Thursday, August 11, 2005

And the crowds were cheering as we got off the plane

Well, I’m back, did you miss me at all? I missed you all and it will be several days before I’m able to make the blog-rounds again and sort of catch up.

About my trip; it was the trip from hell. I’ve not even told any of my friends yet, and when I do, I know what they will say. I’ll be at the halfway part of the story and they’ll exclaim, “But you’re joking, right?” and “That’s not all of it, there’s more yet?” That would be a “No, unfortunately” and a “Yes. Aren’t you the lucky listener?” The suspense builds, so let’s begin. Be sure you have a canteen, provisions and a comfortable seat.

The journey begins at the small regional airport in my home town. It’s called an “International” airport but there aren’t any direct flights to any foreign countries. We boarded the plane at the scheduled time and sat. After a while the pilot came on the microphone and told us there was a storm and we needed to wait it out. So we waited. After about an hour and a half in the plane, where we were not allowed to get up at all, finally, we were on our way. Co-workers and I figured we had missed our connecting flight at the much bigger airport.

When we reached the larger airport, the schedule was thrown off by the storm, so we circled and hovered quite a long time before we finally landed. We sat on a side runway for a while because there was no open gate. This airport was very busy, planes taking off and landing constantly. Finally we pulled up to a gate and sat there for awhile. Then the plane began backing up, and we had to wait for another open gate. We got out and were told that our connecting flight had been rescheduled because of the weather and we had 45 minutes before it was going to leave. We raced across the airport and sat at the gate. I went up to check my ticket against the flight and found out it had been moved to another (far away, of course) gate and we had to run over to that gate instead. They held the plane for us. All my co-workers were checked in but I was stopped. The agent told me I couldn’t get on the plane because I had the wrong boarding pass! We had all gotten our tickets and passes at the same time. I told her that I HAD to be on that plane, so the agent finally put me on the plane, shaking her head. I was the last one on and scored a first class seat! My boss rides first class, although none of the rest of us can. So I was enjoying the unusual roominess and luxury.

We sat and sat again. The plane shivered a little but didn’t move. Service wagons pulled up and soon the pilot was on the microphone telling us that they were checking out a mechanical problem. Time went by and I did some work on the laptop. Then there was an announcement to deplane. I almost got the giggles because all I could think of was Fantasy Island and that little guy pointing and shouting “De plane, de plane!” We got off and had to wait around the gate until they found another plane for us. That took a while, but finally it was announced and our new plane was at a different gate!

So we finally got on the able-to-fly plane and had to wait in the runway queue to take off. Again at the destination city airport we had to circle and then sit on the runway waiting for an open gate. It was evening (we had originally left early in the morning) when we finally got off the second plane. We went down to the baggage carousel and you guessed it, my luggage was not there. Surprise surprise. Went to the baggage claims office and asked about it. The agent told me that several more planes from that airport were coming in and that my bag might be on one of them. My co-workers were all set and anxious to get to the hotel. Bosszila and ex-favorite co-worker left to take the shuttle to get the rental car while the other stayed with me. I searched every load of bags that came in from that airport and mine was not to be found. There was a large group of people from those messed up flights waiting for their luggage, but occasionally one would actually get their bag.

The co-workers with the rental car called and asked when we were catching the shuttle. At the time, I was waiting in a long, snaking line to speak to the luggage office attendant again. The two co-workers decided not to come and pick us up at the airport, or wait for us to come over on the shuttle and took off for the hotel. They left us at the airport. We ended up waiting another hour or so before I received a claims form and could finally leave. We had to catch a cab to the hotel. Neither of us had brought a lot of extra cash because we knew we were renting a car and didn’t need cab money. And neither of us had ever been to this city before and were too lowly to have corporate credit cards to use. The two frequent travelers who knew the city and had company cards were safely at the hotel having dinner! I was hot (no air conditioning in the baggage claims office and it was packed with people) tired from the long trip and not happy with having to attend our important meetings wearing my same travel clothes. I was also furious with my boss as she was the instigator of just leaving us at the airport.

We caught a cab and came up with enough extra money between the two of us to get to the hotel. It was a very long ride and expensive. Normally on the first night at another location we have a staff meeting and a light dinner but two co-workers had already eaten and the other one had eaten something at the airport. I brought the laptop up to my room and asked two hotel people where to get some food. They both told me different places so I walked around in the scary, nearly deserted downtown and found nothing open. Tough looking guys in “wife beaters” looked me up and down as they lounged near the sidewalk. Having had only a packet of crackers for lunch I went back to the hotel and went to the gift shop (which luckily was still open). I bought an assortment of postcards and a few of my missing supplies (they were expensive, so only the bare minimum). The lobby was beautiful and I wrote out my postcards there. On every card but my Mom’s I put “Trip from hell—details to follow!” and mailed them all at the front desk. Then I went upstairs to my room and to bed with no pajamas or nightgown. But thank goodness I did have a toothbrush and toothpaste.

Oh yes, I have to mention my hotel room. The hotel itself was beautiful and will make a great convention site for us. But my room was next to the elevators and the ice machine. Did you know that people in hotels use both of those all night long? I didn’t know that before, but unfortunately found it out while trying to sleep. Morning came and I had to shower with hotel soap, which was OK, but the shampoo and conditioner were too tiny and didn’t work well in my hair. I had the frizzies and no hair spray or gel to tame them. I had to iron my dirty clothes and put them back on, yuck. And off to the meetings to impress people!

The meetings went really well and I was pleased. They did mention my “cute” accent and I again protested that I don’t have an accent, but different people keep telling me that, so guess I do. I think I talk just like the news casters on TV!

I kept calling the two phone numbers from the baggage claim and my bag did not show up, they could not locate where it had gone. I went to the luggage desk at the hotel on our last day there and asked her for help. Wish I would have done it sooner, as she was a miracle worker and located my bag when nobody else seemed to know where had landed! At the time she finally found my luggage, we had only hours before having to return to the airport to fly out again (and they couldn’t guarantee delivery that fast). So I left it at the airport to pick up on my way home.

We visited one of our event sites, a botanical garden and it was awesome! There was a large place that smelled like a jungle or a greenhouse and had beautiful loose butterflies flitting around! They also had a wonderful gift shop but I couldn’t indulge too much, just bought a postcard. Bosszila wanted to go to an exclusive neighborhood to shop but I said that I needed to get to the airport early to have time to pick up my bag or I might miss my flight back home. She tried to enlist the others but they sided with me. Good thing they did, as the traffic to the airport was wicked and they would not have made the flight either if we had wasted more time, ha ha.

Nice co-worker (the heroic guy who had stayed at the baggage claims with me the first night) was driving the rental car and insisted (despite protests from Bosszila) on dropping me off at the airport before they returned the car to give me extra time to retrieve my luggage. I went to the claims office and there through the glass window, with a whole bunch of other waylaid luggage was my long-lost bag! And the office was closed and locked up!

I went upstairs to the flight check in lines and asked about my bag behind glass. A friendly man took me back down to the baggage claims office, opened the door and we got my luggage. He then accompanied me back upstairs and got me checked in for the flight. He joked about if I was sure that I wanted to surrender the bag so soon after only having it back about ten minutes. I told him “I trust you” and my bag was whisked away again.

The security-check lines were huge. At the beginning of the line random people were handed a yellow piece of cardboard. I got one to carry through the line to get stamped at the end. Apparently they were checking how long it took for people to get through the line. Quite a while, I’d say, and didn’t need a yellow stamped card to figure that one out!

I went to the gate for our flight and found nice co-worker so we sat together and did work on our laptops as we waited. The other two didn’t sit with us even though there was plenty of room and we normally all sit together at the gate so we can watch each other’s bags. I think because by that time Bosszila had figured out that I was really mad at her!

We got on the flight with a huge group of boy scouts coming home from the Jamboree in Virginia (I think). There had been a tragedy that occurred there in the news and the boys and their leaders were very subdued for a large crowd of boys. These particular scouts were flying home to Utah.

We flew back to the connecting city and had very little time to get to the gate for the flight home. We were seated on the plane but, again not moving. Soon an announcement was made that we were waiting for soldiers coming home from Iraq! Soldiers in desert camo came into the plane with green duffle bags. They were looking very tired but were pleasant and polite. I thought that Air Force soldiers would be taking a military flight home but apparently they also fly on commercial flights.

The pilot took us right over our home city as we came into the airport. It was a beautiful sight, glittering in the dark with a yellow crescent moon hanging over the water. The pilot did it as a special treat for the soldiers coming home. We got off the plane to cheering and waving crowds with signs and balloons. We have an Air Force base in my hometown and these guys and women were coming home after having served in combat areas in Iraq. There were wives and husbands with children, some with babies in arm waiting to welcome them home. At seeing them waiting so hopefully for the return of their loved ones, I got a lump in my throat and anger and despair that these fine people were called upon to risk their lives. I slunk through the cheering lines, because they weren’t cheering for me and down to the baggage claim. The horn went off and the luggage tumbled in the carousel. I was right to trust again, my bag was there.

Sorry, I have no jokes for you today, as I haven’t even opened my E-mail yet….


Blogger Anvilcloud said...

Bosszilla does not sound like a salt of the earth type of person.

7:19 AM  
Blogger Katya said...

wow what a trip, sounds like you had a hoot...NOT...

glad you finally got your bags back in the end...i would have probably argued and taken them on the plane with me...

that was really nice of your co-worker, the others sounds like real idiots, no thought for others...i'm glad someone was thinking about the best thing for you at least...

and an airport only needs a flight to canada to qualify as an international airport, it goes to another country...!!! the plane that qualifies probably only seats two

glad to have you back safe and sound...


8:21 AM  
Blogger Aims said...

You poor poor thing. I'd have been crying & pulling my hair out. Glad to have you back hun! Sounds like you need a break to recover tho. Aims x

12:46 PM  
Blogger sumo said...

Glad to have you back and in good condition...yet tired I'm sure. Just so you'll know...I have kept the vigil going on the left, you'll have some catching up to do. I'd have a lump in my throat too. Just because I don't support the madness in Iraq...does not mean I disrespect the soldiers. Catch up on Cindy Sheehan on her vigil in Crawford trying to talk to Bush about the troops coming home. Good stuff.

4:06 PM  
Blogger Lorna said...

whew! now I know why you said you didn't always enjoy travel for work

6:03 PM  
Blogger deni said...

Wow, yucky trip. But I am glad you made it home safe and sound. With your bag.

6:54 PM  
Blogger Kristen said...

this is too much for one trip. NO person could take it. How are you still sane?

10:56 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Jeepers! You've put me off flying ever again!

1:42 AM  
Blogger utenzi said...

You really suffered, PBS. I've never had a trip with so many problems. I hope you earned a lot of good karma for putting up with the difficult situations--and boss.

6:34 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Wow, you were totally right, that was a trip from hell!

On the bright side, look at what a great story you have now.

1:36 PM  
Blogger glomgold said...

That sounded like a horrible trip, compounded by just an inept and self-absorbed boss. At least one co-worker had the decency to stick it out with you.
I suppose that by having some soldiers on the flight it at least was able to put some things into perspective a little though.
That boss bitch still angers me however.

2:36 PM  

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