Sunday, June 10, 2007

A long weekend of ups and downs

On Thursday night I flew to DC to attend my Uncle Jon's burial on Friday afternoon. Because my wonderful friends Adam and Valerie from law school were arriving in Chicago on Friday night to visit, I'd booked a flight back to Chi-town for Friday night. I flew out on Southwest but the Friday night flight was American. My Thursday night flight was a little over an hour delayed. I was staying with my fabulous friend Carly, who I hadn't seen in way too long, so I was sad I didn't arrive at her place until well after midnight. We still stayed up several hours catching up.

Friday morning I headed out to Virginia to have breakfast with my cousin Anne. She's my Uncle Jon's daughter, so I thought it might be nice to just sit and chat about random things for the morning before facing the afternoon. It certainly was for me, and I hope for Anne as well. Anne is exactly one month younger than me and Libby. She and her brother Mike (along with my sisters and I) are also the small handful of M-narik cousins whose parents are divorced. In a very Catholic family, this secures quite a bond, so despite the haphazard communications we've had through the years, I like to think we've remained particularly close.

The burial service was at Arlington National Cemetery. I have to admit I find military funerals extremely moving. So much work goes into each one that you can't help but feel grateful that strangers would take such care of your family member. But it is also quite depressing to walk into the Administration Building at the cemetery, where you gather before the funeral, and see the electronic screen full of names of everyone being buried that day. The ceremony included the part where they give the flag to the next of kin, and they gave the flag to my uncle's long-time companion. I was kindof surprised by this because I thought you had to be married to get the flag (although I'm glad if that policy is changed), but I couldn't help but hope that my cousin knew in advance that she wasn't going to be handed the flag. The service was clearly hard on her.

After the service, a lot of family and friends gathered at my Uncle Jim's home in northern Virginia. I was grateful for the relaxing time to just hang out with the family. My dad and his girlfriend took me to the airport a little after 6pm, where Carly was meeting me for a quick dinner before my flight. I checked in at one of those self-service kiosks and saw that the boarding time for my 8:20pm flight was 9:16pm. I checked the monitors and indeed my flight was delayed an hour and a half. I wasn't too bummed as I got to have a longer dinner with Carly, but Adam and Valerie were scheduled to arrive by 9pm in Chicago, so I felt bad not being there shortly after.

The very long story (sortof) short, which bears remarkable similarities to Valerie's ordeal with AA on Friday night, is that my flight was cancelled. I was lied to repeatedly about what flights I could be rebooked on. I was never offered an apology from any of the ten or so AA agents I spoke with. The first agent I spoke to insisted he couldn't rebook me out of DC National until SUNDAY. Seriously. He also said that once I rebooked to that flight, I could not change again. What?!?! Eventually I was rebooked for 5:20pm on Saturday. My sister helped with internet and phone searches while I stood in line Friday night. One AA agent told her that the weather in Chicago was really bad. She told them she was there. The agent backtracked and said it was DC weather that caused the delay... except then she offered to put me on a flight to Chicago out of Dulles. The weather in DC was just fine all night, except for a very brief rain that evening.

The kicker was being told there were no flights I could even standby on for earlier on Saturday, as the two morning flights were so overbooked I couldn't be put on the standby list. I was assured there were no other flights until mine at 5:20pm. I showed up at the airport on Saturday a little before noon (Carly graciously took me in again Friday night), hoping for a miracle, and saw there was actually an AA flight at 3:20pm. I got on the standby list after two phone calls to AA, bided my time in a terminal half under construction, where I couldn't find anyone selling non-decaf tea. Silly thing, but it added to my annoyance. I kept trying to repeat rationalizing things to myself like "This could be so much worse. This is not a big problem compared to the suffering in the world. The world doesn't revolve around you." But then my eyes would well up as I thought about abandoning my friends who'd come so far to visit me, not being able to go to sleep next to my husband after a very depressing day on Friday, and on and on, until I shook my head and went back to repeating "Stop whining. This could be so much worse...."

As I sat at the gate for the 3:20pm flight (no one would tell me how long the standby list was), the gate agent began offering ticketed passengers $300 vouchers to switch to my 5:20pm flight. My eyes welled up again and I just put my head in my hands. $300 for a two-hour delay while I got nothing for my 21-hour "weather delay." When my flight finally began boarding, those bumped passengers got to cut in line. Oh and did I mention the news story playing on repeat in the airport about how a computer glitch on Friday cancelled many AA Friday night flights up and down the East Coast? But my flight, just my flight (but apparently Valerie's too) was weather related. Even though nothing else was cancelled out of DCA. And even though everything else was able to land at O'Hare. Including Adam's flight.

I got back in time for a later dinner with Adam, Valerie and Rob on Saturday night at Le Colonial. Excellent, excellent food. This morning we had brunch at a local place called Su Van's. I highly recommend the place for those in our 'hood. There are always tables and the food is great with lots of healthy options.

When Adam and Valerie left this afternoon, I was exhausted. Lots of emotions and frustrations for one weekend. But I'm so glad I got to spend a little time with them and I'm so glad to be home. During my long wait on Saturday, I bought a souvenir DC notepad and pen at the lone gift shop in my terminal and wrote a five-page letter to AA letting them know all the reasons why they've lost me as a customer. Despite my whining, though, I really do know that a one-day delay in a city where I have free lodging with a good friend is hardly the end-all, be-all of problems. Far from it. I just wish one person had said they were sorry. Just one. Or maybe told me the truth, about anything, if not everything. But a single apology would have gone a long, long way with me.

1 comment:

Nadine said...

Oh, what a frustrating roller coaster of a weekend! I'm so sorry about all of that. My mom was supposed to fly from Indy to Orlando on Friday and had a similar experience...her flight got cancelled, and originally they blamed it on Orlando weather (though people who lived there said there wasn't a cloud in the sky), then Chicago weather, and finally Detroit weather. She wasn't able to rebook so she just bagged her whole trip. And she, too, left the experience feeling frustrated, impotent, and lied to. Gotta love air travel!! I'm glad you made it home safe and sound in the end.