Saturday, July 21, 2012

Not Off to a Good Start.


I'm writing this posting as my brother and I are sitting, well I'm sitting, he's laying down resting his eyelids, at departure gate 101 at SFO International Terminal. We're waiting for our 1:40a flight on EVA Airways for Taipei, enroute to Singapore.


I'm so relieved to have actually made it because things for this trip got off to a b it of a rocky start.

Flash back to noon on Thursday, DC time. I left the office early so I could do the final minutes of getting things to together - last bit of packing, checking around the house, etc. SuperShuttle was scheduled to arrive to pick me up between 2:32 and 2:47. My flight was scheduled to leave from Reagan National at 5:10p so plenty of time - more so since I had checked in online the night before.

I was done by 2 and did my usual, pacing around the house waiting for my ride to show up.

2:32 came and went and by 2:45 I was getting antsy. I decided to call SuperShuttle to find out what the deal was. Got put on hold.....for what felt like an eternity. I gave up, redialed and pretty much in an instant, got to a human being. I told him my situation and he put me on hold while he checked on the status. Another interminable minutes of waiting. I'm not good at waiting when I'm antsy. I HAVE A PLANE TO CATCH!!

The guy eventually got back to me only to tell me that the driver was late (duh!) due to some issue that the dispatcher would not tell him and that the driver would be by in about 15 minutes. Okay, thank you and I hung up the phone.

20 minutes later and still no van so I called again. Getting really, really antsy now as it was past 3pm and nearing rush hour which is traffic chaos in DC. No way I would make it to the airport on time.

This time I got hold of a woman who also checked with the dispatcher. Another interminably long wait. The knots that had started to grow in my stomach an hour ago were getting tighter.....not good. When she returned to the phone, she said the driver was just two miles away and that he would be at my house in 5 minutes. Okay, thank you and I hung up the phone.

A few minutes later and my house phone rang. It was the driver. He was nearby and I told him I would be waiting for him at the curb.

I gathered up my luggage, did a quick last run around the house and headed out the front door. Just as I got my suitcase to the curb, I saw the blue van turn down my street. I waved like a mad woman to flag him down. I ran back, got my other bag, locked the door and met up with the driver as he was getting ready to load up my bag.

There was already a passenger in the van and we had one more pickup to make (WHAT???) before we would head off to the airport. The driver assured me that we would make it.....plenty of time. Nice of him to try to reassure me but that didn't make the knot in my stomach go away.

Nothing I could do so I just sat back in my seat and however it would turn out, it would turn out.

The final pickup was indeed on our way and after she boarded, our driver drove like a bat out of hell down 16th St, and then K St. and then 14th St and then 395. I was the last person to be dropped off. The time on my BlackBerry read 4:30p! I had exactly 40 minutes to catch my flight.

I ran inside the terminal, checked for the gate number and headed as quickly as I could to the security line. There I was greeted by a mob. OH NO!! Will I make it through? Luckily, when I planned my flight, I had decided to cash in my useless American Airlines air miles (that's another story) for a first class ticket which gave me priority access through the security line. I got in line and I could swear it was moving slower than the non-priority line. How can that be? Well, turns out that a single TSA agent was handling the pre-checks for the one priority access line as well as two non-priority access lines!!!! What the ??? I should have stayed in the other line. Too late so the knot that was shrinking in my stomach was once again growing.

I made it through the line at 4:40p and thankfully, I only had to get to the second gate. They had started boarding the plane - Priority Access so I joined the line and got on board immediately. I had seat 1A. On board, suitcase in the overhead compartment and me in the seat in less than 5 minutes. I could finally relax!!

Eventually, everyone boarded and the flight attendant came around with drinks for those of us in first class. I was just sipping on my OJ and thumbing through the airline magazine with the pilot came on the PA system to announce that there was some sort of mechanical failure in the cockpit and that there would be a slight delay; he would continue to give us updates as he had information to pass along. Okay, not worried yet.

A short while later, the pilot came back on the PA system to tell us that the mechanical problem had been resolved BUT in the course of doing that repair, the engineers found issue with the radar system which also needed repair. Okay, starting to worry as my flight was to LA and then from there, I had to catch a connecting flight to SFO. Each minute of delay at Reagan meant less chance of catching the connecting flight to SFO.

By now, at least an hour had passed by and I was pretty certain I had missed my original connecting flight but what to do? I'd have to figure that out once I got to LA. Other passengers were getting antsy and wanted off the plane. Apparently, it was hot back in coach. The flight attendant tried to relieve the stress by offering to play a reel of videos but was not able to do so- I think part of the electrical system had been shut off for the engineers to do their job.

A few minutes later and the pilot was back on the PA system. This time the news was not promising. The repair work was taking longer than anticipated and the pilot had no ETA on when it would be completed. Worse news was that there was bad weather in the midwestern part of the country and flights that had to traverse that section were being grounded. Planes that had already taxied out to take off were being brought back to the gates. NOT GOOD NEWS!!

Still nothing anyone could do so we all waited UNTIL the pilot came on for one final time to tell us that we had to get off the plane. By now, 2 hours had elapsed and I think there is a law in place that they cannot keep you sitting on a plane for longer than that. He instructed us to wait in departure area for further announcements.

For some odd reason, I just grabbed my carryon and headed out. By now, I had the sinking feeling that the flight would be cancelled and was already trying to figure out what my *Plan B* was going to be.

Back in the departure terminal, I decided I needed to eat something. All that nervous energy had burned a hole in my stomach and it was growling. I headed to Fuddruckers, got a burger and drink, found a seat and devoured my meal.

After I gulped down my last bite, I headed to stand in the line to be reticketed as I had already decided to call it quits, go home and try again on Friday. The line was LONG and I didn't have the patience to wait. I decided to head out of the departure area and go back to the American Airlines ticket counter and get reticketed.

Mercifully, the Priority Access line was shorter but for some reason, it moved along painfully slow and I had the unfortunate luck to be standing right behind a group of 15 (yes, count 'em, 15!) teenagers who had travelled on a field trip to Washington and were on their way home to Fresno. My heart sank as I wondered how long it would take the agent to reseat 15 people on planes that were already overbooked.

Eventually, I made it up to the counter. The woman was able to reticket me, though I lost my first class seat. More than happy to give that up as long as I could get a seat. Flight was 6:10a from Reagan to O'Hare and from there to SFO. Whew!

All the while that this drama had been unfolding, I had been emailing my brother with play by play information on what was happening. My final message was to confirm that I had been reticketed for departure on Friday and that my sister would be picking me up from the airport.

By now, it was past 8pm. I headed downstairs to the arrivals area and headed to the SuperShuttle counter. There, I bought the ticket for my ride home as well as the return ticket for Friday - 3:20a ride for my 6:10a flight!!

Somehow, I got stuck on a van that had passengers that needed to be dropped off in NE DC and Beltsville, MD.....both places that are way east of where I live. I was getting really perturbed at the thought that I was going to have to ride way out of my way to get home and I was tired but what to do? I tried to calm myself down and after the last passenger got let off, the driver and I actually had a nice conversation that lifted my spirits - especially after I found out he was from Morocco and he found out I had just visited his homeland recently. We actually ended up taking the long way back to my house but I didn't mind it. It all ended well.

By the time I walked inside my front door, it was a few minutes past 10p. It had been a frustrating 10 hours and I guess if there was any consolation, it was that I got to unwind from it in the comfort of my own home.

I set the alarm on my BlackBerry for 3a and laid down on the bed in the guest room as my room upstairs was too hot to sleep in. Annoyingly enough, I was woken up a short while later by the sound of rolling thunder; a storm was brewing. To add to the annoyance, my phone dinged loudly several times with an urgent alert from the National Weather Service about a severe storm warning til 1:30a. Every few minutes the phone went off until I finally got up and disabled the alert. I NEED SLEEP!!

I fell asleep pretty quickly but my internal clock woke me up at 2:30a. I laid in bed for a few minutes before getting up and getting dressed.

By the time I got the automated call that the driver was outside my house, I was ready to go. I headed out and waited for him at the curb. I was his second pickup. One passenger later and we were on our way to the airport.

We arrived into Reagan with more time than I needed but I can't complain especially given what happened the day before.

Since I already had my boarding pass, I headed straight for security. Believe it or not, it was so early in the morning - barely 4am - that the TSA line was not yet even open. There was a queue of people waiting and so I took my spot.

Once the line opened up, it moved quickly and I was at the departure gate with plenty of time to spare.

The plane left on time and we arrived into Chicago with plenty of time for me to make my 9:05a connection to SFO. Just before we landed, the flight attendant announced all the transfer gates. SFO was K8.

I got off the plane and for some unknown reason - tired? old? confused? , I headed toward the H Gates. Along the way, the Golden Arches beckoned me and I decided to get a sausage biscuit, hash browns and a bottle of water for breakfast. Oddly enough, the only time I eat fast food is when I'm traveling through airports.

I got my food and found a spot at the H8 gate and ate my breakfast. I even continued to sit there when they announced that the flight, which I auto heard as the flight to SF had been delayed and would now be leaving at 9:30.

When they started boarding, I dutifully waited in turn. I got up to the agent, she scanned my boarding pass and then asked me where I was going. I told her San Francisco and she replied back to me that I was standing at the gate for the flight to Phoenix. WHAT??

I sheepishly turned around and headed to another departure gate desk to see when the next flight to SFO was. I found an agent who told me that there was a 10:30a flight leaving from Gate H15 but it was fully booked so I would have to go on standby. WHAT?? I haven't flown standby since I was in college but I had no choice. This is what I get for making the dumb, stupid mistake of being at Gate H8 instead of Gate K8.

Whatever the hell I had been through up until now, for this flight to SFO, my guardian angel is still looking after me. Thankfully, there was a seat available! It was an aisle seat and my Priority Access still applied so I was able to get on board before the masses - very important thing to be able to do these days especially if you are like me and take your luggage on board with you. Boarding ahead of everyone else assures you that you will space in an overhead compartment for your luggage!

As the drama of the morning unfolded, I had been texting my sister with status updates as she had kindly offered to come and pick me up from the airport. It was a relief to finally be able tell her that I was on board the plane and unless there was more drama, would be landing in SFO at around 1p.

Mercifully, the flight was an uneventful one and we even landed 20 minutes ahead of schedule!

I texted my sister to meet me at the arrival lane and about a half hour or so later, she pulled up. It was wonderful to see her face.. I had finally made it to SF and the knot in my stomach could shrink. Her boyfriend Jim was driving. He got out of the driver's seat and opened up the trunk so I could load my suitcase into in.

I climbed into the back seat. My long drawn ordeal of getting to SF was finally overl

First thing on the itinerary was lunch. The nervous energy had burned off whatever calories were in my McDonald's breakfast.

We headed to a Chinese seafood restaurant in Milbrae where I ordered and pretty much ate, all by myself, a Pyrex pie plate's worth of crispy fried noodles with seafood, roast pork and baby bak choy washed down with a couple of Chinese cups worth of chrysanthemum tea. I was hungry.....reallly hungry!

Over lunch, we caught up with the events in each other's lives. It was a nice lunch.

After that, my sister and Jim drove me to Hillsdale Shopping Center so I could go to GNC and get the multivitamins that my uncle in Singapore asked me to get for him. From there, we went to the Safeway near my brother's house where I picked up two tubes of Neosporin and a small bag of Brussels sprouts; both also for my uncle. He asked for the Neosporin and the Brussels sprouts are something I know he enjoys eating. Last night, my brother went to Costco and picked up a 15 lb (you read that right, 15 pounds) of prime rib - also eventually destined for my uncle's stomach. The beef would be packed inside a styrofoam box inside a cardboard box and checked in.

Flash forward. We're both in our seats on the plane. My brother is catnapping next to me and I'm about to join him. We're on our way and the knot in my stomach has finally disappeared. I can now relax.....for now!