Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Back home again...

...after a trip that beat me to the proverbial pulp.

The event itself was okay, though too short to gather all the information I need to write the related article. In fact, in the whole 40-hour trip, there were only five or six "working" hours.

The real downer was the travel. Los Angeles - Denver - Birmingham makes no sense to me...why would you go north to travel east and south? Worse, it introduced me to the horrors of spending extended time in one of those miserable cigar-tube-with-wings commuter jets. Fifteen minutes, even an hour, is more than enough to endure noise, cramped quarters and wretched seats. Two or three hours is simply torture.

My advice to you: if you see "CRJ" -- which stands for "Canadair Regional Jet" -- on your itinerary, scream at the travel agent 'til they get you on a real airplane.

Getting to Birmingham was merely unpleasant. Coming home nearly reduced me to a red-eyed howling monster.

We were herded into a CRJ for the Birmingham - Denver leg of the return flight, the doors were sealed up, and nothing happened. We passengers were the last to learn that "weather" meant we had to sit on the ground in this torture chamber for well over an hour. When departure clearance was finally given, we were routed to Denver in a way that added another 45 minutes to the flight.

As a result, I arrived in Denver roughly 90 minutes after my connecting flight had left. Okay, I'm a big boy; I can deal with that.

But the "service" people of Incompetent Airlines could not. A remarkably bovine (in appearance and IQ) individual tried to get me on another flight which, admittedly, ain't easy late at night. She called another airline, which had a full flight and couldn't help. I asked about a flight from "our" airline that was scheduled to leave in 20 minutes. She said I couldn't make that one.

PARENTHETICAL WHY-I-HATE-DENVER THOUGHT: Inevitably, my arriving flight docks at, say, Gate 8, while the departing flight goes out of Gate 79. Denver is an airport that ranks right up there with Chicago/O'Hare and Hartsfield/Atlanta for sheer misery.

Even after I pointed out to Miss Helpful that the status board showed the last LA flight as being "delayed," she wouldn't budge. She booked me for a flight this morning, informed me that since Air Traffic Control had caused the delay, Incompetent Airlines didn't feel responsible and would not buy me a hotel room for the night, and handed me a sheet with a number to call for "discount" hotel rooms.

I delivered some choice comments and headed for the exit. It then occurred to me that my route out of this prison would take me from Gate 84 past Gate 31, which was where the flight I couldn't get on. So I hauled tail over there.

The flight was boarded, and the lone attendant at the desk was starting to close down. I ran up to the desk and, looking no doubt like a person you would not want on your flight -- Earlier, I was taken to the airport direct from working up a considerable sweat doing something reasonably intense outdoors on a hot, humid Alabama day, and was, to be polite, looking rather unkempt -- and managed to croak out a plea for a seat on the flight.

She took my reservation for the later flight, asked two or three questions about how I had gotten to this pathetic state, tapped a few computer keys and asked "window or aisle?"

The sweetest words in the English language.

I wish I had gotten her name. I would write a long letter of fulsome praise to her employers and then ask her to marry me.

I staggered onto the plane just as they were preparing to close the doors. The First-Class flight attendant (I was in coach) saw me, smiled, said "you look like you need some water," and handed me a bottle out of her First-Class stash.

If I can't marry the woman at the gate, I'll take her.

So I got home a mere three hours late, and actually made it from airport to home, made it all the way to my bed before the lights went out.

God, I hate traveling.

At least my trip to Connecticut will be much easier. Non-stop to Newark, pick up a car that is already confirmed to be there waiting when I arrive, drive up to CT. Simple.

But I will have to think very carefully about the pain/benefit ratio before accepting any more invitations that involve changing planes to get where I'd have to go.

And I will turn down any that involve flights via Denver or anything more than an hour inside a CRJ.


Anonymous said...

ahhh! welcome back...!!! ty for the advice on flying! Lou

Kashew said...

Welcome home. I love to travel, but have come to HATE airlines. Glad you made it in one piece!

Justfly said...

You should still write to the airline about the helpful agent. I would assume if you wrote them with the date/flight you were on, they would be able to tell exactly who helped you. They have all the schedules.

There are better airlines that fly to Birmingham. I can think of an excellent one :D

Why are you flying into Newark for CT and not Hartford?

MrScribbler said...

JF -- Thanks. I think I will write that letter....

I'm going into EWR because it's closer to the part of CT I'll be in: cross a bridge, get on the Henry Hudson Pkwy and you're in Greenwich before you know it.

Also because the people who are dropping off a set of wheels for me like to work out of a parking service at EWR.

Birdie said...

I was going to make the same suggestion as JF did... write the letter! you could also write a complaint about the other gal. I met one of those once... makes you wonder how they keep their job!!

Welcome home!

John said...

Imagine the number of times I had to try to override "bovine IQ" agents when I was in that business.
If I was still there the airlines would be much better off and local hotels would be in mourning.
Glad you made it. That was a whirlwind tour

joan said...

I agree - it gets worse and worse. There are no friendly skies anymore. Too bad. I haven't seen everything I want to see in the world yet. Meanwhile glad to see you safely home.

betty said...

Sounds like a trip! I'm glad you're home safely. :)

lowandslow said...

Ahhhh....the wonderful, GLAMOROUS world of travel! Seriously, hassle that it is, I MUCH prefer airline travel to any auto trip of over 6 hours. If my destination is over 6 hours away, and I can't fly there, I won't go.

Glad you're back. Relax and enjoy nice single malt. :)

Anonymous said...

Glad you're back! Travelling can be annoying, but I kind of like it. I'm goofy like that.