What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been... So Far
Dear Loolio #4
I’d say I just completed the most disrupted trip ever but I still have to get back home on Delta this Friday so maybe I won’t jinx myself.
How disrupted was it? Some marketing guy named Anthony at Delta already emailed me, saying, “We know you were disappointed… here’s 20,000 miles already deposited in your frequent flier account…” Delta apparently felt remorse or at least awareness that they screwed up and they didn't want to lose me as a fare-paying passenger. Anthony might well have been concerned. On this, my first Delta trip ever, I was disappointed, not in their economy comfort leg room, but with their old rattling aircraft and their meals. Their flight attendants weren't particularly friendly either, at least while we were in the air.
But while I doubt I’ll ever use those 20,000 miles, I can’t say it was an altogether bad trip. It was a strange one. It was as if someone or something was trying to send me back to Idaho. But absent a plane crash or hijacking, that wasn’t happening because I know that when unexpected things happen, unexpected things come about. Things that typically make for a better experience and much better stories.
The only time I felt somewhat unhappy was arriving at the airport in Boise to learn that my first flight had been delayed by 30 minutes. I had a tight connection in Minneapolis and even though I had reserved a wheelchair to spare my knees long hard slogs down interminable terminals to the gates, that would cut into the time I’d need to get to my flight to Amsterdam and then the next one to Bristol. I had shopped around enough to know that if I missed one flight, options for getting on the next one were limited, at least on Delta. There was another flight later that day but economy comfort seats were sold out and frankly, I wasn’t sitting inside a tuna can for eight hours.
But the flight to Minneapolis was fast, we made up 15 minutes enroute. When we landed I was sure I'd make my connection. Plenty of it because the next flight to Amsterdam had a 2-hour delay. The plane was delayed inbound to Minneapolis. So, I ate an overpriced dinner (I can’t remember what I ate) near the gate and settled in to wait. Finally, the plane arrived. We watched passengers deplane eagerly, expecting as had been promised, a quick turnaround and re-boarding. But after the last one filed off, the sheepish co-pilot came out in his shirt sleeves.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I regret to inform you that the captain has filed a ticket on this plane for a defective windshield,” he began with head bowed, eyes downcast like he was praying or something.
“What? Speak up! We can’t hear you,” the angry passengers waiting yelled at him. What they meant was, “Have the balls to look at us when you say that, you coward.”
“We can’t fly this airplane, it isn’t safe,” he continued. But we’re finding another plane and we should have you out of here in a little while.”
Then he and the rest of the flight crew walked their suitcases off the plane and out of sight. I should have known we weren’t going anywhere that night. It took them an hour and a half to cancel the flight.
“There’s no need for you to rebook,” the gate agent announced. We’ll book you and you’ll have the same seat assignments you had tonight. But we are offering meal and hotel vouchers. Please form a line if you’d like to get vouchers.” Fifty people lined up.
Fortunately, I had just gotten an email saying the same thing so, bypassing the line, I went right for 4 stars, the Hyatt Regency in downtown Minneapolis. If I were to be inconvenienced, it would have to be somewhere nice.
“You aren’t walking, are you?” the nice young lady asked when I called to see if it was located in a safe area of Minneapolis, “Don’t take a bus," the operator said,"but yes, you’ll feel quite safe here.”
So, I dragged myself and my carry-on out to the curb and hailed a taxi. I wasn’t concerned when Mohammed, my taxi driver’s meter topped $40 because I’d scanned the email. There would be a transportation voucher, as well (had I read the email closely I’d have seen that the voucher was limited to a $15 voucher for Lyft). As I walked into the deserted lobby of the Hyatt Regency, it seemed a nice enough place, if a little old and shabby. It was next to the convention center and linked to a network of skyways around downtown.
“Can you put me in a really nice room?” I asked the desk clerk in my most winsome voice. Of course, was the response. My room was on the 21st floor and not bad, though the carpet was frayed. I inspected for bed bugs, found none, and set up my new door lock (see A Bra, Flip Flops, and No, I Won’t Open The Door). I unpacked the essentials and climbed into bed. And then I got another Delta email. I knew it couldn’t be good.
The flight they had booked me on would not leave until 4:50 the next afternoon, meaning I would arrive a whole day behind schedule. I was briefly disappointed before accepting that I wasn’t going to get on another flight for hours. I was in a city I hadn’t visited since I was a kid and the glossy visitors guides in the lobby showed that I had options there. I’d explore Minneapolis, I decided, starting with a visit to the iconic Mary Tyler Moore statue a few blocks away.
For those who don’t know, Mary Tyler Moore was an actress who starred in a series of TV shows, from the Dick Van Dyke show where she played loveable, adorable housewife Laura Petrie, to her own show where she was a divorcee who moved to Minneapoliis to work in TV news. Her show was groundbreaking because for the first time she wasn’t just an appendage to a man like some June to Ward Cleaver. She became a role model for many up and coming independent, successful women in the industry. Women, like Katie Couric, who were just starting out. Minnesota was arguably proud that her show was set in Minneapolis. In the opening credits she stood, presumably on her first day of work, next to a busy street. She was equal parts excited and apprehensive and as she started across the street she tossed her knitted cap up in the air in glee. And the theme song crooned, “You’re gonna make it after all.”
How appropriate, I thought. Despite the latest setback, I was going to make it too. All the way to Bristol.
Ultimately, though, I didn’t go to her statue. I didn’t need to. Remembering was enough so, I grabbed an online photo so you could see it. Instead, I woke up early, ate a leisurely hotel buffet breakfast downstairs in the expensive Hyatt Regency restaurant (where Delta only paid $15 of my $24 bill – are you beginning to see a trend?). and decided that going directly to the airport was best. This time I summoned a Lyft driver. Fernan from Venezuela.
Fernan spoke fairly good English. Between that and my rusty Spanish, we got along fine, we practiced on each other. I wanted to know more about him than where he came from and he was happy to tell me in English and Spanish.
“I haf bin here 5 years,” he told me proudly. “I was a commander in the Venezuelan military.”
“Viniste – did you come – because you didn’t agree with the political regime?” I asked. Yes, he said.
“Do you have children?”
“Yes, a boy and a girl. I didn’t want them to grow up there.”
“Do you like being a Lyft driver?” I asked.
“Oh, yes. I work Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm. No weekends.” And he follows his own orders these days, not those of a dictator. I was sorry when our ride ended at the Delta departure terminal.
“Goodbye, Fernan,” I said as he pulled my carry-on from the trunk.
“Yes,” he said. “You come back and you call me.” I would, I said. Stories like his fill me with appreciation for the story teller and for the United States which despite its troubles lately is still a fine place to be.
I went inside to the ticket counter, showed my passport, and went through security. I was TSA prescreened but something in my shoe set off the machine. It hadn’t in Boise. So, I went through the arms up over your ears, feet spread scanner and was waived inside.
Well, Loolio, that’s about it for tonight. Tune in tomorrow for the rest of the story when almost anything that could go wrong was about to… As I would soon learn, when I got on the plane and started across the ocean, disruption was along for the ride.