Sometimes authors visit other cities or towns in the name of research. Or so I’ve heard. I’ve yet to do this myself, though I did try this past Thursday.
It all started with a comment from my critique partner. She thought the setting for one of my most recent stories could have been Anywhere, USA (she’s kind of right), and it got me thinking that maybe a trip to said city might help.
A good friend of mine works for an airline, and I contacted her for guest passes. A guest pass allows someone to fly standby on any flight that carrier operates (there’s probably some restrictions that I didn’t bother to look into). Then I had to decide: LA or Portland?
I have stories set in both places. I’ve been to both places. I probably should have gone to LA, even though I hate that city with a passion – it has no personality, it’s too crowded, and waaaay too big for my taste. But I chose Portland. Lovely, quirky Portland, a city I’ve only done drive throughs the last few times I’ve visited.
So Thursday morning, I dragged myself out of bed at 5am, showered, dressed, ate breakfast, and headed for the airport, where I was meeting a friend. I’d only done this once before, and never without the friend who works for the airline in question. I’d made our flight reservations two days before – 8am. We checked in, got through security with plenty of time to spare, and settled in to wait.
See, when you fly standby, there are these little symbols next to each flight time, to give you an indication of how likely you are to get on the plane. There’s “hell yeah, you will”, “maybe, if you’re nice to me”, and “this will require a blood sacrifice, your first born child, and a billion dollar bribe, and even then we probably won’t allow you on the plane”. I’d been warned the rush hour flights would be booked solid. I figured we’d miss out on the 8am and get on the 9am. Barring that, we’d end up on the 10am.
For those of you who know what the proximity of Portland to Seattle is, you’re probably wondering why I didn’t just drive. Couple reasons: mostly free plane tickets, Portland is immensely walkable and has fabulous public transportation, mostly free plane tickets, I hate driving, mostly free plane tickets, and my truck probably wouldn’t have liked the 6 hour plus round trip. Also, did I mention mostly free plane tickets?
We sat through the boarding for the 8am flight. We had a near miss with the 9am – only one seat was available, and there were two of us. 10am was full. 11am was full. How is 11am rush hour?
When we first got to the airport, we had to figure out at what point would we give up and go home? The flight was only an hour (another reason to fly instead of drive) and we were only going for the day. My friend had to work the next day, so I didn’t want to get back too late. I’d booked us on the 8pm return flight, which meant we needed to be back at PDX by about 6:45.
Any of the flights we missed would have given us a few hours to wander around (probably not as much time as I would have liked), visit Powell’s (the true reason for the visit) and grab some lunch and probably an early dinner. The last flight we thought we could reasonably take and still have some decent wandering time was the 11:30 flight.
There were 20 open seats on this flight. We were going to be on it. We’d have about six hours in Portland and it would be awesome.
Until they announced there were mechanical problems with the plane scheduled for the 11:30 flight and they had to bring in a new plane. From Portland. Delaying our departure by a half hour or more.
Tails between our legs, we left the airport and headed to BJ’s, a restaurant at nearby Southcenter Mall, and drowned our sorrows in Irish root beer (root beer, Jameson’s, Bailey’s, and cream. So. Fucking. Good.)
I got a text from my friend Saturday morning – let’s take the BOLT to Portland some Saturday soon. Let’s see…$15 for a bus ticket, and I don’t have to drive? Sold.