Monday, March 26, 2007

Homeless for a Night

Last Friday I flew out to Los Angeles, CA to meet up with some friends! I knew it was going to be a long day but it turned into an even longer one. I was just finishing up my reserve days in Newark so my plan was to leave early Friday morning, hang out in California until about midnight and then catch a red-eye flight back home to Minneapolis.

I left Newark at 6:45 AM and enjoyed a movie, breakfast, and a couple naps during the six hour flight out to Los Angeles. I wasn't meeting my friends until about 5:00 PM so when I landed at 10:30 AM, I had a few hours to hang out. After I arrived, I picked up my rental car and headed up the Pacific Coast Highway. I found a few popular canyon roads and figured I should probably test out the performance on my rental car, so I headed into the hills and enjoyed the curvy roads that southern California seems to be covered with.

After a beautiful 2 hour drive up the coast I made it to where I was going to be meeting my friends and still had a couple hours, so I took a nap in my car (knowing that I would be up late and taking a red eye-flight home) and then went for a short walk by a marina. I met up with my friends and we eventually headed to dinner.

I'm normally a "meat and potatoes" kind of guy so when we ended up at a Persian restaurant, I was a little nervous. What I thought was funny is that my friend Meghan is the one who suggested the Persian restaurant.....and she told me she is a "meat and potatoes" kind of girl.....yeah right. Not wanting to be the party pooper (and because I didn't really have a choice) I went to the Persian restaurant with an open mind of trying something new and enjoying the time with my friends.

As I was looking through the menu I was having a hard time understanding what everything was. I finally saw something that I recognized.....Shish Kabobs! I was so excited because I've actually had those before! Meat and vegetables on a stick, for a guy from Minnesota where everything comes on a stick, what could be more perfect?

Well, I apparently wasn't the only person who wanted shish kabobs because when we started to order the waitress said to everybody, "I don't know how many shish kabobs we have left, I'll have to go check." I was thinking, "Great, the one thing I found that looks good to me and they're short on it." When the waitress came back she said, "I'm sorry but we only have one order of shish kabobs left." Now the question was, who's getting the shish kabob?

I didn't want to take the shish kabobs from anybody else so I started looking for something else. I was asking what other people were going to get and they all had found something else that appealed to them and everyone started telling me, "It's okay Paul, you can take the shish kabobs....but you better like them and we don't want to see any leftovers on your plate!" Just what I need, pressure to finish my dinner.

After the food came I started looking around at the other meals and noticed something interesting, it appeared that regardless of what you ordered, you got some sort of meat and rice. What could be more perfect for a meat and potatoes guy! I thoroughly enjoyed the shish kabobs but what I enjoyed more was the time I got to spend out there with great friends, it was truly a wonderful evening!

It was creeping closer to the end of the night and knowing that I was trying to catch a 1:00 AM flight, I knew that I would soon need to leave or I would miss my flight. I didn't want to leave the restaurant, but I'm pretty sure my wife wanted me to come home as soon as I could. After the others learned that I was catching a flight home they encouraged me to go so I wouldn't miss it. I apologized for having to leave and left for the airport.

It was a mad dash to the airport! I returned my rental car (without putting gas in it knowing that I was going to pay $6/gallon so they could fill it for me) and then hopped on the shuttle to the airport. I had just missed the Northwest Airlines flight so I headed to the Sun Country flight. The gate agent said it was full but maybe someone wouldn't show up. Eventually he closed the door to the jet way and said to me, "You don't have a seat." Great, Sun Country doesn't allow other airlines pilots to sit in the cockpit so I was out of luck. I would have to wait until the 6:30 AM Northwest flight.

Since it was only going to be 5 hours until the next flight I decided to just stay at the airport versus getting a hotel. I had never slept at an airport before so this was going to be another new experience for me. I found a nice wooden bench to lay down on. Let me just say that again, I found a nice WOODEN BENCH TO SLEEP ON! I have to say, that's not the most comfortable thing I've ever slept on.

As I was trying to fall asleep I was reading a magazine called "Best Life". In it they had all sorts of great places to live, great foods to eat, places to visit, etc. Somehow, I think sleeping on a wooden bench at LAX is not what they had in mind.

After about 1 1/2 hours of sleep, I awoke to a very large Hispanic woman sitting on my bench down by my feet. I don't know why she didn't sit on the EMPTY bench next to mine but there was a ticketing line forming near my bench so I thought I should get up and leave. It gave me an appreciation of having a place to sleep every night. You notice how I say "MY bench". I think when you don't have very much, you become very protective of what little you do have.

I headed to the bathroom to clean up and eventually headed through security and to the Northwest gate. It didn't look like I was going to get on the first flight back to Minneapolis and I was about to loose my cool. If I had to spend another two hours in the airport I was going to go NUTS!! I was very thankful when the gate agent said she could get me into the cockpit for the ride home!

The crew on the way home was awesome, although I think I was starting to become a little delirious. After we landed, we waited about 30 minutes for our gate to open up and then I ran off the airplane! I was pretty excited to be home! My wife greeted me with the loving words, "WOW, YOU STINK!" Yeah, I guess after being up for 31 hours, I probably do stink. I got home around 1:00 PM and stayed up until about 8:00 PM, then I was dead to the world for about 13 hours!

I have to say, despite all the traveling, lack of sleep, eating new foods, and spending the night on a wooden bench, feeling the LUV from great friends made it all worthwhile!

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