After a near three year hiatus, I bought a ticket to visit my son who is Swiss and lives in Zurich, where he was born 46 years ago. My son from the US had planned to accompany me, as we have done before. However, over Memorial Day weekend, he had a recurrence of a small bowel obstruction (due to a complicated birth defect) and is waiting for corrective (non-emergency) surgery - since the obstruction again cleared with conservative, though unpleasant, treatment. So, we cancelled his ticket back in June and will have to eat it, unless he can use it to travel before Dec. 31 2023; United allows one free change in tickets, but they must be used within 18 months or so.
So, last evening, I am packing and going through my extensive ‘to-do’ list. I get to the part where I purchase a 30-day ‘International Pass’ from T-Mobile. Except, suddenly, my laptop won’t connect to my home network. Every other device on the network (many- I am an ID -ioT) is properly connected. I re-start my laptop. No joy. I re-start the modem, still nothing. I go through all the network settings - monkey on the typewriter scenario. Wind up with no changes in settings. Also turned off the VPN. No difference. Walk away for 10 minutes so I don’t throw the damn thing against the wall.
Now, it connects and I decide now is the time to update the Express VPN as it has been requesting for several days. The thing stayed connected long enough to download and install the new version. Then, it disconnected every few minutes - about 5 times - not just the VPN, but the home WiFi network. Then, for whatever reason, it works normally again and I purchase the International Plan. I finish packing about 20:30 last evening.
I go to PIT airport this morning and get through the TSA welcoming committee pretty quickly - it wasn’t busy. Only forgot to remove my belt. BTW, I estimate that the decision tree as to what to pack in carry-on versus checked, doubled my packing time - especially with all the medications and supplements I take (some are liquid!); and the fact I am prepared to treat myself for Covid while away with HCQ and ivermectin, etc. The plane for EWR is an hour and a quarter late to arrive, but no problem, as I designed in a 6 hour layover in Newark (EWR) for just this eventuality (I have actually missed the Zurich flight with a 4 hour layover). As I sit down on the Embraer 170 in Premium Economy, I note that I am in that seat most likely to be sucked out, should there be a decompression due to an un-contained compressor blade failure. I relax somewhat after climb power is set, knowing such failures usually occur during TOGA or other significant increases in power settings.
I arrive in EWR, feeling somewhat relaxed, knowing I have lots of time before my flight to Zurich and that the equipment, a Boeing 767-300ER, is already at the gate. I go to the United Club - somewhat ambivalently, as it is usually crowded with minimal ambience or amenities. When I get there, a sign tells me that the club is not for travelers like me, going to Europe, to check the United website for other lounges. I get out my phone, turn off “airplane mode”and see there is no cell signal. Thus, I can’t find where the other lounge is located in order to use its (hopefully) more secure WiFi than the “free” Newark Airport WiFi. With no other option and with my VPN working, I did log onto the free WiFi and located the other United Club. I trek there - did I mention I have an immobilizer boot on my left ankle because of Achilles tendonitis? I arrive about 12 minutes later, only to find the club is “closed for renovations”. But, I’m in luck - there is a temporary ‘pop-up’ club at gate 93. The signage leaves something to be desired, but I find it after only one false start.
I get inside, log onto the WiFi and try to open my T-Mobile app. I has set it for facial recognition, but it insisted on my password. Anyway, the gremlins obviously got into T-Mobile app as well as everything else, since after opening and closing both Brave browser and the T-Mobile app multiple times, it finally decided to recognize my face, rather than demand a password Brave wouldn’t either fill in or show me. I was then able to have a 55 minute text/chat with a helpful T-Mobile human person, who was very surprised this had happened and appreciated my patience (of which I had none at this point, but I stifled myself). All I eventually said was that (she did not know all the appetizers prior to this main course) I was becoming tempted to switch to Verizon wireless, since they were offering me a new iPhone 13 free for switching. I didn’t however tell her that my deal with T-Mobile (for the decrepit like me over age 55) is unbeatable: 2 lines for $70 total for unlimited talk, text and data - including all taxes/fees, in perpetuity - no increase ever before I exit. To get the ‘free’ iPhone, I would have had to pay more than double on a 2 year Verizon contract, with no unlimited anything. So, they were safe all along and it was the only alternative to snark I could manage at that point, I was so emotionally drained.
So, I am writing this in the United Club with three hours before departure for Zurich (if it actually goes on time). At least I have a Premium economy seat at an exit row and, last time I looked, the seat next to me - formerly my son’s - was still empty, unlike the rest of the plane, which is quite full. Anyway, having made this trip 20 or so times, I have a pretty well worked out sleep system. Undocumented engineering abilities permit me to wrap myself in the airline blanket, employing the pillow and an inflatable neck support, so as to achieve a comfortable position - with my head resting against the window. I intentionally keep myself on the slightly dehydrated side (and take a mild anti-coagulant to avoid deep vein thrombosis) so as to not have to practice my usual nocturia; it is a long way, after all back to the toilet. I should add this particular impediment to travel is somewhat ameliorated in those aircraft, like the 767, with only two abreast seating outside the two aisles. My strategy requires a window seat and it is easier to climb over one than over two, unless you can get an exit row - which is not easy. My anesthesiology expertise allows me to live (sleep, in this instance) better through chemistry - as applied judiciously and incrementally to certain mucous membranes - even as the lights are lowered after dinner. I usually get 5 hours and arrive in decent shape.
Do you get the sense that things are fraying, pretty much across the board? I do. This flight, though, I am not in range of an un-contained compressor failure.
(Please excuse grammar, typos, etc. I plead senior moments, physical and emotional fatigue inherent in travel - particularly when it is eventful as here)