Friday, May 16, 2014

Travelin' Fools

Travelin’ Fools

George and I are basic travel virgins. Local trips, a cruise,  a few flights. That’s it! Our positive travel experiences ended a couple years ago when we flew up to Illinois to visit family and attend my high school reunion. We entered Travel Hell on _________ Airlines. (I don’t like to be a name-dropper but I will tell you that it rhymes with “Hear it!”
Once “Hear It!” dropped us off at O’Hare airport, they wanted nothing more to do with us. Ever! On the day of our return flight, they did not come back to get us. They abandoned a planeload of passengers  at the airport for 12 hours, leaving us there to grouse and complain and rile up other passengers. The plane had a mechanical failure. No one else came to get us!  Were all the planes infected with mechanical failure? The tune“que sera, sera!” played out in my mind throughout the day. By the time we got home, despite our lovely parting gifts of worthless vouchers for a future free flight on “Hear It!” Airlines, we knew we were not going to fly on them again. We had learned something.
But we had another chance to be real travelers. This time it was for a family event, the graduation of my daughter-in-law, Ashlee, who graduated (with honors, I might add) from the University Of Louisville this past weekend. I scheduled the flights, being careful not to schedule any “Hear It!” flights. I was going with my old standby, “Smelta” Airlines. Unfortunately Louisville is not exactly the hub of the universe so there were no direct flights. OK, we were flexible. Alas, the morning of the flight I awoke with acute vertigo, a chronic condition that makes me walk somewhat like a drunken sailor. George now had 2 rolly suitcases, 1 heavy computer bag, and 3 bags to carry on, plus a drunken wife sailor.  The smile faded from his face pretty early on. The skycap took one look at me as he checked in our baggage and a wheelchair magically appeared. They whisked me away, not so good for the vertigo but rather like a roller coaster ride. George, unfortunately, was loping along behind, carrying whatever they could not store on my lap. So we were feeling pretty positive about how things were going. “Smelta” was taking good care of us so far.
Our first flight left FLL at 7:35 AM to go to Atlanta. At Atlanta we would have 1 hour, and on to Louisville. We planned to arrive at Louisville in time to get our rental car and take Cory and Ashlee out to lunch. We were excited. But it was not to be. North of Orlando,  the pilot told us that the cabin air pressure was not right and we had to go back to Orlando. He was hopeful that they could make an adjustment and once again be on our way. But it was not to be. All passengers were deplaned and there was a frantic sea of defunct travelers all attacking the red-jacketed people who were unfortunate enough to be there at the moment we arrived in Orlando.
Oh, and did I mention that this was Mother’s Day weekend? And the weekend of a million college graduations? Seems that you might want to avoid traveling on that weekend.
Announcement: “For those of you who are worried about catching a connecting flight, there is another flight for Atlanta leaving in 45 minutes. There are 100 seats available.”
 There was a stampede of people much more agile than us, a stampede the size of the Cabbage Patch Doll Run one Christmas. The seats were taken by extremely fast people before we could blink.
The cabin pressure problems made our previous plane inoperable and it never did resume flight that day.
We spent most of the day in Orlando. We finally got out to Atlanta and then Louisville at 10 pm. Such bad luck, you say. Wouldn’t you think we would be due for some better luck on the way home? We were more philosophical now. “Smelta” had given us 100.00 worth in flight credit so we felt loved and valued.
On Monday, our day to go home, we arrived at about 7:30 am at the Louisville airport. Once again I am met with a wheelchair, since I still have dizzy spells. We happily get on our “Smelta” plane and start to taxi. Then…the announcement.
“Uh, we are going to go back to the terminal. There seems to be a hydraulic leak. Now it could be that the mechanic can just adjust it and we will be good to go (Where had I heard that before?) but we need to check it out. Stay seated while we call the mechanic.”
Then…”The mechanic will not be here for about 30-45 minutes.”
Then… “I am going to ask you to deplane since it would not be good for you to smell hydraulic fluid.” We are grateful for his concern.
This time George sprang into action and got us on a later flight just in case. Unfortunately it was not until 6:30 pm. We had the rest of the day to chill. Finally we were flown to Atlanta. Our flight disembarked on one continent and our connecting flight was on another. Atlanta airport is a crazy place. It was a freakin’ city for Pete’s sake. They stuck me in a wheelchair again, rolled me at warp speed to a train car like at Disney and shoved me inside while the car moved at super speed. I hope not to have to go anywhere else in that metropolis airport.
We get to our gate and have 2 more delays. One because the plane is late and one because the stewardesses have not arrived. The plane is supposed to leave at 10:05 but the stewardess team is on a flight from Pittsburgh. They have to deplane the passengers at 10:00, speed to our airplane and get us all on the plane, still smiling. I organized a team of volunteers ready to act as stewardesses if it would help. One young man, Jacob, offered to perform the safety lesson and I was positive I could pass out pretzels if my vertigo would calm down a bit. We could wing it.
The stewardesses finally arrived, negating the need for our help. We were ready to board. Everyone seemed quite calm except Important Guy. You know him. The one who is most inconvenienced by all of this.  You can easily tell who’s the most important one. 1. They walk in important strides. 2. They have a scowly look on their face. 3. They have a phone piece permanently attached to their ear. 4. They show great impatience with people who do not understand how terribly urgent their business is. 5. They are rude to the people trying to help.  (He told them they were just a bunch of “red jackets.”) Really?
So we saw the best of human nature and the worst of human nature. All I can say is I’m glad to be home. We arrived home at 1 PM, very glad to not have any more immediate flights in our future.

Our collection of boarding passes, just from this trip!
Never travel without your rubber chicken.