Friday, July 8, 2016

Looking Forward to Your Vacation? Read on By Andrea Downing

Ah, summer.  Lazy days on the beach, toes dipped in pools, a light breeze over the lake, or a splash in the stream.  Also, hour-long lines at security, bags going missing, four dollar bottles of water and screaming kids.  As you read this, I will just be landing in London, England, and I can only pray as I write that what happened to me recently on my return from Jackson, WY, to New York does not have a repeat performance.
Obviously, I’ve lived to tell the tale.  Only just….
Flight one on my return goes from Jackson to Denver.  Jackson airport is like a hotel lounge—it rather lulls you into a false sense of security.  And when I was upgraded to Business/First, what could possibly go wrong?  Hail in Denver was what went wrong.  And since Jackson is a small airport, taking small planes, which in turn have small fuel tanks, we couldn’t just hang about in the sky over Denver waiting for the hail to move on.  Nope, instead, we moved on—to Grand Island, Nebraska.
One and a half hours later, having been assured all flights were delayed so our connections would still be good, we got back into the air and made our way to Denver and flight two.  I had an hour first—enough time to indulge at Rocky Mt. Chocolate Factory—got my second upgrade to Business/First for the four hour flight to LaGuardia, and settled in next to a gentleman, who happened also to be going on to East Hampton.  Delightful.
Until the flight attendant announced we didn’t have a pilot, so we all had to get off once more.
Our pilot had a family crisis so United was working its way down its pilot list.  This list might have been one pilot long because none could be found in the area; either they were stuck elsewhere or couldn’t get in, in time, or had already done too many hours. Visions of sleeping forever on the floor of Denver airport danced across my tiring brain.  But, aha!  New flight put on for eight a.m. next morning, hotel vouchers available at the Customer Service desk….
Except the Customer Service desk already had about one thousand people in line, a line which zig-zagged in front of said desk before making its way down the entire Terminal B concourse.  Amazing how you get chatty with strangers in such a situation.  After considering that the line was going nowhere fast, and that all airport hotels were soon to announce they had no rooms, smarty pants (my middle name) pulled out her phone, rang United, and got through within minutes.  I checked in for the morning’s flight and got a 10% discount on a La Quinta room reachable via shuttle.  Better than a voucher, I’d say, and the shuttle was waiting when I got there.
Now there was one thing I wasn’t so smart about, and that was the contents of my carry-on:  chargers, jewelry, medications, the above mentioned chocolates, and the contents of my Jackson fridge. For some unknown reason, I had decided to transport home:  one part cucumber, one smoked trout (luckily in sealed pouch), nuts, and an apple that could have passed for a pumpkin.  Available at the front desk was a toothbrush (one row of bristles, perfect for a baby) and a sachet smear of toothpaste.  In the room was soap.  And what a room!  Giant living room, separate bedroom and bathroom.  Also, no coffee for the coffee maker, television blaring from the lobby, heater in the bedroom so you couldn’t possibly sleep with it on, traffic noise from outside, and where were the lovely, fluffy bathrobes?  Not at La Quinta!  For dinner, I rather idiotically ate chocolate and the giant apple.  Freezing to death after my shower, with no spare blanket, I wrapped myself in two dry bath towels, set the alarm for five a.m., and tried to sleep.  Who was I kidding?  Chocolate has more caffeine than a cup of coffee, dumb-dumb. And my face, which went without eye cream and face cream for the first time in fifty-six years, felt as if it might crack.  In this state, further enhanced by the pain in recovering broken shoulder, my phone vibrated at precisely 2.40 a.m.
Luckily, I looked at it.  United announcing that the 8 a.m. flight was now an 11 a.m. flight.  This meant arrival in NYC, with the two hour time difference, at 5p.m Memorial weekend Friday.
But I’m awake!  So I got myself onto an alternative flight at 8.10 a.m., one of the last 2 seats into Newark.  Sat in an exit row seat between two lovely guys who tried to convince me that, as it was now the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, I really didn’t want to continue on to East Hampton via the Long Island Expressway, otherwise known as the free parking lot. 
Oh, but I did.
My daughter, bless her, made something like five different jitney reservations for me, arranged for a car to collect me at Newark, take me into NYC, have a sandwich delivered to my apartment, and I was able to make reservation Numero Dos—one hour later.  Traffic not bad on the LIE, and she had dinner waiting for me on arrival.  The angel!
Oh, and my checked bag?  Well, I knew it wouldn’t be on my flight so went directly to the luggage people on arrival at Newark and had it sent straight to my home.  Easy as pie….
And you can read far less miserable stories at
Twitter:  @andidowning


Jannine Gallant said...

All I have to say is you and Vonnie better never travel together, Andi, or we're likely to have Armagedon! What a nightmare!

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

Andi, I'm using our last travel experience as the opening for my next book. Two strangers have their flight cancelled. The man complains quite voraciously to the flight employee who for spite send them on a sprint to a gate that doesn't exist. They, too, stand in the customer service line and a fragile bond is formed. I hope your flight to England is much smoother.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Oh, Andi, so sorry you suffered this way. Travel used to be such a luxury. Today with jam-packed flights and harried employees, the thrill is gone. Lately we've been lucky to find seating in the waiting room (and these are lonnnnngggg waits after an early arrival at the airport to go through security). I do wonder if we won't see fewer people traveling by plane, especially overseas, because of the discomforts you outlined as well as terrorism. I'm looking forward to the train trip to RWA San Diego...old-fashioned and leisurely.

Margo Hoornstra said...

My goodness. I'm in awe of your travel savvy. I probably would have been on the terminal floor in the fetal position from the get go! As you said, you survived to tell the tale, and what a tale it was.

Alison Henderson said...

And OG wonders why I never want to go anywhere anymore. I'm glad I traveled extensively when I was young and the process was infinitely more pleasant. Hope you made it to London, safe and sound.

Leah St. James said...

Ditto what Margo said! As I read, I kept thinking "I NEVER would have thought to do that...or had the nerve if I had thought of it! I'd probably still be in Denver to this day. I do have to agree though that the LIE is probably the last place I'd want to be on the Friday before Memorial Day. But you've jogged my memory. I just might be sharing a Long Island (or Lon-Giland) roadway story when it's my turn this month!

Brenda Whiteside said...

Oh my. Not an adventure I want to experience!

Andrea Downing said...

Well, I am safe and sound in London fellow Roses but sorry I didn't respond yesterday. I got my airmile upgrade to Business so it was pure luxury, from the Admirals' Club lounge through the little vanity packs, champagne at take-off and so on.
I think Vonnie and I will have to co-author the nightmare book (though I suspect she does pretty damn well without anyone to help)... Yes, traveling together would be an experience, Jannine. and Vonnie I wish you well with the book-I'll be looking for it, for sure.
Rolynn, I'll be with you on the train--have had some really wonderful train journeys around the US in the old days (!) and look forward to repeating them.
Margo, out of that fetal position please--get mad! Alison, here I am in London as I said, safe and sound. Leah, I look forward to your LI story, and Brenda--there are certainly better adventures!
thank you all, and sorry I missed answering and promoting on my day!

Diane Burton said...

Glad you arrived safely in London. What an adventure! Best wishes returning.