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Friday Night Adventure - cellophane
the story of an invisible girl
renniekins
renniekins
Friday Night Adventure
Okay, the dramatic travel saga. First I'd like to suggest that Dave NOT read this, or if he must read it he should not consider it to be standard air travel.

I was scheduled to leave friday at 9:30pm. It was my friday off, so I took care of a few errands in the morning. I planned to leave my house at 7:30 or a bit before so I could stop at the ATM. Around 5:00 I was leisurely finishing up with my packing, deciding what wedding outfits to bring.

I decided too check in online, so I went to the NWA website -- only to find that my flight had been canceled. What?! They had me rescheduled to leave on saturday, late enough that I would miss the 2pm wedding. Not good enough.

Searching the website, I noted that there was a 7:30 flight to the same airport. The original plan was that I was to meet my sister in Philly, we would share a rental car, and drive to New Jersey where we already had a hotel room booked. If I hurried, I could make it in time for 7:30 and keep the original plan.

I began frantically throwing random things in my suitcase. I called NWA as I did so, waiting on hold as I splashed water and catfood in the kitchen for the kitties. I raced to my car, still on hold, hoping to change my reservation to the 7:30 one at least for standby.

I got ahold of somebody as I drove, and she said there was nothing she could do. Everything was either canceled or full - other airlines as well, not just NW. I talked to her supervisor who told me the same thing. She dubiously agreed that I could TRY standby for the 7:30 flight, but it didn't sound hopeful. She suggested I go to the ticketing agent when I got to the airport.

I got there and parked in the expensive garage so I could move more quickly. I found the ticketing agent, and got in line. And stood in line. And stood. I quickly realized I wouldn't even get to the front of the line before the gates closed on the 7:30 flight.

There were lots of people trying to rebook canceled flights, and apparently there was nothing available anywhere in the Newark, La Guardia, JFK, Philly, radius. I called NWA again, and nothing was available. Finally in desperation I suggested Baltimore.

"Actually yes, there is room on the Baltimore flight at 9:30." So the booked me on that, scheduled to arrive at 11pm. It is a 3 or 4-hour drive to my NJ hotel from Baltimore, but it seemed like my only option.

In relief, I accepted my ticket and went to the security line. That's where they confiscated my little keyring pocket knife, because in all the panic I'd forgotten too leave it in the car like I usually do. The security woman tried to encourage me to leave it with a friend, but I told her I was all alone. Then she tried to get me to go back to the garage and leave it in my car, but I shook my head, defeated. Yeah I might have had time, but I just couldn't the thought of more stress and more hurry. So I let her take it.

I found my way to my gate and sat down. I was very dubious about this Baltimore idea, but it seemed like it was the best option. Still, the more I thought about it the less I liked the idea. Oh well, here I was. What needed to be done? Rent a car. Figure out how to get from Baltimore to my hotel.

I started browsing the net for directions and car rental. I hadn't brought my laptop, so all I had was my Treo for assistance. After all the phone talking and internet, its battery was very low. I pulled out some paper and wrote the important things by hand. Confirmation number, hotel address and phone, rental place numbers, and a full set of quickly scribbled directions. They were much to long for me to follow write down and follow, but I expected to get a map at the rental place -- they were just a last resort.

My phone was now dying, so I went to a pay phone. I called a few rental places and discovered that it's pretty expensive to rent a car in Baltimore and drop it off in Philadelphia. Then it was time to board my plane, and I still didn't have a car. To be honest right up until I got on, I was kind of hoping it would also be canceled. I was beginning to think this wouldn't be worth it. But I really did want to make it to my cousin's wedding....

The flight wasn't canceled. I got on the plane and got settled. My seat mate seemed nice, so I asked her an odd question. "Do you have a cell phone I could borrow briefly? My battery is dead." Much to my relief, she let me borrow hers. I was able to make a car reservation before the doors closed and the plane departed. One step closer to success!

We flew, and I was able to relax because for the next hour and a half my fate was out of my hands. I read Harry Potter, borrowed from Dave, and noted that three other people in my line of sight were also reading it. Very amusing.

When we landed, I headed straight for an ATM. I had only $3 cash in my wallet, because I'd been intending to go for ages but never quite got around too it for various reasons.

The ATM denied my card. Apparently the damn thing had expired in June! I must have set my new card aside, not realizing what it was -- I've been behind in reading my mail, so I've only opened bills recently. It was a stupid mistake, but had it not been for the snowballing series of other things going wrong (suddenly having to leave early, the flight cancellation, ending up at a different city than planned with a long drive, not being able to share the car with my sister) it wouldn't have been an issue. The cell phone's loss of power was another such error, something that should have been minor but became a big deal on top of everything else.

So there I was with a dead cell phone and $3. It was midnight, I was in a strange city, and I had no idea where I was in relation to my hotel other than that it was about 4 hours away.

"But I'll make it work," I thought. "I'm an Intrepid Adventurer, and I can do this!" Fortunately I still had a second credit card that worked, I just didn't have a code to use it in an ATM. No problem.

I made my way to the rental shuttle, then got in line for the appropriate company. I gave her my credit card, she gave me my keys, and I was good to go. At this point I once again sought mercy from strangers, and asked if there was a computer behind her counter with an available USB port. The only cell phone charger I'd brought was the one that plugs into a computer (because it's smallest). She charged my phone for a half hour while I sat and read more Potter.

It then had a very small charge, but enough to use in an emergency. I also sprang for a GPS unit in my rental car, because I knew the drive would be tricky. I subsequently named her Miss Sara, though I don't know why. She was a huge help.

Knowing I'd be exhausted, I sacrificed $1.50 to buy a diet coke for the drive. Now I was down to $1.50 left... but really once you're that low, $3 is no better than 1.50. Anyway, got in my new car -- it turned out to be a Mustang convertible! That was a nice surprise at least, apparently they were out of the cheap model I'd reserved. So there's one thing that actually went better than planned.

So I get in the car, and Miss Sara explains to me how to head to New Jersey. My next disaster occurs as I discover a toll road. It costs more than $1.50! I tell the guy at the gate that's all I have. He can't take a credit card. But he tells me to go through, and they will take a picture of my license plate and send me a bill. I drive through the red light, and a loud buzzer sounds.

I get off at the first exit, hoping against hope that I can find somebody to turn my credit into cash. Instead I find myself in a closed industrial area with nothing. So I get back on the road. Somehow the way the entrance ramp loops around, I find myself once again facing the same toll booth I'd just gone through!

Shaking my head in disbelief, I go to the same booth guy. I pull up, leaning with my head in my hand, pulling at my hair in exhaustion... "Hey it's me again. How much does it cost if you do it TWICE?"

He stares at me. "What did you do??"

I just started babbling at him. "I wanted to get money so i took the first exit but everything was closed so i turned around and got back on again..."

He interrupts. "Where exactly are you trying to go?"

My overstressed babbling continues. "I don't even know somewhere in New Jersey but I don't know where I am I was supposed to fly into Philadelphia but my flight was canceled and the ATM didn't work so I drove...."

He puts his hands up and stops my barrage of words again. "Look, go up to exit 10b, there is a service plaza where you can get money. Then take 95 North and you won't have to deal with this again."

So I stop at the plaza, and of course none of the poor staff people there at two o'clock in the morning are allowed to give me any cash off my credit card. I give up and hit the road again. After Miss Sara and I exchange some firm words, I convince her not to send me onto any more toll roads.

She always shows me estimated time of arrival on the screen. Initially it was reading 4:11, but when I switched to no-tolls she switched it to 4:58. Probably out of spite. (Okay probably not.)

Actually the back-roads drive is very pretty, all misty and curvey roads through trees. It's a pleasant drive, or it would have been if nothing else had gone wrong. I get turned around a few times, and Miss Sara blames it on me but I blame it on her. We exchange more strong words. I stop for advil, but manage to drop one of them into the seat cushions while driving. I find myself too sleepy to drive, so I stop for jumping jacks, a walk, some sugar, and some string cheese. (I don't know why I thought cheese would help)

Finally I'm heading into town, and I hear a weird chirping sound. I think at first that it's my car, then I realize: it is the sound of birds chirping. The sky is lightening. It is morning now.

Despite our bickering, Miss Sara gets me to the hotel. I stride in at 5:30am, and they are setting up for breakfast. I wish the clerk a good morning, collect my room key, and wake up my sister. I've made it! I crawl into bed, read Potter for a bit while I wait for all my keyed-up energy to un-key. Finally I sleep until 11am, when it is time for lunch and then a wedding.

[this was long enough that I'll save sunday's return trip for another entry]

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Comments
(no subject) - davehogg - Expand
delosd From: delosd Date: July 31st, 2007 01:31 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh my beejeebers! When you got to the toll booth, I thought I was going to lose control.

When you got there the second time, I did.

I think you should help clean my keyboard. ;)

But seriously, commiserations and congratulations, oh intrepid adventurer!
sherdeb From: sherdeb Date: July 31st, 2007 01:39 am (UTC) (Link)
Ugh. Sorry it was so crazy. Glad you made the wedding, though. Anxiously awaiting part deux.
encorecrazay From: encorecrazay Date: July 31st, 2007 01:51 am (UTC) (Link)
I know when my credit card expires from the online purchases that I do, but I just looked up the expiration on my debit card (04/09). Oh, I can get a cash advance on my credit card if I don't have my debit card.

Another hint, to avoid cancellations is to book morning flights, most cancellations start in the afternoons and run into the evenings.
mogwar From: mogwar Date: July 31st, 2007 03:20 am (UTC) (Link)
I know my credit cards allow for cash advances, but as I have never, ever, ever used that feature, and never plan to I have no idea what PINs to use or even if I have any set up. I'd probably have to call the credit card companies to ask for such a thing.
renniekins From: renniekins Date: August 4th, 2007 05:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
When banks are open, you can just walk in and get an advance. The problem is late at night of course.... It never occured to me to get a pin for my visa (after all I have my other card!), but now I think I'm going to track one down. Always good to have a backup after all.
renniekins From: renniekins Date: August 4th, 2007 05:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Good in theory, but when you're only traveling for a weekend it's so much better to go friday night to sunday night, instead of saturday morning to sunday morning.

Usually I don't have as much trouble - this was an unusual spell of bad luck!
kevinnickerson From: kevinnickerson Date: July 31st, 2007 01:55 am (UTC) (Link)
Seems like a perfectly normal flight to me.
wildseakitten From: wildseakitten Date: July 31st, 2007 02:41 am (UTC) (Link)
reminds me of a couple of misadventures I've had... one was the weekend we were flying to FL for a wedding, and there was a strike with NW, so all flights were canceled... and we wound up flying on Delta thru Atlanta... and couldn't' get a flight home when we originally planned... wound up a day later coming home. talk about a huge mess.

the 2nd one was when the plane I was flying on to Atlanta for a connecting flight had to be rebooted twice,a nd we sat at the gate for over an hour... long enough to make me miss my connecting flight to SF. I wound up on another airline to Phoenix, AZ... and then on to SF. I was HOURS after I should have gotten in to SF... thank goodness for patient friends.
mogwar From: mogwar Date: July 31st, 2007 03:33 am (UTC) (Link)
We spent Christmas of 2001 in Arizona with my folks, and airport security was an utter nightmare that soon after 11 September. We were much poorer back then and booked a flight into Phoenix, because we couldn't afford the $100/ticket extra it cost to fly into Tucson, even though my folks live on the other side of Tucson from Phoenix.

Getting there was okay, though. But come January when it was time to go home, hell began. We had an early afternoon flight out of Phoenix, which meant leaving my folks house pretty early in the morning to make the drive and get to the airport on time. We woke up that morning and kidlet (who was four at the time) started complaining about not feeling well. We checked, and of course, he had a fever of 102. We discussed it and decided to take our chances flying home that day rather than trying to find an out of state doctor on a weekend who could see him and do anything before we had to catch our flight.

So, we drove to Phoenix. Our original flight had us connecting in Atlanta, and it was our luck that Atlanta had a freak snowstorm that day and all flights in and out were canceled. We were in line for a couple of hours before we could even get to the ticket counter to try to get rebooked. They offered me two choices - a flight into Las Vegas with a four hour layover before catching a red-eye back into Detroit, or a combination of flights with layovers in both Las Vegas and Cincinnati. I took the first one. So, we finally left Phoenix, then ended up stuck in Las Vegas from something like nine or ten pm to one or two am local time, with a very sick kid. Then we finally got on the flight to Detroit.

We'd made arrangements for a shuttle to meet us in Detroit, but when we finally got there, they were gone. It was six or seven am local time there, and the airport was dead. We'd been awake more than 24 hours at this point, and kidlet was still sick. Kidlet's dad finally tracked down a taxi and got us home (where it was freezing, because of course we hadn't left the heat turned on all the way while we were gone for several weeks!). Luckily, we arranged for his mom to meet us at the house to take kidlet to the doctor, because neither of us was in any condition to go anywhere. We collapsed fully clothed into bed after dumping all the luggage into the living room and let kidlet go be taken care of by Grandma.

That was the worst traveling experience I've ever had involving domestic travel (international travel is another story, but that's not entirely surprising).
dagibbs From: dagibbs Date: July 31st, 2007 03:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Ah, the joy of air travel.

Commiserating *hugs*.
mbumby From: mbumby Date: July 31st, 2007 03:17 am (UTC) (Link)
'Tis the season! I just read a terrible flight story from someone else on my flist a few days ago. Glad it all worked out ... okay enough. Although it sounds like you got way too little sleep.

Looking forward to your return... wait, you're back... your description of your return -- yeah, that's it.
jenaflynn From: jenaflynn Date: July 31st, 2007 03:33 am (UTC) (Link)
My goodness, sounds like a heck of an adventure so far!
specialagentm From: specialagentm Date: July 31st, 2007 01:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hey, at least it makes for a good story. I've had these sorts of experience nearly every time I travel. Somehow, in retrospect, I don't mind the hassles.

That is a totally crazy turn of events, though. Good thing you just kept pushing on!
retepsnave From: retepsnave Date: July 31st, 2007 01:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
holy cow!!!

wow, now that was an adventure to beat them all!

glad you got to NJ safe, sound, and in one piece (you and Miss Sara!)
jeffreyab From: jeffreyab Date: July 31st, 2007 02:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Woo Hoo! Mustang convertible! Bonus!

Did you put the top down and let the breeze run through your hair?

So no one would let you buy string cheese and Diet Coke with a credit card?
renniekins From: renniekins Date: August 4th, 2007 05:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
I bought the string cheese and donut with my credit card. The first diet coke I bought from the vending machine at the car rental place.

I put the top down on saturday, and it was great! (:
jeffreyab From: jeffreyab Date: August 4th, 2007 05:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was wondering how far you get get buying things with a credit card.

Much cheaper than getting a cash advance although with all that last minute plane ticket buying your card must be smoking!

Hope you racked up the air miles buying at the airport.
renniekins From: renniekins Date: August 4th, 2007 05:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
fortunately all the air tickets were just rebookings, not purchases, so no money was required.

The rental car, on the other hand, was a completely unanticipated expense.... but oh well, i got there.

You can get most anywhere with only a credit card -- but toll booths don't take them. Nor vending machines. Occasionally you have to buy over $5 of stuff to use it at small stores, but that's generally doable if it's necessary.
fachless From: fachless Date: July 31st, 2007 04:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
OMG! You poor thing! When you wrote that you were going to have to find your way from Baltimore to Philly, I was terrified for you! My god, you can't always find your way around the Detroit Metro area, and you've lived there for years! I did love the story though...a classic you!
renniekins From: renniekins Date: August 4th, 2007 05:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
I know, totally! I don't know *why* the story is so "me", but it really is.

I was really worried about getting utterly lost (and probably ending up in florida or Wyoming), so I was very relieved the GPS was available. A real lifesaver.

Actually I recently ordered a GPS add-on for my Treo, but haven't had opportunity to set it up or play with it much yet. So soon I won't have any trouble finding my way in Detroit anymore...yay!
elizilla From: elizilla Date: July 31st, 2007 05:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is why I prefer to take my motorcycle when I go to Boston for work. It's 750 miles each way, all expressway, so ten hours of driving plus whatever stops and breaks I choose to take. By the time I fight my way through three airport (since of course there is never a direct flight) and get a rental car and get to my hotel, I'm heading for eight hours of travel anyway. And if just ONE thing goes wrong, air travel takes longer than driving. At least if I drive I am not at the mercy of crazy airline troubles.
cannibal From: cannibal Date: July 31st, 2007 08:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
You are fortunate that the nice person who let you plug in your USB cable to charge didn't know she was risking infection with the Harry Potter worm, especially since you were reading HP at the time!
From: nicegeek Date: July 31st, 2007 08:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Apparently you are not alone.
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