A Month of Travel, Part 1

At long last, I am fulfilling the demand of my reader and I’m here to tell you about my extended period of travel this July.  Strap yourselves in, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride!

Right from the outset I got off to a rocky start.  Because it was domestic travel, I presumed that arriving at the airport an hour ahead of my travel time was sufficient. This is generally what I do and it works out fine, however, I don’t generally travel so freaking early in the morning.  Because it was a last minute booking the most affordable fare I could find had me leaving at 7:30 in the morning.  Michelle picked me up to take me to the airport in plenty of time and I arrived at the airport at approximately 6:40.

I checked in at curbside.  Back in the olden days of yore I was always afraid to do that because I assumed there was probably a fee associated with it.  One trip when Michelle and I were going somewhere together, we were running late, there was a long line inside the airport and hardly anyone outside so we decided to go for it.  It turned out to be faster, easier and freer.  Of course in today’s climate where you have to pay to check a bag, it hardly matters anyway.  I approached the kiosk put my suitcase next to the counter and presented my ID to the ticket agent.

“Where you headed today?” he asked.

“Albany.” I said confidently, a sentiment that did not match my state of mind at that hour.

He began pecking away at his keyboard.  After several seconds he asked me, “Do you have another stop first?  I’m not finding you on the flights to Albany.”

No, I don’t suppose he would.  “I’m sorry,” I told him, “Albany is the next leg.  I’m headed to Tulsa today.”

He smiled and went back to his task.  He found me easily enough after that and printed out my boarding passes and my luggage tag.  When he had finished and I had paid the fee for my checked bag, he handed me my boarding passes and sent me on my way.  He didn’t give me any instruction as to what gate I was going to or what direction to go to get there.  At the time, I felt this was odd and poor customer service.  The rest of my  journey would prove to me that, while it’s still poor customer service, it is not at all odd.  It is just one more example of how courtesy and customer service is a thing of the past.

As I walked away from the kiosk, making my way to the doors to find the security check point I needed to go through, I looked down at my boarding passes to determine what gate I needed.  The first boarding pass said Gate D60.  I looked around for signs to direct me and found the sign directing me toward the gate numbers in the 60’s.  Oddly, there are no letters associated with the gate numbers, but whatever, gate 60’s thata way, thata way I shall go. By this time it was creeping up on 7:00 and I knew that if the flight was to depart on time, they’d begin boarding shortly after 7:00.  I picked up the pace.

Following the signs, I walked down a long empty corridor which ended abruptly with nothing more than doors to go back outside.  Well, dang. If that guy would’ve told me where I was going I could’ve saved some time by staying on the sidewalk.  Oh well. I exited the doors onto the sidewalk and saw a sign posted on a tall orange traffic cone directing through a temporary covered, construction-type “side walk” to get to the gates in the 60’s, still no letters, hmmm… and continued my journey.  Another long walkway led me to an entirely different building around the departures driveway.  I walked in the doors, by this time panting, lacking breath, but there ahead of me I saw another sign for the gates in the 60’s and beyond that I saw a security checkpoint.  I hustled there.

The line wasn’t tremendous but there was a line and it was going on 7:00.  As I stood in line, making my way to the first stop where I’d show my boarding pass and ID, I looked up at the monitors searching for my flight number to see if, by chance it had been delayed and I would be OK.  But wait, my flight number isn’t up there.  What on earth does that mean?

As a rule of thumb, I’m a very anxious traveler.  From the moment I wake up the day of the trip, until the moment I’m in the departure gate waiting for boarding to begin, ticket in hand and confirmation that this is the right gate and flight number obtained, I am anxious.  I have only had one instance in my life where things didn’t work out just fine and as such, I’m trying really hard to rid myself of this habit of fretting needlessly over the maybes and worst case scenarios and instead just go with the flow confident that things will work out fine.  Even if things don’t go absolutely according to plan, they will still work out.

So there I stood, the security checkpoint line advancing slowly, looking at my watch as the minutes ticked by and looking at the monitor and not seeing my flight number, actively telling myself not to worry, that this was going to work out fine.  And that’s when I noticed it.  The only flights listed on these monitors were American Airlines flights.  Well, that’s weird, I thought, why do they only have American Airlines flights listed?  There are other airlines you know.  No matter, at least I know I’m in the right place; I’ll just have to hustle to the gate when I get through security.

I was up next and I walked up to the attendant and confidently handed her my boarding pass and ID.  She looked at them, and then looked back at me.  They always confirm that the photo on the ID matches the individual so this didn’t strike me as odd.  And then she said, “Are you traveling on another airline besides American?”

Duh! You’re holding my boarding pass, why don’t you look at it.  Of course I am! I thought before answering, “Yes, I’m flying on Delta today.”

“Well, this is security for the American Airlines flights,” she told me.  “Delta is back that way.”  She pointed the direction from which I had come.

I looked dumbfounded, I’m sure.  I looked down at the boarding pass she had handed me and began to speak.  “But my boarding pass says gate D—“  And that’s when I saw it.  Right there, on the face of my ticket, in plain letters:

DEPARTURE CITY:  Salt Lake City

ARRIVAL CITY:  Tulsa

The guy at the curbside check-in kiosk had given me my boarding passes with my second flight on top.  Since he didn’t tell me where I was going or what gate number I was looking for, I assumed that the boarding pass on top was the correct one as has always been the case.  Sure enough, the departure gate for my flight from San Francisco to Salt Lake City was gate number thirty-something.  I was in the right place to begin with and I had gone far out of my way.

I hurried back down the corridor, out the doors, through the temporary walkway, back into the building and down the long corridor I had started from.  As I emerged from the other end of the corridor, I saw the security checkpoint for this batch of gates off to my left.  I rushed over and got in line, watching my watch, and losing my artificially imposed calm, instead giving way to the panic that was creeping up.  What if this line takes too long?  What if I don’t get to the gate in time?  What if they’ve given up my seat? I was really beginning to worry, and that’s when, as if someone heard my cries, another line was opened up.

I rushed through the process of removing my laptop from its bag and putting it in a bucket, removing the buckle of my belt, taking my cell phone from my pocket and removing my shoes.  All items went into a tub with my jacket and computer bag and I headed through the medal detector where I did it all in reverse.  Throwing my coat over my arm and my computer bag over my shoulder, I made my way to the gate which, fortunately, was not far from the check-point.  As I was approaching the gate, I heard an announcement overhead, “Paging Delta Airlines Flight (whatever it was) to Salt Lake City, Passenger Kevin Riggs.  This is your final call.  Please report immediately to the boarding area or your seat will be given up for a stand-by passenger.”

Fortunately I was just walking up to the counter as he finished his speech.  Not only did I just make my flight but I was in the first row, aisle seat, just the way I like it.

There is, obviously, much more to this story, but as I’m already at 1560 words, I will bring this to a close for today.  More to follow in the coming days.

Stay tuned for a special announcement, unrelated to my travels.

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