As an urban fantasy action-adventure author, I’m always trying to draw from my real life experience to fuel my fiction. I’m not sure if Esther and I’s voyage to LosCon is making that list–but it may end up in a horror story at some point.
So it’s Wednesday, November 24, and the two of us have made our way to SeaTac International Airport. We show up early, because it’s the day before Thanksgiving and we know it’s going to be bad.
…we didn’t know how right we were.
We made it to TSA checkpoint #5 – the checkpoint closest to the Alaska baggage check–and the Alaska gates. The guards at this checkpoint very kindly told us that they were very backed up, and advised us to check at #4.
At #4, we were sent to #3.
At #3, we were sent to #2.
Now, in order to understand what’s really happening to us here, I need to interject this little fact: We are carrying our entire table’s worth of books with us. You see, with checked bags, there’s a weight limit. The first time we flew, we put the books into a checked bag–this worked very poorly for us, as it led to a massive surcharge because of the weight. We’ve since learned that if we put the books into our carry-ons, and we check the bags containing clothes, shelves, table covers, etc., that we avoid any of these weight issues. And since they almost always call for people willing the check their carryons at the gate, we’ve never ended up actually having to lift one of these massive weights into an overhead bin.
I tell you that so that you understand that Esther and I are, as we trudge our way betwixt the checkpoints, are hauling about carryons filled to bursting with books. They represent a significant amount of weight, and we pull them about like oxen at the yoke.
Furthermore, we are attempting–not terribly successfully–to navigate these awkward masses in between the crowds of Thanksgiving travelers, all of whom appear to be getting referred between gates as the TSA officials at any given gate refer people back and forth.
This produces a sort of up-stream effect, where progress over the half-mile we need to cover represents, say, an amount of danger, heartache, backbreaking labor, and frustration as, say, a single day on the Lewis and Clark expedition. I will, in homage to one of my favorite authors, refer to this unit of measurement as an LAC from here on out.
After One LAC, we arrive at The Line. Checkpoint 2 is, at least, capable of accepting us–and I can see why! Yes, there’s a twisty-turny corridor built of flexible nylon straps–but unlike the other checkpoints, it is only half full! We rejoice–and then we proceed to enter, jubilant at our discovery.
Then we wait for roughly .25 LAC in said line, and then we reach the front of it. People are proceeding out from the line! They are walking up to a TSA agent. Oh frabjous day–we have arrived at last!
The problem with hope is the withdrawal of same.
Because…the line we were in was the line to get in line for checkpoint #2. It was not, in fact, the line for checkpoint #2. It was instead a proto-line, designed to temporarily raise the morale of the unwary traveler, presumably as a method for preventing riots.
As I gazed at the sea of heads the still stands before me and the actual checkpoint, my back aching from dragging these books around behind me, that is the moment I broke. What follows is 1.5 LAC in an unending line, trudging forward one pointless step after another as “Where There’s a Whip” from Ralph Bakshi’s version of Lord of the Rings plays within my mind.
I am checked through to the screening lines with relative ease–nothing wrong with my pass and ID–and then comes the Great Unpacking.
First off, I haul Das Bookbag up off the ground. This is a Herculean effort at this point, and the already-knotted muscles in my back scream in protest. Nevertheless, the TSA demands that my books pass through their X-ray, and so onto the conveyor it goes.
Next up is my con bag. This is less weighty, but more complicated, as all electronics must be removed. I do this as a way of stalling my next task–but eventually it is time for me to remove my boots. I bend at the waist. My back screams at me, protesting this unnatural movement.
Now, I tend to wear hiking boots, because of the ankle support. But after the 2.75 LAC I have experienced, the task of removing said boots becomes an exercise in pain and suffering. I audibly groan in the middle of the TSA line, which does not endear me to the good people waiting behind me for their own chance to be screened.
One my boots are clear I straighten myself. As I do so, I promptly drop our banner–a self-standing model encased in a spring-loaded metal case–directly on my recently unshod foot. It crashes with unerring accuracy into my pinky toe, then clatters to the ground, thus causing me a second level of pain as I must once more bend over and grab the thing in order to get it onto the conveyor as well.
Once scanned and found to be transporting nothing more dangerous than a bag full of my ideas (a danger that I believe TSA may underrate), I am free to re-assemble myself, a process I find equally challenging, if slightly less pressured as the mass of humanity behind me is, at least, allowed to flow around me as I reassemble.
By this point, my world is nothing but pain.
And yet, as a result of having been directed to checkpoint #2, we must now fight our way back upstream for a full LAC in order to find ourself once again in Alaska Airlines territory–specifically, gate D4. I plop down into my seat, panting and aching–and wait for our flight.
Now, airport seating is far less conducive to long waits than it should be. So by the time I am actually boarding my flight, I am already balled up into a cramping know of muscles. And I still have the two-hour flight to LA through which to suffer.
Once we arrive at LAX, we make our way to the hotel shuttle loading zone, only to find out that our hotel is somewhat less accomodating with its shuttle service than its neighbors. They say they make the trip every half-hour, but for some reason during our 50-minute wait we see the shuttles of many other hotels make multiple stops in front of us, as though to taunt us regarding the Sheraton Four Points’ efficiency–or lack thereof.
The only bright spot to this wait is a metal pole arising from a block of concrete for apparently no reason whatsoever, save for this moment. Sitting atop the block of concrete and ramming my back repeatedly into said pole allows me to chisel shallow inroads into my muscle-balls, providing a minimal level of relief to my agony.
Once at the hotel and in our tiny room, we face one more challenge. It is now ten PM, and we need to find a jug of distilled water for my CPAP machine. This involves an Uber trip to a nearby Ralph’s, making this the most expensive jug of distilled water ever purchased by man. Finally, we stumble into our hotel room, aching and exhausted, and able to rest.
Our two hour flight has taken us, from arrival at Seatac to arrival at the hotel, a total of 12.5 hours. Or, as I think of it, roughly 6.2 LAC.
That said, we’re here at LosCon! So buckle up, Froglodytes–because I didn’t go through all of that for nothing!