Let me tell you about my latest trip. I still wonder sometimes why I do this to myself, but am thankful that I still find fun in flying for the sake of flying. I hope you find this “Dear Diary” entry at least a bit humorous.
The trip started with a flight from Burbank to San Francisco followed by a late dinner in the American Express Centurion Lounge. Tender beef short ribs, mashed potatoes, and mushy peas hit the spot. Then a redeye to Washington Dulles on United, consigned to a bulkhead economy class seat in my new life as a Premier Gold. I did not manage much sleep, but the flight was uneventful.
Upon landing in Dulles, I took the airport train to Terminal B to visit the British Airways lounge, which serves as a Priority Pass lounge until 2pm each day. The food spread is limited, but it was nice to get caught up on email and enjoy a couple cappuccinos before heading out.
Over to Enterprise where for the second week in a row I wound up with a Volkswagen Jetta. A short drive over to Vienna, VA to visit friends and my traveling was over for the day. I’d make up for it tomorrow, though.
Early the next morning I returned to IAD and returned to my favorite desk at the BA lounge for a couple more cappuccinos (they are truly only mediocre, but better than nothing). It was time for the primary purpose of the trip: Virgin America First Class.
Virgin America began new service between Washington National and Dallas Love earlier this year and to celebrate the new route, offered one-way first class fares for about $200. Likely accidentally, Virgin also filed fares at the same price from Washington Dulles. Thing is, there is no IAD-DAL flight — you have to go through LAX. So with a coupon applied, I was ready to travel from IAD-LAX-DAL for $169 in first class. Not bad at all.
I’ll have a separate review of the flights, but here’s what I thought about Virgin America – good service, good food, comfortable seat for daytime flight, expensive but functional WiFi, and average IFE choices. Is Virgin a step above the legacies? In some ways, but in other ways is exactly the same.
Upon reaching LAX, I should have done the sensible thing and just skipped the segment to Dallas, but I reasoned that I neeed two flights in Virgin America First Class just in case the first one was a one-off in a good or bad way. So I spent an hour in the Virgin American Loft at LAX (former home of the Alaska Boardroom) before boarding the next segment.
Upon reaching DAL, the plan was to take Uber across town to DFW, spend a couple hours in the AMEX Lounge at DFW, then head back to LAX via Denver on United. Problem: the Uber app stopped working on my iPhone. The app said I had to add a credit card, even though I already had two stored. This was an endless loop even as I removed and reinstalled the app. My wife Heidi does not have an Uber account set up yet, so I set her up with a new account, but Uber must have technology in place to prevent against gaming the system by constantly setting up new accounts, because I could not get it to function, first because it would not let me enter the same mobile number for her account as mine and after that, because the four-digit code sent to her was rejected on my phone. I was just trying to order an Uber!
Totally aggravating so finally I logged into my father’s Uber account and was easily able to order a car. Only the driver was running late and instead of two minutes it took him 10 minutes to arrive. Meanwhile, the driver repeatedly called my dad to advise him on where is was and my dad was of course totally clueless. The driver didn’t do texting so my text messages never reached him. Finally, though, he pulled up and we were off. It is 6:57p and I still have time, even though I have just wasted 90 minutes. So now let’s change to present tense.
“Ding! Ding!” goes my phone. My flight to Denver is delayed. I will now misconnect there. The only other option appears to be going via San Francisco, though I would be waitlisted on the SFO-LAX flight which was sold out (and is now operated by a regional jet). Oh well, no other option, so I rebooked. Had I been a little earlier, I could flown via Chicago.
We make remarkable time and arrive at DFW at 7:17p. Forlorn at the thought of being stuck in SFO, I head through a desolate terminal E and through PreCheck. No other passengers. Just past security I see the Chicago flight still has not left the gate and a final call is being made.
I rush to the gate where a great gate agent happily re-accommodates me on the flight and confirms me all the way to LA. I wind up in a bulkhead middle and the door shuts right behind me. Not bad: a 25-minute connection between DAL and DFW!
The flight is uneventful and we land in Chicago with only 35 minutes to connect. Having skipped the AMEX Lounge, I am now hungry but Tortas Frontera is closed so I wind up with a small hamburger at McDonalds (the only thing I will eat there)—hey, hey, no judging. Everything else was closed anyway.
The Chicago – LA flight is lightly filled in the back, though full up front. I wind up with a row to myself in Economy Plus and here is where the fun begins.
As I am checking e-mail prior to pushback (though Wi-Fi worked without a hitch in-flight), a big black man named Cedric is wheeled onto the plane. He’s got a seat way in the back, but he is on the morbidly obese side so a gregarious FA comps him the open row of seats behind me.
He’s got a fedora on and is wearing sunglasses. The young wheelchair attendant helps him to his seat and the conversation goes as follows:
Cedric: How boutcha give me a nice kiss on the check?
LeNasha (she had a badge on) gives him the roll eyes, but goes in for this kiss on the cheek.
Cedric jerks his head to the left so instead of the cheek, LeNasha finds herself kissing his mouth!
Her eyes go wide and she jerks back her head and wags her finger at him.
LeNasha: You a naughty ol’ man!
Cedric: Come on baby, how about some sugar?
LeNasha just rolls her eyes and exits the aircraft.
Cedric (yelling): Girl, you know you going to be ugly one day!
Cedirc has a cane and soon I feel it poking me from between the seats behind me. I turn around and Cedric flashes a big grin and states, “You see that? You see what I did there? She came in to give me some sugar and I turned my face so she got me in the mouth!”
He puts up his hand wanting me to give him a big high-five and I oblige, then turn around.
Poke, poke! I turn around and Cedric begins talking.
“You know, I’m a limo driver and I drove Jamie Foxx once. You see that Ray Charles movie? That be him.”
I nodded and then he started naming off all these black musicians and actors that I had never heard of. I guess he expected me to be impressed because when he noticed the blank stare on my face he grimaced and said, “Don’t you watch movies?”
I responded with “no” and thankfully his attention was diverted away from me by the gregarious FA who brought over a seat belt extender for him. This was an ex-Continental crew on tonight’s flight and she truly was a friendly FA, perhaps pushing 60 with a great smile and contagious laugh.
FA: You need one of these hun?
Cedric: You know it!
FA: Let me know if you need a second one
Cedric: What you think I am? I be big, but I ‘aint that big!
They both burst out laughing and I could not help but to laugh as well.
Cedric: Why you so happy? Usually you people are in a sour mood.
FA: I’ve been divorced for 20 years. Life is good.
She walked away.
Poke, poke! It was his cane again.
Cedric: Watch what Ima gonna do.
There are two FAs in the forward cabin, both who happened to be black. Cedric signaled for the male FA and he came over:
Cedric: Hey bro, send that sister over.
The FA looks confused.
Cedric: What’s wrong with you boy? You tell your friend over there to get her butt over here.
The FA nods and walks up the aisle to the first class galley and sends his colleague back.
She arrives at the seat and Cedric puts on another show.
Cedric: Hey good looking.
FA: Can I help you sir?
Cedric: I don’t know. You married?
Cedric: Where your ring at?
FA: I forgot it.
Cedric: I heard that one before. You live in Chicago?
Cedric: Now I ask that other sister to give me a smooch but how about you let me take you home in my limo when I comeback on Tuesday?
FA: Anything else sir?
Cedric: Your telephone number for starters!
FA walks away, not exactly amused but not angry either.
Cedric: You see that? I got the moves.
The safety video started. Thankfully. After a short taxi we took off. Cedric was soon asleep and snoring audibly enough for the several rows around him to hear.
I tried to get some work done, but was so tried I soon leaned over and quickly fell asleep, resting for the remainder of the flight. Having three seats to lay across is a better deal than first class.
As we approached LA and final landing announcements were made, the gregarious FA tried to wake up Cedric but that man was a deep sleeper. She tapped him gently several times and got absolutely no response. Finally, she had to shake him hard and he calmly opened his eyes and nodded as he was told to prepare for landing.
His seatbelt back on, he promptly fell asleep again, which was a much better alternative to another cane poke.
It’s now 1am, but my story is not over yet. We get into LAX and I notice my brother has texted me saying I am on my own. Although the Chicago flight left DFW earlier then the DEN flight, because we were going out of the way arrival time had been pushed back from 11pm to 1am and my brother is not a night owl like me.
Heidi is also not a night owl, my parents are not night owls, my uncle is not a night owl, and I certainly was not going to bother grandma, so I was stuck finding my own way home. This is where the cheap in me comes out, I am sorry to say.
Look, there is virtue to frugality and I try to be very sagacious in the way I spend my money, but sometimes I realize I just do not perform a cost-benefit analysis in a smart way.
I try to get Uber (that was smart) but Uber is still blocked from LAX. I considered trying my luck with the Parking Spot shuttle to In-N-Out for a late-night snack, but decide against having hamburgers twice in one day and a FlyAway shuttle to LA’s Union Station was just pulling up.
Without giving it too much thought, I hop on and soon find myself on I-105 heading for downtown LA. We reach Union Station and I figured from there I would take Uber to my apartment.
The bus subculture is an interesting one. I sat across from a woman who asked me if she could walk from Union Station to Lancaster, CA. That’s about 70 miles…she was pregnant and said she was meeting her boyfriend there, but was on the phone with Southwest (she had to borrow my cell phone) trying to move her flight to Birmingham back a couple days. She asked me if there were pay phones at Union Station.
Oh man. I wish I had my car, for perhaps I would have driven her to Lancaster. Being stuck in an unfamiliar city in the middle of the night 70 miles from where you need to be cannot be a good feeling. A big matronly woman sitting in front of us joined the conversation and offered to help her out. She could stay at her house overnight and then find a way to Lancaster the next morning. A little bit of humanity on a bus in LA at 1:30a.
Problem though once we reached Union Station – surge pricing at 1:45a at 2.5x normal pricing. No way I am paying $40 to go 12 miles.
I consider walking home, but think better of it and make a compromise, taking Uber Pool (all alone) to Hollywood and Highland for $5. The stupid Uber app was working again, but not really because it ate a $20 credit on the $5 ride. How’s that for annoying (and stupid me – why didn’t I use the stupid credit to get me all the way home?).
Dumped off at Hollywood and Highland, I notice there is a bus stop and a bus line that runs right near my apartment. The bus is due in about 15 minutes, so I waited. Everyone around me is smoking. Why do people smoke, especially the poorer among us? I just don’t get it – a disgusting and expensive habit.
Oh look, AA.
The bus arrives and it works out just fine – 10 minute later I am back at my apartment, where my wife does not get up to welcome me home!
How’s that for a day? I’ve got to work on not being so cheap…and thanks to Cedric for the great laughs.