Thursday, November 18, 2004

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania--Pittsburg, Pennsylvania—Day 292

Flying to Pittsburgh (the land of Steel) this morning was fine. My flight was so early (6:30!) that it wasn’t delayed and I was probably the only person on the plane not in a suit. I got my bags in Pittsburgh and a shuttle to my hotel and found the distance from the airport to downtown Pittsburgh quite impressive.

I checked into the hotel and threw my bags down on the bed, noticing the hotel’s offer of “free wireless internet.” So I plugged in my computer and sat down to figure out the Pittsburgh Zoo’s opening hours. Sadly, at this point, it was still before 10am which is when may zoos opened. I had already been up for almost five and a half hours.

So I checked the website and searched for the hippos. When none came up I thought, hmm, this is strange. So I typed it again (afraid of misspellings) and again found nothing regarding hippos. I decided to call and a nice woman at the zoo picked up the phone.

“Hello, I was just wondering how many hippos you had at the zoo” I said (how nice is it to be able to ask JUST what I want!)

“Hippos?” She replied, “We don’t’ have any.”

WHAT?? “Uhh, no hippos, really, are you sure?”

There I was asking the woman, who WORKS at the zoo, are you sure you don’t have hippos? Aren’t you forgetting the most important animal EVER?

“Nope, no hippos, sorry.” The woman sounded apologetic and I thanked her and hung up. What? No hippos?

I checked our hippos database online and sure enough, it suggests that there is one hippo at the Pittsburgh zoo but that must be wrong. Now what was I going to do? I was supposed to have three days here!

After much debate, I contacted the airline and after forty-five minutes on hold (I kid you not) I was able to change my flight to New Orleans (the next hippo stop) to tomorrow instead of killing time in dreary, cold, rainy Pittsburgh. I then sorted out a rental car for the New Orleans zoo (which turns out to be in Monroe, Louisiana NOT New Orleans which is a five-hour DRIVE from where I am flying into—that will be fun!). I then had the sudden realization that there was a slight chance of me being able to go home for Thanksgiving given this new sudden absence of hippos. Sure enough, after another forty-five minutes on hold with several airlines and canceling of hotels, I had a frequent flier flight to Tucson for just a few days over Thanksgiving—something that wouldn’t conflict with the hippos. I would fly out of Shreveport, Louisiana (after dropping the rental car off there on Sunday morning) and be back in South Carolina to Columbia for the hippos there by the following Friday, making both Thanksgiving and “hippo-graphing” possible.

How wonderful! I was thrilled and am so, so looking forward to being at home for the holidays. While South Carolina seems nice (I haven’t been…yet) the idea of spending Thanksgiving at a Denny’s didn’t really sound appealing to me. This was much better.

I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around Pittsburgh and impulsively getting my hair cut (always an adventure with me) and reemerged from the hair salon with a passable cut. I am not sure, however, if this is better than my memorable zebra-stripe experience but what can you do after the fact.

I then went back to the hotel, got dinner at a rib place (taking pleasure in the luxuries of barbeque sauce) and went to bed early at the hotel, finally feeling like I could get more than five hours of sleep. Problem was that I still had to wake up early in the morning (5:30) to catch my 9am flight to New Orleans.