26 June 2008

I am a good sport.

A few weeks ago I made my way to Salt Lake City for my cousin's wedding. No, he's not a Mormon. He's a geologist. This is another good reason to live in Utah. They have lovely rocks in the vicinity.

Getting there was an ordeal and I'm placing blame on a major airline that may or may not begin with the letter D (and may or may not use SLC as a major hub). This is because they are at fault. I'm not one to point an undeserved finger, but if my opponent wants to deflect their responsibility I may be generous enough to distribute my vitriol to the entire US airline industry. Don't hate the player hate the game, right?

Let me just say: I love air travel. I love just about everything about it: from the aircraft to peering out the windows at moving geography. I'm even one of those nut jobs that loves turbulence. The only qualms I have ever had with flying have to do with airline operations, specifically as they relate to me, the consumer. This always throws a wrench in my love of flying and adds an extra dash of vinegar and pepper to my personal brand of sauce.

Most of the time, the ridiculousness of the safety demonstration allays any bitterness I feel while flying. The flight attendants always look so over it, and I'm amused by the "in case of a loss in cabin pressure," bit. As if getting a hoard of panicky people in a confined space high on pure oxygen is really going to help the situation.

I had that eerie feeling when I left the check-in counter. Everything was going too smoothly. I hadn't fallen on my face on my walk to the light rail. The MAX ticket machine didn't eat my money. I caught a train right away and made it to the airport super early. The ticket agents checked my bag and even bothered to wish me well.

I waited at the gate, before it was announced that my flight was delayed. And then it was delayed some more. And then it was finally canceled. The plane had landed elsewhere due to a mechanical failure, and everyone was instructed to go back to the ticket counter on the other side of security and haggle with the people that seemed so friendly about 45 minutes prior.

But the same people weren't at the counter. After waiting in very angry line, I ended up with a ticket agent that wanted to give me a taxi voucher and send me home for the day. You know. So I can take a flight that left at 5:50 am the next day and may or may not be canceled, too. Luckily, I was impeding on her dinner break, so she went to Splitsville by the time she got a clue that I wasn't there to compromise.

When I got to speak with a second ticketing agent, I was a lot more direct from the get go.

"Send me to Botswana or Bratislava if you have to, I'm not accepting a voucher."

She'd heard me haggle with the other lady, where I'd suggest flying via any airport I could think of that this airline or its partners might service. "Can you make it to the end of the D terminal in less than 6 minutes?"

Why yes, I could. Ten minutes later, my flight to LAX was taxiing away from the gate.

As re-routes go, this was a decent one. I've always enjoyed flying into California. There's something comfortable in the buzz of LAX, the traffic jam on the tarmac seemed a perfect parallel to the 6pm traffic on the 405 that we'd floated over on our final descent.

I finally arrived in Salt Lake City at midnight. My luggage, however, was still in Portland. It was to arrive early the next morning (probably on the 5:50 am flight I never could have made, with or without taxi vouchers). To be sure that I wouldn't go without for too long, I insisted on a verbal guarantee that my luggage would arrive before the wedding; I was assured that my bags would be hand delivered between 1oam and 2pm. Were they sure about that? Yes they were.

By the time I made it down for the continental breakfast, every wedding guest knew that my flight had been canceled and that my luggage had not arrived. Thanks, Dad. By 1:10 pm, Mike was in what might be described as a tizzy. He freaked out and called every Delta associated number he could think of once he figured out how to use my cell phone. He even bugged one of his clients, a retired Delta pilot, for advice. By 3:15, I finally told Mike to cool it, took a hasty shower and got dressed for the wedding in whatever I could scrape together.

I figured, the point was to get there, and enjoy myself at this wedding. Though not ideal, I could do this sans baggage. Thanks to this travel drama, I have been forever branded the family's good sport. I also looked very sane and very low key in contrast to Mike. My cousins, my cousin's other cousins and my new cousin-by-marriage appreciated this very much.

Oh, and about my luggage. The wedding started at 4 o'clock. The bags were delivered at 4:35.

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