I said, "On my way to San Francisco, yes."
He told me that there was an earlier flight to Chicago that was just about to board and he'd put me on it. I beat feet up to the gate, with minimal Security Theatre delay. Turns out to have been a delayed inbound flight holding up the outbound, but that still got me out of there early. And it meant a free upgrade to Economy Plus, which gave me enough room (barely) to get my computer open and do some work on the short flight to Chicago.
Arriving at Chicago, I found that there were no earlier flights to SFO, so I still was on my originally-scheduled 3 PM flight, but I had lots of extra time in O'Hare to have lunch and take a walk before going back to the gate, where I arrived around an hour before the flight.
I've been on this flight before. It's a 777, three-and-a-half-class (Economy Plus is the half-class) internationally-configured plane, which becomes an outbound flight to London after arriving at SFO. The flight was very full, and I was in 32D -- one of the middle three seats in ordinary coach.
Having arrived plenty early, I asked if they were sufficiently overbooked as to need volunteers. The gate agent wasn't certain -- it was a near thing -- but took my details and told me to wait until pretty late in the process. I did so, and after they called and boarded most of the final boarding group and were starting to clear standbys, I went up again and asked what my status was. The agent said to go ahead and board. Oh, well, I said to myself as I made my way toward the rear of the plane and resigned myself to more than four hours cooped up in a too-small seat. I had just managed to get myself seated and my things put away when a United employee came up the aisle and said, "Are you Mister Standlee?"
"That's right," I said.
"Thank you for having volunteered. Here's your new seat assignment," he said, handing me a new boarding stub. I looked at the ticket, my eyes widening. 9F. That's in Business Class!
I joyfully gathered my belongings and worked my way forward again to the right side window seat in row 9 (2-3-2 business class seating). I'd gone from being sardine-like to having more space than I knew what to do with. My neighbor was a United first officer deadheading, and she told me that this was nothing -- as they refurbish these 777s, they're putting in full lie-flat business class seats, and they're pretty snazzy. I thought this was remarkable enough. I made myself very comfortable.
After they served us lunch -- alas, a salad I didn't want to eat, but I did have the shrimp that was a garnish on it, and what the heck, it was free -- I decided that since I certainly did have enough room to do so, I should fire up my company laptop and get more work done on this database project. Besides being chased by the demons of incomplete work, there was a practical reason for this. When I go into "programmer trance," time flies, and so it proved here. I got a lot done on an element of the project that I'd been putting off working because of more immediate concerns, and the 4:40 flight seemed to (ahem) fly by, and soon enough we got the "put your stuff away" message as we approached San Francisco.
One oddity about today's flight, but one that I guess I should come to expect. Channel 9, United's "From the Flight Deck" feed of air traffic control to which I usually listen, was "not available for security reasons." I wonder if United will drop it entirely. What next, confiscating all watches and time-keeping devices (you'd need to take away our computers, too) and blacking out the windows? But I don't want to complain much, and instead want to say how nice the United ground and flight staff made me feel today.
Incidentally, while discussing aircraft configurations with the flight officer next to me, I offered that I plan on going to Australia this year, and that led to me explaining about the Worldcon. She said that she planned on attending Dragon*Con this year -- she had never been to one, and seemed almost apologetic about it. I told her that there was no need to apologize, and explained some of the differences between Worldcon and Giant Pop Culture Massive Festivals like D*C. She seemed amazed that we could organize something like Worldcon once, then disband it, then do it again a year later. She asked how we even decide where to hold it, and I explained WSFS's wide-open democracy. She was further amazed. I used my analogy that it would be like letting the athletes and attendees at the Olympic Games vote on where to hold the next one four years hence.
After claiming my luggage at SFO, I stopped to have dinner, then took a BART train back to Fremont, grabbed a taxi to the apartment, and after seven weeks, I was home.
I'm going to head to bed soon, and not set an alarm for tomorrow. I think I've earned it.