Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

United 2Dante wrote of an epic journey to the underworld, telling of the nine circles depicting the great suffering located in the center of earth — but living in the 14th century didn’t allow Dante a glimpse into the world of airline travel – so, I’m going to take today to complete his ultimate circle of true anguish and misery.  Agony: thy name is an airline company that if you were dyslexic you might associate with shoelaces that require tying.

This past Sunday, after an incredible week spent at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival – three of us made our way at 8am to the Medford, OR Rogue Valley International (?) Airport… a wee lil’ one runway, four airlines facility that is cute as pie, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that bugs might not be in the apples located in that sweet crust.

Arriving two and half hours early for our flight, we were informed that the flight was cancelled.  We asked to be placed on a later flight and were told that wasn’t going to happen, due to “mechanical issues.”  Okaaaay.  Perhaps we could hitch a ride on one of the other three airlines that operate from this adorable airstrip?  No.  Apparently, according to the lovely boy behind the counter (and young Shane, I do still believe you were the jewel in the pile of fertilizer that greeted us in Medford.  You, sir! Were awesome.) – this had been an issue for the past eight days, or so.  Okaaaay.   “Can we get flights out of another airport?”  While he agreed to look, I went (nee STORMED off) to see if we could rent a car for what would likely be a longer trip than we’d anticipated to get on a plane, any plane – but we were going to make the best of that.

Five national (not Podunk, cowtown) car rental agencies later, where I’ve been informed there is no such thing as a “One Way” car rental (seriously, the agents all looked at me like I was asking for the secret location of unicorns, Big Foot and men who really do ask for directions while driving), I return to the airline counter  — for which the antonym DIVIDED would be appropriate — to be informed that it looked like San Francisco would be our best bet to catch any flight back home.

Pardon my minced oath, but… San Fran-frikkin’-cisco?!

It is in that moment, that I announce that I have to sit down.  The idea that we’re about to commit to a flight in a city approximately 375 miles away from where we were standing (me, now sitting) made me a little dizzy.  No.  It made me sick to my stomach.  This airline, who in my childhood promised that the skies would be friendly if I flew them – had let me down.  Big time.

My teenaged son was home alone, nearly 700 miles away, his caretaker having left for the day – knowing that we’d be returning home shortly after lunch and well before the dinner hour.  Now?!  We’re being informed that we’d be lucky (and I use that term loosely, considering what was actually to transpire that day) to be home by bedtime.

Sitting on the deceptively comfortable bench in the Rogue Valley International (and again I must type: ??) I’m surprised by an attractive young man who says to me, “Hey.  I’m going to San Francisco, if you want a ride.  I have a car.”  Glancing around like a malfunctioning sprinkler head, I point to myself and ask, “Me?”  He assures me that he’s asking me, saying that he is also needing to get to San Francisco and that he is looking for someone to share the cost of the Dodge Journey he’s rented.

To say I’m skeptical doesn’t begin to cover the thoughts going through my head.  YOU managed to rent a one-way vehicle that I could not?!  YOU just happen to be going to the one airport that we’re apparently able to fly out of?!  Despite the fact that he was Harry Connick, Jr. cute – I was not so sure about this.  I informed him that I’d have to speak to my husband about this.

After conferring with the handsome man I am espoused to and agreeing that we were going to take this crazy chance, I approached young H.C. Jr. 2.0 and tell him that we will indeed be his companions (and I paraphrase here) to the land of sourdough bread, Ghirardelli chocolate and cable cars – but not, rental car companies be danged, unicorns, Big Foot and men who really do ask for directions while driving (that I know of).

Please know, I am NOT a woman who is wired to do such a thing.  For years, I have done nothing but warn my offspring that one does not get in a car with strangers.  I have to add a post script to this nagging lecture to include: unless you’re with your mother.

I should tell you that as soon as H.C. Jr. 2.0 informs me of his name, cell phone number, occupation and where he works – I Google him.  Eeeyup.  In the austere cold of the ladies bathroom I find an online picture of him on my smart phone and blow his image up as large as the 2 x 3 inch screen will allow.  The evidence leads me to believe that he’s mostly telling the truth and I cannot find any links that say he’s been given a pink slip for nefarious behavior, dissed by ex-girlfriends or even a bad sandwich review on Yelp.

Six incredibly entertaining hours later (Chuck, our driver) is a reporter for a television station in SF and his stories are truly worthy of whatever media will hear his voice.  The 90 second segments he’s currently writing could not possibly begin to show his talent and experience.

Arriving at SFO the airline company that “could or could not come together for a common purpose or action” greets us with cheery enthusiasm and tells us, through smiling teeth, that we’ll be boarding in a couple of hours.  We walk away to seek celebratory refreshment and laugh about our wild (and what we believe to be the end of our) day.

Then, the texts begin.

Over the next hour, our once smiling red & blue logo’d airline texts us twice to inform us that, like a bad television series with crappy acting and worse casting, we’ve been cancelled.  Bravely, we approach the stand of approbation to be shuffled twice and by the third termination we’re told we can no longer be seen by the jovial agent behind the boarding gate – we have to go to Customer Service.  A misnomer, as we’re neither received with an air of service nor are we treated as customers (who describes as: A party that receives or consumes products (good or services) and has the ability to choose between different products and suppliers – which we, at that point, could NOT do).

Customer Service, trained as they are in the art of the service of customers begins the following dialogue when we inform them that we MUST/MUST/MUST get home, or even CLOSE to home, sooner than later:

UA: Would you like to fly into Los Angeles International Airport?

US: Yes.

UA: Sorry.  It seems that is unavailable. Would you like to fly into John Wayne Airport?

US: [Despite this being 90 minutes from home]. Yes, that’d be fine.

US: Sorry.  It seems that is unavailable.  Would you like to fly to Palm Springs?

Me: [almost 3 hours from home, just 2+ miles more than a drive from S.F. would be] Uhm, no.  I would like a ticket back to My Money Back from YOU (“U”) guys. Now.

US: Sorry.  We cannot do that.  You’ll have to request that in writing.

Me: (Secretly – “Oh, goody. That’s what I do.”)

Again, I went (nee – who am I kidding – I totally STORMED off) to see if we could, once again, see about renting a car for what was DEFINITELY going to be a longer trip than we’d anticipated – but, I was determined, we were going to make the best of that, too.

Alas, every single bloody vehicle in a thirty mile radius had been sold out.  No car for you!

My tenacious and brilliant daughter put fingers to smartphone and found three tickets on a competing airline.  Sweet Wonderful Airlines saved the day and put us on a 7:30pm plane… that was delayed three hours.  That’s okaaay – delayed is not CANCELLED.

So, we shift teams, and gates, and wait.  And then? The texts began all over again: “Your 7:30pm flight (that was cancelled) until 10:30pm — has been delayed until 11:15pm.  11:45pm. 12:15am. 12:45am.” We finally boarded the gloriously anticipated 7:30pm, but much delayed, flight at 12:50am and the vision of home sweet (ridiculously, deliciously sweet) home showed up via a $125 taxi ride over an hour later.

Our luggage, quite the adventurous souls it seems – were a totally different story.  Our suitcases went on another journey, without us, on that “other” airline (and their courier) and didn’t arrive home for another 12 hours.  Honestly, those bags could have come home via train, all the way from our original destination – had that been available (which it wasn’t) — and arrived shortly after the originally planned dinner hour.

I can assure you, they wouldn’t have had peanuts (which aren’t available anyway in the 3rd circle of Dante’s Inferno, I’m sure).

xo – t.

Hateful to me as the gates of Hades is that man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another.” – Homer

Despicable to me as the airport gates of torture are those ticket agents who hide the fact that the San Francisco airport is down to two runways (due to construction) and continues to book flights as though it is business as usual.” – T. Katz


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