wine by the color

Saturday, May 20, 2006

There's no better example to illustrate the good and bad of traveling for work than my last few days.

Things were going really well. I was in the Sea Island/St. Simons, Ga., area for a few days, which is one of my favorite locales. After productive meetings Thursday, I rented a bike and rode around the island, followed by a long walk on the beach. I returned to the lounge chair on the balcony of my oceanfront room and read for a while, before the sound of gently crashing waves lulled me to a quick nap. We had dinner here, which has the best crabcakes I've ever had. Friday morning, I had a leisurely breakfast before heading to the golf course, where I sat in an Adirondack chair overlooking the ocean, reading the paper while a co-worker held a meeting. At one point, I thought back to all the times the guys have accused me of having a racket of a job. At 9:30 Friday morning, I couldn't have argued otherwise.

And that's when karma came up and bit me on the ass...

It was a quick ride down to the Jacksonville Airport. The plan was for flight 3208 to depart JAX at 2:02 and arrive at EWR at 4:32 p.m., thus allowing plenty of time to pick up my brother and head to Flushing, N.Y., to enjoy the Mets-Yankees game. A solid plan which depended on one simple thing - Continental Airlines' ability to get me to Newark in a timely fashion.

Oh, how wrong things went.

We boarded on time and the plane started to taxi around 2:15. Suddenly, the plane stopped, and the flight attendant announced that because of weather in Newark, we were being delayed. He indicated the wait would be about 30 minutes, but shouldn't delay our arrival time.

Our arrival time was definitely affected.

We sat on the tarmac for a while, which would have been unpleasant enough on its own. Throw in a lack of air conditioning and outside temperatures in the high 80s, and it was miserable. But they wouldn't return to the gate, because they believed we were leaving at any minute. Finally, they gave up on that and returned to C-5. Almost everyone got off the plane. But they quickly fixed the AC issue, so I took advantage of the peace and quiet to do some reading.

And this seems like a good time to pose a question. Who brings young children on an airplane without bringing anything for them to do? No coloring books, no toys, nothing?

Ava's mom, that's who.

Ava was the tot sitting behind me. I'd say she was about three. Ava was one of three siblings, all of whom had nothing to do. Nothing to do except cry about having to go potty, pretend to throw up in the air sickness bag, kick the back of my seat, punch the side of the plane wall and generally carry on. But I can't blame Ava. It wasn't Ava's fault she didn't have anything to do. Let's blame Ava's jackass parents, who apparently believed that the lone entertainment needed to keep three urchins occupied on a plane was to sing loudly with them.

Anyway, we finally took off at 4:11. Just before we took off, I sent a text message to Kerry and told her to try to sell our tickets. I didn't see how we'd get there before 8 at the earliest, and if any additional disaster struck, we'd miss most of the game.

Good thing, because additional disaster definitely struck.

We were making good progress, and I thought we were pretty close to Newark. So I was quite surprised when the flight attendant announced that because we were in a holding pattern and they were unsure when we would be able to land in Newark, we were stopping in Norfolk, Va., to refuel. There was a concern that without a definite landing time, we could run out of gas. GOOD times.

Upon landing in Norfolk, I immediately called my brother. He's got caller ID on his work phone, so when he picked up, he greeted me with a cautious, "Hel-lo?" He was tracking my flight online and asked if I was in an area overly populated with representatives of the United States Navy. Indeed we were. He was printing the status updates from the Continental site, for my future amusement.

The plane was re-fueled and we left Norfolk within 45 minutes. One thing I will be noting in my angry letter to Continental CEO Larry Kellner is why they didn't think to pick up some food during our stop in Norfolk. Between 11:30 a.m. and 10:10 p.m., I had a packet of M&Ms and a banana, which I had fortunately taken from the breakfast buffet that morning. My co-worker, sitting closer to the front of the plane, noticed that they did manage to bring food for the pilots on board.

We finally arrived in Newark at 8:27 p.m. Unfortunately, Ava and her siblings were ready to get off the plane at 8:17. Those last 10 minutes were 10 of the noisiest, most unpleasant minutes I've ever had on an airplane. If you had beheaded all of Ava's dolls, thrown her dog down a flight of stairs and shaved off all her perfect blond curls, I can't imagine she would have carried on any more. I understand that she was tired and just wanted to get off the plane, but it was unbelievable nonetheless. When we landed, everyone let them off first, just so no one had to listen to it anymore.

So that was it, right? Finally on the ground, just pick up the bag and be on my way.

Oh no. No, no, no.

I had gate-checked my bag, which is the best way to go when you're flying an Express Jet and carrying a smaller bag. For those of you unfamiliar with this process, you get a claim tag at the gate, then drop your bag in the jetway as you board. When you get off the plane, your bag is delivered back to the jetway, thus negating the need to depend on the brain trust in the baggage department.

So I waited in the jetway with about 18 other people. It took so long for the Continental folks to get the bags up that the flight attendant and pilots were gone. After 12 minutes, they finally started to deliver the bags onto the jetway. One by one, people took their bags and left. A bag that looked like mine appeared, but as I started to grab it, a fellow passenger came up and wheeled it away. I tried to indicate that I thought it was mine, but he seemed so sure that I let him go.

HUGE mistake.

It was my bag. When they had delivered all the bags, the only one left was green. Mine is black. This man doesn't know what color his bag is? Are you kidding me? So I had to run up to the gate and ask them to make an announcement in the airport to have all passengers on my flight check their bags. No one returned, so it was on to visit Continental's baggage customer service.

Customer service, my ass. What a disinterested, unhelpful bitch that dame was. I knew, to the item, the contents of my bag, which I thought would help identifying it easier. I mean, how many people could have had a bag full of shells stuffed into a pink and white sneaker? But she had no interest in reporting on the contents. She also had no interest in speaking in anything other than a mumble. She did assure me, were my bag to return, that they would call first, which was important because I'm not going to be home until Sunday afternoon, and I didn't want the bag to be delivered to my house if I weren't there.

Of course, any successful return of my bag will be completely dependent on the person who took it to return it. I'm not optimistic, because that would require more faith in humanity than I usually have. Perhaps someone will surprise me. In the meantime, this man's wife probably went to unpack his suitcase and is now all worked up as to why there are female undergarments in his bag. Serves him right.

Ah well. At least I didn't miss a great game at Shea.


  • At 5/20/2006 12:48 PM, Blogger freakgirl said…

    Oh my GOD. Nightmare. I really hope you get your bag back. What kind of moron walks away with a bag without even checking the ID tag? Jackass.

  • At 5/20/2006 11:21 PM, Blogger jersey girl said…

    The delays didn't get me too fired up. What can you do; weather is weather. But when that dillhole walked off with my bag, I was beyond livid. As I stood in line at the customer service desk, I actually put two fingers on my neck to monitor my blood pressure, because I wondered if I might be able to watch my first heart attack happen.

  • At 5/21/2006 12:00 AM, Blogger Local Shill said…

    You've proven again what an amazingly good-natured individual you are, JG. I would have
    choke-slammed Ava, her parents and the broad that didn't help you with your bag.
    My sympathies on what had to be an absolutely miserable day.

  • At 5/21/2006 1:54 AM, Blogger todd a said…

    I don't care how old Ava some point, I would have screamed out, "Would someone PLEASE stick a breast in that child's mouth????"


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