You've heard about "too big to fail?" Well I am now potentially "too old to travel." I am somewhere between "fifty and Death"...which I believe was said by Auntie Mame. If she didn't say it, she should have. And I travel a lot.
Last night was the proverbial "trip from hell." Thank you, guess who? United Airlines! I will be submitting several claims to "customer service" and perhaps should hold this article as a bargaining chip, but I'm too pissed off.
I was coming back from my annual Aspen sojourn, every summer I spend a few weeks there. The interesting people, the programs such as the Aspen Ideas Festival, the music, the sun, well most of the time, make for a great trip. And I'd had one. Probably the best of all, until...dum da dum dum!
The dreaded trip home. One should always leave when you are having a good time, and I'd done that. But not at the usual morning flight out. It's safer because the delicate balance of air or lack of same at that altitude often make later flights difficult, or worse, cancelled.
I got to the airport early, as usual, and found out my plane was delayed until mid afternoon. Oh oh. That could mean a total cancellation so I quickly ran to the nice guy at the desk,( why are the guys nicer than the women at airports? )That's another potentially explosive discussion, to be
had a another point.
He said he could get me on the earlier flight, but did I check a bag? Did I? Yes and it was so fully packed that it rang the button or whatever indicating I would have to pay another $100. Yes, in addition to the $25 first asked and the $79 with which I treated myself to "economy plus."
Note to reader: ask what "plus entails, before being dumb enough to pay for it. " (Sometimes the seats do not recline.)
But I progress. At the outdoor check in, the also nice guy had prevailed upon me to open my humongous val pack, packed to the limit, to take out something that would bring it under weight.
Underwear didn't seem to do it, but it looked pretty displayed on the curb. I finally took out a hair dryer and some other stuff and he said "good enough." I saved 95 dollars as I gave him $5 for helping.
Then, I proceeded through the lovely TSA gate. For another fifty or hundred, I don't recall, I had gotten a card for which I swore allegiance to the flag or something and which allows me to not take off my shoes, and keep the computer in it's container every time I travel! Except when the boarding pass does not indicate it, Which somehow it didn't. I blame my hotel for printing it out without the information. It was probably my fault, however.
So, logically I thought, well I went through the TSA gal, showed her my card which she accepted and then not two feet away... a guy not so nice said well it doesn't say so on your pass. Yeah, but she saw the card and so it's there and he said "take off your shoes and open your computer."
With a really nasty glare, I did so. And slammed stuff around. The he said snidely " have a nice day,' And I replied snidely " too late." I'm glad I didn't decide to put some "pot candies" which are legal in Colorado in the bag to bring back to NY. Thank god I am chicken and paranoid as well as easily irritated.
Now, I saw that there was an earlier plane to Denver that I could take to make my connection to Newark...remember that name....not JFK, not La Guardia but...another "N word..." evil, wrong, never to be uttered again ...by me.I got on it.
The nice guy ran back into the luggage bin and saw to it, he said, that my bag was transferred to the earlier flight and did not take the $5 I offered as he wasn't allowed. I said "How do I know my
bag will make it?" He said, "Trust me."
Once on the flight, the attendant, you are not supposed to call them "Stewardesses" or Stewardi or whatever the plural is...announced something that sounded like "fasten your seat belts it's going to be a bumpy ride." Oh, no, that was Betty Davis. Anyway, it was. And, because it was, I was not allowed to move my seat as I requested by pushing her button, metaphorically and literally because the two guys behind me were yelling at each other. My turning and glaring did no good.
She rushed up to the seat and said no, "didn't you hear it's a bumpy ride?" Yes, I did and the seat to which I was headed was at the back of the plane, next to where she came from. But she wouldn't let me. I think someone muttered, "the B-word" under my breath. I mean someone's breath. I finally put my earplugs back in and sang lalalalala to myself for the twenty bumpy minute left in the flight so I didn't have to hear the one guy discuss his wife's annoying (I'll say) inability to find her way on highways or something.He named many exits.
By the time we landed I was very close to using the "barf bag"....really close. I struggled to
the entrance and begged the guy there to help! I said I was kind of sick and my gate was...of course the farthest possible one for my connection. He asked if I wanted a wheel chair and I could not accept that. That was too pathetic. I asked for the cart and he said he couldn't call one but miraculously one was headed by and he stopped it and I got on. It was a longggggg ride to the
nearest store near my gate and I grabbed a coke, mints, anything that would stop me from
throwing up and just succeeded in time. No more details I promise.
I sat at the gate in one of the seats near the door marked for disabled. By now I was so... in a combination of ways.
I forgot to say my sciatica had acted up in Aspen and I was in physical therapy 3 times a week
and told not to walk far. So I felt it was ok.
A little girl with a very cute smile and a very loud voice was running back and forth and back and forth in front of me between her "Nanna" and her Dad and close as I was to puking, it didn't help.
A very nice flight attendant who was hitching a ride, I think they call it dead heading, or maybe not...anyway,she noticed my limp and when I told her, she looked at my boarding pass and said since I'd paid extra for the upgrade I should go before group 5 which was marked on the pass. She told the gate guy and I kissed her feet. I exaggerate. I thanked her profusely I could not get down to the floor with my bad leg and back which was now tightening from stress.
I limped on and was thrilled to see my seat the first one before first class. My wrong leg was at the aisle, but I could stretch out better than in a regular economy pen...seat.
A very fat guy had taken the entire baggage space above all three seats in our row. The father of the noisy cute little girl who was seated across the aisle from me helpfully put my bag above in his rack.I liked her, for a moment, then.
We both chatted about sciatica as it turned out he had it badly and was going to New York for an MRI. It happened when the 'bad seed,' I mean the cute daughter had thrown herself into his arms in the pool. He was on a lot of meds and I was not. He was in some pain over the four hour flight, I was in agony. Oh and the plane was on the tarmac for forty five minutes before taking off because of the weather. And we could not get up to walk or stretch as the seat belt sign was on.
I took a nausea pill that I'd bought, with the rest of my coke. Unfortunately it did not put me to sleep. I bought the wrong kind. Of course I did.
A young kid with a leg brace..yeah it was the "walking wounded special," sat between me and the fat guy and told me he was on his way for an MRI as he tore his meniscus. He put on his earphones and moved in his seat, bopping around listening to music. It was mildly annoying. Very annoying.
The curtain separating the rich folk from us plebeians was constantly being opened and shut because the passengers who had waited fourty five minutes to take off had to use the lavatories and the ones in the back they were supposed to use, were "occupato" and blocked by the cart with drinks, so they were allowed to upgrade their ablutions.
Therefore five or six people were standing over me at all times. Well, not really, because the cart was finally parked there and the flight attendant who could not remember orders was sticking her rear end in my face as she pulled out cans of liquid, only to come back and get others.
Then when she gathered the garbage, it was wafting into my nose because she had to gather more bags as the children had made the aisles messier than usual. Oh and the 'bad seed' talked loudly and continually for four hours plus! "Where are we Daddy?" " "Daddy watch my TV." "Daddy can we get out now?"
At that point it did cross one's mind, to think, not to say, but to fantasize about opening the door and letting her have her wish. Oh I know. Look, I love kids and my little god daughter would be told to use her "inside voice," believe me! The Stewardess did comment on the refuse she'd made on the floor as well. So there.
The barrier on the curtain was put on and off and on and off and hit my bad leg every time. And for this I paid extra! But my seat did recline. WHY ARE THOSE HEAD RESTS PUT ON AT AN ANGLE THAT IS NOT SUPPORTING ANYONE'S HEAD?
Then we landed...and proceeded to sit and then slowllllllllly drive about oh I don't know, ten miles to the gate. We had to "wait for another plane to move" said our Pilot. Can't they just blow the horn or something? Geez!
My Driver, to which I'd treated myself as I really needed help, was not there. I called the car service and my cell didn't work. Eventually a large scary looking guy found me. He turned out to be my Driver and very calm and lovely. Which helped in the 35 minute wait for the damn overpacked bag!
Oh and we were told to wait on carousel 4 but of course our bags came on carousel 3.
By now roving passengers were throwing the F bomb around at the hapless United baggage workers...ok, ok, I was one of them. They had no clue as to why the bags were in interruptus...
over and over, stopped three times for about five or six or a thousand minutes before I saw mine. But eventually we were headed for the car. At least the first nice guy at Aspen who told me to trust him was trustworthy.
By now, I could not walk at all. The driver could have carried me, he was a huge guy...but never mind. I waited for him to pull the car around.
On the way home, he informed me I should put in for the waiting time charge I didn't know I would be receiving, to United. Along with the refund for the economy plus I could come out ahead I suppose. I will be writing Customer Service next. That should be worth another article.
I am definitely too old to travel. Except by private plane. Owners of such, I am available at any time. Call me. I will be in a better mood I promise.