I mentioned I've been traveling a lot for work, and by "mentioned" I mean complained about in a whiny, self-pitying kind of way. Vermont is for Lovers, but if I hadn't scored a huge Ben & Jerry's Cracked Up Combo Ice Cream Bar in Fudge Brownie and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough on the last night I was there, it might have been CNN time for this mom. Eight days is too many to be away from home, particularly when it's the mom and there are three kids under driving age in the house. I was ready to get home.
And that's why I cried with Gary at
Chicago's O'Hare airport last Monday.
Let me preface this by saying that they should keep Xanax biscuits at all airports, and a sparkly unicorn sock puppet to feed them to upset travelers. That is my contribution to the "How To Make Air Travel Bearable" suggestion box.
Those of you who have been following along will know that air travel and I do not mix. I used to love flying, back in the day when it was fun. Now it's not only stressful because of the whole get-undressed-to-get-patted scenario, but also because it seems like the airlines have completely lost their shit as far as how to run a business. I have been in 12 different airplanes over the past three months, and I am here to tell you that no one has fun anymore. There is no room in the seats, boarding and de-planing are a total nightmare, and there is no room for carry-ons, which everyone brings because no one wants to pay the $25 or more for checking bags.
Take that dubious beginning, and then add me.
In November, a flight I was on was delayed due to fog (not the airline's fault, I grant you), but then all of my tightly scheduled connections were thrown off and I spent 18 hours in airports that day. Another flight was scheduled too closely to the first one, and my baggage didn't make the connection, and my luggage was lost. Of course, I didn't PLAN to check my bag, but since I was a lowly Zone 4 in boarding there was no carry-on space, and my bag was forced to check and then was lost. You'd think I would learn from this experience, but I am truly an old dog.
A few weeks ago, I checked my itenierary to Vermont online, and noticed that the Vermont to Chicago legs of my flight were missing. I called Expedia to see if they had reserved a scooter for me to drive to Chicago to catch my last flight, but Juan reassured me all was well (Didn't you get the e-mail that those flights were cancelled? No Juan. I didn't. That's why I'm panicking now.) He e-mailed my new itenierary and indeed, all the dots connected. Until Monday.
I caught my flight from Vermont at 8 a.m. to LaGuardia. (SIDE NOTE: I flew over Ground Zero twice in the last two weeks, and it is very chilling. I couldn't help but think, "This is what they saw before they crashed." So sad.) In LaGuardia, you have to catch a shuttle to another terminal, then go back through security, and run to find your gate. If you have less than 40 minutes between flights, fuggedaboudit. I caught my flight to Chicago, and was SO. CLOSE. The Son had an orchestra concert at 7, and my flight was scheduled to land at 4:30, so it looked good for me to hear it. Then the flight was delayed due to mechanical problems. Just what you want to hear in the airport.
(On my flight out of LaGuardia to Vermont, we were in the plane, strapped in, getting ready to taxi down the runway, when we returned to the gate, because "Our hydraulic pump just broke." OH? I quickly booked another flight from LaGuardia to Philly, then Philly to Burlington, and got in three hours late. Dear United: Never tell us the plane is breaking if you want us to use your airline again.)
SO, BACK TO O'HARE. We are finally boarding. I walk up to the gal, she scans my boarding pass, and says, "This passenger has already boarded." Um, no, she hasn't. "Yes," she says, "She has." We look at my ticket. OhHolyShit that is NOT my name on the boarding pass. "You'll have to go back to the ticketing agent," she says, and looks past me to the next person. Now everyone is looking at me like I'm a terrorist, which I am *thisclose* to becoming. I go back to the ticketing counter and say, "Excuse me, you gave me the wrong boarding pass" which has issues all by itself, as in How do they issue TWO boarding passes to ONE person? I have to take off my belt, watch, shoes, coat, and scarf and can't bring perfume, hairspray, vodka or certain anti-aging products, but you can issue two boarding passes to the same person? SECURITY!!!
But Gary has news for me: "I'm sorry, I don't have you on this flight." I have news for Gary: "OH YES I AM." Gary says, "But you aren't on my list" and I say, voice trembling, "Here is my itenierary. And I have three kids in Iowa that I've been away from for eight days and I have to be at an orchestra concert in three hours. I'm on the edge here, Gary," Gary says, nervously, "Don't cry..." and I say, "Oh THIS isn't crying. I haven't even BEGUN to cry. It will get much, much worse." And then Gary quickly prints off a new boarding pass with my name on it and I run to the gate and am the last passenger on the plane.
We are beginning our descent when suddenly it hits me: I checked my bag in Vermont because my connection in LaGuardia was too close and I couldn't chance it with the carry-on. But the airline didn't have me booked to the Quad Cities, they had me booked to Chicago. And like a COMPLETE MORON, I packed my laptop, Garmin, digital camera, Blackberry charger, and my paperwork from the show (not credit card numbers or money though, that doesn't leave my person) because I didn't want to lug 40 pounds of electronics and paperwork through the airport. Right now, my bag is making the rounds at Baggage Claim C in O'Hare, with some clever thief muttering, "Bingo." I'm an idiot.
I get off the plane, make my lost baggage claim, and go see my people. Honestly, at this point I'm so tired and so relieved to see my family and an orchestra concert that I don't care about the bag yet. We go to the concert, have our lovely friends who are visiting from Atlanta over for about 2 hours late Monday night, and then off to bed and work the next day. I call United baggage claim about four times during the day Tuesday, and the automated voice says, "We haven't located your bag, but remember that 90% of all bags are found." By 6 p.m., I am feeling like part of the lucky 10%. It turns out, they did find my bag, and the delivery service was trying to drop off my bag with all of my electronics at the wrong address, even though it is clearly printed in my baggage tag. I finally got it at 9 p.m., and thank you Jesus everything was inside.
What did I learn? Nothing.
Check back in February, when I am not only going back for MORE air travel, I am taking a whole posse of minors with me. Because my ulcer is not yet fully matured.