The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers
I’ve come to a single conclusion today- United Airlines hates me.
My plan for today was simple: try to keep the mascara/eyeliner smears to a minimum as I said goodbye to family in Idaho, fly from Boise to Washington DC, via San Francisco and Chicago, and en route, work on a blog post about my two weeks running around the Treasure Valley. It was an ambitious plan, I’ll grant you that, but doable. Definitely doable. That is, until United stepped in and made one holy heck of a mess of the day!
After a breakfast of French toast at a Nampa diner (it is close to pre-flight pancakes, so it counts), Mom and Dad dropped me off at the Boise Airport just a bit after 10:30AM. My flight was for noon, so the timing was perfect. I got my bag checked in and headed through a security line that was nearly non-existent. It took me longer to get my belt and shoes off than it did for the line to move through the scanners. At my gate I was greeted with a notice that my flight to San Francisco had been delayed by an hour. Thinking this might cause issues with my connections the rest of the day, as they were all pretty tight, I went to the counter agent to ask about a possible “plan B.” Now, when it comes to inquisitive customers, I think I am a pretty laid-backed one, peppering my queries with pleases and thank-yous and lots of smiles, knowing that working with the public is not always a walk in the park. The gal at the counter, rather than considering I might be facing a dilemma, dismissively assured me that there would be no problem and sent me back to my gray plastic chair to await the cattle call of airline boarding.
With the Boise flight taking off an hour late, I touched down in San Francisco with just twenty minutes to make my Chicago connection. There was still a chance of getting on that plane; that is until mine sat on the tarmac for another ten minutes, waiting for a gate assignment. Once we were docked (or whatever it is planes to do park) I skittered off the plane as quickly as possible and ran for my connecting area, a mere twenty gates away. Upon arrival, pink-faced from my people-weaving sprint, I was thrilled to see my plane sitting there, with the accordion walkway still pulled up to it, but one look at the attendant told me there would not be good news. Not only would she not allow me to board the plane (keep in mind, the lateness was on no part my fault!), but she hardly looked at me as she shooed me away, telling me I’d have to figure it out with the customer service counter.
Customer service- a term used rather broadly by United Airlines it seems. After waiting a ridiculous amount of time to even speak to a representative, the woman “helping” me seemed more interested in when her shift was over than how I was going to get home today. She initially told me the only choices were flights on Thursday or a flight that arrived at Dulles, so I asked her to check other airlines. She wasn’t happy that I knew they were required to do that, and grudgingly click-clacked on her keyboard until she came up with a red-eye flight that left SF at midnight. With those options on the plate, I took the Dulles flight, which at least was non-stop, even if it did put me in an airport clear across town, after midnight, when the original airport was just a single Metro stop away from the mo-partment. At this point, I tried asking where my checked luggage might be, but was told she didn’t know and couldn’t know and that I would have to take that up with baggage claim in DC. (With the movers coming the day after tomorrow, the lack of suitcase/personal items is a pretty big problem, but one that I can’t deal with at 30,000 feet, so it will just have to wait.)
With a freshly printed boarding pass in hand, I wandered to my new gate, only to find that that flight had also been delayed. With another hour delay on the docket, I at least had time to get some lunch. (Grilled cheese and fries- lunch of airport champions!) When boarding time rolled around, we all herded on to the plane in a rather expedient manner, as everyone was eager to get in the air. Doors were shut, seatbelts were fastened, tray tables were locked and seats were in their upright positions- we were ready to fly. That is, until mechanics decided they needed to do something inside the plane, at which point doors were unsealed and almost another hour passed as we sat in our ever-so-comfortable airplane seats. Now, rather than arriving at Dulles a bit before 11PM, the flight will arrive well past midnight. (I am currently on said flight- looking out the window at what is maybe Colorado, or possibly Kansas.)
Why does this always happen to me?!? I think Thad may be regretting flying to China with me next week, as it seems I can’t get an on-time flight to save my life. At this point, I figure if I can get home by 2AM, I can sleep for a few hours and be up when Thad leaves for work so that I can start the sorting/organizing process for the movers who are coming the following day. I always knew this last week in Washington would be hectic and a bit stressful, I just didn’t realize that United Airlines would compound the pressure by putting a time squeeze on in true anaconda-fashion. (I considered several Snakes on a Plane references to go with that metaphor, but have maturely decided against it. You’ll just have to go there in your own mind…)
Today is Wednesday. Next Tuesday I will be back on a United Airlines flight, headed for Los Angeles. All I can do is pray to the gods who control those “departure” monitors in the airport and hope for the best! (Maybe a sacrifice of a small clock or a watch would appease them…)
The day may have been a near total disaster, but once I finally arrived in Washington DC, there were a few bits of good news: