Saturday, January 9, 2010

Long Strange Trip (Part 1)

I'm exhausted and it ain't over yet.

I got to the Cleveland airport (Our motto: It could be worse - you could be in Detroit!) and sure enough, now I'm in Detroit and it's worse!

But I'm skipping ahead.

I got to the airport with plenty of time and with a one hour snow delay, that was three hours to kill. Fortunately, I had pulled my right hamstring over the holidays, which slowed me down considerably. The Cleveland Airport Authority, in an apparent effort to promote physical fitness and therapy, has a dandy set of kiosks with an electronic map of concourses A through D, giving the crippled traveler the capability of quickly deciding on the closest restaurant matching his/her taste. Since I was departing from the B concourse I chose a pub a few gates past mine and hobbled down there to discover that not only was there no restaurant, but no one could remember a restaurant ever being there. No problem. Walk on. Down to the end of the A concourse to two other nonexistant establishments and ultimately the end of C concourse, where I finally found something to eat. Back to my gate where I waited the hour delay and finally boarded my plane to Champaign, Illinois, with a stop in Detroit (no plane change - Yay!). Only 15 people on a 48 seat aircraft. Score! Six rows to myself!
The flight attendant asked for a show of hands of passengers continuing on this plane to Champaign. I raised the sole hand and she said "I guess it's you and me". Silly me, I envisioned an empty plane to myself for the second leg of my journey. When we arrived in Detroit I stayed on the plane after all others had left, until the flight attendant said, "We aren't going to Champaign after all, so you'll have to go talk to the gate agent to see where you are supposed to go". The agent told me this plane was now going to London, Ontario and that my flight was departing from Gate B03, not A38 where we now were. And it was scheduled for 7:45, which gave me a good 15 minutes to limp the half mile to the gate, which was.........completely dark and abandoned. Hmmmm. Guess I should look at the departure screens. Interesting. The flight now leaves at 06:30 tomorrow! So now I need to speak with a ticket agent. Of course they're back on the A concourse at A41, another long hobble. I explain my situation to the agent there, who is totally amazed and has never seen anything like this before. All she can do is give me a $100 travel voucher, a $13 dinner voucher, call the Fairfield Inn to check availability and hand me a voucher for a night's stay. Then she tells me to go to baggage to have them retrieve my bag, where I am told that Mesaba Airlines is refusing to pull any of the 15 bags that people from various flights are waiting for. So the 15 of us all get a free overnight bag with a few essentials and a T-shirt that says “SkyTeam” on it (I now have three of these dartboards from Delta). SO now 14 of us trundle out to the curb and cram ourselves onto a shuttle to the Fairfield Inn, where we are told that the Fairfield Inn does not accept vouchers. Perfect! The reservation clerk tells us we need to go to the full service Marriot a half mile down the road and she will arrange a shuttle to take us there. After 45 more minutes it somehow comes to light that the Marriot has no available rooms and a shuttle finally arrives to bring us back to the airport where we start all over again. Of course the Delta agents, once again never having seen anything like this before, gives us all new vouchers to the Courtyard Inn, which after a half hour wait for another shuttle, turns out to be in the same parking lot as the Fairfield, only it’s now an hour and a half later. So by 11:30 I finally got some food in the bar, was asleep by one AM and back up at 04:30 to go back to the airport.

Now that it’s on paper it doesn’t seem all that bad, but trust me, a long strange trip it’s been!

Oh and the trip gets better…………stay tuned.


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