Tuesday, November 27, 2007

An Alternate Universe

Many years ago, I spent several weeks (yes, weeks) in the hospital. After a while, the outside world ceased to exist. I lived within the confines of my room, eating awful food and being poked and prodded, put to sleep, cut open, looked at, repaired, and awakened. After 20 days, I started hallucinating and didn’t stop until I got home into my own bed.
I tend to overplan my life at times, trying to allow for most contingencies, but this time, there was no way to prepare for this mess, only I didn’t know it. Yesterday, I had a similar experience, only it lasted about 20 hours. It started innocently enough, I got up extra early in Portland, at my son’s home. My daughter and I had planned to return home that day, and had flights an hour apart. This meant only one trip to the airport, which is quite a distance from my son’s home. Her flight left at 7:30, which meant we had to be at the airport at 6 a.m. Figure an hour’s travel time, and that put us leaving for the airport at 5. That meant we had to get up at 4:30. There was no light at all when we got up. Since it was 30º in Portland, and 16º in Minneapolis, I dressed accordingly. Put on my wool socks, a sweat shirt and my down filled coat.
We got to the airport on time, got though security, had breakfast. Daughter was flying direct back to Salt Lake. I had a layover in Las Vegas, just long enough to change planes and then it was home to Minneapolis in time for dinner. She boarded her plane, with no problems. Piece of cake, I thought. I had an hour to kill before my flight left, and I quietly knitted my way through a sock heel. I was prepared for anything. We boarded our plane at 8, got seated, they turned on the engines and we waited. And waited. And waited.
At 9:00, the captain’s voice came over the intercom.
“We are having trouble with an indicator light and are waiting for maintenance to come and look at it.”
Now Portland, while being a good-sized city, does not have a huge airport. How long would it take for a mechanic to arrive and look at the plane? The answer was half an hour. He got there, looked at it, took a coffee break, decided what was wrong. Still no fix, and departure time for us.
Getting it fixed took another 15 minutes, and then half an hour was spent filling out the paperwork to show that he had fixed it.
Now it’s 10: 30. That’s the time I should have been setting down in the desert and scurrying to catch my Minnesota bound flight.
No such luck.
We took off without incident. Our captain announced that since most of us had connecting flights to somewhere else, the airline had rerouted all of us and when we arrived in Sin City, there would be people waiting for us, to tell us where to go and we would all be on our way soon.
Do they have a special class that all pilots take titled, “How To Lie To Frustrated Passengers To Keep Them Happy While Flying?” After we landed, he announced that EVERYONE had to get off the plane, even those who were supposed to be flying on to Orlando. They were going to get on another plane and continue their flight. Now, just wait a cotton pickin minute here. If the plane was OK to fly to Vegas, why wasn’t it OK to fly to Orlando? That’s one of life’s great unanswered questions.
As we trooped up the walkway, there was NO ONE at the US Airways counters. In fact, there was no one from the airline that we could see in that whole part of the concourse. So we waited, and waited and waited again (catch a theme here?). After 20 minutes, some guy showed up, and wandered over to the desk. He was immediately assailed by some 60 people who had missed their connections. Ten minutes later, he was joined by two other women. We were asked to stand in line, and they would get to us, but we would all be taken care of, we were reassured. The line did not move for 5 minutes. Finally, it dawned on us that they had not made new reservations for us, and were frantically scrambling to find space for us on other flights. After half an hour, the guy just walked away from the desk, leaving several of us stranded people to move over to the other line and continue to wait.
The guy in front of me was trying to get to National Airport in DC. That’s where his car was. They were trying to route him through Baltimore and then have him drive to our nation’s capital. Bad idea on several counts. First of all, traffic between Washington and Baltimore at best is a mess, but the Middle East peace conference was in Annapolis (nearest airport being Baltimore) the next day, and between delegates arriving and security details, the whole place would be in total gridlock.
Finally, it was my turn. How hard would it be to get me on a flight to Minneapolis?
“Gee, if we had gotten to you half an hour ago, we could have put you on a flight that is leaving now.”
Now wait again. I was here half an hour ago, YOU were the ones who were NOT here half an hour ago, not me, lady.
So I had a choice to make: I could catch a flight leaving at 7:05 pm and arrive at 12:15 in the morning. Or I could stay in Vegas overnight and catch the 11 am flight that I missed that morning. People who know me, and that’s probably anyone reading this, know that Vegas is not my kind of town. I just don’t dig that scene. Never have. No one is going to just take my money away and not give me anything for it. One eyed bandits are so unappealing, and I have yet to see someone be gleeful just sitting there hour after hour feeding money into them. But I digress, I pulled a minor fit here. I asked for a voucher for lunch and one for dinner. I am a diabetic, I told them. I had not eaten for six hours and since they were not serving any food on any of these flight, I need to eat. They decided not to risk my passing out on them an issued me a $5 voucher for lunch and a $10 one for dinner. Good grief, this is an airport. You can’t even get a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, (if you could find one) for under $7. I also demanded a voucher for a cab ride home, since I was not about to have friends come and pick me up at the ungodly hour I would arrive in the Cities.
So then, I spent the next six hours hanging around one of the most dull places in the world, trying to find a place to be comfortable, but there was no place to rest my head. I just had to sit there, knitting and be tired. Finally, I, along with some other disgruntled passengers, were on the plane heading home. We made it to Minneapolis with no problems. Well, there was one. I had to find the US Airways person to get my voucher and pick up my two bags. I found her, showed her the confirmation message, and she filled out the paper for me, telling me that the cab drivers all knew what to do with it and they would pay him.
One last hurdle was left. I needed to pick up my bag and find a cab. After a 15 minute delay, (two flights arriving at the same time were fighting for the one baggage carousel that was open) our bags arrived. I got my large suitcase with my clothes. Now all I had to do was pick up my CPAP machine and I was on my way home.
Yep, you guessed it; no CPAP machine appeared. All the bags from both flights were now reunited with their owners and mine was not in the mix. So it was off to file a report on my missing bag. It would probably be on the noon flight tomorrow morning, they said. Ha! Another graduate of the “Tell them anything to keep them happy” class was talking here.
I headed for a cab, and got the one cab driver who had no idea what to do with voucher. Trust me, I said and talk to the airline in the morning. By this time, it was past my bedtime. It was almost my getting up time. I had been awake and trying to get home for 17 hours. I was tired.
Tonight things are not much better. My bag has not shown up. There is no trace of it, according to the information on the website. The airline guy I called was in India and he had not seen my bag, either. I found out that I could rent a machine for $200 a month, pay $2100 for a new one, or wait for it to show up. None of these alternatives sounds promising.
I am tired and crabby. I am going to wash my hair and head for bed. And try to sleep, which is a challenge without my funny machine.
Maybe when I wake up, I will be in the real world, and not this alternate universe. I can hope, can’t I?


Janet Jensen said...

Oh, I am soooooooooo sorry your trip home became a nightmare! What I dislike about the Las Vegas airport is the constant clink-clank-nonsense music of the slot machines. That makes my teeth itch after about 5 minutes.

I hope they get your CPAP machine to you soon!

Love, Janet

Gina said...

Anne, you're much more articulate than I would be after going through this experience!

I hope you're snoozing peacefully as I write this and that your CPAP machine is en route to you.


Fran aka Redondowriter said...

Your Nov. 16 entry was titled "Not a Good Week," but I'd say things went steadily downhill after that. What a nightmare, Anne. As for the Vegas airport, I remember the airfield before McCarran Field was built, when Vegas was still a baby. Today's airport is a zoo under good circumstances. Did you say the airline? I hope you amend this and mention it (unless I missed it) and then send your blog entry to management.

Hope things start going better soon.

Connie Saunders said...

What a nightmare. To make it worse, you can't get angry or hostile because you can get arrested and suspected of being a terrorist. Hope the CPAP machine shows up soon.