Thursday, January 23, 2014

Stuck in the middle with you

I wish this post were just as fun as this song.  But it's more like that scene in Reservoir Dogs that it is heard in.  About as much fun as getting your ear cut off.

Cause airport snafus and delays are probably akin to hell.  Ok, these are decidedly first world problems, I know.  But when we learned that our flight to Atlanta was delayed by two hours, we knew we were in for a bumpy ride.  By the time we touched down, our connecting flight to Paris was already boarding and once we got to the gate there was no agent to be found.  Thus ensued a crazy 36 hours of stress and international travel.

In the middle of one of the biggest holiday travel weekends

I should have known that everybody and their brother would be travelling back that weekend after New Year's.  That's why it was nearly impossible for us to get another flight back to Paris that evening.  Though I begged to be put on standby for the next flight, the agents made it clear it was unlikely we'd get a seat as there were already 15 folks on standby.  This was Friday night.  At one point they told me they could get me out on a flight leaving Tuesday.  Thus arriving in Paris Wednesday!  What?!

In the middle of a winter storm

The fact that a lot of the northern flights had been cancelled or delayed due to the snow up that way wasn't helping matters.  In Atlanta there was no snow at all, just bitter temps, but the effects of all those flights was being felt down south too.  So we cut our losses and got a hotel voucher for the night.

In the middle of a nightmare

Do you ever have that recurring dream where you try to dial a number and can't get through?  I do.  And I lived it.  Once at the hotel I discovered that my room's phone didn't work.  And silly me hadn't thought to activate my French cell phone in the US.  I had to ask to change rooms to get one with a functioning phone.  And when I used that one the cord fell out during my call home to my mom.  Luckily I finally figured out how to use the hotel wifi on my tablet to message my family and check on flights.

In the middle of customer service life lessons

The next morning I took the airport shuttle back to the Delta counter and luckily got in line before things got too hairy.  I still had to wait a good 45 minutes to speak with an agent.  I explained my situation calmly (but with a slight look of desperation on my face!) and luckily she worked her computer system magic and got us on standby for a flight that afternoon.  I told her she was an angel and that made her smile.  I almost added that I hoped I wouldn't need to see her again.  That would have been bad luck, I figured.  It wouldn't have mattered, as it turns out.

In the middle of a major (and humongous) international airport

ATL is a big airport for those who don't know it.  After I got my magical standby tickets I called Remi at the hotel (using the Delta counter phone since I didn't have my own) and told him to pack up the room and come with Juliette on the shuttle.  Get off at the first stop and wait for me.  Thing is, somehow we missed each other and he and Juliette kept wandering around the terminal looking for me.  With no cell phones we couldn't find each other.  We paged each other and my mom was even calling at some points via page. 

And that's how I saw my "angel" agent again, since I needed her help to page Remi.  She was a bit worse for wear after dealing with so many bedraggled passengers.  I seemed to be in another nightmare!   Finally I heard a page for me telling me to go to the international terminal.  But the helpdesk lady told me to go through security to take the little subway to get there.

In the middle of bowl game season

So I went through the snakey security line and said "War Eagle" to a few Auburn fans who were on their way to Pasadena to see AU play Florida State.  My Alma mater didn't win but I had fun chatting with the orange-clad fans while I panciked about getting reunited with my little family.  I envied those travelers just doing some frivolous little trip and not being lost or delayed!

In the middle, literally

Somehow I finally found Remi and Juliette.  After arriving in the international gate, I realized what all the security agents had been telling me, that Remi and Juju couldn't be in that part of the airport yet as I had their passports and boarding passes.  So I went upstairs to the external check-in area and caught a glimpse of my little girl's bright pink coat and blond curls and knew I'd found them.  Remi and Juju were accompanied by two Delta agents who were helping them page/find me.  I thanked these other two "angels" for their help and we officially checked in for our flight.  

But wait, we were just on standby, remember?  Luckily the agents called us and said they had seats. Three midde seats.  Beggars and airport refugees can't be choosers so we took those seats.  And I had to then beg about four different men to switch out with us so I could sit next to Juliette.  This proved to be quite hard as it seems nobody wants to be in the middle on a transAtlantic flight.  Finally one tall black man gave in, and he was my last "angel" of that very long day.

In the middle of Mindy!

While back in the US I discovered the totally fun TV series The Mindy Project.  Since I can't sleep well on flights, I spent most of those eight-ish hours watching the on-demand system.  Broadchurch, a British mini-series, some Psych episodes and three more Mindy's!  Check out one of my favorite scenes. Thank heaven for small miracles.

So now it's been three weeks since we returned and jet lag is over, Christmas nostalgia fading.  But I won't soon forget what it felt like to be in the middle of that crazy travel nightmare...