Saturday, June 28, 2008

Where Are Ruby Slippers When You Need Them?

It’s official. I am an idiot. Perhaps, the world’s biggest idiot. I’m such an idiot that I have to pay to be an idiot.

It all started way back in March when I booked my trip to Orlando to see my family for the first time in many months. I was in Hong Kong, got online to the Delta website, and booked the flight – with oil prices the way they are, of course, the flight ran me about $500.

Since I got back to Burbank, I’ve been dreaming of going home to see the parents, the sister and her husband, my brother and his girlfriend, the kids, and my Florida friends. As a matter of fact, I have been talking about it at work so much, I’m sure they were happy to see me leave the office last night.

On Thursday morning, I got a reminder email from Delta that it was time to check in. I went ahead and checked in, hopeful that I would get bumped to first class. I did think it was strange that they were sending the email on Thursday morning when my flight was on Friday, but I didn’t dwell on it. After work, I packed.

On Friday, I was so excited and ready to go. I got to the Marriott and parked my car – I had reserved the spot for a week and pre-paid for some of it. Took the shuttle to the Delta terminal, got on line for the kiosk check-in…put my Delta card in the kiosk and was politely informed by the computer that my reservation could not be found. Found a Delta employee and gave her my ID and frequent flyer card. She could not find my reservation. Now, you must know that this is the FIRST time I have ever gone to the airport without a printed confirmation of my flight. I’ve traveled so much and have never been referred to the confirmation – usually, my boarding pass is printed very quickly and off I go. So, of course, she asked my for the confirmation number. There I was with about 50 people behind me, looking up my gmail account on my Blackberry and trying to find the email confirmation from March. Thank God I save all of my emails, but it took me a while to scroll through several months of them. Found the confirmation and she puts the number into the computer. Only reservation they have for me is on July 7 from Orlando. So I say to her, how can I get to LA from Orlando when I am already in LA?! Upon further research, we found that my flight was for Thursday, NOT Friday. So, I was a day late. Damn! At that point, it was about 30 minutes before the flight was scheduled to depart and I was getting desperate. The Delta lady points me to another line that I have to get on to see about getting on a flight out that night. So I get on that line – I must’ve looked broken or something because the people up in the front of the line told me I could go ahead of them. After some back and forth with another Delta rep, she tells me all flights to Orlando are booked solid and I can’t get on any of them. So I ask her, bottom line, what can I do to get to Orlando on the next available flight? She says she doesn’t know, but I can walk all the way down to the end of the counter and speak to a supervisor.

I walk (with my luggage) all the way down to the end of the counter and see the supervisor surrounded by at least another 50 people (and these folks were annoyed and angry). At this point, I knew I wasn’t going anywhere that night, so I just pushed my way to the line and waited. Then, I spotted a Help phone and thought that may get me something quicker. I picked up the phone and was immediately connected to yet another Delta rep. After explaining the entire story to her, she tells me she can get me on a 6:05 am flight in the morning to Orlando via Atlanta – arriving in Orlando around 4:30 pm on Saturday. At this point, I was just so upset over missing the kids’ “pirate and princess” birthday party, which was postponed so that I could be there. I figured by that time, the party would be over ☹ So, she asks me if I want to get on that flight and I’m like if that is the soonest I will get to Orlando. Then she tells me it will be $648 to make the change. I nearly fell over! I started asking her how it could be so much, I was a loyal Delta customer, can I use my miles, blah blah blah. She wasn’t having any of it – just told me I could either book the flight or not. She couldn’t do anything about the cost and no, I could not use my miles. At that point, the supervisor was in front of me and I guess she saw how upset I was getting and told me to hang up the phone. I asked if she could help me and she said she would as soon as she was finished taking care of someone else. So I hung up the phone and waited.

Ironically, there was a Chinese guy in front of me who did not speak English and had a note written in English to hand to the supervisor about his flight. It brought me back to when I was in China and had notes written in Chinese to help me get to where I needed to go.

So supervisor looks at me and I explain my story yet again. Told her it was my fault – I guess the time zones in Hong Kong screwed me up or I just wasn’t thinking when I booked the trip. Asked what she could do. She found three flights for me: the 6:05 am going through Atlanta, a 9:45 am non-stop, and a red-eye non-stop the next night. The cheapest was the red-eye, with a $325 charge. Ouch! Then she said she could waive a couple of penalty fees and get me the other two for a bargain price of $625. Being that I wanted to be in Orlando on Saturday, and not wanting to go through Atlanta, I just told her to book me on the 9:45 am flight and handed her my credit card. So at this point, my flight cost approximately $1100 – I think it is cheaper to fly to Hong Kong!

Got my ticket, but no seat assignment, and was told to come back in the morning to check in. So, now what? Take the shuttle back to the Marriott and go home? I didn’t want to do that because of the parking situation. I called the mother and woke her up to give her my tale of woe. I told her I was contemplating just getting a room at the Marriott cause what’s another $100? She agreed – LOL. So I shuttle back to the Marriott and wait on another line to see if there’s a room available. The front desk guy tells me they are totally booked. I remembered seeing a Courtyard down the road and asked him if he could find out if they had rooms available. He comes back and tells me that they do have rooms for $109. I figured, what the hell – it was after 11 by that time. So he tells me they will have a shuttle come pick me up in about 10-15 mins. By 11:30, I’m wondering where the heck the shuttle is. So they call again and 10 mins later, a van pulls up. Get to the Courtyard at 11:45 and go to the front desk where the employee informs me that there aren’t any rooms available! So I tell her that the Marriott called over and was informed that there were rooms available. She starts asking me for names and stuff. I didn’t remember the guy’s name – I told her he was a tall African-American guy and he called for a shuttle for me, blah blah blah. I must’ve looked really frazzled at that point because miraculously a room became available at the bargain price of $109 (yeah, I’m being sarcastic). Get to the room around midnight and set the alarm clock. Didn’t sleep at all and finally got out of bed at 6:00 to shower and change. By 6:45, I went downstairs to get the shuttle to the airport. The guy outside tells me I just missed the shuttle two mins ago! Damn! So we start talking about the night I had and I told him I just wanted to get my seat assignment for the flight this morning – that was all I was worried about. I spotted a cab in the distance and contemplated taking a cab rather than waiting another 15-20 mins for the next shuttle. The guy tells me that there’s a $20 minimum to take the cab. Do you believe it??? $20 to go three miles. I figured I would be okay paying $10, but $20 was ridiculous. So I started texting the sister. The cab driver walks over and starts talking to the Courtyard guy. They are talking about minimum cab fares and all. The taxi driver says he’ll take me to the airport for $7. Sold! I get in the cab and he tells me the minimum is only for fares from the airport to hotels, not the other way around. I pay the $7 (plus $2 tip) and get on the kiosk line to get my boarding pass. Here we go again. This time, they found the reservation! Of course, there are maybe 4 seats left on the entire plane and neither are an aisle up front (my preferred seat). So I get an emergency exit window seat and pray for an upgrade. Drop the luggage off and make my way through security.

One of my bags going through the x-ray conveyor causes some concern for the TSA agents, so two of them swarm over to me and tell me they are going to check my bag. Jeez. I follow one of them to a table where he proceeds to tell me that I am not to touch my bag while he is looking through it. He freaking takes everything out and can’t seem to find what he is looking for. So I ask if I can help. He tells me he is looking for a strange metal object. I almost had to laugh – WTF?! So I tell him that my jewelry is in a zippered compartment in the bag and maybe the strange metal object is in that box. He takes everything, and I mean everything out of my bag. Then takes the bag back to the x-ray machine. He finally comes back and tells me I am free to go, but if I want him to re-pack my bag, he would. I told him I would re-pack it myself. Apparently a couple of pieces of my jewelry were sitting on top of each other and they cause some alarm. I’m so happy that TSA is worried about a 110-pound girl carrying jewelry on a flight that she just paid $1100 for! I would get political at this point, but I figure I should drop it!

So, here I am at the gate waiting to board my flight. Of course, I got here two hours early and I have time to kill. Hopefully I will make it to the sister’s before everyone gets too drunk to pity me and my miserable state! And damn it all to hell if I miss the Johnny Depp look-a-like that the sister hired for the birthday party!

Yep, I’m an idiot.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

California Weekend

This weekend was a typical Southern California summer treat. Deb flew over from Connecticut and Cindy drove down from Santa Barbara. We headed out to Hollywood on Friday for the annual Daytime Emmy Awards (better known as Cindy's night of stalking). Cindy and Debbie went early to experience the red carpet festivities, and I met them inside the Kodak Theatre (at the bar) just before the show started. Also at the bar were two of the hunks from The Young and The Restless ("Cane" and "Daniel"). We went over to them and told them how much we enjoy watching them on the show. They thanked us and shook our hands. Very nice guys---cute too!

Inside the theatre, we quickly discovered that we had awesome seats (thanks to Cindy). Even though we weren't allowed to bring cameras into the theatre, we found a way to have this pic taken of the three of us in our seats.

The show, as usual, was kind of boring (but it was definitely more entertaining than the one we attended two years ago).  We did leave about 30 minutes before it ended so that we could find the best spot outside to stalk our faves as they left the theatre.

With Tracey Bregman of The Young & The Restless

Our best "red carpet" pose
With Daytime Emmy's host Cameron Mathison

With Chuck (who showed up later) and two new friends

Cindy was as cute as could be, chasing after everyone she knew and ensuring she was in as many pictures with her "pals" as she could get. Her crowning moment was when she was able to get a picture with her "boyfriend" of many years, Michael Easton. I'm sure she will post that photo on her blog (I don't want to ruin it for her by posting it here first).

I'm still waiting to get a pic with my fave, Christian LeBlanc of The Young and The Restless -- Cindy did see him on the red carpet and she snapped a photo for me, but I really, really want to be IN a picture with him.  Ahhhhh -- maybe next year!  I did get in a photo with Doug Davidson, Thaao Penghlis and Kristoff St. John, so I guess that will have to do for now. 

Spotted (from what I can remember):  
Greg Rikaart (Kevin Fisher-Y&TR)
Barbara Walters (The View)
Sherri Shepherd (The View; Host of DTE)
Cameron Mathison (past-AMC; Host of DTE)
Michael Graziadei (Daniel-Y&TR)
Daniel Goddard (Cane Ashby-Y&TR)
Christel Khalil (Lily Winters-Y&TR)
Bryton (Devon Hamilton-Y&TR)
Doug Davidson (Paul Williams-Y&TR)
Amelia Heinle (Victoria Newman-Y&TR)
Thad Luckinbill (JT Hellstrom-Y&TR)
Kate Linder (Esther Valentine-Y&TR)
Elizabeth Hendrickson (Chloe Mitchell-Y&TR)
Don Diamont (Brad Carlton-Y&TR)
Adrienne Frantz (Amber Moore-Y&TR)
Kristoff St. John (Neil Winters-Y&TR; Best Supporting Actor)
Jeanne Cooper (Katherine Chancellor-Y&TR; Best Actress)
Susan Lucci (Erica Kane-AMC)
Thorsten Kaye (Zach Slater-AMC)
Michael Easton (John McBain-OLTL)
Robert S. Woods (Bo Buchanan-OLTL)
Darin Brooks (Max Brady-DOOL)
Judi Evans (Bonnie-DOOL)
Rachel Melvin (Chelsea Benson-DOOL)
Thaao Penghlis (Tony Dimera-DOOL)
Bryan Dattilo (Lucas Roberts-DOOL)
Jason Cook (ex-Shawn Brady-DOOL)
Rick Hearst (Rick Lansing--GH)
Anthony Geary (Luke Spencer-GH)
Kirsten Storms (Maxie Jones-GH)
Greg Vaughan (Lucky Spencer-GH)
Tyra Banks (The Tyra Banks Show)

On Saturday, we got into the car and drove up to Santa Barbara for the annual Summer Solstice festival. It was very HOT, but the parade was great (three hours long!) and we had some good guacamole and beer. 

Sweltering in the summer heat during the parade

Unique parade float #1

Unique parade float #2

All in all, this weekend was good times with good friends.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

There is a light that never goes out....

This week, I have been struggling with how to best put into words what one friend has meant to me. I know that no matter what I write, it won't be worthy.

I met Eric in early March on my second night on the town while I was in Hong Kong. We were introduced to each other by another mutual friend, and proceeded to have a fun time during the Hong Kong Sevens rugby matches -- at least we tried to find a place where we could watch on TV. We hit it off, especially since we had both relocated to Hong Kong during the same week and we were both from New York.  He had met a friend of my friend's and we all easily formed a group to explore and enjoy Hong Kong together during the months that followed.

The next day, we went to Macau for the first time. It was during the ferry ride back that I had my first insightful conversation with Eric. We shared stories about our pasts, our families, our loves and our hopes for the future. 

He helped me with my nephew's Flat Stanley project -- cheerfully posing for pictures and identifying cool Hong Kong spots to showcase.

I never saw Eric without a smile on his face. He was the most upbeat, confident and happy individual I have ever met - I know that this may sound cliched, but it is so very true. His love for his dog, Guinness, clearly extended to his love for life, his friends, and his family.

I'm probably not even making any sense here, but nothing this week has made any sense to me. I was informed by my friend earlier this week that a tragic accident happened in Hong Kong last Sunday. I will not get into the details here, but if you want to read about it, you can check out this site (to get a sense of how loved and special he was, read the comments after the article). All I will say is that the world has truly lost one of its greatest individuals.  My heart goes out to his family and friends back in New York, as well as to all of the friends that he made during his short time in Hong Kong.

Eric -- I was so fortunate to have met you. I love you and hope that our paths cross again someday.