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.


Dena said...

All I have to say should have stayed in LA and come to my party. : )

I know you'll be happy to be there once you actually get (got) there.


Steve Stenzel said...

OH JEEZ!! What an ordeal!! Remind me never to travel with you...