Monday, August 13, 2007

Travel Karma Strikes... Again

Two weeks ago I went out to Chicago for the Anti-Aging medicine conference. You may think I am kidding, but yes indeed, there is an entire conference where thousands of people come to talk about how to stop aging. I will write another entry about what I learned and experienced there once I get the pictures off Kate's camera, but for now my return trip on Friday. My flight is scheduled for 7pm, so let's start at say, 5:40pm

5:40- I look down at my watch, still in the exhibit hall and realize, oh, I guess I should maybe go to the airport. Typical Liz.
5:50- Walk into my hotel lobby, get my luggage and flag down the airport shuttle as I see him pulling away. He stops for me and I get on in a flurry.
5:55- Cute guy with a Cubs hat on offers me a minature Diet Pepsi. I take it to be nice, even though I'm not thirsty. The bus hits a pothole and I spill said soda all over myself. I make fun of him for being the cause of my stickily wet state and we talk for the ride to the airport. He's going to New York to, so being the good friendly New Yorker that I am, I write down some good suggestions for places to visit.
6:05- Dropped off at the airport, walk in the terminal intent on heading straight to my gate. I look at the screens to see which gate I'm at, scan my eyes to the right and see one big fat word that was to be just the beginning of a very special evening: CANCELED.

(I'm sorry, but it's sunny and not even all that hot outside. Why in the name of all that is sacred is my 2 hour little hop back to New York canceled? Cruel cruel joke)

6:10- Collect myself and go to the Continental desk where the woman informs me that they were trying to get everyone from my flight onto a flight that left, oh gee, 5 minutes ago. And this is relevant why, ma'am? Because that would mean that I would have had to have been AT the airport oh, I dunno, say 2 hours before my actual flight to know that it was canceled and get on this one that *just* left? Thanks.

6:12- Get a ticket for a new flight... at 9pm... on United... in another terminal. I ask her several times if there is ANYTHING earlier? Nope. Happy trails.
6:15- Call my dad fuming and ask if I have any grounds to complain or get them to give me something nice for sucking at life. Nope. That's air travel for ya, kid.
6:22- Arrive at the United terminal having walked outside with my luggage (have you heard of a shuttle train people??) and see a short line (phew), but then realize that is the first class international line (damn). Ask the woman where I can check in and she points to the other end of the terminal at a line that is easily 200 people long. I inform her that that is not an option, I will not wait in that line, my flight has been rescheduled and (in all my righteous indignation), I don't deserve to stand there and wait. She can't help me. So I go to the first class domestic line and inform the woman there that the first woman said I could go to that line since my flight was canceled. Not *too* much of a stretch, right? Sure, no problem, step right up.

6:30- Wait in a long security line.
6:40- Getting to the front of the line I'm informed that I have been "specially selected" for an extra screening. I politely tell the big black woman No thank you and that I don't want to do that. She replies (in all of her righteous indignation), "You had better want to." Ok then.
6:45- After full body cavity search, pat down, double xray and snakeoscope examination of me and everything I own, I am cleared. Phew, for a second there I thought our TSA agents were actually wasting their time, dangerous as twenty-something white chickys tend to be.

6:50- Check the Departure screens only to see that there is not one but TWO flights leaving for NYC prior to mine on United. Ok, so they're going to LaGuardia and not Newark, but excuse me for not specifying when I asked about ANY flights to NYC that I would be willing to go to another airport in NYC Miss Continental suck-at-life lady.
7:00- Ask the woman at the gate for the 7:05 flight (delayed 30 minutes) if I could per chance get on that flight. She smiles cheerily and happily prints me out a boarding pass. THAT is what I call service.
7:05- Buy myself a Quiznos sub and chug a Corona.
7:15- Board the plane.
7:20- Meet my seat mate, a dentist from Long Island who works in the Bronx. He keeps trying to talk to me. When did New Yorkers become so friendly?
7:40- Depart. Hallelujah!

8:10- We're informed that we need to fly in circles for awhile. No big deal.
8:30- We're informed that while we can now actually fly towards our destination we may need to fly in circles for awhile a little bit later.
9:10- We're flying in circles. Again.
9:30- We're informed that we may have to be diverted to another airport. Options include Allentown, Harrisburg, or DC.

(I'm sorry, no comprendo Mr. senor airplane pilot man. Diversion? I don't know what you think you're diverting, but it is not going to be my plane. And you know what, don't be tellin me something we "may" have to do and get me all worried. I don't want to know until we're on the ground in some place that is not my destination that I will not be going to my destination, to spare me at least a few minutes of anger)

10:30- Oh but yes, we're still flying in circles. I've gotten a really good feel for this part of Western PA sir, I think it's time to continue our journey. But apparently God decided to open up his wrath on NYC in the form of the biggest baddest thundershow in recent memory, so we won't be landing anytime soon.
10:40- Oops, we're running out of fuel. Looks like the diversion is going to happen, effective immediately. Alright folks, please turn off your portable electronic devices now, we'll be starting our descent into Washington D.C.

(For serious?)

11:10- Land in DC.
11:20- We're informed we should stay on the plane to prevent mass confusion.


11:30- We're informed that there is one more flight leaving for NYC tonight, there are 60 seats on it, and it's in another terminal. Ready. Set. Go.
11:45- Standing in the back of a very long line, ready to murder something, I contemplate my options. Given that I was on the back of the plane, I'm pretty sure there are 60 people in front of me. If so, I'll have to go to the Customer Service line which currently has about 78 people in it to wait in that line for a new flight. If I make it onto THIS flight, who's to say it won't be Round 2 of lala time in the air??
11:55- I make the executive (and probably delirious angry and tired) decision to go to the Customer Service line and wait there.
12:15am- Realize I might have better luck on the phone with United getting a new flight.
12:20- Am informed by the United chicky that she can't help me because Continental originated the flight. Sorry.
12:25- Am informed by Continental that they can't help me because when the flight was diverted United became responsible for getting me to NYC. Sorry.
12:30- Stand in line trying hard not to cry. Put on my iPod. Only one headphone works.

1:15- Get to front of the line, try to put on a smile. After all, these people deal with angry travelers all day. I don't want to be one of them. Travel lady informs me the ONLY flight to ANY airport in NYC tomorrow (well, today) is at 7:15am. I glance at my watch and then politely ask if there is anything else... at all?? Nope. Sorry. Alright then, I'll take it.
1:17- Travel lady informs me that oops, all of a sudden that is gone. She doesn't know why. Oh well... looks like there is a seat on a 3:30pm flight. Blood rushing to my face I very promptly become an angry traveler and inform her that no, that is absolutely positively NOT an option. I *must* be home before then.

(side note- I'm supposed to be out to Long Island at Kate's house BY 3pm to leave to go to CT for a Dave Matthews concert- now you understand my issue)

1:19- OH, looky, there is the 7:15am seat, mysteriously available again! What a coincidence.
1:21- Am handed my boarding pass. I ask where my hotel voucher is. I am informed that "because ATC diverted the plane, United is not responsible for putting you up in a hotel." Sorry.

(First of all- lady, I do not have the brain capacity to figure out what your fancypants acronyms mean at this hour of the night, so just give me some English. Secondly, I'm sorry, but SERIOUSLY? It is 130am, I am in a strange city and you just nonchalantly tell me you aren't responsible for that? Where is the accountability in this system? No, I don't care if it's the weather, that is a risk you take when you start your little airline business and profess to be able to get people where they want to be in a timely manner. And diversions to other cities in the wee hours of the night do NOT count in my mind as an "added bonus." And by the way, it's Air Traffic Control)

1:22- Am handed a piece of paper with a number to call to book a hotel. Call said number. Get a reservation at a Candlewood Suites. Am given the address. Set off to find a cab.
1:35- Make it to hotel. Walk into lobby. Only it's not really a lobby, just an entry way, with a door into the lobby. Only the door is locked. And there is no one working. Ahhh but of course. I pick up the phone in the entry way and call for a manager to come let me in. I check in and check out in the same breath.
1:55- Sleep
5:50- Wake
6:00- Leave for airport
6:25- Arrive at gate
6:45- Board plane
7:15- Depart DC
8:20- Arrive NYC
9:00- Arrive home
9:10- Crash

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