Monday, July 20, 2015

38 Hours in Hell: A Travel Diary

     This entry is intended primarily as therapy, but since it qualifies as a "review" (albeit a bad one), I have no problem posting it on my blog.
     We left the house at 11:30 am CDT on Saturday en route to Concord, California, for my husband's brother's celebration of life. The poor man had been valiantly battling brain cancer for over two years and did not want a funeral. His family eventually decided a celebration of life was in order for those he left behind, so we gladly paid the big bucks for a last-minute flight, booked a rental car and hotel room and off we went.
     The outbound Southwest flight that was to connect in San Diego for our flight to Oakland left Kansas City on time. All was going well until the pilot came on the loud speaker and said, in that distinctive wannabe-stand-up-comic Southwest tone, "Well, folks. You've probably noticed we've been circling San Diego for a while. (Actually, I didn't.) They've got a bit of bad weather there (In San Diego? Really?) and we're starting to run of out fuel. I'm afraid we'll have to divert to Phoenix. But, don't worry, we'll be there in a jiffy. They've got dust storm warnings in Phoenix, but we'll let you know what kinds of fresh hell you can expect to further stress you out just as soon as we can." (I paraphrased a little.)
    After 45 minutes on the ground in Phoenix, it was apparent we would miss our connecting flight to Oakland. "Don't worry, darlin'," the oh-so-sympathetic Southwest flight attendant said after I played the 'we've got a funeral in the morning' card. "We'll get you there. They know all about you on the ground." Do they? Great. Wonderful. Color me reassured. Finally, we landed in San Diego where the airport looked like one of those creepy zombie apocalypse movies. I've never seen so many dead-eyed, ravenous and pissed-off people in one place.
    There were so many delayed and missed flights (remnants of Hurricane Delores) we were left on our own. No one to tell us where to go or what to do. Long lines at every counter. Chaos and confusion everywhere. The next available flight to Oakland had been cancelled and the 8:15 flight was already delayed to 9:45 (11:45 our time). Fortunately, the gate for that flight was in a completely different part of the airport, so we schlepped over, found a desk without a line and a Southwest employee who didn't seem like he wanted to kill himself. Or us. He booked us onto the 9:45 flight and handed us new boarding passes. Now we only had 3-1/2 hours to kill. We headed to the closest and only bar/grill where a bunch of bachelorettes from the delayed Vegas-bound flight were at least 4 drinks ahead of us. Not that we were trying to keep up. We still had to drive 45 minutes from Oakland to Concord in our ALAMO rental car.
Gettin' sloppy, girls.
If this were a video, you would hear very loud, very slurry talking.
We were very glad not to be on their flight when it finally took off.
    Fast forward to Oakland where we landed around 11:15 pm (1:15 am, our time - did I mention my bedtime is 10 pm?) and shuttled to the rental car complex where ALAMO WAS CLOSED!  "But, their website says "Open 24 hours!" "Not on Saturday night," said the AVIS lady at the next kiosk who gladly rented us a large deluxe model ("No small ones left") for twice what we would have paid for the ALAMO car.
    Driving out of Oakland on the freeway in the dark isn't a pleasure cruise, but we safely arrived at the CROWNE PLAZA HOTEL in Concord around midnight. My husband stayed in the car while I approached the night manager behind the desk. "Hamilton. Checking in," I said, wearily. "Oh, Mrs. Hamilton. Sorry, but we don't have your room. We're sold out tonight." "That's impossible. I prepaid for the room on Priceline. In full. Non-refundable." I produced the paperwork. "Yes," he said. "And, we couldn't get hold of you..."
    I am not necessarily proud of what happened next, but I'm not sorry either. To explain it, let's just say I morphed into someone else. Call her my evil twin, inner bitch, awful alter ego, whatever. But, I laid into that guy like I have never laid into anyone before: "Are you f%#$ing kidding me? This is NOT acceptable. We have been traveling for 12 hours from Kansas and have a funeral to go to in the morning! I paid for this room in full. Now, listen to me. I want a room. This is your problem, not mine. You need to find us the room that I PAID FOR right now G'dammit!" He looked sick. "What happened was, we had a group who wanted to stay another day..." "I don't CARE! Do you hear me, I don't give a sh**! That room was paid for and you need to fix this RIGHT NOW. I'm going to f#&$ing DESTROY you on TripAdvisor, Yelp, Priceline, Facebook and my own very popular award-winning blog!!" (OK, I didn't actually say that last line out loud but I wanted to, dammit!)  "We could give you a roll-away bed in the parlor," he actually offered, his hand starting to shake. "Do I look like I'm going to be a happy camper on a f%#$ing roll-away bed in your f%#$ing PARLOR!?!?! (And, what the hell is a hotel parlor, anyway?)
    Minutes later, we were in transit to the Hilton five minutes away - a much nicer hotel than the Crowne Plaza - where, thankfully, the bar was still open and the bed was not on wheels.
   After the lovely and peaceful celebration of life yesterday, we headed back to Oakland International at 3 pm. California time, for our non-stop flight home, which was only two hours late.
Making the most of it at Gate 25.
We climbed into our own bed at 1:30 a.m. this morning, just as a storm rolled into Kansas City. 
    Our next flight isn't scheduled until my 60th birthday in December. Until then, I'll be channeling the immortal Dorothy Gale on a daily basis: There's no place like home.


Carol Starr Schneider said...

Oh, bloody hell, as we say in England. This is the most eff'd travel story I've heard in years. The inherent cruelty of it all is just... just... beyond. I'm so proud of you for losing it with that a-hole at the front desk of Crowne Plaza. I thought I heard some yelling and now I know the source. It was you! Thank God in heaven you survived.

Anonymous said...

And thank God you left the hubs in the car at the hotel. Mine always tells me to "chill out" when my evil twin goes to work trying to save the day. Like yesterday when the teeny-bopper Dillon's clerk didn't want to believe that I bought the carrots required by the coupon. "Unpack the bags," says me. "Ya know how us old folks are always trying to con the store for 40-cents." Of course, there were the correct carrots--giving me great cred. Just wish they had been in the bottom of the fourth bag.

Cathy Hamilton said...

Omigod, Anon. My evil twin would've clocked that kid. And, yes, I'm glad the hubs didn't have to see my tirade. He'd have yanked me off that pedestal so fast, our heads would still be spinning!

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