Monday, March 14, 2011

Stumbling into Atlanta

The nine hour flight from London (eleven counting the National Express bus) was uneventful but tiring.  As always, I accomplished less than I’d planned, tidying receipts and catching up on e-mails instead of reading a novel or writing a paper. 

Economy doesn’t leave much room for spreading out and getting down to work, and periodic food and drink service means that things need to be picked up and put away every couple of hours.

Lots of good movies were available, though: I caught up with The King’s Speech, Red, and Money Never Sleeps (even though I did).

The plane landed on-time at 6:30 pm, and the fun began.

  • Atlanta has an armed border patrol agent check that you have a passport before you get to passport check.  It’s not clear why they expect anyone to arrive ready for battle, considering the level of search and security elsewhere, nor how anyone could have gotten this far without a passport.  But there they were.
  • Atlanta requires security clearance to get out of the airport.  This requires a full shoes and belt off screening, liquids to be put into bags so they can be re-checked through x-rays elsewhere, and the whole-body scanner for selected customers.  This is totally incomprehensible.
  • The bags, once x-rayed, took an hour and a half to appear on the secondary baggage belt.  It’s now 8:30 and I’ve been avoiding eating on the plane so that I can eat once out of the airport.
  • My Hotwired car rental reservation was re-keyed by the computer to an old number, rather than using the card number I put in.  We chase the reservation for a while before settling on a 15% deposit for a pre-paid car rental. This seems calibrated to be useless to the car company, but annoying to have to track on and off the credit card statements.
  • The Sheraton assures me that if I get on 85 North and go two exits, I’ll see the hotel.  A catalog of hotels appears, every size and color, no Sheraton.  I go one exit further, then start working back.  One exit south of the airport, the hotel appears.
  • 9:30 pm, and there is a five person line for one check-in clerk.
  • The clerk tells me that my prepaid Hotwire reservation means I don’t get credit for the stay.  They will, however, give me hotel points for the $9 parking fee.
  • And for the 6.95 fee for 30 minutes of “internet-lite” access.
  • My two room keys don’t work.  The desk clerk suggests that they were nullified by a text message on my phone, if it was held within inches of the cards.

Perseverance is everything, though, and I am in the room and making the difficult dinner – bed choice (food is past it’s prime after 9 pm, I know…).

I think the pillow will win out: it’s been a long day.

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