Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It was an adventure!

If it's November I must be traveling to meet with online friends! This year it was New York City instead of Toronto . I will write about the people and meeting them in another blog. Today it's about the trip. And what a trip it was!

When the meet was first being planned I wasn't sure I was going to make it, but I knew I wanted to. After a little bit of online peer pressure (Kat was coming all the way from New Zealand, there was a group coming from the UK, when would I get this chance again to meet them) I found a decent deal on the airfare and worked the numbers and knew I was in! Then some things changed, I reworked the numbers and sadly had to say I couldn't make it after all. I was disappointed but knew there would be pictures and stories and I would enjoy those as well. Just like the UK Meets.

Then things shifted again, Skippy (you remember her from the Toronto meet blogs) was going to come as well. Now I had just seen her a few months before when she had been in Washington visiting her father. I wasn't expecting her to make it back to the States from Australia again so soon. Just having her there was yet another reason to want to go, but she also had a plan that was going to make it possible for me to actually get there! Her brother is a pilot and was willing to add me to his buddy list for flying. Which cut the airfare down by enough that it was just crazy now to go instead of full on insane. So after talking to Brent (which consisted of me listing all of the responsible reasons why I shouldn't go and him saying, You want to go, go and have a great time.) I said yes!

Flying on a buddy pass is one of those things that is excellent and horrible at the same time. The cost of the flight was excellent. The uncertainty was horrible. At one point the week before the trip I thought I wouldn't make it on the plane, there were 8 empty seats and 8 people on standby. If anyone else was added I could get bumped. The priority list was JetBlue employees, other partner airline employees, buddy pass by order of check in. So if any employees wanted to fly I was out. The night before the flight Carl (Skippy's brother) checked the load on the plane one last time, 8 empty seats, 4 people on standby and I was 3 or 4 in line depending on when I checked in! Woo hoo! I was going! I booked my ticket for the Empire State Building, printed maps and check in information and let everyone know I was in FOR SURE!

Then I got to the airport...Brent and I had flown this same red eye to New York the week before and I knew how full it was then, and I knew that 8 empty seats was going to look very full as well. So I waited for my boarding pass...and waited...and waited. They don't call for standby fliers until they are already boarding the plane. They want to make absolutely sure they don't sell those seats first. As everyone is boarding and they start calling names I am counting on my fingers...that's one seat, that's two seats...oh no! he is traveling with his sons that's three right there! So finally the ticket agent looks over to where I am sitting and says, "Are you Denise?" I am sure at this point he's going to let me know I am not making it on, but he tells me, "You are on, it's a middle seat, is that okay?" Are you kidding me? Of course it's okay! I am on!!! The final count for that flight was 8 empty seats, 9 people on stand by. I was the first non-employee to check in and I got seat number 7. It was that close. Whew! Thank you Carl for stressing how important it was to check in as soon as it was open!

Through some boarding miracle the row I was sitting in was still empty and there was space for my bag in the bin right above my seat! Amazing! All I had to do was move the bag that was sitting in the bin taking up two spaces worth of room over to the side, and this is where I entered The Twilight Zone....

So as I am reaching up to slide over the bag I hear from behind me a panicked voice, "Don't touch that bag! Seriously don't move it!" I turn around and look at the guy behind me, "Is this your bag?" "No it's hers and she will freak out!" He points to the woman a row ahead of him who is now aware I am touching her bag. "Don't move that! I like to have room on each side of my bag!" I just looked at her at this point. Seriously? You like to have room? So I give her "The look" turn back around and slide her bag over and put mine next to it. "I just want my bag up here." She looks at me like I am a crazy person. I give her the head tilt and ask very calmly, "Anything else you want to say to me? No? We're good then?" and sit down. She likes to have room around her bag? And I am not sure what is crazier, the fact that she likes that, or the fact that everyone around us apparently gave in to her and let her have room!

So then my row mates come on. Score! They are two thin women! It's not going to be a miserable cramped middle seat for me! They have both been at the bar until the last possible minute so they can fall asleep easily on the plane. I sort of laugh to myself that it won't be the last time that weekend I fall asleep with the smell of alcohol in the air I am sure! Well as they are settling in we hear a commotion from the seats behind us. "DON'T TOUCH THAT! Don't open that or you'll ruin it for everybody!" Okay, now this is not what you want to hear in our post 9/11 world. So everyone gets a little tense for a second. The flight attendant runs up the aisle, seems that a woman was trying to get her bag out of the over head compartment and this was just not a good idea. See what had happened is someone broke the door shoving their bag in, the flight attendant and the guy freaking out and gotten the door closed and latched but if she had opened it there was no guarantee they could again.

The flight attendant let her know that if they had to report it as broken we couldn't take off until it was fixed and that would probably take 4 hours, and NO BODY wanted that. She said, "I just want my bag" he said, "You just need to take a seat" He won.

One of my seatmates is off trying to find room for her bag and I look down at the bag she is going to put under the seat in front of us and it looks back at me! She was flying with her cat and he was just gorgeous. Big flat faced orange kitty. She let me know he was drugged up so he was a little out of it, she was a little drunk and a little out of it as well so I thought it was a fair deal.

We are all settled in, the last announcements come through,"We will be coming through the cabin to offer beverages, our water system is broken so we cannot offer hot beverages during this flight" Okay...broken overhead bin, broken water system, what else? I decided to go right to sleep so if we died in a fiery crash I would sleep through it!

So remember my joy at having thin people next to me? It was short lived as I discovered they were thin drunk people who weren't good at boundaries. Oh well. Once everyone settled down and the cat stopped crying I got to sleep. Only to be awakened by something I never thought I would hear on a plane..."Is that your cat?" The flight attendant was leaning in close to the woman next to me, waking her up, "Is that your cat?" he asked again pointing down the aisle. Seems the cat had figured out how to open the carrier and was wandering the plane! :-) Can you even imagine sitting in a plane and looking down to see a cat wandering up the aisle? Well, she tottered off after the kitty, drugged cat, drunk owner, quite a site to see! But she caught him, got him back into his carrier and we were off to sleep again.

Now this time around I lowered the tray table, put my small bag and pillow on it and doubled over to sleep. The guy in front of me had already reclined his seat back, though not enough I guess. He inched it back a few times which made the angle too small for my arm to be above my head so I readjusted and drifted back to sleep, but this was still not enough space for him I guess. So he did the logical thing in his mind, pushed the recline button and SLAMMED back into his seat to try and capture a few more inches. This, of course, made the back of his seat smack into my head. BAM! I snap my head up open my eyes and find his wife glaring at me from the seat next to him. Well, of course, this was my fault, how dare I ram the back of my head into his seat like that? Then he proceeded to flop around in his seat for another 20 minutes before deciding he liked it better more upright after all. *sigh*

So finally land at JFK. Five thirty in the morning New York time. Two thirty Portland time. Groggy and bleary eyed I am off to find a quiet corner to nap for a while. The shuttle is going to pick me up at 9 so I can grab a few winks before heading off into the city. Airports aren't the best for sleeping, but when you are exhausted a few cat naps between announcements will do. After grabbing a little more sleep I get some food then go down to where the shuttle will pick me up. By 9:30 there is no shuttle. I call and am told that my driver looked for me but didn't find me. Sure...the area I am waiting in is pretty small and I have been there since 8:45. I saw lots of shuttle drivers come in, call names, pick up people and leave again. But not one called Denise, Mastenbrook, Dennis, Masterson, or my personal favorite Ma..Ma..Mast...Ummm.. Nothing close.

So they are going to send another shuttle. Ten o'clock and I am FINALLY on the shuttle! I am going to meet Corrie at the hotel. Corrie who left Philly after I landed and is now closer to the hotel than I am. My shuttle driver decides that having one person just won't do so he circles back around the airport to pick up more people. We don't leave JFK until 10:40 and then we started the long and winding trek into the city. I visited with a nice gentleman who was traveling in from Miami but was originally from Venezuela. We started joking that it was going to take longer to get him from JFK to Grand Central Station than it took to get from Miami to JFK! Finally after much confusion, including my driver insisting that when I was saying 6th and 26th I really meant 7th and 27th, up to and including actually trying to drop me off there, I finally got to the hotel. At noon. Three hours after I was supposed to leave the airport.

Poor Corrie sitting waiting in the hotel lobby for me all that time! I had been sending her updates during the travel though...not sure that "I AM NEVER GETTING THERE!" was very comforting or not...but at least it let her know that I was alive and still somewhere in New York.

So after a fabulous weekend with friends both old and new (blog to come later)it's time to start the journey home. I was flying standby on a late flight out of New York. Carl had texted me the night before to let me know there were 9 open seats and 8 on standby so I SHOULD be okay. Now after my 8 and 4 adventure getting in, this made me really nervous. I knew there was an earlier flight out of JFK through Long Beach that had been emptier when we first looked at flights so I figured I would head to the airport and give that a shot. One extremely expensive cab ride later (it was worth it to avoid the shuttle from hell experience!) I arrive at JFK to find that I can't change my ticket, only Carl can, and he is in the air. So I have 3 hours before I can check in for my next flight, 7 hours before it takes off and a day at JFK in my plans. It wasn't horrible. I had books, wifi, a plug for my phone and a diet coke. After finally getting my standby boarding pass I got to go through security and waste time looking through shops, eating some lunch/dinner and texting Brent.

And then watching the waiting area start to fill with people for the flight. A couple people tried to get an update on the standby status and were told that the flight was very full. But no confirmations as to how many were going to get on. So the nerves are starting again...and shoot! There is the dad with his two boys so that's three seats ahead of me on the list, and oh hell, that guy is a pilot he is on for sure! The flight was late getting in so it was past time to board and I still didn't know if I was going to be able to leave New York. My back up plan had been to call Skippy who was staying in the city until Wednesday and crash with her if I didn't get on the flight. Well Skippy's phone was on a tour of the city without her so that was not going to work. I am exhausted, worried and stressed, Brent tells me, no worries, if you don't get on just book a nice hotel room and sleep. But I just want to go home at this point. You all know the feeling right? The trip was fabulous but now it's time be home. I was the 7th person called for a seat. I know there were at least 5 people waiting when I got mine so that means at least 3 didn't make it on. Again...whew!

The flight back was mostly uneventful. The typical flight annoyances. Like "Hey, Mister, if you have a bladder the size of a peanut maybe don't book the window seat" and "You know if your 4 year old is that big of a brat already you have lost the parenting game and her teenage years are going to kill you." But I was homeward bound and that was really all that mattered!

A friend asked if it was worth it, and even if the people I was going to see hadn't all been fabulous (which they were) even if I hadn't gotten a chance to see the Empire State Building and Times Square (which I did) even if I hadn't gotten a chance to laugh so much three days later my throat is still a little shot (which it is) I would still have to say yes it was. If for nothing else than..."Is that your cat?"

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