Saturday, October 05, 2013

...but I'm getting ahead of myself...

The morning of my departure is a series of small checks : Shower, shave, passport, cab fare, bag packed and triple checked...all good. The nervous tension that I always experience before a flight of any duration has ensured that I slept very little and I am a bit frazzled as I step out of the taxi and wheel my luggage to the Air Canada counter at Charlottetown's tiny airport.  Luggage is checked, boarding passes issued and I make the brief trip to Montreal in a sunny haze of anticipation and the rising excitement of a vacation in Joshua Tree, California. My good friend S is picking me up in Vegas, we'll stay the night and drive south to her home the following day. One night in Vegas should be an education.Less prone to gambling than, oh...I'd say 99% of the population of this staggeringly garish city.

So, land at YUL without incident. Check the  next boarding pass for my flight to O'Hare and move to the appropriate gate. Easy.  It's well marked and there are a few people waiting already, even though the flight does not leave for 90 minutes. The screen over the desk clearly states that this flight will begin boarding at 2:45, which leaves me more than enough time to grab a bite to eat. I find a gourmet bagel place and I buy a ham & brie bagel, with a large iced green tea. $13.99. Fuck it, I am starving.

Back in the waiting area, time passes and I occasionally get up to look at the screen, in case the next flight is delayed. No change, the minutes roll by and I begin to mentally prepare myself for the next leg of the journey. It's a five hour flight from YUL to ORD. Then a final hop from ORD to McCarran (LAS). S will be waiting for me at LAS, we will dump my gear in the hotel room and head out for a wee tour of the loudest city in the west.

I start worrying when there are less than 15 minutes to my next flight and there is no one at the desk to check us onto the plane. Walk across the lounge and look at the departure screen again. Right gate, right time. Hmmmmmm....

There is a tightening sensation in my stomach that is partially worry and partially a really expensive bagel. I will mention that while I have my iPod and a great set of headphones for the flight, I don't wear them in the airport. They act as great noise filters and I don't want to miss any important announcements over the public address system, which I hear every once in a while. "So-and-so please call the ticket desk on the white courtesy phone..." etc. Fuck. My plane is due to leave any minute now and there is NO ONE here, besides a few other passengers. One final check of the screen and then I decide to go ask somebody, "What le fuck, tabernac ?".

Air Canada got me here, but, my next plane is United Airways. I find the closest UA desk, about 150 yards from my gate and approach the gentlemen behind the counter.

"Excuse me, I'm due to fly to Chicago and there is no one at the gate, I've checked the departure screen several times and according to my boarding pass I am at the right place. Can you help me ?"

The gentleman takes my boarding pass, eyes it back and front and begins punching keys on his keyboard and looking intently at his monitor. A look of mild annoyance washes over him as he tells me, " This plane left 10 minutes ago. Did you not hear them paging you ?"
 I have moved from strong concern to downright What The Actual Fuck-ery..."No. I did not hear my name called, as there was no announcement regarding either myself or the flight. I have been sitting at the correct gate for well over an hour, and I have been checking the departure list, which made no mention of the flight leaving from another gate. Do you mean I am stuck here ?!?"

"Well, sir..." he says in the sort of voice reserved for snippy waiters who have just rung your credit card and found your number declined, "...the flight was moved to another gate. When you didn't appear for the initial boarding, your name would have been called over the public address system. Do you mean to tell me that you didn't hear it ?"
"That is precisely what I am telling you because no such announcement was made. "

"If you are late for your flight it is customary to page the passenger to ensure that there is no further delay in departure." (this bastard is clearly enjoying this)

"I am well aware of this policy, as I have heard several announcements to this effect..." and I list the five names that I have heard over the P.A. since I have been in the waiting area.  "None of those names are mine. Check my passport."
"I don't know what to tell you sir, there would have been an announcement. Were you outside of the airport ?"

With as much politeness as I can muster, I tell this little cunt that I have not been outside the airport since I had two cigarettes, right after my flight from YYG touched down, over two hours ago.  At this point a younger gentleman at the desk looks at y pass, taps the keyboard and says, " I'm sorry, sir. This flight left 15 minutes ago, from gate mumblefuck (I don't remember the actual gate...sue me). They should have paged you." Although he is relaying information that has already been dropped on me, his manner is noticeably less arrogant than the other wee mammal standing next to him.  II'll check to see when the next flight to Chicago leaves, we should be able to get you on that plane."

"I would greatly appreciate it."   "There is another leaving for ORD in two hours, we can get you on that one. " A great sense of relief washes over my brain as I hear this.

Shit. Fuck. Fuckity-boo. I have to let S know that I won't be in Las Vegas on time. At this point, I should mention that my iPod is picking up the free wifi at the airport, but, for some reason, I can't send any messages from it....neither Facebook nor my texting app. are working. This is not a great time to be stuck in an airport with no means of communication.  I explain my predicament to the desk attendant that I don't wish to strangle, that I have no cel phone (he looks genuinely shocked), and that I need to call ahead so that my friend doesn't begin to worry over my no show in Vegas....he offers to dial the number for me and with genuine, deep gratitude I take the receiver from him, hear S' voicemail and leave a somewhat frantic message..."HithisisDavidImissedmyflighttoChicagonotmyfaultIswearImonanothrerplaneandIshouldbeinVegasbyeleventhirtywhichisonlytwoandahalfhoyrslaterthanIplannedIhpeyougetthismessagesoyouarentwaitingaroundIlltrymessagingyoufromChicagobye!" Seriously.That's how it sounded.

Shit. My luggage....

"Don't worry, sir. If you weren't on your designated flight, they would have pulled your luggage from the cart. It will be on your next flight to O'Hare, and you can pick it up when you arrive in Las Vegas."  "Really ? I mean, seriously ?"  "Yes, sir. It's policy. "

So....while they more than dropped the ball on getting me to Chicago on time, they have made good on my ticket by getting me the next best thing. Literally. I proceed to the gate for my next plane and I don't care if I shit my jeans, I am not leaving this gate until the plane is boarding. No fucking way can I miss this bastard, it's the last flight to ORD today....

At this point, I will return to my opening screed :

I was exactly where my boarding pass said I should be, the departure screen kept telling me I was in the right place and there was NO FUCKING ANNOUNCEMENT regarding a change in gated, nor was my name ever called to get my ass on the plane. I am not fucking making this up. This really fucking happened.

Shortly before we were due to land at ORD, the pilot addressed the passengers, " It looks like we'll be landing just ahead of a heavy storm in Chicago. We should be on the ground in 15 minutes." He was right. We landed 15 seconds before a massive flash of lightning lit up the entire runway. Thing is, the ground crews won't come out to the tarmac when there's an electrical storm overhead. Around the perimeter of the landing area, there are placed a number of rods that detect electrical strikes, and if they are less than 15 minutes apart, then nobody moves onto the field.  For the next hour and 30 minutes, we were stuck inside a very small jet : exactly three seats wide, with a narrow aisle running the length of the interior. The attendant on the flight asked if anyone had to make a connecting flight after we disembarked and a number of us raised our hands. She took our information and spent the next 20 minutes calling other desks at the airport to find out the status of our flights. Thankfully, all traffic had ground to a halt because of the storm, so, our flights would all be waiting for us. She deserves a huge bottle of something expensive for taking the time and effort to reassure a plane full of irritated passengers. She was fucking awesome....

ORD is massive. I mean, it's fucking immense. I found the first available street exit and went outside for a few consecutive cigarettes. I needed 'em. Started chatting with an airport employee who was also having a smoke break. "Where are you from ? ", he asked. I told him I was from PEI, and to my surprise he knew where it was. I told him I was heading to Joshua Tree for a well earned sun"n"pot vacation. He asked what the weather was like back home and I said, "Well, the day I left we were expecting a high of 15 degrees. "
"Jesus ! I'm from Florida, that kind of cold would kill me...."
"That's Celsius, not Fahrenheit...."
"I know.", he said.

So, one flight left to get me to LAS, where my friend was likely beginning to wonder what the actual fuck was going iPod had all of about 17 seconds of juice left, so I couldn't tell if she had received any of my flurry of messages. Oh well, nothing I can do....just get there and figure it out.

I managed to sleep most of the way to LAS, and when I got off the plane, I followed the majority of people off...presumably to the baggage carousel. Not so, it turns out. I ended up at a transit stop, where I met a fellow from Glasgow who was as lost as I was. We formed a confused duo, looking for any sign of our luggage. Eventually, I approached a man with a uniform who told me to go to the other end of the airport, where our stuff would likely be waiting for us. I was starting to feel the weight of a somewhat stressful day as I climbed back onto the train that took us to Terminal 3. Once there, I found the signs pointing to my baggage and, presumably, my friend and possibly freedom. Another few minutes of walking and I heard a woman call my name, "David!". I looked ahead in the small crowd and saw S, waving and smiling. HUGE FUCKING RELIEF! I made it. We embraced tightly and I nearly shed a tear. Such a frustrating series of small incidents had put a pallor over my expected optimism and excitement. She looked amazing and I felt like a million dollars :wrinkled and green.

She had been waiting at the baggage carousel and asked me what my bag looked like. I described it and she pointed to a couple of items that were similar, but, not my wasn't there. At all. Anywhere. Accepting my fate, I went to the baggage claim desk and explained my predicament. Essentially, missed my first flight to Chicago, hadn't seen my bag since I have my claim ticket ? The woman who processed me in Chicago took it, possibly by accident. Do I have my passport ? Sure, here you are...... Can I name five items in my case ? Sure, I list off the first few items that I know are in my bag.
"Well, it is probably in Chicago or Montreal. Here's your file number, call this telephone number in the morning and we'll let you know if we find it. " Both of the women at the claim department were very friendly, very understanding and went to good lengths to help me as best they could. I had no change of clothes, but, I felt reassured.

Straight to S' car we go.

Ever since I knew that I'd be flying to Vegas, I've had one song that I want to hear as we cruise through the night to our hotel. Adjoining rooms, people...we're close, but not THAT kind of close. Minds out of the gutter, please.

My iPod had no juice left, so.....I had to wait until we got to the hotel (Treasure's pretty swell).

Here, for your edification, is the song I NEEDED to hear. Close your eyes and picture driving through downtown Vegas at night with this pumping on the stereo.  It's fucking perfect. Vegas at night (theme)

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