Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Saturday, June 30, 2007 - Opening Day

Part I – Getting There

So…I’m at CMU, in my dorm, alone, with my computer. Greeeeaat. I’ve spent most of the day waiting. Waiting to board the plane, waiting for the plane to take off, waiting to get off the plane, waiting for Zone 5 to be called, waiting for the engines to start up, waiting for the plane to start moving, waiting for the plane to start moving faster, waiting to get to Pittsburgh, waiting to get off the plane, waiting for my luggage, waiting in a cab to get to CMU, waiting for the Student Orientation Meeting, waiting for them to get to the point, waiting for people to stop asking redundant, stupid questions, waiting for the miserable dinner to be over, waiting to find a good time to just walk out, waiting for the hall meeting to start (I’m doing that last one now). So, that’s been the gist of my day, but I guess I can go more into detail.

My mother, grandfather, and I leave my grandparents’ house around 3:45ish, stopping at McDonalds along the way. I think I hate their Late Night Menu. They don’t have Snack Wraps! Nonetheless, after eating dry Chicken Selects, we arrive at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport around 4:00am. There is a long line at the AirTran ticket/reservations desk, yet there is no customer service representative there. We get into line, and the line gets longer, and finally two snappy-late-for-work-“I-hate-my-job”-AirTran employees arrive. They yell for everyone to go print out their boarding pass at the kiosk if they haven’t done so already, and then to get back and wait in line. So my mother holds my spot while I print out my boarding pass, and my name for luggage is called instantly. Just made the weight on the bigger bag by 1.5 pounds! The cranky employee didn’t want to give my mother the Gate Pass that had already been reserved, but she ended up doing it anyway with an attitude. Nothing at FLL is open at 4:30 in the morning. Security is just pulling back their gates…and they’re cranky too! In the last 3 days I’ve definitely learned that public service/government jobs = cranky people. Beware of those postal workers lol. So when we get up to the security line, my bag has to get rescanned. Twice.

“WHO’S BAG IS THIS?!” says the disgruntled security worker as she holds up my backpack.

“Um…it’s mine,” I reply shyly.

“Well something looks funny in here, I’m gonna have to run it back again!” she states as she throws my bag on to the conveyor and moves it back and forth, and back once again.

Although I know that I don’t have any illegal/prohibited substances or materials, stuff like this always gets my heart racing. Then I remembered. This always happens to me. My bag always gets reversed on the belt. It’s my bag of goodies inside. Well, it’s just a bunch of cables that I stick in a bag when I travel. But I guess it’s enough to look like a bomb airport unmentionable.

There was a knock at my door from one of the RAs to remind me of the floor meeting at 8:00pm and a pre-floor meeting in the hallway at 7:55pm before the dorm floor meeting. These people are just SO nice.

So we get through security, and the clock says 4:57am. When we reach the area with the gates, we realize two things. No one’s ticket has a gate number, and there aren’t any destinations or flight information on any of the screens at the gate. This lead to a ton of confusion, but it ended up that this flight was the ONLY one open at this time, therefore all of these people were going to Atlanta, and therefore all of these people should park themselves at the gate with the plane in front of it. Why is this whole common sense thing so mind boggling? The gate area fills up rather quickly, and I swear every 5 seconds someone is asking “Is this the gate for Flight 558 to Atlanta?” And the response is always “Attention Passengers: Gate E4 is serving Flight 558 leaving at 5:38 to Atlanta, continuing to Buffalo.” Most people only heard “Flight at 5:58 to Buffalo” which therefore undoubtedly precedes a slew of ignorant questions. “I thought we were leaving at 5:38!” “I’m not going to Buffalo!” “Where’s my gate!” Jeez, just sit the fuck down and be patient.

Shortly after, they begin calling zones.

“Now boarding Zone 1 & 2 for Flight 558 to Atlanta continuing to Buffalo.”

My seat was in Zone 3. I begin to gather my things and my mother’s eyes begin to water. I ask her if she was going to cry (stupid question), and yes, she did…just a little. It seemed like one of those weird scenes from a Hallmark movie. Walking through the jetway waving goodbye to my mother sadly. At some point walking through I realized “Woah! I’m on my own now for 6 weeks.” But that quickly faded away as I walked into the cramped plane. No matter how big the plane, it always feels teeny walking through the aisles. I found my seat, a window seat next to a couple, including a woman that insists on having the air on full blast from all three nozzles and forcing me to freeze for 1.5 hours. At this point I was extremely tired, but I wasn’t ready to go to sleep, although I might have enjoyed a nice nap.

time for that floor meeting + mentalist show

Despite the uncomfortable ride from FLL to ATL, we still arrived more than 20 minutes early. So after speaking with an agent at the gate, I found out that the gate had been changed from D1 to C16. No train ride for me L. But there was more of a shocker when I arrived at the gate. 1.5 hours before scheduled departure and the seating area is packed. Not a single seat. So I lean against a nice hard metal pole and start observing, soon become bored. I wager back and forth with myself about going to get something to eat or even just wandering around. But we were graced with overbooking on this lovely flight to Pittsburgh. “We only need 8 passengers volunteer their seats in exchange for 2 roundtrip tickets to any location that AirTran services.” It was an irresistible offer. You could see the expressions of everyone debating on whether they should keep their seats or wait until 4:30 and then get 2 free tickets. If I didn’t have to be at orientation by 1:30, those tickets would have been mine.

Blah blah normal flight as usual, except it was delayed. There was a problem with the plane, so even though we were supposed to depart at 8:05am, we took off around 9. 1 hour and 15 minutes later and we are roaming over the plush greenery of Pittsburgh. It was so beautiful. Pretty cool airport too. It took like 10 minutes to get off the plane, and as soon as I did I rushed to find something to eat, not because I was hungry, but because mother said so. So I found a Sbarro and got a slice of pizza and a bottle of water. I forgot that the type of water varies in different places, so I was shocked when I didn’t see any Zephyrhills. Poland Springs instead. It tastes like Deer Park. Ugh.

Down the escalator, on a train, to the left, and we are now at Baggage Claim. I figure it’ll be a few so I sit down and eat my pizza, which I must say was delicious. The bell that announces the start of the luggage movement rings just as I take my last bite into the crust, so I finish really quickly and hop up to the side of the carousel. My bags had to have been one of the last ones to come out. I was starting to get nervous with all of the connection nightmares, but my last bag finally came around the side, reliving my worries. While waiting I spotted someone that pulled out a SAMS Handbook, and realized that that was my chance to save $20 on a cab. I asked if he had transportation – No, and then if he wanted to split a cab for $20ish each – Sure. But caught up in the excitement, I realized that there was a finger-sized hole in the top pocket of the large bag. I wasn’t quite to thrilled to see that, along with several other tears and scratches in my brand new luggage. Scratches are one thing, but holes, intolerable. I took some pictures before I even opened the luggage to see if we can submit them and receive anything for the damages.

We walked out to the ground transportation level and to the empty line for cabs. The guy already knew where (or what direction) we were going before we even got in. First thing I noticed about Pittsburgh: locals don’t say CarnEGGie Mellon, but instead CarNAYgie Mellon. The drive seemed quicker than the 45 minute expectation, and the cost was cheaper than the $46 estimate on the cab company’s website. The environment was a lot different than I expected. It wasn’t too hilly or mountainous, but it was hillier than Florida for sure, and the whole area was surrounded by lots of plush, thick greenery. Passing through the Pittsburgh Tunnel was the gateway to the downtown area of the city. There were tons of bridges extending from many directions. Entering the city, you could immediately tell that it was college territory, with UPitt’s Cathedral of Learning in clear view.

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