Saturday, April 11, 2009

Chilling at Ali Al Salem

So here I sit in an internet cafe on the world's slowest computer. I think this thing is running Windows 95 ... the original version ... as originally installed on this antique clunker of a machine. The monitor is about as sharp as a Q-tip and the keyboard clatters like a silverware drawer. But what the heck, it's working, and I'm not doing anything high-tech anyway.

We had a decent flight from Dulles to Kuwait. United Airlines is not exactly my favorite customer-service company right now. We got there pretty early and tried to check in. United has gone over to the Dark Side, making customers do their own checkin as much as possible, and actual agents are hard to find since they're running back and forth between four or five open counters each. United's computers didn't like any of the documents or information that I provided - not my passport, not my last name, not my confirmation number. Maybe it was the fact that I was on a one-way ticket or something. Whatever the case eventually let me in and tried to sell me all sorts of upgrades (a first-class upgrade would've been $800 - NO THANKS!) before it finally printed out a ticket-looking thing that said, in effect, "you're sorta checked in, but we won't take your bags until it's less than 6 hours before your flight." At the moment, it was 6 hours and 8 minutes before the flight. The ticket agent didn't give a hoot, he just said to go get in line again. Which I grumpily did. The next time through, the computers again didn't like any of the documentation I provided, even though I was supposedly checked in already. But eventually it decided to let me on, and another United agent with no personality whatsoever slapped some baggage claim tags on my stuff and sent me on my way.

The agents at the gates were a bit more customer-service-oriented. I'd been stuck in the middle of the middle row (ugh) and the United web site wouldn't let me change it. But the lady at the gate found me a window seat which was a vast improvement.

We took off on time and the skies, for a little while, were clear. We passed just south of Baltimore and then Philadelphia and their lights were bright and sharp. I was able to pick out Baltimore's Inner Harbor and other landmarks that I was familar with. Then cloud cover took over and hid everything before we flew directly over New York. After dinner, I propped my head against the bulkhead and slept pretty well, considering I was jammed into a small seat with no room to stretch or move. Our route took us over Europe and Turkey, and the skies started clearing again as we hit the border with Iraq. It was fun to watch the land change from the mountains to the flat Mesopotamian crescent as we flew over eastern Iraq and began the descent into Kuwait. Twelve hours after takeoff at Dulles, we had a smooth landing in Kuwait. After getting our bags and clearing customs, we were met by our contact and taken to Ali Al Salem airbase. We'll be here until we catch a flight to Baghdad.

So I'm almost back in country. Now I'm starting to get excited about getting back to work. I'm trained, I'm tired, and I need a shower. Sounds pretty normal to me!


David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 04/14/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

Chris said...

Good grief, it has been a while since I have checked your post. Things appear to have changed. Stay safe.

Chris fr Norway