July 04, 2005

Flight to the Medinah

It seems like the apex of convenience to begin an international journey at an airport only ten minutes from your home. This, certainly, was what I was thinking when I booked my ticket to London out of New Haven Tweed Airport. Sure, it was $100-150 more than a direct flight out of one of the New York airports, but by the time you figured in the expense and time of public transportation between New Haven and New York, it seemed a small price to pay for the added convenience.

New Haven Tweed is a great little airport, and its quaint size is directly responsible for most of its best characteristics. For example, the airport parking lot is full of ordinary parking meters. Twenty minutes per quarter, and you can almost always get a spot within ten yards of the front door. At the ticket counter, seven people is an unusually long line. And, it won’t take more than thirty seconds to walk to your gate.

The drawback of this Lilliputian economy is that if your flight is cancelled or delayed for any reason, you are pretty much not going to get where you planned to go. Tweed only flies to two cities---Cinncinnati and Philadelphia---and only four flights a day to each. So, if, by chance, your flight to Philadelphia were delayed for two hours due to “heavy air traffic,” causing you to miss your connection to London, there would be pretty much no options for rerouting you to another flight in time to catch your connection to North Africa eight hours later.

Or, more precisely, your option is to get yourself by bus, train, or automobile, to some other airport in the northeast corridor. Yes, exactly those full-sized airports you paid the $100 premium to avoid the inconvenience of traveling to. Thank you, U.S. Airways.

So I’m standing at the New Haven Tweed ticket counter (yes, “the,” singular) as the travel agent tries to reroute me. After I convince him there’s no way the train is going to deliver me to Philadelphia in time to catch my intended flight, he checks the availability of flights to London out of Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. One spot on the last flight out of JFK tonight---my only chance to get to London in time to make my connection. It leaves in three hours.

So it was that around 8pm on Saturday, July 1, 2005, about when my plane to London was taking off from Philadelphia, I was hurtling down I-95 to New York City. My boyfriend, who thought he had volunteered for the half-hour task of taking me to the local airport, casts me a sideways look that says “you owe me big-time,” as we take off on what will be for him a five-hour round trip to deliver me to JFK.

In retrospect, it was a harbinger of things to come. Almost everything in Tunisia will turn out to be more complicated than imagined.


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