Tuesday, September 8, 2009

There and back again

Talk about your whirlwind tours.

My daughter's wedding was this past Saturday. You may recall that she lives in Ohio and so I had to take wing to get there. Oh, sure, I could have taken the bus or rented a car for a 5,000-mile round trip, but either would have meant days on the road and for financial reasons I couldn't leave until Thursday and had to be back Monday, so . . .

The wedding was lovely, my daughter gorgeous, I cried my eyes out during the ceremony and the reception party was a hoot. Daughter and new hubby are off on a cruise, somewhere in the sunny Caribbean, God bless them.

But that's not what this blog is about.

This is the second trip I have taken by airplane in eight weeks (the first was to Kansas in mid-July for Jim Gunn's Sf Writers Workshop) and both trips were a nightmare. It's been years since I've flown and I couldn't help but wonder where the friendly skies have gone.

I have mentioned here before that I am a woman of considerable size, both in height and weight. There is nothing average about me, so the fact that I am wedged into coach-class airline seats is a given. And I never expect decent food on a flight. Airplanes are not restaurants. Just as long as I can get a couple of glasses of Diet Coke, I am content.

But what happened to courtesy and polite service?

I flew to Kansas and returned via United and never got as much as a smile from a single airline employee. And the return flight was a horror. I arrived in Denver for a connecting flight to Seattle, only to discover that my connector had been canceled, as had the next and final flight for the day.

After standing in line for an hour at a service counter, I was told that they could book me on a late morning flight the next day. There was no explanation for why the flights were canceled (despite my questions) and no offer of compensation for meals or overnight accommodation. I did manage to get a refund on my ticket to pay for a flight aboard Alaska Air (the last of the day) and arrived home six hours late.

And so, I was hesitant about flying to Ohio for the wedding, but chose to travel via Delta, figuring United and Denver had been a bad turn of luck.


My flight left Seattle fifteen minutes late, headed for Atlanta, where I had thirty-five minutes to catch the connector. We landed in Atlanta ten minutes late and then sat on the apron another ten minutes, waiting for traffic to clear, leaving me fifteen minutes to reach the connector gate -- in another terminal.

I arrived just as the agent was closing the bridge door and he refused to open it again, even though the plane sat at the gate for another ten minutes. I don't know. It was almost ten p.m. and he probably had had a long day. Maybe I scared him. I can loom when I am anxious and I was gasping my words, after my mad dash between gates.

At least Delta did pay for my hotel room in Atlanta Thursday night and I made it into Columbus by nine a.m. Friday morning.

Even so, I have had my fill of standing in lines, undressing for airport security, squeezing into tiny seats aboard noisy airplanes and having to deal with rude airline employees who don't seem to like their jobs. I don't travel very much, so I suppose my miniscule contribution to the airline economy won't be missed.

But the big silver birds have seen the last of me.