Thursday, September 08, 2016

There is none so blind as he who cannot see

Yes, I know the saying is supposed to go "will not see," but back in my 20s it amused me to rewrite sayings so they would be more tautological.  Another altered version that I liked was "Always a bridegroom, never a bride."

But today the saying got its revenge on me, as I went full "will not see" with a vengeance.

Here is some advice for you less experienced travelers out there.  If you print out your boarding pass in advance, based perhaps on still not 100% trusting the scannable one on your phone, here is an idea that you might try to keep in mind.  If your boarding pass says "LGA-IED" (as in, LaGuardia to Dulles) probably you shouldn't inaugurate your career as an Uber user - which itself proved baffling at first - by going from lower Manhattan to NEWARK instead, and that during the peak surge pricing period, no less.

I tried doing that today.  And while James Branch Cabell's Jurgen likes to say that he will taste any drink once, frankly this is one drink that I don't much recommend.  Even if you manage, as I apparently ultimately did, to avoid draining the very bitterest dregs.

Going back in time a few hours now that we've set the scene, this afternoon I taught my third International Tax class of the semester,  the planning for which consumed the early part of the day.  I had gotten one point backwards in my head at the previous class, and although I corrected it in time (with prompting) I didn't want this to happen again.  But what I'm trying to say in self-mitigation is, I think I might have been a bit preoccupied.

Anyway, afterwards, I had lots more time than needed to get to the airport.  I'm headed to State College, PA, as I am giving two talks tomorrow at St. Francis College, and the flights from NYC to there are thin on the ground, and nonexistent if one wants to fly direct.  (I otherwise make a point of avoiding Dulles in Washington at almost all costs, but it was the only connection that worked for me with United.)

So I took my time, and still got to Newark quite early, albeit (due to initial Uber travails and the hellacious Holland Tunnel traffic) not quite as early as I might have been.  Over to the security checkpoint, relieved to have Premium Access boarding and TSA Pre-Check, and then the guard tells me that my boarding pass doesn't scan.  Do I have one on my phone?  Yes, but that doesn't scan either.  Then I was the first to notice that my boarding pass says LGA-IED, and I was at EWR.  The guard, by the way, rebuked me for responding to this spiritedly (shall we say), even though my distress was not directed at her.

Now, at this point I might have tried to check for other flights from Newark to Dulles.  But I still had  more than 2 hours to boarding time (and verging on 3 to actual flight departure time), so I decided to take a cab to LaGuardia instead.

Almost a bad choice.  NYC metro area traffic can of course be utterly horrific around the airports and at river crossings, especially on weekday evenings at rush hour, and I had two rivers to cross, through inadequate roads with multiple lanes closed for the never-ending repair work.  It's plausible that, a week or two later, if the post-Labor Day return to normal action levels is gradual rather than instantaneous, I wouldn't have made it, or even come close.  (My cabdriver was frankly skeptical about my chances when we started out.)

Then the traffic gods decided to pump up the cheap suspense like a bad TV potboiler.  (Actually, I thought the final episode of the second season of Silicon Valley was quite guilty in this regard - pointless plot turns just to keep you hanging, too nakedly manipulative to fit the show's tone at its best.)  Traffic initially is faster than expected, so we're going to make it for sure.  But then it's slower than expected, so I'm hanging by a thread but not quite doomed yet.  My cabbie took it very much to heart - he actually asked me to call him to confirm that I had made it, and I did so.  Which gives away the ending, of course - I arrived breathless at my gate in LaGuardia, 5 minutes before boarding time, and figuring that it wasn't all bad (given the Yelp reviews of airport food options) that I lacked the time to eat properly.

BTW, absolutely no way of getting to State College in time for my first talk if I miss the flight, other than through hideous redeye options such as driving all night, or taking an overnight bus that requires walking several minutes from one stop to another at 4 in the morning.  But now, not to tempt fate, it appears that only a mishap with the Dulles to State College flight could stop me.

On the whole, I think this has been quite enough excitement for one day, especially as my flight to State College still doesn't board for 40 minutes and gets in at almost 11:30.  And hopefully, unlike Serena, who was evidently too worn out by yesterday's tight escape to bring her A game today (it's hard at age 34, and I'm a bit more than that), I will have enough game left tomorrow (despite today) both for my talk on inversions, to college students who don't know any tax law stuff (which should make explaining things from the ground level up fresh and interesting), and for that on budget deficits, at which any strong deficit hawks who are in attendance might conceivably deem my approach too conceptually neutral.

On the whole, not recommended.  Abraham Lincoln reportedly liked to mention the fellow who was tarred, feathered, and ridden out of town on a rail, and who responded by saying that, if it wasn't for the honor of the thing, he would just as soon have walked.  I myself would just as soon have headed to the correct airport the first time around.  But I suppose there's a first time for everything (I don't recall ever doing this before).

Over and out.  But next time I will try to look at my boarding pass more carefully, be it paper or on my phone, before I again arbitrarily start heading out to random airports.

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