Friday, February 13, 2009

Putting things into perspective

Yesterday's flight home from California was filled with frustration. High winds in Las Vegas (the first leg of my trip) closed the San Jose airport for an hour which delayed my flight from San Jose to the point everyone at U.S. Airways knew I would not only miss one connecting flight in Las Vegas, but a later one in Chicago.

So they pulled me off my San Jose flight with a promise to find me another way home. Their solution was delaying my flight home by 24 hours. So then I was upset they pulled me off a flight to Las Vegas only to have me stay in San Jose for another day. Heck, if I'm going to be stuck somewhere for 24 hours, where better than Las Vegas.

When I balked at the 24-hour delay, they offered a flight on a United Airlines jumbo jet (B777) out of San Francisco International for a non-stop trip to Chicago on Thursday that would get me into Chicago in time to make my original connecting flight to Flint. OK, that works, but how do I get to the San Francisco airport 35 miles away for the flight? Oh, you have to pay for the cab ride, the sweet airline lady said.

My pointing out that they had pulled me off the flight and that perhaps they should pay the cab ride brought me a sympathetic look and a phone call to the cab company, but no offer to pay. Half way to San Francisco I realized that the $15 I paid for my suitcase NOT to fly on U.S. Airways had not been refunded.

At San Francisco International, the polite man from India who drove me to the airport, dropped me off at the United Airlines terminal, not knowing that I should have been dropped off at the International Terminal a considerable distance away.

So I walked the long distance to the International Terminal and the first question security asked me was if I had my passport. "To go to Chicago?" I said. I think he could tell I was having a bad day and let the matter drop.

My name is on the terrorist watch list (thanks to another guy with my name who is nine years younger) so each trip through security is a real gem. But I made it through my second security check of the day and headed to the gate with boarding pass in my hand and hope in my heart that I was finally going home.

When they called my group to board the gigantic airplane I walked to the gate and was stopped by a nice, but determined airline employee (OK, there's a pattern here) who said I had "not been screened" by security.

"Oh, yes I have, twice today, in fact," I said. "Do I look like Houdini? I'm not exactly a small person kind of hard for me to sneak by unnoticed."

"But your boarding pass was not marked by TSA," she said with a smile.

"And that's my problem, how?" I said with a determined look of my own. I was about to find out.

I had to step aside while two apologetic, but determined, members of the TSA responded to the gate to go through my carry on, run a wand over my whole body and screen me for the third time in front of my fellow passengers.

I was the last person on the packed plane and there was no place for my carry on, which I had to stuff under the seat in front of me which left me no leg room for the more than three hour flight to Chicago. It might just be me, but I got a lot of sideways glances from the passengers who had seen me searched like a bank robber in the terminal.

In Chicago, I had less than an hour to get from the United terminal to my original American Eagle flight three terminals away, but for the first time on Thursday, everything went right and I made my connecting flight home.

My mood was very poor until I turned on the television and learned that at the same time I was in the air between Chicago and Flint a Continental flight crashed outside Buffalo, NY killing more than 50 people.

So for all my frustration, anger and inconvenience, at least I am here to tell my sad tale. So I have two words left to say about my terrible flight experience: Never mind.


Jan Scholl said...

I was whining so bad last night about something so dumb I can't even remember what it was and just happened to glance up and see the alert over CNN icon on my desktop-thinking maybe they had reached accord with the stimulus plan.

Flipped on the tv and was devastated. Watched for a long time until they ultimately announced "all gone"

And wondering why we couldn't have another airline miracle. Big or small. I wanted a miracle.

Jim's Dad said...

Your story brought back the memory of a flight Janet and I made on PSA many years ago from Burbank to SFO.

We had received an antique shotgun from Janet's brother and were taking it home.

There had been one or two airline hijackings recently.

The gun was in a case and when I went to the ticket counter I pointed it out and suggested it be carried in the cockpit by the captain.

The agent took it, added a baggage tag and that was it, I thought. Later, as we were standing in the line with 100 or more passengers waiting to board, the agent came along looking for me and announcing, "The Captain said you could carry your shotgun on the plane!"

You want to know something? I never left my seat on that flight; I would have peed in my pants before getting up to head for the toilet. I know there were 100 plus passengers on that flight certain I was a terrorist.

Obviously, pre-9/11.


Anonymous said...

I hate having a boring name. I have you to thank. I know I am on watch lists. Thanks Pop.

baby sister said...

Hi Jim,

So glad you got home safe and sound. I was sad to hear you were having a rough day. But as always, you have found optimism in every situation.

When I went through security at LAX some shady person behind me slid through a full bottle of Gatorade. It made it through xray. I thought they were going to lock down the airport. Imagine. Gatorade. What's the world coming to?