Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bikes, Baggage, Boxes, and Bull$hit.

There is an episode of SouthPark in which Mr/Mrs. Garrison gets so angry at the airlines that he invents a newer way to travel, called "It." The mode he invents involves pumping thrusters in both hands and having a control stick up your rectum, and another in your mouth, in order to operate it. However, as one person using IT points out, "It's still better than what the airlines do to you."

I haven't flown in several years, so I was amused at the Southpark episode, but I wouldn't say it exactly ressonated with me, until today.

We arrived at the Albuquerque sunport with two bike boxes (VELO-. SAFE) which, I will note, attracted a lot of attention. They are large enough to hold a small child. Two small children, actually. They roll easily on wheels, but we took the advice of someone who had borrowed one of them to do Ironman Lake Placid and stuffed all our transition gear into them around the bikes. At the airport, we hoisted them up onto the scale.

My bike box - 80 pounds.
Sweet Baboo's bike box - 80.5 pounds.

"I can't take anything over 70 pounds," the agent said apologetically. He then showed us a sign in order to show us....what? That he wasn't just making it up?

It would have been much more useful to have known that BEFORE arriving at the airport. Like, for instance, when we asked the agent over the phone if the bike boxes would be a problem. "No problem," we were told. Nothing about weight limits.

It occurs to me that I dimly recollect having heard of a weight limit per piece of luggage before, but it's one of those facts that you so rarely use that it falls out of your head almost immediately, kinda like your children's social security number. Or the address of that person you want the school to notify in case of emergency with your child when you can't be reached.

SOOOOO, we pulled down the velcro buckle covers, unbuckled the buckles, and released the two straps that go around the bike boxes, and pulled off the lid. Noisily. Hmmm. What to ditch, what to keep. I pulled out two bags that I figured added up to about 15 pounds or so and put them aside to weigh. I put them on the scale. Baboo likewise pulled out two bags and set them aside, then dashed upstairs to see if he could buy a suitcase. Mercifully, Albuquerque Sunport is a small airport.

I put my two bags onto the scale. 11.5 pounds. Good guess. Okay, that means my bike box is now 69.5 pounds, so I'm golden.

I put the lid back on the bike box, refastened the security straps, rebuckled the buckles that hold the lid on, and fastened the velcro covers back over the buckles, then pulled the bike box back up onto the scale.

60 pounds.

Uh? I only *teach* math, I'm not, like, a mathematician; however, it's safe to assume that I can add and subtract. 80 pounds take away 11.5 pounds, hmm, should be 69.5 pounds; where did those other 9.5 pounds go? This means I can put another bag back into the box.

SOOOO, I pulled down the velcro buckle covers, unbuckled the buckles, and released the two straps that go around the bike boxes, and pulled off the lid. Noisily. I put the heavier bag back into the box. Then, I put the lid back on the bike box, refastened the security straps, rebuckled the buckles that hold the lid on, and fastened the velcro covers back over the buckles, then clean-jerked the bike box back up onto the scale.

(It is worth noting that just having a large truck-sized box measuring 30'' tall by 16'' wide by 5 feet long attracks enough attention without the constant noise of putting on and pulling off the lids. Standing in line with the airport with two such bike-in-a-box is unusual enough. Then, of course, you throw in all the cussing under my breath, and I had lots of curious onlookers and stimulating conversation openers such as, "wow, is that a bike?" when I had the lid off.)
So anyway. I hoisted the bike box back onto the scale.

70.5 pounds.


I flapped my arms useless at my side, looking at Sweet baboo to make it better and just then, as if by magic, the scale changed to 70 pounds.

By now I was beginning to suspect that there were no electronics, no chip, just a tiny little man inside the scale who looked out at the bag and, depending on his mood, estimated the weight of the bag. The scale stopped at 70 pounds, but every time a ticket agent walked by and moved the air, it would say 70.5 pounds briefly because AMAZINGLY, even at 5200 feet altitutude, that agent was able to general a half pound of aid pressure onto that box.

Sweet Baboo had returned with a lime green suitcase that, at least, we'll find easier in a sea of black bags. We stuffed the extra bags into it. Then we checked the bags. He hoisted his box up onto the scale.

43 pounds.

Now I was convinced of my little man in the scale theory.

Whatever. We finished the bags thing and then our next order of business was to try to remedy the fact that, despite buying the two plane tickets at exactly the same time with the same credit card, we were on opposite ends of the plane in all of our fights. That was remedied easily enough. Then it was a brief breakfast at Gordunos and coffee at the Black Mesa coffee company.

In case you haven't flown lately, some things I know now that I wasn't aware of before this morning, when flying, FYI:

  • Your hearing aid won't set off the metal detector.
  • But your shoes might. Take them off.
  • You cannot take any kind of beverage, sealed or unsealed, though security.
  • You have to take your laptop out of the bag and put it in a separate tray and send it through the x-ray which, they promised me, was perfect safe. (It was).
  • Flights can be, and often are, delayed or even canceled without warning. THERE'S NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT! BECAUSE WE'RE THE AIRLINES, THAT'S WHY! BWAHAHAHAHAH!
  • Unlike your local coffee shop, airport wi-fi isn't free. Except in Albuquerque. Beautiful, SUNNY Albuquerque.
  • Just because they're wearing earphones doesn't mean you aren't going to hear whatever it is they are listening to.
  • There's a very good chance you'll sit next to someone who smells funny. Not me; I had a window seat. Sweet Baboo, on the other hand, was crammed in between me and an older lady who was, um, smelly.
  • There will be at least one example of poor planning who didn't realize until she GOT ON THE PLANE that the seat numbers on her ticket have a meaning, and that they were different on her and the rest of her family's tickets because that means they are in different seats. Firsy she'll try to just sit in random seats that are not hers. Then she will stand ineptly in the isle asking everyone to give up her seat for her until the flight attendant steps in and asks her to sit down, while a line forms behind her of people waiting to get to their seat. She won't care that she is inconveniencing others. She will complain loudly until some super nice person finally gives up their seat to make her shut up and sit down. That super nice person wasn't me, by the way. I was watching the drama but not participating.

  • The constant sound of children crying isn't just for Seinfeld episodes. And in real life, it's not as funny.

  • You will worry constantly about your bike making it to wherever it is you are going. More than you worry about things you used to worry about before you did triathlons, like, will I be killed if we crash. Nope. You'll just worry about your gear making it safely

  • The orange juice they serve does not have the requisite vodka in it that one needs for flying coach.



  1. that I have this list, I am completely prepared for my IM race next year.

    GOOD LUCK! The bike will be fine.

  2. Wonderful post!! Now I can't wait to hear what you have to rant ... er, say ... about this swim course change. Though it should be faster. But it will involve walking 1/3 the length of the swim...

    GOOOOOOD LUCK!! I hope the humidity wasn't like a hot wet fish in the face....

  3. Best Of Luck to you!!!!!! And glad you got there safely. I cannot wait to read about your race.

    Lurker and occasional commenter . . .

  4. I've always been suspicious of scales. No matter where they are ...

  5. Good luck!!!! This is so exciting. I'll be tracking you and cheering you on from the comfort of my whirly office chair.

    You know, I never, ever make a scene, but I think I might have made one about the scales. OMG! That's insane.

  6. I've seen plenty of people go through that weight limit re-packing stuff. If nothing else, they aren't just picking on YOU.

    I figure at some point we're gonna' have to strip nekkid to get through security. It's getting pretty silly...

    Have a good trip!

  7. Why can't my bathroom scale work like that....magically drop 11 pounds for no reason. I'd love it. I take it you must be in Louisville. How exciting. I can't wait to read about it and watch you on IM live. Even though we are going to chicago, I'm taking the laptop.

  8. Additional travel pointers:

    No matter how many signs are posted about how to squeak flawlessly through the metal detector, no matter how many TSA reps are there giving verbal directions, no matter how many persons are in line in front of you to be either a good example or a bad example, and no matter how short the x-ray line you actually get routed to, you will wind up standing behind at least one if not two persons who simply cannot manage to grasp the concept of the x-ray and metal detector. To wit:

    The 400 pound, effing bumpkin (who will be sitting next to you later on the plane) with the metal toed boots, metal belt buckle bigger than your entire abdomen, chain on his wallet, and bowie knife who (after three tries) still sets off the alarm because he forgot about the pistol-shaped cigarette lighter in the pocket of the jeans now slipping down off his bum because he took off his belt after his second attempt to suprass the metal detector.

    The too important and rich to care beyotch (who will be sitting in first class sipping a mojito while you're breathing bumpkin fumes in coach) who is talking on her cell phone instead of paying attention, who makes no effort to get her laptop out of its case, neglects to take off her shoes, won't hang up the phone to put it in the tray, and still sets off the alarm because of all the bling she just had to wear TO THE EFFING AIRPORT!


  9. THere is not a big enough bottle of tequila in hte world to make that better.....

  10. Hope my flight goes better than yours.

  11. Um, yeah, I know all of which you spoke. Makes you question your sanity when wanting to fly anywhere now days.


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