SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


You Call Them Mechanicals, I Call Them Naps.


May 11, 2010

Ketchikan, Alaska - My enthusiastic fans - both of them - are concerned that I have been pretty easy on Alaska Airlines this winter.

Yes, I usually travel a fair amount this time of year and I usually have some fun stories to tell. But - oddly enough - this year most of my flights have been uneventful. No overheads to Whitehorse and no stories about battling stewardesses and air marshals over Digiplayers.

jpg Dave Kiffer

Sure, last year was a bit overdramatic on the airline front, and I did write enough columns to get a special visit from a representative from AK Air to make sure that I "understood" that if I ever had any "concerns" with our State Airline, I should call the CEO directly rather than "air" my unhappy thoughts on this little website down here in Our Fair Salmon City. Good luck with that!

Natch, after the last two flights, I finally have something to report!

I've had the pleasure of two afternoon siestas courtesy of Aerolineas De Alaska. Well, they call them "mechanicals" but I prefer to embroider them into something more pleasant.

For example you might find sitting in a hot, cramped waiting area with a hundred irritated, late and smelly other people as a problem. I see it as a lovely spa sauna visit. You say tomato, I say.....well, never mind.

In fact I was just sitting here typing this and a dead bug fell out of the airport ceiling light and landed on my lap(top). Some of you are probably saying ewwwww. But my first thought was, at least I'll have some protein when the snack bar runs empty - as it usually does during "mechanicals."
As usual, I digress.

You may have noticed - or perhaps not - I previously said after the last "two" flights. Although I specialize in typos, I did mean two flights. I tried to fly south a couple of months ago. We had a mechanical and I missed my connecting flight to DC, so I got rebooked on a flight through Atlanta. I have to say that Hartsfield International Airport (the world's busiest!) is lovely this time of year.

But anyway back to the present.

As we sit here, another jet lands. It is an AK Air cargo jet. Says so right on the side in big swirly letters. They won't rebook us on it. I'm pretty sure that half the people here would be happy to sit on the boxes of dead fish.

Just another adventure on - to quote my mother and all the other old-timers - Elastic Airlines. Which describes what your travel plans must be because if the weather doesn't get you, the mechanicals will!

After a good long while, they let the folks off who have been sitting on the plane. That is never a good sign.

"Did you smell that stink of jet fuel," one of them says as he heads to the cocktail lounge.

No, not a good sign, at all.

We've now been sitting here just about two hours, which means we have received four updates each of which was an "update" about when the next "update" would be. They will not be rebooking until they have determined exactly when we are to arrive in Seattle. Yadda, Yadda, Yadda.

Dang, the dead fish just left. But we're still here.

Once upon a time, we would be sitting in deep contemplation enduring our "mechanical" with silent stoicism. Now. everyone around me is chatting into their little ear boxes telling everyone they know that we are still here and cancelling dinner reservations and keeping everyone up to date on their most recent surgeries. As usual, just sitting here I am learning way too much about other people's lives. I love it.

Suddenly I am roused from my reverie of the Cellular Soaps and I am following a herd of folks downstairs. The flight has finally been officially cancelled more than three hours after it was supposed to leave. We know that our connections have also been cancelled.

What awaits us is remarkable line. One of the longest you will ever see this side of the women's WC at an Indigo Girl's concert. It stretches all the way from the ticket counters through the baggage claim and right up to the end of the building.

Fortunately, it stops just before the spinning circular door. Otherwise I'd find myself pinned inside the circle against the wall wailing for Rich the Water Taxi guy to pull me loose. (He extricated Liam in a similar fashion several years ago ­ way to go Rich!)

Unfortunately, the Line of Eons is moving at a pace that makes the Mendenhall Glacier seem speedy. It is moving so slowly as to make continental drift seem impetuous.

It takes a little over two hours to reach the counter. I learn a lot about the folks standing next to me in line. They learn a lot about me. It must be like this in prison.

I feel sorry for the folks behind the counters. This really isn't their fault, but we have to take our vexation out on somebody. We have to pour out our stories of missed weddings, lost vacation time and general irritation out on them.

It is their job to nod, slap a few computer keys and say "Well, you just can't get there from here, at least not today."

That of course is followed - on the other side of the counter - by a lot of heavy sighing, some muttered imprecations and general handwringing and face making.

Then we do our mental check of the five stages of grief and say "Okay, can I get anywhere today that doesn't require another ride on the airport ferry."

Sadly for most, the answer is no and they patiently wait in line for their hotel vouchers and ferry passes. Me, I go back up stairs to wait for a later flight that will get me half way to "there".

It's a start.

PS, the next morning I am waiting in Juneau for a really early flight to Anchorage. The plane is delayed for an hour because of a "malfunctioning" tray table in an exit row.

I wish I could say, 'but I digress.'

Oops, gotta go. It's the CEO of Alaska Airlines on line two!



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Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
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