TITLE: Dear Jim
DISCLAIMERS: Neither Blair, nor his passport belong to me. Nor does Jim, or his loft, or his body...
SUMMARY: To fly usually involves an airport.
With thanks to Arianna for putting the tenses back in the right time zone, watching out for the elusive commas, and sorting general faux-pas.
This was the last fic posted to The Gypsy Moths website - and I would never have continued writing had she never given my efforts a home. So thank you, thank you, thank you.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is 99.9% taken from an actual event. The names, places and reason for journey have been changed to protect the extremely guilty, but I don't feel like writing a snarky letter to the airline!
Originally posted to the SA List January 2005
You wanted lengthy reports about everything I get up to during my study trip to Oxford, so I figured I'd start at the beginning.
So let's chat about the flight over here. Actually, let's not. Let's laugh about the saga at the airport, because it's quite hysterically funny when I look back on it.
After you dropped me off, the check-in for Cascade United Airways took, what, say, over an hour? Yeah, something like that. It was a nightmare. Then they have a new luggage security thing where you walk around the back of nowhere, hand them your luggage, they shoot it through an x-ray machine (with a warning that says "undeveloped camera film will be damaged", in very small writing on a ripped piece of paper) - but the best part of this bit of equipment, is that they shove it through one end, and you're supposed to run - very fast - all the way back around to the other side, and can only leave this part of the airport when you have seen your suitcase be thrown/launched/chucked/heaved/kicked down the chute.
So I stood for around 10 minutes, just in case, then figured "hell, they can page me if necessary - I think it's gone already".
Lined up to get through the first security check where they didn't even open my passport. I did the second part, with the whole 'shoes-off' bit, and before I knew it, I was on the shuttle bus to Terminal C. I was surprised as the checks usually take so much longer.
Can I mention at this point that the airport was absolutely *heaving* with people.
In Terminal C, it was much, much worse, and very claustrophobic. I don't know which bright spark wanted so many international Boeing flights leaving from one end of the terminal, but they need a rethink. Or find a better sense of humor.
So, I go down to my departure gate, C1. Which is packed. Solid.
There are approximately 150 seats in the C1 area, and this has to cater for the 350 seater flight leaving from C1 (to London) at 18:10, and the 350 seater flight leaving from C2 (to Frankfurt) directly opposite at 18:00.
Except there aren't 350 people for each flight.
They've overbooked by around 75.
For each flight.
There are approximately 850 in an area the size of the loft, all suddenly realizing that someone, somewhere has COMPLETELY SCREWED UP...
I look at my boarding pass to discover that I, along with 74 other people, am booked on the flight, have checked in my luggage and not been told one vital piece of information...
I don't have a seat on the flight.
Good game, good game.
Okay - so at this point I figure, "I don't *have* to be in the UK within the next 24hrs, I'll volunteer my seat, take whatever they're offering (it started at $400) and fly over tomorrow morning. I'll call a cab and go back to the loft for the night."
Two things then happened:
1) The battery in my cell bleeped and died.
2) The single person working the desk decided that she would 'get back to me'.
About ten of us began to find this rather amusing (what other way was there to view the situation?). We found out as much information as we could and took it upon ourselves to try and tell everyone else. Two people had already been bumped off that morning's flight, collected $400 each, and had no problems with doing that again!
Gradually, the departure time came and went. People were screaming blue murder; the useless woman (and I mean useless, as all she seemed to be doing was typing into a computer, moving pieces of paper, and telling passengers to go away until called) at the desk was still ignoring the volunteers to fly in the morning, and informing those with seat assignments that they can catch the later flight. (No, still don't get that, although it was probably to do with checked/non-checked luggage).
Finally, my name was called, along with the nine others around me.
We're about to get really pissy and say "For f**k's sake, just stick us on the flight in the morning. We don't have connections to make. Give us the $$$" - when I look down and see our boarding passes. I all but kick the guy next to me as he's trying to do the "what the hell is going on" routine, and nod at the color of the boarding passes.
We boarded first.
And *MAN* did we piss off the people who had been screaming blue murder, as *they* boarded the plane.
'Cause *we'd* all been bumped up to Business Class!
In my usual quiet (Jim, did you just say 'bullshit'?) way, I even began pacing out the space between the seat in front and mine, and announcing that the space was bigger than the floor space in my room. (Don't get me wrong, Jim, I appreciate the room. It beats a burnt down hulk of tin, and it's cheaper...)
Flight was waaaay too short for that level of comfort, but blissfully spacious. Had filet mignon for dinner, Starbucks coffee, and a selection of movies... while the poor bastards in cattle class had no movie choice, and pasta!
BUT - it gets better, or worse, depending on your perspective.
We'd left an hour late, made up the time, got to London airspace fifteen minutes ahead of schedule, but London was busy and we landed ten minutes late. I was one of the first off the plane (two of us stood there, waiting, cause we're so used to flying cattle class, that it never occurred to us that you don't have to wait for anything when you're at the front of the plane, and we were now holding up everyone else <vbg>). through immigration, etc, down to the luggage carousels.
The First Class luggage came and was collected.
Then for twenty-five minutes we all stared at an empty carousel.
I had got people to sit cross-legged on the (not) comfortable floor, and had started a betting pool on whether they were just going to see how long people would carry on waiting by an empty carousel, when the announcement came.
"Cascade United Airways would like to apologize to the passengers of Flight (whatever it was) from Washington, as we are still attempting to locate your luggage."
"HAVE YOU TRIED LOOKING ON THE AIRCRAFT?"
Okay, so perhaps I was a little loud when I said that bit, but it eased a lot of the tension around me, and that had to be a good thing.
The plane had landed at 6:20 AM. I retrieved my suitcase at 7.25 AM. The 7:45 AM bus to Oxford departed on time, as I could see as I arrived, heavy suitcase in tow, breathless and tired, at the bus stop at 7:46 AM. The 8:15 AM bus was twenty-five minutes late, so at 8:40 AM I began my journey to Oxford, two hours and twenty minutes after landing.
The man on the bus next to me made the fatal mistake of saying how he'd only landed forty minutes before...uh, let's not go there...
But, you know what, Jim? There is an upside to this story.
While waiting for the elevator (the one that made me late for the bus), a lady, with her 3 small children, was narrating her saga to her friend via telephone. It seemed that her airline had lost one of her five suitcases when she flew to Canada, and had doused a second in jet fuel. She had spent megabucks reclothing her kids while abroad.
Now, she was on her way home except her airline, this time, had managed to loose all five of her suitcases.
I guess I was the lucky one!!
Let's hope the rest of my stay is less challenging.
See you in two weeks, Jim. (Or at least that's the plan!)
Take care, and don't get into too much trouble without me.
copyright Xasphie 09/01/05BACK