Friday, July 24, 2009

Europe 2009: Seattle to Amsterdam (Thursday, July 23)

I spent much of the morning scrambling around the house to get those last few things packed.  Where are my leather braces (suspenders)?  (Never did find them.)  Where is the master’s cap?  (Oh, yeah, left it on the corner of the sling frame.)  What the hell am I forgetting?  Was also changing the sheets, doing the laundry, and doing the dishes, to leave the house in a good state.

(Things I know I forgot thus far: bathroom scissors to touch up the beard, and a pack of Kleenex.  Finding some place to buy those in Amsterdam turned out to be a challenge.  No Walgreens on the corner!)

Rusty is going to be house sitting for me while I’m gone, feeding the cats and such.  He showed up at about 9 am, expecting me to already be gone.  So instead, he was able to give me a ride to the Light Rail station, saving me the time of schlepping luggage to the bus and waiting for it.

The new Seattle Light Rail was smooth (as expected). Coolest part was the stage between Rainier Beach and Tukwila stations, seeing parts of the area I haven’t seen before.  Ride was a little bumpy on that stage, the elevated part, but only a little.

There were only two of us on the train at that hour.  Which means I’m expecting mid-August to be when the Light Rail detractors declare it a failure due to low ridership, and start to talk about shutting it down and ripping out the tracks.  (Just wait.)

They don’t have all the bugs out of the system yet, though.  No announcements when coming to a station.  Oh, wait, there’s one: “Now arriving… Rainier Beach Station.  Please hold on to a handrail (etc.)”  Only problem is, the announcement went off as we left the station.

I’m flying Northwest from Seattle to Amsterdam.  Only problem: there’s no Northwest ticket counter listed on the airport map!  Oh, that’s right: Delta is merging with Northwest, so go to their counter.  Was pleased to see that there was no charge for the international flight for either bag; I was fearing an additional $50 or more.  So I ended up checking two rather than carrying two on.  Had to move some from the suitcase to the smaller bag to get under 50 lbs., but that was easy.

Coming out of the subway and into the South Satellite terminal, they were doing some major work on the escalators.  They had one bank completely off and were directing everyone onto the other set, but spacing us about six feet apart, to balance the weigh (I guess; maybe it was just to annoy us).  Never seen such a thing.  Making it even more bizarre, they wouldn’t let anyone take the stairs next to the closed escalator, either, for “safety” reasons.  What the fuck?

Boarding the plane, there were no less than five uniformed security people in the jetway itself.  And then at the plane door, one of the flight attendants was being grumpy on the phone, something like “That’s not the policy we’re supposed to follow.  I’m not doing that on any other flights!”  Mmmmaybe that merger with Delta/Northwest isn’t going smoothly?  Were the security folks there to deal with problem employees?

The overhead bins on international flights are about a foot higher than on domestic ones.  Can’t imagine how those bleached blonde 5'1" real estate chicks can get their shouldn’t-be-a-carrry-ons up there without help.  (Didn’t I make that same comment on the trip report for Ireland last year?  Checking the blog, it doesn’t appear so.  I’m sure I thought it.)

I think I only slept about 2-3 hours on the flight (10 hours + 9 hours of time change).  That’s the problem with a daytime flight.  Unlike the flight to Ireland, this one was packed full, almost every seat taken, so there was no chance to stretch out and try to recline and sleep.  (Poor, poor airlines.  Losing money because nobody will fly.  Bull-fucking-shit.)

Watched two movies — the bromance I Love You, Man and Jim Carrey’s Yes Man.  Both were okay, and like most rom-coms (and these are on the edge of the genre), they work perfectly fine on a 7" screen in the back of an airplane seat.

My seatmate was going to have a 3-hour layover in Amsterdam, and then another 5 hours to the Ukraine.  Ugh.

Updated on February 3, 2010
Knock on wood, but the predicted “Get rid of it!” call about Light Rail that I feared would surface hasn’t yet, at least not to any degree I’ve noticed.  I’ve taken it to the airport and back several times now — next Wednesday will be the next time, heading to New Zealand — and ridership has increased every time I've been on it.  And I’ve been noticing more people riding it when the trains go by, although I have no idea how the actual numbers are comparing to projections yet.

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