Monday, February 07, 2005

Flying those 'not-always-friendly' skies

7 February 2005

IN THE AIR OVER PENN STATE, 33,000 FEET -- I never wish evil on anyone. Hmmm. Well, that might be an exaggeration. But after dealing with United Airline's ticket counter people in Philadelphia, I'm contemplating enrolling in a short course in Voodoo and snagging some United plastic stir straws and napkins as memorabilia to make straw dolls for future ceremonies.

We were attempting to get back to Sacramento a few hours early and had spied a flight from Philly to Denver with a connector from Denver to Sacramento that would get us on the group 45 minutes early. That might not seem like such a big deal, but given the amount of writing ahead (for me) and class prep ahead (for Sylvia), the extra time would mean an easier evening before we dove into the morass Tuesday morning.

But, United Airlines had lost me. Not my bags. Me.

Never mind that I had flown last Thursday from Sacramento to Philadelphia and Philadelphia to Elmira and then from Elmira back to Philadelphia only a few moments before standing in front of the counter. An obnoxious (the kindest word I can summon) youngish woman at the ticket counter staring at her computer screen said, 'Fitzgerald doesn't have a ticket.' I pointed out that I was the Fitzgerald in question, and that, in fact, I did have a ticket. But she said 'No, I can't find you in the system. Are you sure you have a ticket?'

While we fumbled for the itinerary (printed out by another less-than-friendly clerk in Sacramento), the young Philly clerk fumed and muttered to her female colleague that she hated people who 'didn't have tickets.' (Her attitude might have been tied to her declining looks. At one time, she might have even been a prom queen with a cover-girl beauty. But now she had the hard edge of a woman who could sit in a bar all night and hardly get a glance or hello, except from the bartender.)

After working the keyboard (and avoiding all eye contact) she slapped two documents on the counter in front of us and said, 'There you go, I put you on standby to Denver and standby to Sacramento.'

STANDBY! Jaysus H. Christ.

Granted these were frequent-traveler tickets, but STANDBY!

Sylvia calmed ME down (a definite role reversal) by pointing out that at least on the first leg, we were assured of seats because the flight wasn't at all full. And in Denver, if needed, she could pull out her admiral's angry attitude and probably get us a first class gig for the rest of the way to Sacramento.


So as we cruise across the plains headed to the mile-high city, I'm working on getting my blood pressure back to normal and the attention of the flight attendant to get another glass of overpriced wine. We have, let's see, more than 3 hours of flight time to Denver and the movie machine is broken and it could be a looooooong way.

Not much to see, just a blanket of white clouds. Not at all like the first leg of the trip from Elmira to Philadelphia where I saw one of my many alma maters (Villanova, three long (but memorable) semesters) and took the shot accompanying this blog -- the twin towers of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, still belching out steam and, we hope, with its control rods firmly in place after its near meltdown years ago.

Fly faster, fly faster!


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