Friday, February 24, 2012

Flying Greyhound

My oldest daughter Lauren lives in Tampa, FL and I am so excited when I get to make a trip from the cold Minnesota weather to sunny Florida.  Today was one of those days!  My flight was scheduled to leave at 8:45 p.m.  I slept in and had a list of things to accomplish before I left.  I did not pack the day before since my flight was so late, besides I had laundry to do.

I read the paper, checked the Twitter feed,  received a call from a prospective client and logged into my e-mail.  Interesting, a message from the airline.  Bad weather is expected on the east coast, to avoid delay or cancellation, your flight qualifies for a free schedule change.  Cancellation?!  I panic!!  I log in to my account and I have 2 choices....a free change for a flight leaving at 12:31 with a connection in Newark or a $604 change leaving a 4:00 p.m. with a connection through Chicago.

It is now 10:24 a.m.

Of course I don't want to pay any additional money for an already expensive ticket and only an idiot connects through Chicago with winter weather on the way.  12:31 to Newark it is.  My husband was working from home today, so a ride to the airport was not a problem.  Living 45 minutes away and still sitting in my pajamas is.  I press the confirm button to make the change as I tell my husband we are leaving in 15 minutes.  "FAILURE TO CONFIRM" What??!!!!  Please call 1-800-xxx-xxxx to confirm your ticket. What??!!!! I quickly dial the number and a message informs me my wait time is 20 minutes due to a unusually high volume of calls....really?  With the speaker phone on and a 60 second loop playing on how great the airline is, I scurry around the house randomly throwing clothes in a duffel bag.  I throw on jeans and a sweatshirt, brush my teeth, put my hair in a ponytail, grab 2 YA novels I want to read.  We jump in the car and head for the airport.

10:42 a.m.  I am impressed!

We head back to the house to get my phone, sitting on the counter, still playing the informational loop, my paper with the confirmation number and flight change info and my phone charger.

10:45 a.m.

We are about half way to the airport when a very pleasant voice answers and offers to help me.  Surprisingly the 12:31 flight is no longer available, but she can get me on a flight at 2:35 p.m. connecting in Newark.  I take it!

By 12:06 p.m. I am sitting at my gate with a turkey sandwich and scrolling through the Twitter feed.  Flying is awesome!

I have my earbuds in listening to an interview that Jill Corcoran posted on Twitter, thinking what a great use of my time.  I hear an announcement that the flight to Cleveland (leaving before mine) is delayed.  I chuckle to myself and think....sucker, who connects to Cleveland with a blizzard on the way?  Five minutes later they announce my flight to Newark is delayed 3 1/2 hours and I will likely miss my connection.  My flight originates in Cleveland.....Karma stinks.

While I sit at the airport in travel limbo, listening to Mr. Burmeister being paged to return to security for his lost item, I realize that flying is no longer the exciting, slightly upper crust way to travel that monotonous 60 second loop was trying to convince me it is.  Airlines are now the Greyhounds of the sky!

Looking back on the day with my new view of flying, this is what I see....

My husband pulls up to the curb and I scramble out of the car and grab my bag under the scrutiny of the police making sure we are not parking, blocking traffic or leaving the car unattended.  I hurry into the terminal, find my airline and get in line.  It's my turn to find my flight information, remember I did this over the phone while driving to the airport and the nice lady said she would email me the info so I didn't have to write anything down.  No email.  I finally find my flight, print my boarding passes and head to security, where....

You have to remove half your clothes, take off your shoes and unpack your carry on of electronics, liquids, gels and pastes.  I get stuck behind the lady who has a 2 liter bottle of water in her bag, claiming she didn't know she couldn't bring it if it wasn't open.  She then attempts to drink the water as the line screeches to a halt and even though I realize I am in line with many people from many flights, I know she is going to be seated right next to me on the plane, climbing over me 6 times to pee all that water.  I then get X-rayed, redressed, repacked and follow the line of disheveled travelers to their gates trying not to walk behind the inexperienced traveler who always stops suddenly and unexpectedly in the middle of the concourse, looking around in confusion with their shoes untied.

I am sitting at my gate thinking about shrinking seats and leg room, half cans of soda, stale pretzels, and two bathrooms for 175 people.  I have been at the airport for 4 1/2 hours.  I will miss my connection in Newark and have to spend the night in the airport, hoping to get on the 8:00 a.m. flight to Tampa, no guarantees of course and all for the bargain price of $406 and the convenience of getting to my destination quickly.

Right now, riding a bus with reclining seats and my luggage safely stored beneath me and not on a plane to Omaha, as I am headed to Tampa doesn't sound like a bad thing.  I miss road trips with the beautiful landscapes of America rolling past and quirky stops along the way.  There is nothing better than a relaxing ride, daydreaming out the window, while someone else drives.....Then the water chugger next to me says, "I should have taken the bus, like usual."

So my dear daughter Lauren, I give up!  Dad is in the car for his hour drive back to airport to pick me up.  My ticket has been reissued for 8:00 a.m. tomorrow.  Hopefully I will remember to dress appropriately for security, leave my electronics at home, survive my second dose of radiation in 24 hours, pee before I board, get a window seat, take off on time, say thank you for my soda and pretzels, make my connection in Cleveland (Damn karma!) and land in sunny Tampa.  Where I plan to read my 2 YA novels, get a tan, draw amazing sketches, dazzle you with my witty conversation and restaurant quality cooking and 5  4 days later get back on my flying bus to Minnesota, where I work long hours, saving my pennies for my next relaxing vacation.