Friday, December 26, 2008

Travel woes

Last Wednesday I left Portland to travel to D.C. for my job. Because of the snow situation, I had to reserve a car service to get me to the airport. A taxi is $60 before the tip, so I was pleased when the car service quoted me $70 including the tip. I advised them that I live in a rural area with a lot of hills and snow accumulation, and they assured me they could handle it. The owner of the company came to get me in a 4x4. It started to snow again as soon as he arrived. He said it was a sign. I said, "Of what?" He didn't answer. When he was loading my luggage, I got into the back seat and was very delighted to see a cup of McDonald's coffee in the center console. With 3 cream and 3 sugar, exactly the way I like it. That's a sign, I thought. When we arrived at the airport, the driver said, "The most peaceful part of your journey is now over." Boy, was he right.

PDX airport advertises itself as being prepared for snowy weather, with state-of-the-art de-icing equipment. I have no doubt that this is true, but my flight delayed taking off just the same. I had to connect in Philadelphia, and apparently they don't have the same state-of-the-art de-icing equipment out there, because we had to sit on the ground in PDX until Philly told us it was ok to leave. I wasn't very concerned about missing my connection because I figured that all flights out of Philly would be delayed. I was right, but I still got bumped to a later flight when I arrived. Even though my original flight hadn't left yet, I guess they had to accomodate all the other people that got bumped, or something. So I sat around Philly for several hours and waited.

I got to D.C. a few hours later than I had expected, but no worse for the wear. Proceeding to baggage claim, everyone from my flight encountered another entire flight waiting at the carousel. They said they had been waiting over an hour and no one knew where their bags were. The same joke got played on my flight. As always happens to me in these situations, my bag appeared the very second I finished filling out a claim form for lost luggage. So I was somewhat annoyed that I had to wait in the claim line, but glad to see my bag.

I took a taxi to the hotel suite where I had stayed when I came to D.C. 6 months ago. I was given keys to the wrong room, and if I had not stayed there previously I never would have known. I don't know if I was being punished for requesting the correct room, but I ended up in the correct size room, but one that was rather grungy and smelled terrible. But I was tired and had to get up in a few hours for work, so I shut the door to my bedroom and went to sleep.

The next day when I returned from work, I decided to find the source of the smell and do something about it. I didn't really want to re-pack my things and change rooms again. I tracked the smell to the garbage disposal. Old coffee grounds maybe, or mold, or both. The disposal probably wasn't used often enough. I tried running some dish soap through, but it didn't help. I called the front desk and requested to have some bleach sent up, or maybe a lemon. Instead, they sent up their "maintenance supervisor", who was about 99 years old and walked with a cane. Instead of a bottle of bleach, he carried a flashlight. I led him to the offending garbage disposal. He looked down with his flashlight and saw the soap suds. I explained to him that those were fresh suds that I had just made, but I already knew this exercise was futile. He ran water and ran the disposal for about 30 seconds, and then announced that the problem was solved. I didn't argue. It was so adorably irritating I didn't feel like arguing further.

Patrick Henry joined me a few minutes later. He had some minor delays in his flights that day, but nothing serious. I was glad to see him. We took the Metro to the White House and looked at the National Christmas Tree. Here it is, with the Washington Monument in the background.

We were scheduled to leave D.C. on Saturday afternoon. Because of PH's job, we had previously had to change his itinerary. We had booked through Yahoo travel and they told us that even though he only needed to change his outbound flight, the return flight would be cancelled as well. For some reason they could not change his outbound flight without messing with his entire itinerary. When I learned they planned to route him through Chicago and then charge me another $1000, I told them to pound sand. Everyone knows that all flights out of Chicago are cancelled this time of year. So he and I had separate itineraries.

He made it out of D.C. on Saturday...I did not. Luckily, I had gotten a late checkout on Saturday. If I had not, I would have already been checked out and on the way or at the airport when I got the phone call from Continental that my flight had been cancelled and I could not get out until the next day. The problem was that the next day PH and I were scheduled on flights from home to Dallas. In order to catch that flight, we needed to get home. PH decided to proceed with his original itinerary. I told Continental to give me a refund and that I would find my own way out of D.C. I booked a flight from D.C. to Dallas and called the airline directly so that they could do what Yahoo travel previously could not (keep my return flight and cancel my outbound flight).

In the meantime, I tried to get PH checked in for the flight from PDX to Dallas. I knew something was wrong when he couldn't get a boarding pass using the 24-hour early online check-in. After drilling down several web pages, I finally confirmed that the flight was cancelled. I spent the next few hours getting him a new itinerary from PDX to Dallas. Every time I confirmed one, the flight would be cancelled a few minutes later. Then I'd have to call back and start over. Third time was the charm, and I got him confirmed from PDX to Dallas on a flight that I was sure would not get cancelled since it was going through San Diego.

That's when PH called me from Phoenix and said that he was stranded and was not going to make it to PDX after all. Aargh! The airline re-routed him from Phoenix to Dallas, and he spent the night at a friend's house in Phoenix. They wouldn't release his luggage to him, so he had to sleep in his clothes.

When we both reunited in Dallas the next day, PH's bag never showed up. He spent a lot of time the next few days on the phone trying to trace his bag. Was it in Phoenix? Portland? Dallas? D.C.? He got a different answer every time he called. Twice, he asked them to route it to our home in Portland when it was found. It was delivered to my sister's house in TX just a few hours before we left to go home.

We had a direct flight home, so it was uneventful, although the flight was full...unusual for Dec 24, in our experience. The worst part was when TSA made me so mad I got tears in my eyes. Someone with too much power made me go through the metal detector twice because I wasn't holding my boarding pass "correctly" the first time. The first time I was wearing my boarding pass visibly in my sweater pocket. The 2nd time I held it in my right hand. I was shocked speechless by the demeaning and degrading treatment. Even now I don't have any words that come to mind for what I could have said to verbally explain my indignation better than my fist to his nose.

Here is PDX as taken from my window seat.

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails