Bicycling in Kilkenny

Bicycling in Kilkenny

Flying for Free: Part VII

One of the philosophies of the space-a traveler is to make the most of every time and place they are in. There is no need to waste the mone...

Monday, July 24, 2017

Flying for Free: Part V

The time started to go by fairly quickly once the USO opened. Mikey and Darren wanted to show me all that it had to offer because they were too young to remember our first visit there back in 2011. That was the other time we had gotten stuck at Dover, but that was going the opposite direction. John’s dad had been diagnosed with colon cancer, and we were trying to get back from Spain over to Oregon to see him. That time was different because we had the whole family with us, and we were happy just to be around anything American, so to be stuck in Dover was something like being stuck in a little part of heaven. We even have pictures of us posing with the Old Navy mannequins at the local mall.

The USO has changed, so it was nice to get the new tour from the boys. While the pool table and snack tables were still in the same places, the computers had been moved from the back room to make space for a gaming room complete with nearly every game console an average teenager can think of, and the resting room had been transformed into a movie room with about 20 comfy recliners and cup holders. That room made me want to hang out at the USO just for fun even when I’m not traveling! Unfortunately, however, I  would not have time to recline in front of a movie on that awesome big screen. Ten o’clock was approaching quickly, and I needed to get to the car rental place, so we could get out of the terminal and into a shower and bed as soon as humanly possible.

I reluctantly walked away from the comfort of those faux leather chairs and back into the sterile brightness of the main terminal filled with hard, uncomfortable seats. I looked at John, and before I could even get the words out of my mouth, our fun and enthusiastic traveling companion appeared saying, “I am just letting y’all know that I am on my way to the gate so Enterprise can come and get me. I ain’t about to stay here any longer than I have to, and I want to get a car just as soon as they open!”

“Oh yes,” I responded with equal excitement, “I am about ready to go myself. Just give me a quick minute, and we can share a ride.”  I said my goodbyes to John and promised a ride to a restful room very soon.

The sun was already starting to blare its brilliance down upon the base as we walked out into the brightness glaring off the black topped parking lot surrounded by carefully manicured green lawns and the brownness of the surrounding buildings. As we walked, I felt the need to explain why I was walking with him rather than my husband. “John has pretty bad sleep apnea,” I said almost apologetically, “He just can’t sleep well without his machine.”

H.T. explained that he understood completely and admitted that he struggles with a few oxygen depriving episodes each night as well. As we approached the gate, we theorized about the prevalence of the disorder among so many service members. “I think it’s those darned burn pits,” I strongly proclaimed, “I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard from guys who can’t breathe at night because they endured those things.” I didn’t seem to be getting much buy in from my walking companion, but I couldn’t help but get angry over the idea of those burn pits and the damage they had caused.

The burn pits were created by American based waste disposal companies back in the early stages of our war on terror. These companies were paid by our American government to get rid of the garbage our part of the war produced in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait, and the government had no concern for how they went about doing so.

So in the interest of higher profits, these companies handled it the cheapest way possible. They burned the trash, and they burned it all. Anything from broken down computers to medical equipment to human body parts were burned in one ginormous toxin spewing ash heap. That means that surrounding soldiers, airmen, marines, and civilians were perpetually inhaling the demon fumes around the clock and without any respite.

It has yet to be officially determined that these burn pits have had anything to do with sleep apnea, but they have been associated with numerous other respiratory conditions so far, and sleep apnea may very well be on its way to joining them on that list.

“It’s okay,” H.T. assured me, “My wife would normally handle this sort of thing, too. It’s just that she’s really tired right now, so I thought I might help her out this time.”

His admission made me feel better about the whole situation and led me to ask myself why I felt the need to give an explanation in the first place. H.T. had that way about him, though. Although I had only known of him for just a few hours, I could tell that he could melt the self-consciousness of someone with even the lowest self-esteem. He just knew how to make people feel good about themselves.

We arrived at the base gate and attempted to order a taxi who wanted to charge us nearly $40 to drive us less than 2 miles. Having encountered the infamous Dover-long way through town-drivers before and now armed with a GPS, I confidently told H.T to tell that cab driver to suck it. “Hang on a second. I got you,” I said as I quickly did some figuring on my phone, “We can get our first Uber ride for free, and it’ll be here in less than 5 minutes.”

The driver must have started his approach while I was entering my credit card information because as soon as I hit the submit button, he was there. He parked his very clean silver Miata, got out of the driver seat, and opened the door for me. “Hello, ma’am,” he said with genuine politeness, “Where can I drive you today?”

I fought the urge to ask him why he didn’t already know. “We are going to the car rental place,” I said a bit too excitedly. Joy was bubbling out of me at the thought of finally making a move towards getting a hotel room.

In the brief time available for small talk, I learned that this was our driver’s first day driving people and that he is actually an active duty service member who helps maintain security on the flight line. I thought about all the young airmen with families who struggle just to make ends meet and felt for this guy who was trying his best at it.

We thanked Ernesto for his service and walked into the tiny Enterprise office surprised to see about 10 people already in line. The three well dressed men behind the counter alternated between answering phones and helping the in-person customers. Despite the hectic atmosphere, they all remained calm and professional.

Our long wait in line was made easier through conversation. H.T. talked about his family’s upcoming trip to Ocean City, Maryland, and I talked about Spain. When we finally got our cars, we said our goodbyes and wished each other good luck.

I drove back to the terminal and picked up my 3 weary passengers who more than willingly shoved the luggage in the car before piling in, ready to move on to a clean and cozy hotel. I closed the trunk and then opened the driver's door, but before I got in, I asked a uniformed airman for some advice. “Do you live here?” I asked, “Which hotel is the best one?”

He quickly and confidently said that Mircrotel and Comfort Inn and Suites were the best value for the money and warned us to make sure to book Comfort Inn AND SUITES, not just the Comfort Inn which is its less desirable sister hotel.

I thanked him for his recommendation and started the hot car in hopes that the AC would quickly cool things off. I opted for the one that came with a pool and made reservations via the internet. I then called the hotel and asked if there might be a possibility for an early check-in time, but since they had been fully booked the night before, they informed me that it would be impossible to fill that request.

So with more than 3 hours until check-in time, our exhausted, smelly selves considered what we might do to fill the time.

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