Helladay Travel, part the 2nd
Tuesday, January 01, 2008, 12:36 PM
And I thought my December 2005 Helliday flight was bad.
I have had so much bad luck lately, I'm afraid to leave my apartment. I also wonder about the idea of recounting all of this bad luck because I sure as hell don't want to relive it, but then I remember misery makes for good reading and I'll probably enjoy laughing about this some day.
(Plus, I plan to give United hell and I need to have everything straight in my head.)
My bad luck began Saturday, December 15, 2007, the day my sister called to tell me the son she gave up for adoption had called her out of the blue. And I'll share how that went (very good) later because this post is about my bad luck and misery. Yee-haw!
So. I realized a few days before December 15 that my driver's license had expired and that I'd need a current photo ID to get through airport security for my holiday flights. I made an appointment with the West Hollywood DMV (have to make an appointment here in L.A. because there are so many fricken people). A couple of days before my DMV appointment, one of my co-workers said: "You know it takes four to six weeks before you get your photo ID, right?"
Uh, no. In Indiana, you leave the BMV with your photo ID. It takes all of an hour, maybe less.
I decided to keep the appointment anyway. I tore all through my apartment on the Friday night before my DMV appt. looking for my birth certficate. Couldn't find it. I had my social security card, two credit cards and my 2006 taxes, but not my birth certificate. And I figured they'd take one look at my Americana face and think nope, she's OBVIOUSLY not an illegal from Mexico trying to get into the country.
They didn't let me past the counter. I have to produce a birth certificate, or no nifty photo ID for me.
I went back home. On the way, I lost my two credit cards. They sllllllipped out of my purse's credit card slits, probably because the purse is old and my luck has run out. I learned that my credit cards were gone when I went to deposit a check. I remember vividly standing there at the Wells Fargo ATM, my brain gone blank, my body numb. I turned in a daze and went back home. It never occurred to me that I was standing in front of the damn bank, that I could have gone inside and reported the cards missing right then. Nope. Didn't.
There was a message for me on my cell phone when I got back home. My cell was in my purse, but traffic is so loud outside that I never heard it. Someone had turned in one of my credit cards. I hoped it was the one I had purchased my airline ticket with.
It was. A tiny piece of luck! I would be able to fly home after all.
December 21, 12:20 pm
My United flight is scheduled to leave at 2:00. Due to past holiday airflight hell, I made damn sure I was at the airport no later than 11:30. Lines at LAX are crazy and horrible, and check-in goes almost smoothly. Since my ID has expired, Security marks me for pat-down. Yaay! Touch me, baby.
United finally begins boarding passengers. I'm in the nose bleed section of the plane, so I'm next to board after First Class. At 2:20 or so, United stops boarding passengers. There is an electrical problem (with the compressor I later found out) and they want to make sure they can correct it before take-off. Meanwhile, I'm squirming in my seat because I have about two hours between connecting flights and know I'll need every friggen minute.
United can't correct the problem. They have to wait for another part that won't arrive until 4:00. Everyone who boarded the plane gets off. Don't forget to take your baggage, they say. My mouth is dry, my eyes ache from not blinking, and my brain has gone dead again (a survival mechanism, I guess). I buy a small fry and a filet-o-fish from McDonalds. The fries are good, but the fish is about half the size of a playing card and they forgot my cheese. I suck down a bottle of Airborne so I don't catch a cold from some germy airport person.
There's a guy sitting two seats down from me who has burped at least 5 times, the guy on the other side of me is sneezing and coughing, but the airport is bedlam and there is no where else to sit. Finally, United puts a digital scrolling message up on the board beside our gate to let us know the part won't be arriving until 5:00 and that the mechanic estimates he'll have news by 8:00, and to not kill the messenger. They end the message with a smiley face.
I would've photographed it for posterity, but I was digusted, disappointed, wanted to barf, etc. I should've just gone in to work, dammit.
The line leading to United's Customer Service Center is 150-people deep. I'm person 148. I can't find the right line to call for United's Customer Service, so I have to go through the automated service line for check-in. It's so noisy that the electronic voice keeps mistaking my name, my verification number, my flight number. There are people in front of me who are calling too. It's madness and I haven't even made the first flight out. What am I doing here? I swore I would never go through this again.
I give up with United's automated line and call Oogie. I can barely hear myself think and I want to go home. Back to my apartment. But she tells me not to cancel.
I try the automated line again. It's my only chance because the Customer Service line hasn't budged at all. And as soon as I realize this, I try to find a quiet place so the stupid automated voice can understand me. (FYI: there is no quiet place in an airport terminal except for the restroom.) At this point, I'm being optimistic in thinking that United is going to be able to get me out of LAX and in to Chicago. Or I'm being desperate. Actually, both.
Finally, I get through to a live United agent. Except for when she coughs, I can barely hear her. There are no more flights leaving Chicago tonight for Fort Wayne. Anywhere. Not United, American, Continental or Delta. BUT. She can re-route me through Delta tomorrow morning at 9:00, going to Cincinnati, OH, and from there to Fort Wayne. If I can make it to Chicago tonight. I take it.
I call Oogie and ask her to get me the name and phone number of a hotel near the Chicago airport.
United announces they've fixed the electrical problem. They'll be able to fly after all. Everybody is cheering. I want to hurl and shout obscenities.
9:20, maybe 9:30
United takes off. I'm tired but friggen wired, so I watch a movie and try not to laugh at my seat passenger who keeps doing a birdy head nod because she can't keep her eyes open. It's the highlight of my day.
December 22, 3:15 am
I'm waiting at the taxi area in ORD. Just awaiting. Ready for bed.
Taxis that drive by already have people in them. None are empty and stopping for passengers. Actually, there aren't many people around. It would be bliss if I weren't exhausted. Finally, it dawns on me that I have to call for a taxi.
I climb into my taxi. I give him the name and address of my hotel. He isn't familiar with it. A few minutes later, I realize it's because he's drunk when he asks in a slurred voice: "You like vodka?"
Fate decides to smile on me when I see the name of my hotel in the distance. I tell the driver where to go, aloud and silently.
The hotel can't check me in because my reservation was made for the 21st and they're doing a computer backup. I'll have to wait a few minutes.
I reach my room, eat my bag of airline pretzels and watch a holiday show on CNN. I'm still too wired to sleep, but I force myself to close my eyes because I have to get up in three hours.
The lines for United are horrible and crazy, but the line for Delta is wee. Yaay! I get right up to the counter, Delta tells me my seat is confirmed, but that United failed to issue the boarding ticket. Delta can't do anything because it's United's responsibility. The Delta agent calls United's Customer Service at my frantic begging. The person we get says the ticket has been re-issued, but it doesn't come up the way it should on Delta's computer. I need a physical ticket to board and that means I have to enter United territory.
I wouldn't mind at all if I was struck dead at this point.
I don't know how I've escaped death by other United passengers waiting to check-in, but I force myself to the counter to demand that United follows through with what they said they've done already. I'm referred to two other United Reps when I finally reach the Supervisor. He says he can't help me, I need to talk to the check-in agents. At the breaking point, I tell him the check-in agents have referred me to him, that they physically POINTED to him, and that he HAS TO HELP ME.
He is less than thrilled and wouldn't care if I was struck dead at this point, either.
The supervisor has disappeared with my ID and old boarding pass. I'm still at the counter waiting for him to give me physical proof that United has done what they said they did. My flight leaves in 20 minutes. I don't think I'm going to make it, but there is nothing else I can do but wait for him to come back with my proof because I'll need it if I miss my flight.
When he finally comes back, I ask him if he realizes I've probably missed my flight. He says the Delta flight has been delayed and I can still make it. Maybe he's telling the truth, maybe he's not, but I don't care. The Delta check-in areas are quiet and I have more faith in them right now.
The United supervisor was right. The flight was delayed.
But because it was delayed, I miss my next flight.
Who knows? I haven't turned my cell back on yet.
Delta knows there are several people who have missed their flights (Delta might cost more, Delta might not offer as many flights, but during the holiday season, they are WORTH IT). They have two agents waiting for us as we deboard the plane, to help us reschedule our flights. The Delta agent put me on Stand By for a flight leaving at 4:55, but if I don't make that one, I'm confirmed for the 8:00 flight.
I still wouldn't mind if the ground opened up and swallowed me whole, but a curious numbness has come over me at this point. I'm no longer frantic and angry. My life is out of my hands. I surrender.
I make the flight! I make the flight to Fort Wayne! There are six other people (eight in total) hoping to make this flight. I am the last to make it. I'm relieved from the inside out for myself and heartsick for the others.
My baggage might be in Chicago or Cincinnati. United can't tell at this point, but they allow me to file a baggage claim and will let me know as soon as they know anything.
December 25, 2:30
My baggage is delivered. Merry Christmas to me! So what if I'm getting a cold, I have my fuzzy slippers at last.
My flights home weren't much better.
I want to stop now because I'm sick of typing all of this, but I know if I don't continue, I probably won't. So.
December 29, 2:45
My United flight to Chicago is scheduled to leave at 4:00. Fort Wayne airport is a breeze--wonderful--after LAX and ORD. Except me and 15 other people have been doing the jiggy in the check-in line for over 20 minutes. Apparently United is trying to check in a couple of international flyers.
Me and several others miss the flight because United only had the one check-in agent and she spent 40 minutes helping the two international flyers.
Yep. United spent over 40 effing minutes with two people, got them on the flight, but inconvenienced and had to reschedule flights for at least 9 other people. Can you say Customer Service?
There are no other flights leaving tonight, but the United agent can schedule me for a flight tomorrow at the same time. I'll have to go to Chicago, then Denver before I reach LAX.
December 30, 2:35
I get checked-in. No problems. Except Security schedules me for another pat-down.
United is supposed to begin boarding passengers at 3:40. They don't. There's something wrong with the plane, I forget what. It doesn't really matter. All that matters is that I only had 45 minutes between my Chicago and Denver flights, and I'm going to miss my connecting flight. This is what? My forth missed flight?
We take off. I feel like I'm living in the fifth circle of hell. This would be hilarious if I felt like laughing.
I find United's Customer Service at the Cinci airport. There is NO ONE in line. I can't believe it. Am I dreaming? They can get me on a flight today at 6:30.
"But you won't be going to Denver, you'll be going to Los Angeles," the girl says like this is a disappointment. Hah-hah! I'm cracking up. I am dreaming.
"Great," I say and pinch myself.
The flight takes off as scheduled, only I know I'm no longer dreaming because the guy sitting beside me is so big that his flesh spills over into my seat. I have to hunch if I don't want to rub shoulders with him.
Three of his under-the-age-of-eight kids are sitting in the seats behind us. One is in the aisle across from us. The man's wife is in First Class, three seats away from where I am sitting, with another of their kids. He and his wife shout to each other throughout the flight. He also turns bodily around and shouts to the kids behind us. They have an annoying habit of kicking my seat. If they (and their father) weren't talking so loudly, I could close my eyes and pretend it was a massage.
I've obviously reached Dante's ninth circle of hell.
I realize I didn't reach the ninth circle until I and a billion other people are standing around the #3 baggage claim carousel. It's almost midnight in L.A. I'm exhausted and have a headache. People are so tight around the carousel that sweat is rolling down my back, but I don't dare give up my spot because it took me 20 minutes just to get to it.
The carousel jams three times before United has to re-route the baggage to another carousel.
I finally reach Baggage Claim. My luggage is in Denver. Somebody kill me.
My taxi driver wants cash. Too bad, so sad, his dad. I press my case of woe with a don't eff with me tone and he accepts my credit card (the one I didn't lose).
I'm home. There was a power outtage. All of my clocks are flashing 4:09. I'm glad I thought to power down my computer before I left.
My TV screen won't turn on anymore. I can hear sound, but I can't see diddly. When I try to sign on to my computer, the system freezes. And continues to freeze each time I reboot. I don't see any viruses, but my computer won't run any of my virus or anti-spam software. This isn't normal. Finally, my computer makes me do a hard boot. The system freezes 60 seconds from boot-up. Every friggen time.
My luggage is delivered. I've got no TV, no computer, but I do have my luggage.
My New Year's Resolution? I'm never flying United again. OR flying during the holidays.
No, for real this time.