Monday, July 9, 2007

New York, New York, Big City of Dreams... (Part I)

I've been back from my New York-to-Connecticut-to-New York-to-Connecticut adventure for about 10 days. The sharp-eyed amongst you might've noticed an extra "New York" in there, but it's been so long since I've posted anything, I'm sure most of you forgot that I was originally supposed to fly into Hartford back on Thursday, June 28.

And, that's when this diary begins…

4:45 AM - The World's Greatest Kitchen Pass has been authenticated, stamped, hologrammed and is in hand. With bags packed, I leave Stately Bootleg Manor on my way to the airport and an extended weekend of beer, debauchery and baseball. What could go wrong?

5:30 AM - My flight's leaving in about 50 minutes (6:20 AM) and I'm just now getting dropped off at the terminal by the Park 'n Ride shuttle guy. I tip him $5 for not once attempting to make any awkward idle chatter. Curbside check-in beckons.

(Quick aside: For the life of me, I'll never understand why more people don't take advantage of curbside check-in. There are never any lines and you're virtually assured of meeting 1 to 3 gainfully employed Negroes who carry on the tradition of the Black Sky Caps. They're like living, breathing Shirley Temple movies! Dance, Mr. Bojangles, dance!)

5:31 AM - Sky Cap: "Where you headed?"…Me: "Hartford, CT, by way of Dallas"…Sky Cap: "The 6:20 flight?"…Me: "Yep."…Sky Cap: "That's been cancelled, you'll have to go inside."

And…here we go!

5:35 AM - At the American Airlines counter, I'm met with a series of unwieldy lines that seem to snake in eight different directions. Anyone remember that old Tron arcade game from, like, 500 years ago? Remember the un-winnable light cycle sequence? No? It was based on the movie, people! Y'know…Tron! TRON!!! THE ARCADE GAME!!! ARCADES!!!

5:40 AM - Knowing full well that whichever line I select will surely be (or become) the slowest, I'm five minutes into not moving when an AA employee (who looks and sounds like The Snapple Lady) shouts at the gathered masses, "If you're flying through Dallas/Ft. Worth, you should strongly consider going home and rescheduling for tomorrow or Saturday. No one scheduled to fly on any flight through DFW will be leaving today due to "weather" in the Dallas area. We have three days of cancelled flights backlogged and those passengers have priority."

5:41 AM - As most of you know, I'm not a fan of flying, so my first thought is, "This is just like Final Destination. Maybe, I'm not supposed to be on an airplane today." But, then the thought of "fate" hunting me down for the next 90 minutes didn't seem too intriguing. So, while everyone else in line was on their cell phones trying to get through to someone at American or Expedia or Orbitz, I called the ONE person who was put on this earth to solve the most unsolvable customer service crisis: Mrs. Bootleg.

5:42 AM - She picks up on the third ring. I brief her on the situation and inform her that, all around me, people are trying and failing to reach American Airlines directly. Her response: "I'll get through. Don't get out of line." I'll be in Connecticut by sundown, I think to myself.

Y'see, kids, my wife was blessed with an inherent, incessant "nagging" gene. In men folk, it's called a "tenacious bulldog spirit". In women, it's…well, it's just bitchy. Ladies, help me out here…you know what I'm talking about, right?

6:00 AM - Naturally, my line hasn't moved much more than a midget's shoe size, when the wife (height: 4'8") calls back: "I can't get through to American. My call just dropped off."

What the…? I mean, I know that she has to get to work and get Kid Cameron up and ready for day care, but I'm trying to get out of town for a vacation from these people! Doesn't she realize how important this is? Why won't she keep trying?!

"I'll keep trying.", she says.

6:20 AM - Mrs. Bootleg calls back and she has an American Airlines rep on the other line. (How awesome is that? Hundreds and hundreds of people are trying to get through and not only is my wife successful, but then she puts the AA phone monkey on hold.)

I'm told I can get a flight to JFK Airport in New York that leaves at 7:45 AM. Obviously, that's not Hartford, but technically I'm not even supposed to be allowed to fly out today. (Y'know, if Kurt Russell's free…and, we know he is…I think this could be the plot for his next "Escape From…" movie.)

Mrs. Bootleg seals the deal as I have managed to attain an unattainable flight to the east coast. I rule.

6:21 AM - Meanwhile, the line is my crisis of the moment. I'm standing in the line for passengers to reschedule their cancelled flights, which still isn't moving. A few counters over, there's an even longer line that's checking in for all regularly scheduled departures. Once again I ask: "Why don't more people take advantage of curbside check-in?"

6:22 AM - I get out of line (and if you can't see where this is going…) and race outside.

6:25 AM - Sky Cap: "Where you headed?"…Me: "New York…JFK."…Sky Cap: "Weren't you on the 6:20 to Dallas?"…Me: "Yeah."…Sky Cap: "You're not supposed to be able to fly out today. I'm not authorized to check you in. You'll have to go inside."

Just to recap: A minimum-wage curbside luggage guy doesn't have "check-in" authority, but a slightly-more-than-minimum-wage indoors luggage guy does, apparently.

6:30 AM - And, I'm back to where I started an hour ago: at the end of the line and now, my rope. But, this is the "regularly scheduled flight" line and at least we're moving.

6:40 AM - Hmmm…we haven't really moved all that much.

6:45 AM - Still, not moving.

6:50 AM - Just then, the same Snapple Lady who was telling everyone to go home, was asking for all passengers on the 7:45 to JFK to raise their hands. Excitedly, I shoot mine up. Looking around, there appears to be about a dozen of us who will now get preferential, expedited treatment right through check-in!

7:00 AM - 45 minutes until takeoff and all the JFK passengers are still in line…myself included. Umm…still waiting for the "preferential" and/or "expedited" and/or "treatment" here, guys.

7:15 AM - The Snapple Lady has been through a few more times and keeps asking who the JFK people are. Finally, a young woman asks her what we've all been thinking, "Why are you asking us if you're not going to bother helping us?" Mee-YOW! This kitten has claws!

Her reply: "I'm just getting a head count." What…?! "Hey, all you starving people that haven't eaten in a week: who's in line for prime rib? OK…7, 8, 9…good. I'm just getting a head count. What's a few more minutes, right? Now, don't y'all go and start eating each other!"

7:20 AM - Time's running out, but at least I'm finally at the counter. I walk up to an obviously disinterested employee and, before I can blurt a word, she tells me, "This if for electronic check-in only."

A quick credit card swipe at the kiosk and whaddaya know…my new reservation ain't in the system. The AA employee rolls her eyes as I explain this to her. She begins to loudly, forcefully pound her keyboard one button at a time until it finally shows up. She's a real pearl, AA. Don't let Delta steal her away!

7:25 AM - I get into the security line with 20 minutes to spare. A sign reads, "10 minutes from this point". It's obvious that someone can't spell "miles".

7:30 AM - I'm literally seconds away from becoming one of those people who tries to cut in front of everyone in line with the "my flight's about to leave" speech, when The Snapple Lady sees me and directs me to the security line for first class passengers and flight crew. She was like an angel in ill-fitting polyester pants.

7:35 AM - I'm through security and power walking to my gate when I see that my flight has been delayed until 8:00 AM. At the gate, I'm handed my ticket, which I'm told was the last one available.

Then, the lady looks at her monitor, looks at me and asks, "Weren't you supposed to be on the 6:20 AM flight to Dallas?"

To be continued…


Guy Incognito said...

How great is Mrs. Bootleg? She buys you the plane ticket, she gets you to NY when it looked bleak and she puts up with you. And, YOU wanted to marry a white girl.

Anonymous said...

Referencing the "Tron Video Game", Cam? Very nice. I've been reading you for years and I think '80s arcade game references are an undervalued commodity.

Kind of like on base percentage for Billy Beane in Moneyball.

That Bootleg Guy said...

GUY: Still do.

ANON: I can't agree more. The potential in references to "Pitfall", "Frogger" and "Pengo" are off the charts.

Joe R. said...

Like one of those lame Lost fans who waits 'til the season's over to watch it all on DVD, I waited for the epic saga to be complete before starting at the beginning. DON'T YOU SPOIL ME ON HOW IT ENDS!

Also: Now I understand the kind of joy you got at reading about my own travel miseries. This IS fun!