austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Take these broken wings

My planned visit to Lansing, and bunny_hugger, and Morphicon for mid-May began before 6 am, to give time to get to my brother and his wife's and take the train to the airport. My e-mail reported an update on my flight status: my 10 am flight had been cancelled, for maintenance issues, and I was bumped back to a later departing flight which would put me in Lansing about 9 pm. I was supposed to meet bunny_hugger in Lansing about 3 pm and we'd drive to Columbus, Ohio, together. This is when I began to get stressed.

I tried to call United's customer service people. They don't include a contact number in the flight status update e-mails. They also don't make it obvious on their web site. I found it on hunting through a FAQ which helpfully switched away from that particular question whenever it was left alone a few minutes.

My flight was two legs, one from Newark to Chicago, one from Chicago to Lansing, and I thought the second had been cancelled; the next flight was the one six hours later since how many people do need to get from Chicago to Lansing between 3 pm and 9 pm? But I was soon corrected, as it was the 10:00 Newark-to-Chicago flight cancelled and the next United flight out to Chicago bumped me away, well, you see how it goes. I told the guy who picked up that I needed to get to Lansing for 3:00, and he found a solution: a Continental flight leaving at 11:00 and arriving at 12:30 Chicago time. That sounded great, and ---

I live in a cell phone black hole. The service in the whole town is awful. And I live in a black hole within that black hole; even for the town's lousy service, my parents' home is unspeakably bad. I was calling on my cell phone. I called back swiftly and got a short phone queue before it could return.

I agreed to the new schedule and got an e-mail with my new itinerary, showing me leaving Newark both at 10:00 and 11:00 and leaving Chicago at 1:00 and at 7:00. This was a mess but if I got on the planes I'd be all right. And then I realized: yes, if I arrived at Chicago at 12:30 I could theoretically reach my connecting flight by 1:00, if the first weren't late and if the second knew to wait for me. I called back. I got a longer phone queue.

I also got the same person again, and he understood now that it was pointed out the problem. But the alternatives were to leave on the 9:00 flight or arrive in Lansing later. If I got the 9:00 flight, I'd have to leave for my brother's now, and I hadn't dressed or showered or even brushed my teeth. So I suggested we try the other way around: what I really needed was to get to Columbus, Ohio, in the evening. Could they get me there instead? And why, yes, there were direct Newark-Columbus flights for some reason, every 90 minutes or so all evening. Great. I would not like missing the drive with bunny_hugger but that was definitely better than making the drive from 9 pm.

So while he was making arrangements I lost the call. I phoned back. There was a twenty-minute projected queue. It was after 6 am and, presumably, when everybody woke up and found their flights were cancelled.

Meanwhile, my mother was waking up and trying to figure what to do to help. I was doing as much morning-readying as I could with one hand. Finally I got through again, and to the same guy. Given the go-ahead he just needed a little time to set it up and ... uh ... put me on hold. And hold. And hold. I considered giving the phone to my mother and hoping she could make sense of it when finally the guy returned: apparently, it was Against The Rules to change my flight from one to Lansing to one to Columbus. He insisted that he saw perfectly my needs but his bosses refused because I'd be going to a different city than I was returning from.

I gave up and asked for the 9:00 Chicago flight, and the reassurance that I was still booked for arriving in Lansing for 3:00. He started doing whatever ticketing people do, and my mother roused my father to drive me up to Newark since there was no point my even trying to make this tight schedule from my starting point. She said she didn't even know what he was showing and waking for, but that I could explain on the drive up. While I was waiting for my updated itinerary to be mailed me, my phone hung up again.

It never would be mailed me. When I finally, finally got through the phone queue again to the same guy he explained that I was booked, and who knew whether the itinerary would be mailed me, but here's the confirmation code and I could get my boarding passes printed out at the self-check-in kiosks at the airport. I sighed and accepted that and while throwing my last things together popped one of the zippers off my messenger bag. This was the one for the outer pouch, not the main one, so all it did was mess up the compartment where I keep my cell phone, pencils, that sort of thing.

I don't get stressed often, and so it alarms people around me when they see it. I was pretty near shouting at the guy on the phone and my mother was plainly worried about me; she expressed this in what I took to be an attempt to calm me by pointing out my blood pressure. ``My blood pressure is 40 over 12, I can take it!'' This is basically true; my blood pressure was always low, and not being obese anymore only lowered it further.

Anyway. I drove up, as my father slowly acclimated to being awake in my passenger seat, and arrived about ten minutes before boarding for my flight would begin. I got to the check-in kiosk and found that their menu system for printing out boarding passes does not make clear the distinctions between typing in your confirmation code, your frequent flyer membership number, and your receipt number, and you can't go back but rather have to cancel the transaction and go back around everything from the start.

However. I did get my new boarding passes printed out, and got through security --- oh, security. The security guard took my larger bag to the side and opened up the bag with my toothbrush, deodorant, and small toothpaste bottle in it, and explained that toothpaste bottles had to be three ounces or less. Which signified ... that toothpaste bottles had to be three ounces or less. I still didn't get it. Apparently, my toothpaste bottle was bigger than that. This is the kind I've flown with many times over the past five years, by the way, in case you thought the screening process were actually doing what it claimed to do. But he still wasn't going anywhere with this observation. Finally he asked if he may confiscate it. Fine, go ahead, I said, trying to not let the accumulated stress of the morning get to me, and I made it to my gate with two minutes to spare before boarding started.

OK, so, the first flight was a harried mess to get to, but at least I was soon in Chicago/O'Hare and had an extra hour to find something to nibble on and get my originally scheduled flight, even if they did move the boarding location from one ridiculously over-booked gate to the ridiculously over-booked gate next to it. And the wonderful boarding time of 12:30 approached and ... uh ... went.

The next half-hour came and went too, and we didn't get anywhere near boarding. It turned out this plane was out of service for ``maintenance issues'' too, although in accord with FAA regulations they didn't bother telling us this until it was the nominal takeoff time and we still hadn't boarded and they didn't say whether it was an issue like ``pressure gauge isn't reading correctly'' or an issue like ``major engine no longer attached''.

So I called bunny_hugger to report this new trouble --- the first warning she'd got of my harried flight disruptions today --- and promise to report back when I knew when we might take off. I do remember pointing out to her, in fine Internet snarky fashion, that they had perfectly good-looking planes to spare, like that one in the gate next to us for people who claimed they wanted to go to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and who could really mean to do that?, although I admit flying to Lansing to drive to Columbus would probably strike the Eau Clairians as at least as absurd.

Finally they got whatever it was fixed and we took off something like an hour and a half late, meaning among other things that if I had taken that 11:00 Continental flight and avoided the mad dash in the morning I would still have been fine.

The important thing: while I got to Lansing nearly two hours late, and so bunny_hugger and I set out for Columbus about 5:00 instead of about 3:00, we were together, and she felt as wonderful to hold as ever she did.

Trivia: Apollo 10's mission plan included the making of 11 color television broadcasts over two hours and 55 minutes. It made 19 in all, for a total of five hours, 52 minutes, 12 seconds of broadcast, although two of the originally planned broadcasts were skipped. Source: Apollo 10: The NASA Mission Reports, Editor Robert Godwin.

Currently Reading: Johnny Appleseed: The Man, The Myth, The American Story, Howard Means. He's a fascinating person, but there's so little primary documentation extant about his life that it's hard getting a handle on him at all. The book's very good about separating what's documented from what's reasonably-contemporary oral legend versus what's modern-legend, but you could pitch this book as a general history of early-white-settlement Midwest with a slight bias toward Johnny Appleseed at least as easily as calling it a biography of him. Good read, though, and it mentions the Fort Wayne Wayne Newton Fort TinCaps.

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