my plight, the agent slowly wands me front to back and side to side. My pilot's chronometer causes a strange beep on the device and I shrug my shoulder so she can see it is just a fancy watch with several dials I don't know how to use. "OK you can go," she says. I hitch up my pants, stuff my ink-stained neck tie along with my magazines and candybar into my grip, gather up my computer and walk briskly away. I have cleared security and am now in the JetPhotos departure area'
To Be Continued...