“…hopefully, than to arrive.” Or so the saying goes. This past weekend, however, I found myself with too much travel, too much work, and too little time. The question I had to answer: Fly, drive, or… something else?
My weekend was neatly defined by a fixed beginning (10pm Friday night, by which time I would have seen my son off to sleep and packed my bags) and a fixed end (5:30am Monday morning, when I would be at my current day job, sweeping floors for a faceless corporation). In between I needed to get from Columbus, Ohio to Toronto, Ontario and shoot two days’ worth of footage for a video review of the 2011 Ford Edge. Not a problem; I had plane tickets available if I wanted them.
Would flying be the best way to go? I looked at the time involved. I need to leave my house two hours before takeoff for international flights, even if “international” just means “Canada”. The flight itself would be about an hour and a half. There would be half an hour getting my baggage, going through Customs, and walking out, and then I would need to drive, or ride, an hour or so to the filming location. That’s five hours minimum, if everything went perfectly, and it would happen on the airline’s schedule. The cost of such a flight would be about four hundred dollars round trip, plus thirty bucks to park at the airport.
Driving directly from my house to the location would be 408 miles each way, and including a bit of a wait for Customs would be approximately six and a half hours. Fuel would would be forty-two gallons at $2.89 each, for a total of $121.38. That left three hundred dollars for depreciation, tires, brakes, oil changes, and whatnot. Needless to say, my Town Car, being a member of that almighty and indestructible class of automobiles spoken of in hushed tones as a “Panther”, does not cost that kind of scratch to operate.
The financial side of it looked good. Time for the intangibles. Let’s talk about these “nudie booth” scanners for a minute. I like to go through the scanner looking my best, if you know what I mean, and I think you do. At the age of fifteen, merely rolling the word “brassiere” around in my head was sufficient to produce the desired response. At twenty-five, indulging myself in a bit of eidetic recall did the trick. Past my thirty-ninth birthday, I’m forced to edit and produce a lengthy feature in my mind’s eye starring at least two ex-girlfriends, my favorite automotive PR rep, and a Titanic-era Kate Winslet in a variety of degrading, yet exhilarating scenarios that the publisher of La Nouvelle Justine ou Les Malheurs de la vertu would have refused to print on the grounds of public morality. And even that sometimes just makes me sleepy nowadays.
No matter. It turns out that the federal government is capable of perversions I never imagined, whether it’s molesting a three-year-old or popping a cancer victim’s colostomy bag for fun. As far as I can tell, the purpose of the TSA is to address the inconvenient racial and religious aspects of modern terrorism by enraging white, Protestant Americans to the point that one of them blows up an airport, thus eliminating the proven advantage of Israeli-style profiling and returning us to the rainbow wonderland of imaginary political thought. But I digress.
I also wanted to bring a guitar and travel amp with me. My definition of “travel amp” is a Roland VGA-3, and there isn’t an airline out there that will simply let me toss a VGA-3 on the conveyor belt. My Town Car, however, will swallow a VGA-3, a VGA-5, and a VGA-7. I have all three. I did it once just to see if it would all fit. I’m waiting for the VGA-9. I don’t think that will fit, but I’m willing to buy it and try. My guitar for the trip would be the the does-it-all, eighteen-pickup-combination, Jimmy-Page-to-John-Mayer Electra Dynasty XV3GR. Again, not popular with the airlines.
I couldn’t think of any reason not to drive, but then I realized that filming a video wasn’t all that I had on my plate for the weekend. I needed to turn out three thousand or so words on various automotive topics, plus I needed to design and implement a small MySQL-driven application for a friend. Say ten hours total of work. I looked at the schedule and saw that the only places I could cut that much time from would be sleeping. Unless, that is, I managed to do a few hours’ worth of work each way on the plane and in the airport. But even that didn’t look good. Using a laptop in coach class is miserable and on short flights it’s almost a waste of time.
Back to the no-sleep plan. Once again I’ve overbooked myself and will pay by spending the next few days in a zombie-like state. I was bemoaning the situation to my girlfriend, when she said, “You should just have someone drive you.”
The notion made me recoil. As a child, my parents laid egalitarianism on me with the heaviest of trowels. Pick up your own mess. Shine your own shoes. Mow your own lawn. My father would make biting comments about the people who used car services on the East Coast or hired batmen to manage their lives. I inherited that disdain, plus a bit of social anxiety to boot. I’m so deeply nervous about the prospect of being “served” that I frequently tip baggage handlers for doing… nothing, as I labor under the load of two suitcases and two backpacks.
This I explained to the woman I call “Vodka McBigbra”. She pretended to sympathize, asked a question about Michael Bloomfield’s bridge pickup to distract me into a world of my own making, and then called a friend. Before I knew it, I was fluffing up a pillow in the back of my Signature Limited while a handsome, ruthlessly efficient twentysomething fellow shoveled traffic out of the left lane ahead. After a nap, I plugged in my laptop, paired to my Droid phone, and started editing documents. The return trip was just the same; I relaxed in the back and alternated between Facebook chat and vehicle reviews. Jarod, my driver and pal for the weekend, had just two requests. One was that I pay his expenses and toss him a few bottles of liquor from the duty-free store. A hundred bucks, tops.
The second was that we stop by the Naval Yard in Buffalo so he could see the ship on which his father served. It never would have occurred to me to stop there, but after a few moments looking at a very-impressive looking Navy destroyer, I was glad we’d stopped. I arrived home refreshed, completely caught up on my life, and ready for sleep for six solid hours. It’s better to travel… by car.