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Friday, January 28, 2011

Traveling Troubles

I woke up at 4.00 a.m. on Thursday morning because I'm not a great sleeper the night before we travel anyway and I was tossing and turning thinking about everything I needed to do before we walked out the door at 6.30.  I checked our flight as I knew that New York City was experiencing another great storm and sure enough, things delayed.  Then you face a dilemma...do you trust the information on the internet and go to the airport later or do you get to the airport on time, understanding that you may have a long wait ahead of you.  After waiting on hold for an hour with Continental I finally reached someone.  They said the flight hadn't even left New York yet so ours would definitely be delayed.  We planned to get a cab around 10.00 a.m. as the earliest the flight would go would be 13.00 and I began to watch for when the flight would leave New York.  At 6.00 a.m. our time, midnight in New York, the flight was canceled!  PANIC then set in.  I got back on the phone with the Continental and after a shorter wait, got through to someone and started re-booking.  For some reason they couldn't book us on the SAS direct flight that was leaving at 11.30.  The best he could do was get us to Frankfurt and then onto New York after a 5 hour layover in Frankfurt.  We took it knowing that getting out would be difficult.  At this point it was 7.30 and we were trying to catch a 10.00 flight and we were not ready.  We started dashing around, got the dog out (someone was coming later to stay with him in our apartment), finished packing and were in the cab by 8.15.  Very stressful.  I hoped I hadn't forgotten anything but more importantly we were hoping to be on a plane that day!
Once at the airport the real circus began.  Doug got in the never-ended serpentine line that led to checking in for Frankfurt and I went to Continental to see what was unfolding.  We quickly learned that Continental was putting people on the SAS direct flight at 11.30 so we jumped on that option.  They used a very inefficient system of rebooking people by writing tickets by hand and making 5 people travel on the same ticket.  Since our names were on the masthead of the ticket, we became the the new best friends of the 3 young people that were put on our ticket: A young Swedish woman traveling to Costa Rica to learn to surf, who was a nervous wreck and a young Jewish couple who were in Stockholm teaching at the Jewish Institute until April.  They live in Israel.  Once we got our confirmation from Continental we went back to the SAS lines.  It was about 10.00 by now.  We stood in line until 11.00. Naturally, SAS was having major computer issues so getting people processed was going at a snail's pace. Once we got to the front of the line, the SAS agent said, you are not rebooked.  This ticket is not valid.  WHAT?!  Major communication breakdown between the airlines. The only thing we had going for us was the mass of other Continental passengers all needing to get on that SAS plan.  They finally opened up 2, then 3 desks just to process the rebookings.  Time was of the essence.  At 11.20 we discovered that SAS had made the final call and thus the gate was closed.  You can only imagine he moans and the groans that went up from the assorted crowd.  Finally, the ticket agents were able to get them to lift the final call and guaranteed us that they would hold the plane!  We finally got on the plane at 11.30 and it lifted off at 12.30 so happy that we were going to make it to New York today!  I was very proud of myself, I didn't lose my cool once!
The flight was fine, but time did not go quickly.  Doug's cold is still really profound and I feel terrible for him.  The service was good, the food was even good.  But time slogged on this time around.  I had been up for hours and Doug didn't feel good.
We finally landed in Neward at 3.30 and the final descent was bumpy and after no sleep, changing temperatures on the jet, my body being in the wrong time zone, and dehydration, I developed a cracking headache.  I was very happy to get off the jet.  We cleared customs and got to our shuttle.  From there it took 2 more hours to get to hotel.  The van was filled with air freshener that only served to promote my nausea, my headache increased to epic proportions, the traffic was typical New York and I was ready to die.  It was very exciting seeing the skyline, catching a glimpse of Time's Square and knowing that we were here, but I needed to get some water, go to the bathroom, and try and alleviate my headache.  In the meantime, Doug is burning through Kleenex as if we held stock in the company and let's just say that by the time we arrived at The Manhattan Club, we were exhausted and undone.
The hotel staff could not have been more lovely.  We had told them that we were celebrating my 50th birthday so just after we settled in, a man arrived with a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates and a Birthday Card!  So lovely.
It's now 6.30 am in New York.  I've been up about an hour and am feeling quite human again.  Poor Doug is still struggling but we're hoping that this cold will leave him alone soon!
A tough day of travel has resulted in a dream come true for me. I can finally say, "Oh New York, yeah, I've been there!"  And the only thing I forgot was my belt.  Gee, I wonder if there's a shop in New York where I can get a new one?!