Monday, January 19, 2009

Christmas 2008 - Part Two

So the holiday season inched by, Mickey out of his mind, Papa and Daddy threatening Mickey with Santa at every turn until finally it was the day to depart for Kansas City where Christmas would be spent with Grandma Ruby and Grandpa Jim. This would be the first Christmas Mickey and Papa would spend with Grandma and Grandpa Mansell. Daddy's failing memory will not let him remember when he was last home for Christmas. Sad thing, memory loss.

Tom had made the flight arrangements and so on the day we were to depart, he Googled for directions to the airport in Hartford, Connecticut. After about an hour of driving, thinking we were near the airport, I spy a sign pointing not the direction we were headed - Hartford Brainard Airport - but for Bradley International Airport. "Are we supposed to be going to Bradley?" I ask of Tom. Uh. Well. Tom wasn't sure. The directions I had in my hand seemed to be for an airport called Hartford Brainard. Crap. So I get on Tom's cell - mine never has a charge - and I call Delta. I hate Delta. When you call them you're immediately launched into one of those hateful automated phone answering systems and the stupid thing can never understand what the hell it is I'm answering, so it keeps asking me what I said and apologizing that it can't understand me. No matter how distinctly I scream into the phone, the blasted thing only comes back with "I'm sorry, did you say pepperoni pizza?" or some other completely absurd thing! The clock is ticking and I'm getting no where with this damned recorded operator. "Would you like to speak to a representative?" YES!, I scream! "I'm sorry, did you say Dry Toast with Jam?" AAARRRRGH! (And AAARRRRGH! is putting it mildly.)

Finally, I got a "Representative" who I knew just had to be in India somewhere. Regardless, she was able to tell me we were supposed to be heading to Bradley International. F*#K! So Tom turned the car around and we head back the direction we had just come so we could turn at the sign pointing us in the right direction. Well, we ended up driving right past the thing, again. It was in a funny position and we just couldn't see it coming the direction we had just come. So we turned around again and headed back. And don't you know it, we nearly missed it again! After some quick maneuvering into the left lane, we turned toward Bradley International and never again saw another sign for it. F*#K! So we pulled into a Starbucks. I headed for the counter, but there was a long line. But of course. Ah! I spotted a well dressed, middle-aged couple - they'll know how to get to the airport - so I headed for them. I asked them how to get to Bradley International and wouldn't you know it, the man was an idiot and his wife was a clown. He finally managed to instruct me to get back on the rode we had been on and just keep going. He said it would seem like we were headed no where but that we would eventually get to the airport. (My eyes are rolled up into my head as I type this.) We did eventually get to the airport, but the line to the departures terminal was huge. We said to hell with it and turned around again and headed to long-term parking, grabbed our things out of the car and ran into the airport. Tom attempted to do a self check-in but the machine said we had to see a Ticket Agent. DAMMIT. So, we went and stood in line. By the time we got to a Ticket Agent it was after the 30 minute cut-off prior to departure and they would not check us in. WHAT!!!!! And the person helping us couldn't help us re-book to another flight. In order to do that we had to go stand in yet another line. OH, FOR GOD'S SAKE! So we went and stood in the other line, all the while we watched this pissy, mincing bald Agent of some damned sort flitz back and forth being pissed off about everyone and everything and being of no help to anyone. And come to find out, the only person who COULD book passengers was the Agent manning the First Class ticket counter, but she had to assist the First Class passengers first.

By the time she was able to get to us, there was a line that snaked back and forth among the stanchions four or five times and then down the concourse as far as the eye could see. And there were, of course, no flights available the rest of the day. This was Monday, December 22nd. She would have to book us on a flight leaving the next day, Tuesday, December 23rd. At 4 something in the afternoon. Oh, good God. Just book us. Well she tells us there are two flights available around 4:00, one made a connection in Atlanta - you had to change planes - and the other, while it made a stop in Atlanta, did not require a change of planes as it was a through plane to Kansas City. She said. She opined that what with us traveling with a five year old, we were probably better off choosing the flight that did not require a change of planes. Agreed. She booked us, ticketed us and we were on our way. Back home. An hour and a half back to Southfield.

We were all so stressed out at this point, and Mickey, who was fighting a cold, was fighting his asthma too due to his cold and the extreme cold air. He got to coughing so hard in the parking garage, he blew chow. And what were his first words when he was through? "What are we having for dinner?" We headed to Ruby Tuesday's, and then we headed back to Southfield to start all over again on Tuesday.

Are you exhausted yet? Well, get yourself a beverage, it gets worse!

We left so freaking early for the airport on Tuesday we had time to have lunch near the airport. At Ruby Tuesday's. Yes, again. And then we headed to the airport. We attempted to do a self check-in, but the machine said we had to see a Ticketing Agent. (Eyes roll up in the head, followed by big sighs.) We get our boarding passes, check our giant fluorescent blue suitcase and Mickey's booster seat and we head for the gate. We reach security and there is a flurry of security personnel and a lot of murmuring and we are then informed that we have been selected for a special security screening. You've got to be kidding. All our bags are taken and pilfered. One by one we have to step into what looks like a large phone booth. We are then blasted with shots of air. I have no idea what that was to detect, except perhaps to see if and where we were ticklish. Lo and behold, we're packing no heat, so we're let go to gather our belongings that have been completely disheveled. We repack and head to our gate.

We arrive at the gate to learn the plane is already delayed 20 minutes. Now mind you, we're at least two hours early and they already know our flight is delayed. But no worries. We have no connection to miss as we stay on the plane once we arrive in Atlanta. That's what the nice lady at the First Class counter told us yesterday. La, la la, la lah. We end up leaving nearly an hour late. But no worries. We fly to Atlanta in the last row of the plane. Never sit in the last row of a plane. It's just not comfortable. Anyway. We wait for everyone to de-board and then we gather our things to move up 10 rows to prepare for our flight to Kansas City. As we're about to move, someone comes on board and matter of factly informs us that this plane does not go on to Kansas City. WHAT!!!! Our tickets clearly state the contrary. They had no idea what to make of that, only, the plane was not going on to Kansas City. In short, the top of my head came spinning off. Loudness, profane loudness, spewed from my lips. We grab our things and run to the ticket counter just outside the skyway. The agent there was surrounded by people. I'm hollering, Tom's hollering and our flight attendant is informing her that we are supposed to be making a connection to Kansas City. (We don't even have tickets or boarding passes for this supposed connection!) The gate agent exasperatedly exclaims, "I have too much to do and I cannot handle all this!" More loudness spews from my lips. She gets on the phone to some other gate and informs the gate agent there that she has passengers that are to be making that connection. She is informed that that gate agent has only 5 more passengers to board. We fly! Me carrying the carryons, Tom carrying a sleeping 5 year old with a dead weight of 55 pounds that feels more like 155. We were in Terminal T but needed to be in Terminal B, 6 stops away on the shuttle. For God's sake. After what seemed like days, we arrive at the B Terminal and Tom flies. He spies a wheel chair, throws Mickey in it and takes off like O.J., well, like O.J. trying to catch a plane. That analogy is, of course, based on television commercials that aired decades ago, and not upon recent escapes. I mean, flights. I'm trailing far behind like the beleagured, weighted down, pack mule that I was. I see Tom miles ahead being stopped by some guy heading the opposite direction. Apparently, this person stopping Tom was the gate agent for the flight to Kansas City informing Tom that we have missed our flight. People have no idea how lucky they are that I don't bear arms. Needless to say, more profane loudness, or should I say, loud profaneness, blasted from my lips. We turn on our heels and head for the Delta ticketing counter where we are greeted by a line hours long. We march right up to the First Class ticketing counter and make such a scene. The supervisor would not even look at us, but only kept saying "they have to go to the end of the line." She kept saying this over and over with this stupid smirk on her face, and just before we turned to go I shout at her, "and you can wipe that stupid smirk off your face!" Well, that got her to look at me. And she replied, "THIS is a natural smile!" "Like hell it is!" I reply and followed that up with some really ugly stuff. Boy, oh boy was I mad!

Ugh. Do I tell this entire sordid tale?

It's late. Very late. Mickey, God love him, handled the last two days of nonsense so well, you'd think we'd paid him! Tom takes him over to the food court to give him his asthma treatment while I stand in line to try to get re-booked yet again. While I'm in line, I call Delta on Tom's cell and relate the sordidness that has been our experience so far. The poor woman on the other end is doing all she can, all the while I'm ranting and raving about how ill-staffed this Delta counter is. Finally, the representative on the phone tells me there is nothing she can do as the ticket is now firmly controlled by the airport. And, she tells me, that the First Class Ticket Agent back at Bradley International should never have told us that the plane was a through plane. She said that all flights into Atlanta require a change of planes. Sigh. (I'm not sure that's exactly right, as you'll soon see.) Finally, it's my turn to get booked. I came so close to having to be serviced by the supervisor. Lucky for all of us, that was not the case. I was helped by a very mothering ticket agent who was very sympathetic, to a degree. First off, there were no more flights for Tuesday. Not on Delta, not on any other carrier. Then she tells me we had a choice; we could either do stand-by at 8:00 a.m. Wednesday and take the chance of getting on or not getting on, or we could be confirmed for a flight at 4:05 p.m. "Can we do both?" I ask. Yes. So she books us for both and wishes me a good night. See, sympathetic to a point. So I ask, "And what about our hotel?" Without blinking, she ponies up. She issues us a voucher to stay at the Westin and she gives us food vouchers. So this is it, and off we drag ourselves to the Westin. When I tell you there were hundreds of people in our very circumstances, I do not exaggerate. As we made our way to Ground Transportation we found ourselves amidst hundreds of weary travelers searching for shuttle buses to their overnight accommodations. What a freaking mess.

Luckily, the Westin hotels are nice accommodations. We decide to forego the stand-by arrangements in the morning so we could sleep in and get some much needed rest. The next morning we have a nice breakfast delivered to our door, courtesy of Delta. Check-out is supposed to be Noon, but we were able to get a late check-out at 1:00. On the shuttle over to the airport we strike up a conversation with this nice young man who, as it turns out, is on leave from the military, and who, as it turns out, has been in Delta hell the last two days as well. When we get to the airport he asks me what he is supposed to do and I tell him I think our only option is to stand in the long line to ticketing. Which is where we go. He disappears. A short while later he comes and gets us out of line. Apparently, he tried to do a self check-in but was not allowed because of his ticket, however, an agent came right over and took care of him. He was sure they would do the same for us. We tried every option available to us through the self check-in, but to no avail. And sure enough, here came an agent to give us some personal service. She took me over to the counter while Tom and Mickey stood and visited with the soldier. The ticketing agent looks at our tickets and says, "But you're through passengers!" "Don't get me started." (See! Earlier I told you that some fool representative on the phone said all flights require a change of planes in Atlanta! I don't know WHAT the truth is!) As she punched buttons, I relived our last three days. She punched and punched and punched buttons. I was getting a little annoyed. Enough already, stop with the punching, give us our tickets and let us go sit at the gate for three hours till the plane departs. Finally, she looks up and says, "You're not leaving at 4:05." WHAT!!!!! "You're leaving at 2:00. " How is that possible? We were told the ONLY flight available was the 4:05. "I used to work the gates. I know how to do all this. You're confirmed for your flight. Here's your boarding passes. Hurry up and get to the gate. And have a Merry Christmas." I almost gave her sloppy wet kiss. Off we ran, Mickey clutching a little bear wearing an aviator jacket, hat, goggles and scarf. The soldier gave it to him. Wasn't that nice? Merry Christmas!

We got to security and guess what, we've been flagged for another special security check! You have GOT to be kidding. But no. This time, no puffs of air, just lots of frisking. Can you imagine? Mickey, a five year old, being frisked? My warped sense of humor so wanted me to say things like "Ooo, up a little higher!" or "Mmmm. Touch me there again!" But I refrained. It was difficult, but I refrained.

We got to the gate. We got on the plane. We got to Kansas City. It was Christmas Eve and in short order Mom's little house was crammed full of people. Lot's of people, lots of food, lots of presents.

There was so much of everything, Mickey could hardly contain himself.