Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

You can have the best laid plans, but if an airline is plotting against you just forget about it.

At noon I jumped into a Blue Van 2 hours before my flight to DC for the ALA conference. Remember back when you could arrive 30 minutes before a flight with a Big Gulp while your family stayed with you at the gate while they left their car parked out on the curb? I remember being fed real food with real utensils and even getting invited into the cockpit. Today you go the airport prepared to be strip searched, your drink confiscated, your carry on bag packed to the gills and your "personal item," i.e. big-bag-o-stuff, almost breaking from the weight of everything in it. You used to have 2 carry on bags and a personal item. Now if you want to bring a laptop you'll need to place panties in a manila envelope and slip it in your case. I skipped the laptop and took a real bag because I like stuff and I like choices. Yes, I took 5 pairs of shoes with me on a 6 day trip. By day 2 I'd already worn 4 pair.

But back to the story at hand.

I arrive at Terminal B early. If you haven't been to Terminal B it's because you booked on a better airline. Terminal B is an after thought. Terminal B is the equivalent of thinking you're giving birth to 5 kids and they find another kid in their during deliver, meaning you're in such a scramble to find a name the kid ends up stuck with Epidural or Invitro. Complete. After. Thought. No massage bar. No cute stores. That's Terminal B for you.

I slide through security with my bag-o-liquids was still inside my bag-o-stuff. Yes, the official packing program lecturer says you're supposed to get liquids on the other end of your flight, but she's white. The rest of the world can buy conditioner at the airport kiosk. Blacks have to go to shall I put it...questionable side of town to get products, meaning I spend the night before a flight squeezing shampoo into Barbie sized bottles. Anyway I get through, I have lunch, some nice miscellaneous military man heading to Mississippi pays covers my tab (how thoughtful!) and before we even exchange names we get the news...

The flight was canceled.

Yeah, my thought exactly.

An AC unit broke, meaning they'd have to fly at a lower altitude, meaning if they did so they'd hit a mountain. (BTW, what a pleasant thought to put in the minds of passengers who are about to fly over mountains, thank you very much.) They sent us downstairs to the counter. Too bad they didn't tell the poor woman behind the counter what was going on before they did so. While she was staving off a panic attack my fellow passengers were saying things like, "It's always American Airlines!" and "I knew I should have taken Southwest!" Then a woman passes out the airline phone number as we stare at her because how fast can we really get through to a live person when there's 180+ people calling at once? And what good will it do us when they hadn't officially canceled the flight? So after they cancel the flight we call and are all told, "Oh, we are so sorry, and we'll get you on the same flight tomorrow," which, in airline speak means, "Didn't you learn life sucked way back in kindergarten?"

I'm ready to burst into tears, knowing I can't do anything unless it involves a time machine and booking on Continental instead, when I get a great idea and call back and ask, "Is there anything leaving SFO to DC?"

"Which airport were you going to?"

"Whichever one that has a plane flying to DC."

"I can get you on flight 1522 to BWI tonight. It leaves at 11:45 pm."

I do a mini happy dance, run out the airport, and catch a Blue Van to Amtrak following a call to the KP desk for their number in which I am told, "you really need to get an iPhone!"

I arrive, meet some nice people, take the train to Emeryville, the bus to the Ferry Building, and taking the Embarcadero station BART to SFO.

I get there, bash my ankle with my carry on bag which weighs about 300 pounds, and head up. I go to the check-in line, slide in my card, and outcomes something unexpected...

A notice saying it was too early to check in because my flight wasn't scheduled until the following night.

This is about when the internal meltdown started.
Ever dealt with a screaming toddler and when you go to pick them up they lift up their arms, slide out of your hands, and start bawling on the ground? Just pouring their little 2-year old hearts out on the carpet you just steam cleaned because, "Mommy says I can pee in my pull up!" and no matter how you try to convince them that not letting them watch Dora the Explorer/eat chocolate cake/pry the electrical safety cap with a fork is not the end of the world they're still upset?

That was me.

The person behind the counter said, 'We're not supposed to do this, but you came from Sacramento, so I'm going to put you on this flight." I had to stop myself from screaming, "WTH? Your fellow employee booked me on the wrong flight but you risk getting in trouble for fixing his mistake? What's wrong with you people?" Instead I just told her what anyone in my situation would tell another person.

"I need a drink."

Honestly I could have had a massage instead. A massage is therapeutic. Alcohol, on the other hand, can get you into a bit of trouble. But a 30 minute massage at SFO runs $80, versus $10 for a drink. I'm frugal. I had the drink. While I'm certain the whole restaurant heard me screech, "What do you mean you're out of Mojitos?" and "What do you mean you're out of chocolate cake?" I settled for a top shelf margarita and a vanilla cupcake. As one fellow librarian put it, "A margarita massages your insides." I felt a lot better after I swallowed half in one gulp before slowing down.
All was well.

At least for the moment...

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