It started off like any other wedding weekend. Full of anticipation to see friends, celebrate and eat and drink too much. At least for that part of the trip, our expectations were far exceeded. With some pieces better left for another post, I had an amazingly fun-filled time.
I had booked a later return flight for my spouse and I, thinking how unrealistic it would be to actually get myself, him or our best friend driving us to the airport, up and out before noon post-wedding. I know when we’re together to expect the unexpected. The last wedding I went to, I woke up with a luggage cart and several bags of wine that weren’t there when I fell asleep. I later discovered one of my text messages ended up on Texts From Last Night.
The next flight time out was 8:00 p.m. What to do until then, with a throbbing head, angry stomach and dazed look as I roamed the streets wearing summer clothes in a winter atmosphere? “I guess we could see a movie?” My husband propositioned. “Sure,” friend and myself agreed. What else are we going to do in a town where there are more bums than sidewalks and no sign of a descent chain store? After playing in a ghetto arcade and fighting to stay awake during the movie, we figured we’d killed enough and we should head to the airport.
Arriving to the check-in counter nearly three hours before our flight, it was immediately evident that something was off. A representative walked from group to group handing out a white business card. When she got to us, I blinked a few times at the card with a 1-800 number and then at her. “Your flights been canceled,” she said as she shrugged her shoulders. “This number will help you re-book your flight quicker than waiting in line. There’s some sort of maintenance issue with the planes.”
I am not going to lie. My immediate reaction was not a good one. In fact, I felt like throwing up the last rum and coke I had and whatever part of my lunch made it through the movie. However, I tiptoed out of line and whipped out my cell phone. Unexpectedly, I got an answer immediately after I dialed. “There’s no other flights out tonight.”
Awesome. I am a frequent flyer. My father is a pilot so, I’m aware that circumstances happen that are unavoidable. Welcome to traveling. And life. You can’t plan everything. Damn.
After some negotiating with the representative back in line after updating her on the prognosis, she booked a hotel for us for the night, called a shuttle and handed us dinner vouchers. Tired and thankful, we said our good-byes to our kind, patient friend and laughed that this city just hadn’t had its fill of us yet.
At the hotel, we got a nice dinner and tried to re-hydrate as much as possible. What I haven’t mentioned until this point was that my husband got food poisoning on the way up for the wedding. We are pretty certain it was your fault, Atlanta. In any case, it was nice to see that he was feeling better and actually keeping down water and food at the same time. It felt amazing to be lying horizontal for at least a few hours. Less than five hours later, at the bright and early hour of 4:30 a.m., we headed back to the airport with clearer minds and higher hopes of getting back.
Our original airline carrier was booked so they had re-booked us with the only other airline that flies into the airport we were flying into. With confirmation in-hand, I nearly slammed it down on the counter to the woman standing there. She looked at me, my husband, at the ticket. Back at me, my husband and then at the ticket. “You’re not going to like this,” she said. Awesome. That’s what I want to hear while I’ve been in a coma for 24 hours and just want to get home. She explained that while the person who had re-booked us, had managed to get the right day correct – she had failed to get the month and year correct. Maybe the world is ending on January 12, 2012? How does that even happen? She wasn’t even in the freakin’ right calendar year.
We bounced back and fourth between the dueling airlines trying to correct this woman’s mistake. The woman who had to find us seats, laughed like a hyena in our faces. “I’ve seen some crazy human errors in my time, but GEEEZ!!” No kidding, Captain Obvious. Let me smack that smile right off your face. Dare me, please. Lucky for her, two remaining seats were available on a rapidly approaching flight. After demanding for additional food vouchers, we were on our way. The first flight went well.
Then, we had our layover in God-forsaken Atlanta. That airport should just be its own city, seriously. Why do you need an airport that large? I felt like I was in the Wizard of Oz there and couldn’t keep myself from staring at everything in amazement. I mean, they offer massages in the middle of the airport. What I also failed to mention until this point is that I left my brand new kindle on the plane coming up. The plane was coming from Atlanta. I persuaded my husband to come with me to check out lost and found since we had time to kill before our final flight.
I am not joking when I say that we had to take the tram six stops, all the way to baggage claim. As soon as we got off, I asked the first person I could find where lost and found was. She spoke no English. Of course. So, I went up to someone official looking and they gave me explicit directions, basically down to the number of yards it would be before reaching it. And of course, those directions didn’t work and we ended up running circles around baggage carousel number 7. I then went to the information desk. The women working the counters looked at me like I had three heads and I was crazy for even suggesting something like lost and found. I ran up to another non-assuming worker and she was kind enough to guesstimate where she “heard” it was. ‘Seriously,’ I thought. ‘Can this trip BE OVER?!?!?!’
Just like when they finally get to see the “Great Wizard,” I arrived at a door that opens at the top and bottom with a hand-written sign. No wonder no one knew it was there. It’s like an airport myth. I knocked on the door and a man opened just the top part and poked his head out asking what I wanted. After describing my kindle, he gave a concerned look and said, “be right back” and closed the door. I have never bought drugs, but at that moment I felt like I was doing something either really bad or really great. A few minutes later with a disappointed look, the man told me no one had returned it. I figured.
My husband and I turned around and got back on the tram and rode all the way back. What we didn’t realize when going to baggage claim is that coming back, we would have to go through security again. Joy! We crammed our way through and suddenly, my purse went missing off of the x-ray belt. A tall, dark, angry woman barreling over me demanded to know if it was mine. I swallowed my tongue and admitted that I might have some liquid lip gloss in there I should have taken out. “No! You have soda or something in there!” she exclaimed.
Crap. I forgot I had bought water. Sue me. I got thirsty from walking through this maze you call an airport. I didn’t try to argue or even deny I had water in there. I just let her manhandle my poor purse and strip me of whatever rights I had before I came there and waited until she was done. Just let this be done.
The second flight went smoothly and finally, finally, we were off. The icing on that cake was that we got to sit right next to the bathroom and Billy had too many Wheaties for breakfast or something. That was really special…REALLY. Thanks for that.
But – that didn’t matter anymore. We were home! After nearly running people down to get our bag from baggage claim — we waited. And waited. We looked at each other and half cried, half laughed. My mother had jokingly said, “I wonder where your bag is going to end up!” We watched the same, lonely, remaining bags circle around the carousel. Scanning the airport floor I saw what resembled our bag. When I got close to the unattended bag, I saw it was tagged with our name. A woman came out and explained that during the flight-booking-debacle our bag never even stood a chance. It came on the earlier flight. I wonder how many times it went around before someone figured out that we weren’t going to be coming for a while.
After we were settled at home and I got a long shower, I sat down and wrote the airline a nice, long, explicit letter explaining the situation and how amazing they made our trip home. Not to mention the serious attention to detail they offer their customers. I also explained how when I enlightened another rep of her co-worker’s mistake, she laughed in my face. I am glad someone found humor in the fact my husband and I had to miss work unexpectedly and scramble to be sure our clients were taken care of. They promptly replied with an apologetic, stale, corporate apology and a flight voucher.
I am just glad we got home on a plane that worked and didn’t have “maintenance issues.” My husband can now eat and drink with no long-lasting effects of Atlanta’s chicken wings. As far as we can tell, he will be fine. And I still am holding onto the thought that a sweet, old woman found my kindle and will return it with some homemade cookies.