Posted by: quilnib | April 26, 2008

Airport Nightmare: The final chapter in “How to stay at the Hilton for free and other exciting things from spring break”

I figured it was finally time to finish that spring break story. I’ve got the audio of Tim Ferriss’s latest video going in the background and I would rather not just watch TV all night, so it’s time to blog. Be warned, this is LONG.

My return trip was supposed to be a 10:30pm flight out of San Francisco to Vegas, then a 1:30am flight from Vegas to Minneapolis, take a shuttle from there and get back to school in time to take a quick nap before going to class that day. It was all lined up perfectly, so of course it didn’t work out.
My itinerary said that I would be flying out of San Francisco on US Airways (operated by United), so I figured that going to the US Airways counter was the right thing to do. I get up to the check-in terminal and when I’m about half-way through getting my tickets printed I ask the person behind the counter a question about my bags. I wasn’t sure if my bags would be transfered to my next flight or not because my next flight was with a different airline. They didn’t answer my question, they did however tell me that I was in the wrong place. Even though it was a US Airways flight the part in parentheses apparently had precedence (opperated by United). I was then told that I had to walk down to terminal 3 and that it was roughly an eight minute walk. I was in terminal 1 and wasn’t too happy about this because I was already cutting it close on time. I ran to terminal 3 and found the United counter. Out of the twenty or so computers there, only one was being used. I start going through the process of printing my tickets again and a gentleman approaches me. He asks “Excuse me sir, are you a first class or business gold memeber?” I figured he was trying to offer me some sort of perk, so being as honest as I am I say “No.” He comes back with the wonderful reply of “Well then I am going to have to ask you to use the computers on the other side of that wall.” I gave this guy the most astounding stare that could ever be prompted from a remark you feel is more ridiculous than asking your local rabbi if he thinks your pork tastes funny. All the while looking around at the other eighteen unused computers. So I went to the other side of the wall, and the lines there weren’t bad either (especially because the guy in front of me let me cut in front of him). Now for the third time I am inputting my information to one of the computers and it tells me that I have to pick up the “black courtesy phone to the right.” When I do the guy on the phone informs me of how close I am to running out of time before my flight and that in order to check my bags I will need to get the attention of an associate behind the counter so they can do it for me. After being ignored for ten minutes I finally get an associate to help me, only to be told that they can’t check my bags even though one of their own employees told me they could (again I have a rather dumb look on my face). Apparently the ten minutes I was ignored made the difference between being able to get my bag checked or not. The guy then spends the next several minutes telling me that I can’t check my bags in as many different forms as he could think of. I’ve only got two bags and I’m not carrying anything in either of them that can’t go on a carry on so I ask if that is an option. They don’t give me an answer, but instead pick up a phone and talk on it for the next ten minutes or so. They hang up the phone and the conversation that follows goes like this.
Airline guy: No, you can’t take your bags as carry-ons and we can’t print you a boarding pass anymore either.
Tim(that’s me): Wait, what!? Why can’t I get my boarding pass anymore?
Airline guy: Because they just started boarding the plane and we can’t print off boarding passes after they start boarding the plane.
Tim: When did they start boarding?
Airline guy: Just now, about a minute ago.
Tim: Ok, let me get this straight. So you are telling me that I can’t get a boarding pass for my flight anymore because instead of trying to help me with a solution you kept telling me what I couldn’t do, then spent ten minutes on the phone to ask them a simple question only to inform me that it took too much time and I can no longer take my flight tonight?
Airline guy: Well…it is too late to print your boarding pass. What you need to do is get in line over there and someone will help you.

On my way to the incredibly slow moving line I called my brother to inform him that I might need a place to stay for the night, because I was previously informed that the next flight to Vegas wouldn’t be until 6:30 the next morning. So he gets back in his roommate’s car and heads back to the airport for me. While I was waiting in the line I learned why no one was trying to find a solution for me just a short while earlier. They had canceled previous flights to Vegas that day and had already given away my seat to someone else (they didn’t want me to know this of course so they just took their time with everything). I finally get to the front of the line, put on a great mood to help things along and thankfully get a guy who was sympathetic to my plight. He put me on standby for the 6:30 flight to Vegas and even moved me to the number one priority spot. He couldn’t however help me with my flight from Vegas to Minneapolis, because as I said earlier it was with a different airline.

At this point I am done with counters for the night and try to make a phone call to Northwest Airlines to see if I can get a standby spot on a flight to Minneapolis. I’m informed on the phone that I can only do that in person at the counter in Vegas and that I will be charged $35 dollars because I booked through priceline and didn’t get travelers insurance. My brother gets to the airport and we head back to his apartment. We got there around midnight and there isn’t much point sleeping because I’ll need to once again leave his apartment around 3am to make sure I get to the airport with enough time to handle any problems that could arise.

Let me give you a little history lesson real quick. San Francisco does not want me to leave and never has. The first time I visited my brother one of his friends was supposed to give me a ride to the airport, but over slept so my brother paid for a cab to take me there. The next time I visited, his girlfriend( at the time) was supposed to give me a ride to the airport, but after we got into her car the gear box broke and she couldn’t shift out of park (ironically this was the same person as the friend from the previous trip). So my brother paid for a cab to take me to the airport. You’ll never guess how I got to the airport this latest time. That’s right, my brother paid for a cab to take me. San Francisco does not like it when I leave and goes to the point of forcing me to take a cab just to do so.

My cab shows up right at 3 and I’m off to the airport, but it doesn’t end there. I have to endure a conversation with the driver the whole way, which isn’t normally that bad. This time, it was bad. After about ten minutes in the cab he starts to tell me how much “tail”(a much nicer term than he used) he gets as a cab driver and goes on to describe how he takes advantage of young drunk girls when he drops them off at their homes. What he described to me would legally be considered rape and I felt extremely uncomfortable riding in this man’s cab. Oh, did I mention that he was in his late fifties? I got to the airport, went through the “special” security (I assume this was because I was on standby) and boarded my flight.

I get to Vegas, get my bags and then head to the Northwest Airlines counter. I end up on the opposite side of the counter from an extremely attractive twenty-something female and tell he my whole story. She seemed astonished at what I had gone though and got me tickets for a flight leaving for Minneapolis two hours earlier than what I had previously been told was possible. She didn’t even charge me the $35 fee, I can only assume it was because of the hardcore flirting going on between the two of us (I love it when people find me attractive because it makes things so much easier). This encounter then raised the question in my mind “Why can’t I get really hot women to flirt with me back home?” The line “Only in Vegas” Came to mind. My flight went well. I sat next to a nice old lady who was a professor at Minnesota state and then was greeted by the same airport I had spent far too much time in the weekend end prior. I took a shuttle bus back to Eau Claire and then waked back to campus. I wish I could say it ended there, but it didn’t.

When I got the lounge room on campus for the first few days of break I asked if it would be possible to leave a few things in there to be picked up just after break. They said that would be fine and that the rooms would not be cleaned until Wednesday (I got back on a Tuesday). I headed for the dorm lounge after I got back to campus to pick up my things, which mostly included my shower stuff-towel, shampoo, ect. When I got to the lounge I wasn’t all that surprised to see that it had been cleaned a day early and along with that my stuff was missing. The only people I could talk to about it had already gone home for the day so I had to make due with what I had-a spare towel(thank god I have two), and a tiny bit of shampoo in a left over container. The next morning I go back to the other building to ask about my stuff and after telling them that the room had been cleaned early they give me their apologies and say they will send me an email when they find me stuff, which thankfully happened later that same day. So other than missing a few classes I wasn’t supposed to, I’m back to where I should have been with everything. And that’s the end of the story that was my spring break trip to San Francisco. I know it’s long, but it started and ended with a bang. Just be thankful I didn’t tell you about my trip to Japan. Bailey can tell you from first hand experience that I can go on for hours without even getting to my arrival in the land of the rising sun.

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