I have arrived – and it’s warm! What more could you ask for? Considering what I saw when I walked out the door today, Florida is especially nice.
Getting to Florida today was much easier than I ever imagined. First, the snow was over early and there really wasn’t all that much of it. Second, the roads were in good shape. Third, the airport was in good shape. Fourth, Southwest – excellent.
My flight was scheduled to leave at 12:15 PM. On the way to the airport my pocket started vibrating. It was a text message on my cellphone from Southwest. The flight was on time and would be leaving from Gate 2.
Helaine pulled up at the brand new terminal at Bradley International. Compared to the old “bus terminal” it is phenomenal. But, it’s still pretty sterile with too much wasted vertical space to suit me. However, remember what it was before!
Gate 2 is pretty close. I got there early enough to watch a flight to Orlando board and leave.
Let me add here that the Bradley Airport experience would be greatly improved with the addition of Cinnabon. If there’s one in the new terminal, I didn’t find it. Cinnabon is required eating for air travel in the new century.
I struck up a conversation with the gate agent. It looked like the flight would be 2/3 full. So, even though I had a “B” boarding pass (no assigned seats on Southwest) I was in no hurry. As it turned out, I had a full three seat cluster and slept for about an hour. Unlike some other airlines, the Southwest seatbelts stowed nicely out of the way for comfortable sleeping in the airborn fetal postion.
The plane was nice. Southwest flies 737’s and nothing else. There are different model and configurations, but they’re all 737’s. The seats were leather and firm. The plane looked clean, though it was 8 years old. It’s tough to judge legroom and seat width when you’re all alone, but both seemed adequate.
The flight to Tampa was fine. There was a little light turbulence, but it only helped put me to sleep.
After waking up, I struck up a conversation with a flight attendant. The first thing I told her was the first thing I noticed – the Southwest attitude. Everyone was friendly. Everyone was happy. I know this is an overstatement. Even in the best of jobs there are people who are upset, or hate the boss, or feel overlooked and overworked. Still, the aura was there. As someone who’s flown mostly United and USAirways over the last few years (two airlines in financial troubles with labor unrest) it was easy to pick up the vibe.
I had planned on watching a lecture for my Synoptic Meteorology class, but after 7:30 minutes I pulled out the GPS receiver and watched our progress instead.
It was a ‘nerdy cool’, seeing the map and our position, then looking out the window and seeing everything where it was supposed to be. Where I-75 bent on the map, it bent in real life. Lakes and streams were positioned correctly.
We landed in Tampa about 20 minutes early. One of the flight attendants joked on the P.A., “You tell your friends when we’re late. Let them know we were early.” And now I have.
The early arrival added to the ground time in Tampa. I sat on an arm rest and talked with a Connecticut couple and their 21 year old twin daughters. They were on their way to Key West. The dad was a dead ringer for John Goodman, though I didn’t want to say anything, in case he had seen King Ralph or hated Goodman for other more cryptic and sinister reasons.
The door to the cockpit was open, and I asked the flight attendant if I might go up and take some photos. When I got their, the co-pilot had left the cockpit, so I schmoozed with the pilot who asked me if I wanted to sit down. Then he took my picture, at the controls. OK – we were at the gate, but still… It’s a guy thing. I can’t explain it.
The plane was around 1/4 full when we took off for the short run to West Palm Beach. As we headed skyward I studied what looked like cirrus clouds. Closer inspection leads me to believe it was a massive cluster of jet contrails which, in the nearly calm Florida atmosphere, slowly atrophied as it expanded.
My folks were waiting at PBI. They look great. Florida living is life extension. They have a great time and live the best lifestyle they’ve ever had. As I get older, this type of retirement life seems more enticing.
I knew a friend from high school, Ralph Press, was now living in South Florida, so I gave him a call and asked him over for dinner. Though his car was seriously smoking from the engine compartment when he got here, the rest of the journey seemed uneventful.
Ralph looks exactly the same as I remember him. Of course, he’s a lot older – that’s a given. But many people radically change as they age. Ralph has not.
We had dinner and worked on my parents wireless computer network. The network seems to be working except with my laptop. And, the laptop is giving me an error message I’ve never seen before. I have some CAT5 cable, so it’s not a major deal. I can plug-in. But, I will obsess until I fix it and go wireless again.