Thursday, July 10, 2008

Fear and Flying (Two of three)

So I made it to Boston’s Logan airport on time and on mission, ready to be patient. I mean it was my own stupid fault I didn’t have my license. So I would have to patiently explain how the expired passport that I had as a backup was valid, and hope I could make it through before y flight gave up on me.

The first hurdle was Delta, where I had to convince the counter person that it was a valid ID. She checked with someone, who told her it was not. I shook my head, and continued with my “is so” mentality, forcing the second person to check with someone who actually knew the answer to the question before answering it. You cannot use an expired passport to travel internationally (duh) but, yes, you can use it as proof of identity for traveling domestically. I successfully checked my bag, and moved on.

At the gate (where I again had to show my expired passport, and again explain that it was okay, and again wait while that was verified by someone whose job it should have been to know that already) the extra security meant going into a special booth, having a wand run all over me. Then I had to have my shoes checked in a special device for…I don’t know…special odors? Anyway, it didn’t take two hours. It didn’t even take a half hour. I got to my flight two hours early, and waited an hour for the flight to arrive. At which time I watched the ticket agent at the gate change the time to 2 hours later. With a gasp, I inquired, and found that the flight was delayed. Therefore I would miss the connection in Cleveland, and would not get to Texas that night. I was screwed.

But the helpful ticket agent came to my rescue. Either that or revealed the next link in their diabolical plan. He could get me on a flight on American, and there I could connect through Houston to get to Austin, and get there about the same time. That was the good news. The bad news was that American was in another terminal. Those meant I had to leave the terminal I was in, exit security, and then go back through security at the American terminal, with an expired passport, and accompanying “special procedures.” In less than a half hour. I thought fast, and agreed, after checking that my checked luggage (why oh why had I checked my luggage?) would likewise make the transfer. I was assured it would, and I took off running. I'm big, but I can be fast.

Airports are made for people in a hurry. Moving walkways are centered in long hallways, letting you move twice, three times as fast through their lengths, an answer to a prayer for the perpetually temporally challenged. The problem is that most of the people who take advantage of this are using the walkways as amusement park rides. They step onto the belt, and immediately stop, like it's an escalator, or a very tame roller coaster. All that's missing is their throwing theiR hands up and shouting "Wheeeee!" They're riding, without the slightest inkling that they're on a walkway. Worse, there are clearly marked signs designed for these people specifically, indicating that if they want to play statues, to keep to the right. People with somewhere to be are passing on the left. Maybe it would be clearer if they drew cobwebs on the info graphics. That day, I had no time to figure it out.

Through the terminal, to the next terminal through the line where I needed to verify a new ticket. Then off to security, where I played the “yes it is, no it isn’t, yes it is” game again, and it was every bit as much fun as the several times. And I made it to the gate on time. In time, that is, to see the ticket agent change the time, telling me that this flight also, was delayed. By now I was thirsty, and wishing I had the water that was in my checked luggage. I settled for the fountain, container-free, and you can’t beat the price. Luckily, the connection in Houston was such that it could allow for a delay, so I was still in good shape.

Long story long, I made it to Austin, and only an hour after I should have been there in the first place, at 12:30. Drama ended? No, not yet. The real drama was waiting at the baggage carousel. There, all the other bags were cleared out one by one by my anxious, exhausted fellow travelers on the last flight into Austin Bergstrom that evening, and continued to their destination. All but mine. As the carousel stopped, a fresh surge of anxiety struck as I realized that my bag was nowhere to be seen.

There’re few things as much fun as waiting to get the attention of the person at the desk in the lost luggage office at 1 in the morning in a city far from home. It was then, as I was forced to listen to her (aware that I was standing there and was the only one standing there) as she proceeded to finish a story on the phone to her girlfriend about something that had happened that day, using me as a live audience for reaction. I was too tired and baffled by that point to be anything but angry. But I was still coherent enough to realize this annoying woman was my only hope of getting my bag that night, so that I could have clean clothes for my meeting at 9 the next morning.

It was then that she killed me.

Oh no, wait, I must have dozed for a second. It was then that she asked me if I was sure my baggage had come in. I wanted to say, “well, beyond following herd of everyone else off of my flight to a baggage carousel, and then watching as they all picked up their luggage and exited, and watching the belt subsequently, I couldn’t say for sure.” But I just said “yes.” She gave me a book that identified types of bags, and asked me to look it over to give her an identifying number, so they could identify the bag if it came in. If. The bag itself would have identifying tags, would it not? Because it was disheartening to think that it could stay lost for no other reason than that I identified "basic black wheeled type D1" instead of "basic black wheeled type L7".

It was then I knew it must be a plot. No other professional industry could be as hopelessly screwed up and yet charge such exorbitant prices at the same time, and not be up to some nefarious purpose. I was becoming sure. But I still needed the proof.

Within 24 hours, I would have it.

To be continued.

1 comment:

Marc Siry said...

I'm at the edge of my seat!

(I fly once a week, and I've read both your posts while nodding 'uh huh, uh huh...')