Return to the U.S.A.

Arlington, Virginia – November 5, 2014

I departed the Marriott Hotel at a leisurely 08:55, quite odd compared to my previous airline flights. By 09:15, the driver deposited me at the Tegucigalpa Toncontín International Airport. By 10:10, I found myself at Gate 3, waiting for my flight to Houston. Before arriving at the gate, the authorities required me to obtain a piece of paper indicating I paid my departure tax. A quick fingerprint and photograph, and I made it through the “gauntlet.”

I did find it interesting that one must walk through the duty-free store to access the concourse.

While sitting in the waiting area, a national police officer and a young person approached the gate agent. At first, I thought the young person was traveling alone, for some reason escorted by the police officer. I chalked it up to an odd way to get a solo minor onto the plane. As I came to find out later, the person was not a minor. The person sat on the other side of the plane, one row ahead of me. At one point, the person overreached for something. When that happened, I saw a holster and pistol in the middle of the person’s back. The person was very obviously an Air Marshal. I had never witnessed that before. That particular person as an Air Marshal surprised me. I have purposely kept the description of that person very vague.

About 25 minutes after the scheduled departure time, the plane pushed back from the gate. Nearly three hours later the plane landed in Houston.

At about 21:45 the plane arrived at Reagan National Airport. Within ten minutes, I had my luggage. I thought it would take much longer to arrive at the airport and longer still to get my luggage. Because of those thoughts, inaccurate as they were, I had decided to cancel my hotel room in the D. C. area. That decision also centered on the very early flight I had scheduled for the following morning. I thought I would be lucky to get a few hours’ sleep. I did not want to pay $200 for a little rest. Since it suddenly seemed I would have more time, I decided to take a cab to the hotel. Arriving at the hotel, I discovered there were no rooms at the inn. There was some conference in progress. I sat in the bar until it closed. Then I found a comfortable chair in the lobby. At 04:30, I hailed a cab and returned to the airport.

It began to rain somewhat hard as I waited to board the plane to Salt Lake City. Once onboard, after the door closed, there was a lengthy wait to push back from the gate. Finally, we pushed back. Typically, after a push back, the plane sits while the pilots start the engines. I could tell one of the engines started quickly. Then I noticed an odd smell of fuel in the aircraft. Shortly after that, the pilot announced they were unable to start the number two engine. The pilots planned to have the plane pulled back to the gate. There an external device could help start the engine.

Much to the chagrin of all passengers, back at the gate, the engine did not start. The pilot announced a maintenance crew should arrive shortly to install a new part. With all of the delays, I was already going to miss my connection from Salt Lake City to Grand Junction. Therefore, I decided to get off the plane and make other arrangements. I moved from Delta to American. The flight was due to leave in the afternoon, heading to Dallas.

Later that afternoon, as I waited in the gate area, I could tell the flight was full. My zone printed on my boarding pass was Zone 4, that last group to board. Since I had so many electronics in my carry-on, I did not want to have to check my carry-on. I wished to avoid the rough handling and the cold temperatures of the cargo hold, so I decided to plead my case to the gate agent–bad idea. She could have cared less. She told me she would not allow me to board sooner.

Back at my seat in the gate area, I began to take some of the most sensitive items out of my carry-on. I took the “lighter” carry-on back to the gate agent and said I would check the bag. She “gave up” and said it was OK to board with those in Zone 1. I returned to my seat and re-packed the bag.

When it was time to board, I stood near the boarding area to be sure I would be one of the first in Zone 1 to board. The agent announced that any first-class passengers could board, followed by the announcement for any uniformed military members to board. I expected those. Then came the following boarding groups:

  • Those needing extra time to board
  • Platinum members
  • Gold members
  • Priority members
  • Those that wished they were platinum, gold, or priority members
  • Anyone that had ever heard of Christmas
  • Anyone who may have taken a breath of oxygen lately
  • Anyone that would like to board ahead of Zone 1 passengers

By the time I boarded, I knew there was no hope that I would be able to stow my bag. Sure enough, I got on the plane with no overhead bin space available. I then fought my way “upstream” with my bag so I could check the bag.

Luckily the flight to Dallas was uneventful. After 37-hours, I made it from Tegucigalpa to Grand Junction!

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