Wednesday, May 17, 2017

...Or Wherever Your Final Destination May Be Taking You

The downside of traveling, as I see it, is the traveling part, especially if it involves airports. We sampled three different airlines and all of them thanked us for flying with them, as well they might. First up was Frontier Airlines, which was remarkably cheap, unless you want a seat, which is extra. Snacks are extra, and juice is extra, and when you pay for a beer with a credit card, there's a screen in which you are encouraged to tip the flight attendants, who are otherwise complimentary. There's a little coin slot on the arm rest to recline the seat at a dollar an inch for a half hour. Vaseline for your kneecaps is available for purchase, and the safety demo explains which way to swipe your credit card when the oxygen masks come down. For an additional $7.99, they will agree not to hand you the teeny bag of crispy mini wheat pucks. We had a nice flight seated next to a nun in full regalia, who was delighted to discover she'd won a wager with the sisters when she said she'd be able to snag a cup of water for free. Which she did. Could be the crew was just hedging their bets.

Fiji Air was actually our favorite.
Next came Porter Airlines, our favorite, serving a free beer-like product, and depositing us promptly in Billy Bob Airport. This is located on a small island to keep us under surveillance, but someone has dug an escape tunnel, at the end of which you can take an elevator to Toronto. So that's how we encountered Toronto: from underneath, so you could see its underpants. We had been smoothly and expeditiously decanted through customs, preparing us in no way for the return trip.

For that leg, we did arrive 2-1/2 hours early and used every second of it in customs, involving a glacial trudge through a maze with no cheese at the end. The United States doesn't want us back. We keep asking for health care and diplomacy.

Fortunately, this time we were flying United, so the plane was late. It was late, and it was either at gate F66 or F60, depending on whether you believed the departures board or the boarding pass, although nobody at either gate was familiar with our flight. They suggested we check in at Customer Service, which is where you get serviced. Customer Service featured two ticket agents and forty or so customers being processed at the rate of twenty minutes per, so we made friends with our immediate neighbors in line and settled in for the long haul in the hopes one of the ticket agents knew where our plane was. Two hours later we were first in line and discovered we had been rebooked for Portland, arriving at a quarter past never, via Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, on a plane that was in a gate a half mile away and leaving in ten minutes, according to the comedian who updates the departures board. I kicked Dave into high gear and we streaked through the airport down ever-darker hallways knocking down old ladies until we slammed into a dead-end before our gate had shown up. There was a glass door. There was light behind it. I pushed at the door, it resisted, I pushed harder, and the door started shrieking whoop whoop whoop and I spun around and bellowed SHIT! to a polite assemblage of waiting passengers, some of whom might have been Canadian, so I apologize.

"Where's Gate 98?" I asked, in a much reduced voice. The crowd responded kindly. All the gates up to 95 had proceeded in order but the end of the hallway had a little sign--a chalkboard, perhaps--with "96 97 98" scribbled on it. Also, the plane was late. Another hour plodded by, neatly corresponding with the layover time we were supposed to have in D.C., and eventually we boarded the plane, arrived in the nation's capital, picked up our new boarding passes for the following morning, and shuttled off to a Best Western for a nice four hours' sleep five hundred miles farther away from our destination.

Three o'clock came early. Security was a breeze, and we were funneled onto an airplane and bumped along the tarmac in the dark for a bit while the pilot looked for a parking spot. Fifteen minutes later he came on the intercom. Bing. "Folks..." he began.

This is never good.

A butterfly had flapped its wings in the Amazon and grounded air traffic in the Midwest, so the FAA had given them a new flight plan, and it was taking them a while to enter it into the jet's brain, but they'd be on the move shortly.

Bing. Well, folks, the new flight plan added an hour to the flight--neatly corresponding with our layover time in San Francisco--and they didn't  have enough gas, so they were going back to the gate to fuel up.

But folks? The San Francisco flight was miraculously delayed while they retrieved a plastic bag from the engine. We're back! Home! The plane politely stayed in the air until the runway showed up, it's sunny and warm, and we'd stocked the beer fridge before we left. We anticipate Christmas cards from the people in line with us at Customer Service in Toronto. It's a wonderful world.

34 comments:

  1. Good grief! It would have ben much more expedient to have just driven to your destinations! Hell, you could have walked it faster!

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    1. Well, Dave could've. I would have had a blister by Iowa.

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    2. I live in Iowa. You could have called. I'd have shown up with a band aid and beer.

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    3. Aww! You would have been right on the money on both counts, huh!

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  2. mimimanderly got here first, I was about to suggest you could have hiked home and beat all those delayed planes by at least an hour or two.

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    1. I'm not sure you can walk directly from Toronto. They put those Niagara Falls in the way.

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  3. and that's not even the half of it. I hate every bit of the process and would rather walk all the way from Minnesota to Honolulu then fly ever again...:( oh I just read the previous two comments and see I'm being rather redundant. :)

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    1. Looks like a consensus of opinion: walking is the new flying.

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    2. I'd rather walk than run through airports. That is my standard anxiety dream, when I'm not dreaming about a final exam in a course I haven't cracked the book for. I'm running through airports trying to make the gate. I had that dream just this morning in fact. Bleah.

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  4. Thanks for the tip on US customs in Toronto, since we're going there next month... I'm thinking about a side trip to Ottawa to beg for asylum.

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    1. See if you can ask Mr. Trudeau personally. I would.

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    2. Always allow extra time to go through customs in Toronto. They change where things are every time I go. And for anyone seeking asylum, I live in Ottawa and we have a guest room. I'm taking applications. Bonus points to anyone who's an expert at Mexican food.

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    3. My sister moved from California to Tasmania 15 years ago and Mexican food is always the first thing she wants when she comes back for a visit.

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    4. I'm drawing a blank for Tasmanian food, which is probably good. Devil's food cake, wombat nuggets, platypie? (Will need to research.)

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  5. Why is it so difficult to get back in to your own country? Everywhere else takes us in with no problem, but coming back? Makes me want to stay gone.

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    1. Do you look Muslim? Even a little bit?

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  6. And this is one of the great multitude of reasons I don't like to travel.

    Although ... now that I'm blogging, I'm always looking for material ... and you certainly got THAT. Did anyone offer to pay for your hotel stay? That would have been a mere drop in the bucket of reparation you could have used, but still.

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    1. Well? We got a voucher for a reduced rate at the Best Western. So it was only ninety dollars. According to the sign on the door, that was a $200 room. It worked out to $18 per hour spent there, or $15 per person yelling at midnight outside the door.

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    2. Best Western has TWO HUNDRED DOLLAR rooms?? Jeez.... it HAS been a long time since I've stayed in a hotel.

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    3. Bed was nice. But I'm with you. For $200 I want a happy ending.

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  7. I've had a serious grudge against United since they misplaced my elderly mother in PDX and didn't appear concerned. And that was before 9/11, when the skies supposedly were friendlier. And like everyone else who's commented, I now loathe flying. If Amtrak survives the Great Purge, it's a good alternative. Travel as a citizen, not a hostage.

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    1. ACK! Remember that line Ellen DeGeneres had about her grandmother? "She started walking five miles a day when she was 85! She's ninety years old now and we don't know where the hell she is."

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  8. Living where I do, practically ANYWHERE is a long-haul trip.I think the initial gloss has pretty much worn off...

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    1. I hope you like it just where you are. It's possible, you know--I can stay put for a good long time.

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  9. Oh. My. God. Murr. Dave. This is how your wonderful trip to Tronto was rewarded? With THIS??? Who may I beat up for you? Please, lemme at 'em. JEEEEZ!!!

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    1. Not to fret. This is why my anxiety dreams of running through airports are so realistic. I really do it. And I once missed a flight on a five-hour layover (in the wrong gate at the wrong terminal). There are witnesses.

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  10. On behalf of all Canadians, I'm sorry. Thank god for a stocked beer fridge.

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    1. No no no. Nothing for Y'ALL to apologize for! I hope I didn't scandalize anyone delicate in Gate 98.

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  11. Love it! Love it! And an additional smile because my mom encountered "or wherever your final destination may be taking you" and referenced it often. Also, from a pilot: "Remember, USAir begins with y'all."

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    1. Oh, that second one: REALLY? I shoulda remembered that.

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  12. You've developed quite a following over the years, eh?
    Been in your flight situation more times than I care to remember. 3 days layover in Heathrow for fog, St. Petersburg for personnel issues, etc. Part of travel.
    The fun is once there, and sometimes, rarely, getting there.

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    1. I don't have much of a following, but I gots me some nice people loitering.

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