28 July 2008

The Friendly Skies

So last week, my girls wrapped up their two-week visit with my mom out west and began winging their way home to Maine on Wednesday morning. They flew from Albuquerque to Washington, D.C. and had to wait a couple of hours for their flight to Portland.

I might add here that this was the first time they’ve flown alone (without me, their dad, or their older brother). They’re 14 and 15, very capable, and of course, brilliant, but airports can be weird, airlines even weirder, and as we all know, something can go wrong. In fact, something USUALLY goes wrong.

That day, something went wrong.

As they boarded their plane bound for Portland, all those big thunderstorms hit. After much ado, which took several hours, my daughters and all their new companions were let back OFF the plane and the flight was cancelled. And of course, at that moment, the cell phone which we bought for our girls to use in JUST SUCH A SITUATION went dead. It went dead because one daughter who shall remain un-named had a field day texting all her friends during the long layover. And the charger? Packed and checked in the luggage.

Of course.

So my two 21st century kids had to use - *gasp!* - a pay phone. They thought it was neat because they had never used one before. Of course, back here at home in Maine, I was fit to be tied.

One of the girls called while the other stood in a mile-long line to wait and see if they could be re-routed someplace else. I told them to go up to the front and inform the ticket agent that they were minors traveling alone and needed help. To this, the oh-so-helpful UNITED ticket agent told them that if they were old enough to fly alone, then they were old enough to go to the back of the line with everyone else.

This is the part of the story where I crawled through the phone line and choked the ticket agent with the cord until her eyes bugged out.

Actually, my husband called United and gave some poor sales guy a piece of his mind. It didn’t do any good, and then our phone went dead due to a low battery (do you see a pattern here?) so we just hunkered down and waited. We couldn’t call the girls, we couldn’t text them, we couldn’t go get them. We couldn’t do ANYTHING, and as a very involved (read that: controlling) mom, this was very hard for me.

Finally around 11:30 that night, we got another call from them. They had been put on a flight that was leaving for Boston - - - at 8:00 the next morning. That was the best anyone could do because so many flights were cancelled. So, after giving the girls dire warnings about staying together, sleeping in shifts, and staying with the group of people, we said good-bye and I tried to sleep.

Ha. Not only was I imagining them in the airport all night, but I was also awakened several times by the very thunderstorms that were keeping my babies so far away from me.

The next morning, I was up early, and when the girls called me from another pay phone at 6:00 a.m., it was to tell me that the 8:00 Boston flight had been delayed to 10:00.

The funny thing here is that it takes me about two and a half hours to drive to Logan airport; but it would only take them about one and a half hours to fly there from Washington, D.C. What was I to do? Should I start driving toward Boston, only to find out halfway there that they were delayed several more hours – or worse, diverted elsewhere?

I had no choice and I started driving. Although thunderstorms were forecasted all day, I found only a light rain the whole way. I got to the airport, parked in the $3.00/minute parking garage, and walked into the baggage claim area at the same time my girls got there. What a reunion it was! They were tan and cute and they looked more rested than I felt. Of course, with a cancelled flight and only TWELVE LONG HOURS to straighten things out, their baggage had not come in on the flight with them.

After standing in a very long line to fill out a lost baggage claim, we went back out to the car only to find that the thunderstorms had arrived once again. Route 1A that I’d driven just an hour before was now flooded in several areas. It was unlike anything I’d seen. Needless to say, it was a much longer drive home. In fact, just as I drove across the border from New Hampshire to Maine, the rain and wind picked up and we slowed down even more. To add to the fun, my husband called to tell me that a tornado watch had been posted from Portland to Boothbay. Oh joy.

During the drive, my daughters recounted their night for me. Apparently, shortly after the evil ticket agent had been so rude to them, another airline employee walked through the line to find out where people were going, etc. When he found out that the girls were minors, he sort of took them under his wing and made sure they were on that first flight the next morning. After they spoke with me for the last time that night, they had gone to Dunkin’ Donuts (the only thing open) and had bagels. Then, back with the group bound for Boston, they stretched out on a long row of chairs to rest. A nice lady passenger went and found blankets for everyone, and then my two daughters proceeded to go to sleep for 5 hours – at the same time. Ah, what’s a mother to do? Actually, I’m sure they were quite safe.

All in all, it was quite an adventure. We made it home in one piece, though later that night I found out that a tornado had done a bunch of damage in New Hampshire – not far from where we’d been driving that day.

Oh, and the luggage? I was told that it made it to the Portland Jetport and that it would be delivered sometime that night after they got in. That didn’t happen. The next morning I called and was told the same thing. Finally, later that day, we drove back down to Portland and found the bags sitting on a shelf waiting to be delivered... someday...

I claimed them, took them home, and that was that. I offered to show the baggage guy the claim tags, but he didn’t even want to see them. I mean, this is Maine! We’re all trustworthy! Not evil like that Boston ticket agent. Grr. Ok, I know it was only ONE lady, but boy, if I ever meet her... well, it won’t be pretty.

The moral of the story: It's a lot easier to just NOT leave Maine.

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes


Elizabeth Poisson Photography (ByE Photos) said...

Love it. I think I may have had an encounter with the same woman several years back - back when I started using the term Mass-hole. I'm glad to hear your girlies got home safely.

By the way - you crack me up!

NicoleW said...

Sounds like an adventure. You tell the story very well. It's too bad United didn't comp them a night in a hotel. I had a similar experience on my flight to Guatemala--it ended up being a 2 day ordeal. I flew on Continental and they paid for everyone on the flight to stay at the Sheraton. Even though we slept there for a total of 3 hours, it was very luxurious and generous of the airline.

Laura said...

Having to travel from Maine is part of my regular work routine. And I can tell you first hand that you get delayed getting home more often than not. I'm glad to hear that your girls managed their way through the surprises and made it home safely. Just goes to show that you've done something right!