Monday, June 30, 2008

Airline Woes

One of the beauties of funemployment is that when two of your friends have weddings on the other side of the country on consecutive weekends, you don’t have to buy two plane tickets, you can just buy one and find a way to be amused during the week. Even better, if your brother is funemployed as well you can road trip up and down the coast for your amusement. And for the cherry on top, if you’ve been flying to say India and New Zealand, you can even get the plane ticket with miles (and $7.50).

So on Friday morning, I snuck in a quick round of disc golf with Nate and Colin then headed to Dulles arriving mostly on time. On Saturday, Joe and I headed up to Baltimore for wedding number one. Emily and I have been friends since we were toddlers and our families are very close. At Thanksgiving last year, she was lamenting the difficulty of finding a nondenominational officiant for her wedding. My father offered to go through the difficult certification process offered by the Univeral Life Church. And there he was Saturday evening at the altar asking them to say “I do.” And they did. Congratulations Emily and Matt! My flash wouldn’t reach during the actual vows, but here’s dad just before the ceremony (that crazy pink poodle was raced on a land and water course).

And a shot of Emily peeking down at Matt from the staging area.

Sunday was a recovery and family bonding day. What better way to do that than moving furniture, ripping up carpeting, and most importantly using power tools.
Mom hid a safe distance away in the porch while us men folk took down the pine tree in the side yard and had some world’s strongest man competitions.

Monday was full of disc golf, ultimate, and catching up with the Baltimore Summer League crowd. Tuesday we started driving north meeting Kelly for lunch in Delaware and Cara and Brian in Massachusetts for dinner.

On Wednesday we played tourist in Salem with Maggie, Nate, and Troy. Twenty three people died because some girls were bored and pretended they were witches. At least there were a bunch of enthusiastic tour guides and some funny props to lighten the mood.
Thursday we explored downtown Boston with Elliott. The Charles has a bunch of novice sailors that seemed to keep getting capsized by the winds. At least the boats look graceful when they’re not actually in the water.
By far the most fun we had was throwing a disc through a fountain near Faneuil Hall. Not sure if the drivers enjoyed us chasing the disc into the streets after misdirected discs flew into traffic.

A close second on the fun-o-meter was our wide array of rodeo experiences.

On Friday we headed to New York and went for a hike on the Hudson with Katrina and Mike. Mike had been biking earlier in the day and you might think he’d have to work hard to hike, especially wearing flip flops. But really no one can sweat up a storm like my baby brother.

In the evening we made it down to Baltimore for a rooftop deck party at Tracee’s house and were able to sleep in before Jared and Lana’s wedding reception. Their actual wedding had been in St. Thomas two weeks prior, but celebrating a second time didn’t lower the amount of delicious food that was around. Sadly the camera didn’t make either party.

Sunday morning started deliciously with dim sum and continued with more carpet removal and furniture rearrangement. At 4:45pm we headed off to Dulles where I made my 6:25pm flight to O’Hare with plenty of time to spare. We pushed back about ten minutes late and then promptly sat on the tarmac for an hour waiting for storms to clear. We landed right around 8:40pm, and I secretly hoped my 8:45pm connection to Seattle would be also be delayed by the storms for half an hour or so, so that my bag could make the transfer.

Be careful what you wish for. By the time I’d made it from the C terminal to the B terminal my flight had been delayed until 12:45am. The most ridiculous part of it was the 10:35pm flight to Seattle had only been delayed until 12:05am. Faced with adversity and a stomach that hadn’t been filled since dim sum ten hours earlier, I followed a time honored tradition – to the bar.

An hour before my flight, I started walking back to my gate. I glanced at the first set of departure monitors and noticed we’d been pushed back to 12:55am. Ten minutes, no big deal. A quarter mile later, I passed another set of monitors which said “CANCELLED”. At the same moment my phone rang and a cheerful recording confirmed the cancellation and suggested I contact the booking desk. I picked up the courtesy telephone (with a dozen of my plane mates) and the agent informed me that my flight had been the last one of the night, Monday’s flights were all full, and she could book me on Tuesday afternoon, would that be acceptable? Clearly not, so she had me call the reservations desk, which was magically able to book me on Monday’s 8:45pm flight. Better but still not great.

Not having anything better to do and operating under the assumption that a human who can see you is more helpful than one halfway round the world I wandered the last quarter mile to the gate, where a long queue was waiting. A rumor spread through the line that they were adding a flight Monday at 6:00am. Another call to the reservations desk said indeed there now was a 6:00am flight – and I was the first passenger booked! He said I was confirmed, but would have to wait for a seat assignment. As several of the other people in line got similar stories, we decided to keep waiting to talk to the gate agent. We’d moved a couple of yards in half an hour but now a couple of irate passengers were screaming at the gate agent trying to get hotel rooms. Also magically half a dozen cops showed up including two K-9 units. That calmed the irate guys down a bit and they moved out of line.

Just as we were nearing the head of the line, two guys in suits showed up. It was 2:00am and union rules said the gate agents had to clock out. But don’t worry, at 3:15am the morning shift would show up and we could get rebooked and hotel rooms then. Really helpful. At least I was able to talk my way into a blanket for the remainder of the night. Given the option of trying to get three hours of crappy sleep or stay up all night captioning pictures and writing a blog post, I’m doing the latter. It’s now 3:30am and no new gate agents are here, but hopefully there will actually be a flight at 6:00am and I’ll have a seat on it. And I’ll finally post this from the comfort of my own apartment – our interwebs may be slow, but they’re already paid for and I’m certainly not giving anymore money to O’Hare or United for a while.

Action Update: I did make it home about 12 hours late all told and my car didn't start so Joe couldn't come pick me up. But I did get the full set of road trip pics posted here.

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