Thursday, June 2, 2011

Flying By the Seat of My Pants

So, despite the fact that we now have a trend of “how things go wrong” going on this blog, which I’m not sure I like, I’d at least like my blunders to serve as a warning to others. So, despite the fact that your travel agent was recommended by the owner of your (formerly) favorite Thai restaurant, check with the Better Business Bureau.

I was going to wait and publish a travel woes account once this is resolved. But, seeing as that is going to take a long, long, long time, here is what I composed while stuck overnight in LAX getting from Bangkok to Indianapolis, an entry on the return trip later.

So I said I wanted to spend some time flying by the seat of my pants. Well yet again, my bad, that came true too. I didn’t mean LITERALLY!
Have you ever shown up at the airport only to be told you don’t exist in the computer? Let me tell you that’s a great feeling. (Though I suppose not as bad as realizing you have someone else’s passport – that was an interesting story.)
So what you’re saying is, I have four different planes to catch, in three different countries, but I’m not in the computer? You don’t even have a record of me paying for the flight here in October, or of my having been on it? Oh really? Well this is peachy.
When you’ve flown standby from Asia to North America, then, THEN you can say you’ve flown by the seat of your pants. With the assistance of plastic money and many patient airline workers, but nonetheless.
They turned the guy after me away in Bangkok. They told me if I was unable to standby on this flight I would have to wait 7 days to fly. A travel agent returning from vacation on the same flight told me “this type of ticket doesn’t exist any more, maybe it’s only in Asia.” Well there you have it, I still don’t exist!
Definitely gate crashing at its finest when I was permitted through Immigration and security and allowed to board.

In the Taipei airport, six months seems to have brought many changes. Public Desktops with free wifi, public iPads with free wifi, a reading library – man I could get used to this. Though my laptop would not load the free wifi network (the guy next to me had no problems. Is this yet another computer demon? I’m beginning to suspect I have not appeased the Thai spirits of my apartment complex). But, public desktop to update facebook since phone is not currently an option. And because I’m addicted to facebook.

In LA, my person and my baggage are in one piece. Well, crossing the Pacific is more than half the battle, right? I’m in North America! The EVA airline agent is very helpful. The agent at American Airlines does his best to no avail, but he sends me to United. They are patient with me though they’ve got nothing, and find a flight on US Airways. They write down the flight numbers and send me to US Airways. A nice security guard helps me get to the desk, which is actually closed but still attended, and I get a ticket for tomorrow morning. Ok, I can get home.
The same security guard walks me to the USO, where she helps attempt to talk me in, but no go. They do however allow me to check internet/make a couple of phone calls, try and secure lodging (a no-go with my stranded passenger airline voucher or otherwise, it’s Friday night in LA) and send me on my way with a bottle of water, a free luggage cart and directions to the only terminal where food service is still running.
At LAX International next to the McDonald’s, where I sit here and type connected to the Samsung charging station, foiled by the Wifi that is but is not, I am spending the night. I suppose this is a traveler’s right of passage. Thank goodness for the USO helping me out, the security guard, the EVA agents and the other various agents here that tried their best until I got a flight plan. Apparently I have some crazy lucky travel karma for making it across the Pacific Ocean in such circumstances. I think I may have used up my travel karma for the month, possibly longer.

In a few hours I will embark across the country – to North Carolina! It’s all that was left. I will have a brief layover, and in the early evening I will be back home again in Indiana. Phew. Not outta the woods yet, travel Odyssey indeed. I’m not even sure how much time in transit this will work out to be.

My travel agent and I shall be having words. I have a basic idea of where to start to rectify this matter, though it’ll have to wait until business hours Monday. An email was already sent while in Taipei. I appreciate any advice, but unless you’ve got a magic wand, I’ve got this. And I shall not be using this travel agency ever again.

Now that I’m ticketed, we can end on a laugh! A few travel vignettes for you:
Maternal Indian: “You look like baby!”
80-year-old British guy: “Oh! You’re American!” *pause* “So how do you think Obama’s doing?”
Friendly Filipina: “You are single? Enjoy it. We don’t have divorce in Philippines.” Canadian backpacker chick: “When I was in Nepal I got so excited when I had a bowel movement. It was like wow; I forgot what it looked like! I think everyone knows Canadians are a little loopy, living in our igloos and dancing around our fires and stuff.”

The things you learn. Oh, but there is more. So much more.

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