I just returned from a visit to the parental units in NC. If the trip out there from the west coast was Dorian Gray, the trip home was his hidden portrait. A day after I began my trip, I finally stepped across my own threshold. I was home at last, twenty four hours and seventy-five dollars poorer.
My first sign of trouble? My gate did not have my flight posted. I checked the monitor and bad news, my flight was delayed an hour due to an unscheduled refueling stop. Too bad my connection in Denver only allowed for forty-five minutes. You’d have thought when I checked my bag, the computer would have flagged me. To the customer service desk I trotted.
“Oh yeah, we’ll reroute you through Nashville then to Phoenix then to Portland. Only two more hours added to your flight, not so bad.”
Ha! Yeah, 11 PM isn’t that much worse than 9 PM, is it? Uh-huh. In hindsight, I wish I’d been that lucky.
After she ticketed me, the agent said, “So here are your boarding passes for your first two legs. I can’t give you your third so you’ll have to get that in Nashville or Phoenix. Is there anything else I can help you with, Susan?” Susan?? That should have been my second clue to rebook the whole damned trip.
Once we got my identity straightened out, I took my lovely new boarding passes and my new baggage claim slip and bebopped over to wait for the Nashville flight. Gone were my A group boarding passes, obtained by checking in online exactly twenty-four hours before my original flight was to have left. In their place, I received a low C and a high B. For those of you who fly Southwest, you know what that means–no overhead bin space, a six inch wide space in which to squeeze my not-six inch derriere and no armrests. Let the fun begin; and it did.
We taxied out for the Nashville flight but just before we began to roll, we made a U-turn and headed back to the gate. We’d just missed the window of opportunity because Nashville now had a ground stop due to severe weather. A sweltering hour and a half later, we tried again. “Don’t worry about your connections,” they told us. But I did and I was right to do so.
I barely made the connection to Phoenix and watched helplessly as the Portland flight pushed back from the gate. Southwest couldn’t have been bothered to hold the plane a measly ten minutes for the five of us pounding on the check-in desk. This was after they paged us and I tipped the cart guy handsomely to put the pedal to the metal and run over anyone stupid enough to get in our way. Two of the people who missed the flight had been told the plane would be delayed an hour due to equipment issues. The board displayed that delay until ten minutes before Southwest performed a miracle and pushed back on time.
“It’s weather-related, so we aren’t obligated to put you up in a hotel or provide you with a meal,” said the beady-eyed agent with a hint of a cunning smile on her face. No doubt Southwest paid these sado-masochists extra to work the desk and to work it with ruthless disregard for tears, guilt, impatience and threats of anti-Southwest marketing campaigns. I think Arizona in general was rather pissed off because of recent legislature there and the waning tourist counts due to such. The Sky Harbor Southwest employees certainly were.
The two guys who fell for the “let’s lower their expectations so we can exceed their revised expectations” ploy garnered a look of pure contempt and a “We told you not to leave the gate area” with the “you goobs” part definitely implied.
I seriously considered sleeping in the airport or buying a ticket on another airline (if there even was one) before I took the crummy Southwest discount hotel voucher and got a $60 room at the Hilton Phoenix Airport (very nice, do stay there).
There is nothing more relaxing than traveling light. Who needs clean underwear, makeup, fresh clothes or a nightgown? That stuff’s for sissies! Guerrilla travel time–rinse out the undies and use the blow dryer to hasten their dry time, sleep in the nude, use the flimsy hotel-issued comb, toothbrush and toothpaste, drink the free coffee in the room and gorge on the all you can eat buffet breakfast. Refreshed from my luxury stay, I prepared for another day of battle in the air travel trenches.
I marched into Sky Harbor nearly three hours before my 9:25 AM non-stop departure time, darting my eyes side to side daring anyone to mess with me. At Security, I prepared for a full body cavity search but received nothing but smiles and even an offer to assist me with my repacking / reorganization. The departure board said my flight was on time but I wasn’t going to be so naive as to believe it, grizzled traveler that I was.
I found a nice table with electrical outlets at which to set up my laptop. “Let’s see how much they want for internet,” I muttered to myself. Free. Fast too. Hmmm…. Was Sky Harbor apologizing?
The plane boarded on time. I got a window seat. There was, however, still the matter of getting my bag and finding a ride home since my Friday night ride would be at work on Saturday afternoon. I smirked in my seat as I geared up for battle with the Southwest baggage people. I would show them no mercy, none.
We landed on time. My bag came out somewhere in the middle of the pack. My ride left a message and said he’d be able to pick me up after all because…get this… he rearranged his work schedule–went in early and skipped lunch. Awww… While I waited for him, I dined for $3.75 (really!) in a very quiet part of the Portland airport with free WiFi where I enjoyed reading over my Daphne du Maurier competition feedback (wet, sloppy kisses for judge #18).
My ride pulled up to curb on time and whisked me home after a nice kiss hello. I should mention that the spousal unit was said ride. The dog went crazy, the kids not so much but I caught their faint smiles when they thought I wasn’t looking. I was home at last, the final flickers of pessimism now spent. I smiled back and said a little thank you prayer.