Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Getting Home

Oh boy! Here is a Whale of a Tale!


0300—I woke up to the soft sounds of the ocean and no wind! Can't fall back to sleep. Finished The Lies of Locke Lamora until 0530 and generally agree with this review. I had ambition to read more on this trip but it did not turn out to be that kind of trip. 

0530-0700—Got packed and checked out.

0700-0830—Drove down the Lahaina Town and we walked around for one last time around the Banyan Tree and the beach just to the South of the main square and found some more cultural areas. Quick stop at Livewire Cafe and we got on the road. Both of us are ill. 

0830-0945—Drove from Lahaina to Kahului Airport. Turned in the rental car and had a nice bantering conversation with the return agent who was curious (fascinated?) about my last name. 

0945-1050—Checked in for United 4989 which was operated by Island Air. Got boarding passes only for this flight (hmm.). The check in agent seemed confused by what was happening and said that we should get the rest of our passes in Lihue. We checked our bag all the way to Seattle. Had my carry-on bag searched because they did not like the looks of the chocolate bar I was carrying, a Green & Blacks Caramel, and they checked my toiletries bag for explosive residue, in the process opening one of the shampoo bottles which has now leaked all over everything. They miss a container of liquid hand lotion in M's backpack. Waited at the gate. No plane and it was very quiet. It finally comes and a few passengers get off. We get on.

1050-1150—The flight to Kuai is spectacular. The flight attendant, however, seems really "thrilled" to be working. No really, I have never seen someone look so bored and I guess I would be too if I had spent my day hopping from island to island. 

1150-1250—Get into Kuai Airport and deplane. Walk to the gate for United 62, LIH-SFO-SEA, to get our next set of boarding passes and to confirm our upgrade (put through via phone call with a United ticketing agent the previous night). There is nobody there AND there is no United Customer Service Counter. Nothing.  I ask about UA Customer Service at the gift shop and the nice woman there said that they were only on the outside of the airport and that it was unlikely that anyone was there yet. Oh well, it is early and we have time. Lunch at the airport diner. I had a Terriyaki Plate (beef, white rice, and canned corn) and M a tuna sandwich. Neither of us have much energy. It is sunny with that strange occasional rain that comes down and temps in the mid-70's. M, again, comments on the "open air" design of the airport. We sit in the central area for a while. I called W for some advice. What would he do? Go out of the airport, see a ticketing agent, and come back in through security. Why? Because it would be likely that we would get "hassled" at the gate if we don't have boarding passes. 

1250-1330—There are people at the United counter AND a line (thanks Gift Shop Lady). I go up the First Class line and explain the situation to the sorter person. She points us to a machine we can check in and I start the process. It cannot handle the bag transfer and the process quits. An agent starts working with us, tries to multi-task with some other passengers (including a woman whose bags were so big I had to lift them up onto the scale for her). The situation gets a bit chaotic. Our Island Air baggage tag is passed to another ticketing agent who seems to be the "go to" person behind the counter and she starts working with us (all the while multi-tasking as more and more problems crop up). Then the check in system crashes and has to be rebooted which makes the situation just a little more chaotic. Once it comes back up she prints our boarding passes for coach. I said that our upgrade to First had been confirmed. She looks again, ah yes, but by this time it is too late for us to get seats together. Turns out that the ticketing agent I spoke with on the phone did not cancel out our initial reservation so we actually had 4 seats on the plane. She prints out our new boarding passes and we turn to go to the security line. M is looking at the passes. How come, she asks, I am going to Seattle and you are only going to San Francisco? I look again. I have someone else's boarding pass, try taking that through security. We turn around and go back to the sorting agent. I show her, she looks horrified, up to the main counter again and ten minutes later we have the correct boarding pass. Getting to be an old hand at security now. Lihue security is not at all concerned with my chocolate bar or the fact that my toiletries are oozing shampoo. Yay! We are back in. Hang out in the central area for a few minutes and then head out to gate 10, there is no plane. 

1330-1424—The gate is filling up and there still is no plane. A 757 HAS pulled up to gate 9 though. I suspect that there has been an unannounced gate change. There are lots of people coming in: vacationers, business people, kids. One local traveling with his wife and Keiki is talking loudly on the phone to his "Bra" about the fact that yesterday he missed his plane because it left early (Left early? Does that happen, ever?). We board and try to get reseated. The guy sitting next to me does not want to move but another couple has also been split and we work it out. Sitting next to me guy agrees to move one seat forward. I explain what had been happening with all the boarding passes to the cabin attendant. She apologizes and it is obvious that she feels sorry about all the bother. When they run out of the meal options she makes sure that I get my first choice (Chicken, Risotto, and Spinach). The seat in front of M is still empty but is soon occupied by Todd Rundgren. He stows his guitar in the locker and orders a bloody mary. I am thinking "He looks familiar" and "Hey Look! He is a 'Mac' Guy too!" Big and old hands on that guy. Then I heard the worst thing I could have heard at that moment, my name being called over the plane's intercom system. They had some paperwork for me, could I please identify myself by pressing the attendant call button? I do but am thinking "Now what could possibly be amiss?" I pressed the call button. Nothing. They call again. I press it. Everyone is now looking at me with some sort of interest. Nothing. They call again. This time I flag down a passing attendant and tell her that I am being paged. The gate agents were looking for me in coach and I found out later that there was some concern that I was not on board. What did they need to give me? My original Island Air bag check. OK. 

1424-2150—The flight is nice. Really relaxing. We read, ate, watched TV, looked out the window, sneezed, coughed, read, slept, etc.. Found out that we were going to have to change planes in SFO. Same flight, different aircraft. We left LIH late and had a weather delay of 10-minutes outside of SFO before landing and taxiing to gate 86, our next flight was going out of 89 so no worries either. This crew was so nice that they made up for all these little aggravations and I have to formally thank them. 

2150-0105—United 62 from SFO-SEA is delayed. We are supposed to land in SEA at 0035 on 2/17/09 but don't leave until 2306 for an 1 hour 38 minute flight. Went to the ticket agent to see if our boarding passes from the first leg were still good and if we could be reseated together. A pretty competent guy actually. He looks, moves a couple of people around, and puts us in 1 A and B. Two South Asian guys with very heavy accents start complaining that they cannot understand the Cantonese accented English of the gate crew as they make announcements. Uh, guys, have you listened to yourselves lately? 

This flight was a little less comfortable. The legroom in the bulkhead row is a bit short but I can stretch out sideways. There are a lot of deadheading flight attendants on this flight. Two of them are sitting next to me and they are chatting up a storm, the whole flight through. The front locker is filling up including someone's wedding dress which I inadvertently kicked as it was carried by. No worries though, it had already been used. It is pouring at SFO and I can hear the rain hitting the plane above the din of the cabin. I sleep, watch some of the same TV, and read a book called Banana, I may not be able to eat bananas after this. We both just want to be home. 

We land at 0105 and rush out to the train to the baggage claim. On the way I overhear a guard telling another passenger where the best place to sleep in the airport is. Terminal C seems to get the nod and the passenger can come back to N when the trains start running at 0430. 

The bags start coming off the plane. M asks me why I don't mind this. I am not sure. Waiting for bags seems to be part of the ritual for me I guess. Sort of a magic. Oh look there is the bag. Except that it isn't. Our bag does not turn up. 

The United baggage agent is in a jovial mood. I am not. Turns out that UA did not even get the bag from Island Air (at least this is what she said). Perhaps it turns up today. Otherwise we have lost some important stuff and I'll need new running kit and my GPS. 


Shuttle Express. Yes, I prepaid a round trip that was to give us priority. I go and check in. The guy asks me my confirmation number I say "I really don't know". We figure it out. The van is going to be at least 30 minutes. What!! It is cold, we are tired and sick. After a few minutes of waiting I cancel the reservation and request a refund (I am getting something back) and we take a $55 cab ride home. 

The pets are weirded out by our arrive and we have a note from the house sitter detailing some of the buttheaded things "The Boy" had been doing, breaking things and generally making a mess. This on top of his pasta feed on the day we left. I was so quiet in our house. No sounds of the sea and we were both too wired to sleep. It did eventually come though as did the 0700 alarm. 

Not the way I wanted to end this trip, not Planes, Trains, and Automobiles bad, but we are home. 


Stephen Spencer said...

Welcome home, Robin! Sorry to hear of your adventures; flying shouldn't be all that.

I'm going to have to pull out a Todd Rundgren CD or two tonight; I have one of them autographed, even.

rpd said...

I don't want to work! I want to bang on de drum all day!

Not the worst, nor the best. I am just amazed at how incompetent some of this was. At least the cabin crews were understanding and did their best. Beats hitting a truck with a train (which happened to us a couple of years ago).

Andy said...

Travel is a nightmare. I'm looking forward to arriving at my destinations, but not the process of getting there.