The unfriendly skies
Until there is a death in the family, this will be the most traumatic experience of my life. The day before Halloween, I was scheduled to fly to New York. Now Halloween is my favorite holiday and I always go all out. I stayed up till 3am the previous night finishing our costumes (Marathon Man and I were going as original Star Trek characters…totally worth it because they looked fantastic). My flight was on Continental Airlines which O’Hare lists at Terminal 2. I exit the subway exit for terminal 2 and go up the nearby escalator to security screening. I had checked in 24 hours beforehand (now a days they send you an email a day ahead of time asking you if you would like to check in…sure, why not) so my 8-1/2 x 11 printed boarding pass said to check departure boards for gate assignment (duh why would the assign a gate 24 hours ahead of time). Well sure enough, there is a GIANT departures board right past security. I look up and there is only one flight to Newark departing at 6:15pm. My flight was scheduled to depart at 6:10pm, so I figured it was running a few minutes behind. I trotted over to gate B17 in Terminal 1. I didn’t think anything of it since O’Hare is so busy and often overbooked that they shuffle gates around. Well gate B17 is the farthest gate out there in Terminal 1. While I am sitting down in the area I keep hearing them announce that the flight to Newark is overbooked and they are looking for volunteers to get bumped for a voucher. Okay, I was tempted since I’m a tightwad and flights to NYC are not getting any cheaper, but I decided against that since it was the only flight to Newark that night and the next day was planned for Halloween fun.
Anyway, they started boarding groups 1, 2 and 3 about a half hour before takeoff. I look at my boarding pass and it doesn’t list a group number. I ask the other passengers standing nearby to see what their row number and group number is so I could judge when I should board. One of the guys said they didn’t print the group number on his pass before and since it is their fault, I should just board now. Oh, okay. When the guy scanned a boarding pass, it sounded like “booop, booop, booop”. Well when I showed up it was like “booop, booop, eeerrrrot”. He turned to a computer monitor and typed in a few numbers and waved me to go ahead. I figured it didn’t scan because everyone else had the neat little envelope sized boarding pass and mine was a crumpled piece of office paper. I find my seat and spend the next 20 minutes reading a book until an obviously pissy looking girl comes up to me and says “you in my seat”. I reply, “oh, I’ll double check my boarding pass” while thinking “oh no you dumb bitch, this is my seat, and I’m going to prove it to you, you’re wrong…WROOOONNNGG!”. Well sure enough we compare our boarding passes side by side and they both list 24C as the seat. Great, they overbooked the flight and didn’t resolve it. Well we call the stewardess over and she looked at both the boarding passes. She was completely perplexed and said she would have to get back to us. The stewardess trotted off to the back of the plane with both of our boarding passes. Meanwhile, I hovered over the seat because I was there first and was totally not ready to surrender the seat. Well ten minutes later, the stewardess came back to us and said to me “Um…you are on the wrong flight”.
Me: “what, this is going Newark right”
Stewardess: “yes, but you are on Continental”
Me: “yeah, this IS Continental”
Stewardess: “NO, THIS IS UNITED….how did you get on the plane?”
WHAT THE FUCK! She told me that my flight was delayed 20 minutes and if I hurry I could still make it. Meanwhile, the whole flight crew is in a panic and whispering to each other, “how did she get on the plane, who let her on, how, oh my God.”
I grab my luggage and run for the exit. I didn’t check anything because A) I was just going for the weekend, and B) those damn airlines are charging extra for practically everything….would you like a tissue, okay that will be 50 cents. I am running at a full sprint in my high heel boots, jeans, sweater, and wool coat while hauling my rolling suitcase and giant mom purse. They told me the gate and it wasn’t even in Terminal 2 (where Continental is based out of), it was in Terminal 3! I am sweating my ass off, and hysterically crying because this was suck a stressful blunder. I passed by two (count it TWO) guys with motorized passenger carts and beg them for a ride to my gate. The both told me “oh, I’m not authorized to take passengers”. Really, in your cart with upholstered seats…JACKASSES!!!
I haul to the gate in the ‘H’ concourse. My legs are throbbing because I normally do not sprint in high heels. I finally get to the gate (abet a few minutes after the delayed departure time…I’m no Carl Lewis, sheesh) and I look up to see the American gate listed as Houston. Houston…what the fuck! I bend over and start crying and gasping for air. I am so sweaty that my entire neck feels like a wet rag, my hair is literally dripping, and my sweater is moist under the pits. Oh yeah, I was upset. I mean I sweated through the only pair of jeans I was bringing on the trip.
Well while I was breaking down, a hunched back little old lady (like 80 years old) asked me in a tiny voice “did you miss the plane too?” What. She continued “they said the flight was delayed 20 minutes, so I went to the bathroom and when I came back it was gone”. She then turned to me and said “lets go find ourselves an agent” and shuffled off. We walked over to terminal 2 (like I haven’t traveled enough already…within the airport!) and found a Continental airlines counted waaaaay at the end of the terminal. I noticed that although every airport but O’Hare lists all departures on the departures board, O’Hare likes to have separate departure boards for each airline. I evidently mistook the ginormous departures screen of United for the entire airport. For the record, the Continental airlines departure board is located within the vast depths of Terminal 2 and is about the size of my laptop screen. Boo!
The little old lady told the airline agent we missed the flight and if we could get on the next one. The agent was all bitchey and said she couldn’t guarantee getting a seat on the next flight (thank god there was one more flight that night) because it was OUR fault that we missed the flight. The little old lady explained her bathroom situation and the agent snapped back “well we encourage all of our passengers to always stay in the gate area because boarding times are subject to change”. Bee-hatch! The agent then looked me up and down (my heaving sweaty bawling mess) and said under her breath “I don’t even want to know”.
Well there were two seats open. There were 200 seats open. This flight was delayed 1-1/2 hours, so all of its passengers jumped on the earlier flight (aka, mine). It was practically empty and I was able to wallow in my own row. Once we pushed off from the gate, the pilot came over the speaker and said the FAA mandated a temporary freeze of departures due to a security breech. Hmm, I wonder if I had anything to do with that. Anyway, we waited on the plane for another 1-1/2 hours, so instead of arriving in New York at 9pm (my original flight), it was at 1am. Thanks to the frequent train runs (read sarcastic), I got into Manhattan at 2am. Although I was going on three hours of sleep, I couldn’t nod off because I kept replaying the crazy events of the night. I pulled out my crumpled boarding pass and wondered how all of us somehow didn’t notice that it said Continental Airlines in bold 2” tall letters across the top. I mean, what if the stewardess took a look at the two boarding passed and realized “wow, these don’t look anything like each other”. That would have saved me 10 minutes. Or how about the gate ticket checker guy that got the giant error message when he scanned my ticket (that said Continental Airlines clearly across the top). That would have been 30 minutes to stroll to the correct gate. Oh well, at least I did get to New York. Granted my throat was sore for a day and I limped for a week, but it makes for one hell of a story.