Commentary by Bill Buchanan
I guess it’s fitting that this column is being published on April Fool’s Day. You know how it feels when you do something that you know in your gut you shouldn’t do, but you do it anyway, and it blows up in your face? That was me last week.I flew out of LAX instead of Burbank. I knew it might turn out badly; I haven’t flown in or out of LAX in over 10 years. The first time Ava and I traveled to Ojai to look at the newspaper, we flew into LAX. When we met Ren and Victoria Adam, they asked us about the flight, and where we landed. When we told them we flew into LAX, they both looked like they had just sipped soured milk. They told us LAX was bad news, that we should fly in and out of Burbank. That really hit home when we were flying back to Alabama. While returning our rental car, I got hopelessly lost trying to find the rental car lot. I had to go back to the terminal and follow the Hertz bus, making every stop it made, until it led me back to the rental lot.I quickly discovered that by the time I got my luggage and car at LAX, I could be halfway to Ojai from Burbank. So, I went on a 10-year hiatus from LAX — until last week. While searching Delta’s website, I found a great, cheap flight out of LAX. I started to dismiss it out of hand, but the flight cut almost three hours off my travel time on a comparable Delta flight. I stared at the flight. It was just sitting there, tempting me like a bacon cheeseburger tempts a man on a diet. I gave into temptation and booked it.So, prudently (I thought) I left for the airport three hours before my 10:30 a.m. flight. Traffic started backing up in Oxnard — not a good sign. A sinking feeling in my stomach that told me I wasn’t going to get there in time. The sinking feeling was right. I missed my flight by 15 minutes.Well, I wasn’t happy, but I saw there was another flight in an hour, and so I stood patiently (sort of) in line. There were scores of people traveling, and the queue seemed endless. But I had plenty of time, right? Finally, I got to the agent, and told her about my predicament. After she endlessly keyed in various options, she got a strange look on her face. It was the same look your accountant has when she tells you you’re about to be audited.She said, “Well, I do have one flight I can get you on today.” I said, “Fine, when does it leave?”When she said, “11:55,” I looked at my watch. It was 10:25 a.m. That didn’t sound bad at all. Then she added, “p.m.”Now, while I’d rather spend hours waiting in an airport than, say, waiting to see a doctor, or sitting through a boring Sunday church service (pretty much how I spent my childhood), 13-1/2 hours is a long time to spend sitting in a chair waiting to sit in another (and more uncomfortable) chair on a cross-country flight. By 11:55 that evening, I was ready to just plop down into my seat and go to sleep. But when we finally boarded the plane, two women several rows in front of me got into an argument. The disagreement escalated, and they got louder and louder. I couldn’t make out everything, but I’m pretty sure they weren’t calling each other “witch.” The flight attendant came out first, then left and returned with a pilot, who tried to reason with the women. At this point I am seriously tired. And while I would like to say that I had empathy for the two women, whom I’m sure were tired too, my first reaction was to encourage the flight attendant to stuff them both in the overhead bin. But a nice woman intervened, switched seats with one of the warriors, and we got under way.These women were lucky. Until recently, I wasn’t aware of the strict rules pertaining to airlines and bad behavior. Flight crews have a lot of discretion, and they can have you arrested and thrown in jail if you act too rowdy. A couple of months ago, a flight attendant told me about two guys who got into a fight on a plane coming back into the country. Apparently the altercation was so bad the pilot diverted the flight and landed in the Bahamas where the combatants were met by the police. Can you imagine making this call to your wife? “Uhhh, yeah, honey — a little change of plan. Instead of meeting me at Bob Hope, could you fly down to Nassau with around $25,000 and bail me out of this Bahamian prison?”On the other hand, it’s still probably better than LAX.