Tag Archives: airplane travel

Vacation Part Three: Coming Home

I’m back from vacation. I talked about going away, about swimming, and now, well, there’s really not much left to say. We spent the whole day traveling and all I want to do now is go to sleep. But I’m determined to write something.

The whole day was all about the actual travel, getting from one place to another place. And I always think, it shouldn’t really have to be this way. I mean, a flight from New York to Puerto Rico only takes about four hours. That’s nothing. That’s not even half of a workday. But our whole system of travel, of airplane travel, yes, historically speaking it’s unbelievable that human beings have access to pretty much anywhere on the planet. But wasting an entire day on only a four-hour flight is a little crazy.

Today was definitely a little crazy. We wanted to check out one last Puerto Rican restaurant before we headed home. And we planned it out so we should have been able to. But as soon as we got in the taxi from the hotel, the driver started chatting us up. “How’s it going? Where are you visiting from? How long were you here?”

I don’t mind chitchat. I don’t necessarily prefer it, but I’ll always engage in a conversation. If I don’t have anything to say, I’m an expert at maintaining eye contact, putting on all of the appropriate facial expressions, throwing in stuff like, “Really? Huh. Wow. No way,” at perfectly spaced intervals to trick the conversationalist into thinking I’m an active participant.

But again, there’s a limit. The conversation has to be somewhat normal. This guy’s questions started getting a little too specific, slightly veering off the normal Q&A route. “What did you like about Puerto Rico?” What did I like? What am I going to say? “I liked the weather. I liked the people. I liked the food.” Bingo, that’s what he was looking for.

“Oh you like Puerto Rican food? I don’t. Not anymore. You see, I’m a vegan, I switched to a vegan diet about four years ago. I only eat potatoes, liquid yeast, string beans …” and this guy starts telling me his whole diet, how it cures every disease, how he’s going to outlive all of his friends and family members.

And it got weirder. The food talk lead to a one-sided conversation about genetically modified food, about the evils of the food conglomerate Monsanto, how they’re teaming up with the oil companies to keep us all enslaved. He told me to take out my phone so I could look up these documentaries that he kept mentioning every other second. I didn’t know what to do, so I just took it out and pantomimed the hand motions.

It was taking all of my effort just to act like I wasn’t in the middle of one of the craziest conversations of my life. He was going off about food, about aliens, about the second coming of Christ. Not knowing what else to do, I was still clinging to my guns, “Really? Wow. That’s unbelievable. Huh,” until finally he made a turn off the highway and there we were, right in front of the airport.

“Hey man, why are we at the airport? What about that restaurant?” and he kind of smiled, “Oh yeah, sorry guys, I guess I got a little caught up in our chat. Hold on, I’ll turn around,” and he made a u-turn, got back on the highway, and it was like bumper-to-bumper traffic. While we thought we had the whole day planned out by the minute, first we already lost like twenty minutes heading to the airport, and now we were supposed to wait in traffic, eat lunch, find another cab, and make it back in time to catch our flight?

“So where was I? You know Jesus only ate potatoes, in fact …” and I looked to my wife like, we can’t do this, we’re not going to be able to get lunch. “Hey buddy,” I told him, “look, I don’t think we’re going to have time for lunch anymore. You’ve got to take us back to the airport.”

He got quiet. “Now you’re telling me?”

Like this was all my fault. He was genuinely pissed off. “Yeah man, sorry, I don’t know what to tell you.”

And we sat there in awkward silence as the car crawled toward the nearest exit, we got off the highway, back on in the opposite direction, and there we were. I couldn’t believe it. Maybe I was acting too captivated by this guy’s theories? Maybe he thought he finally found a kindred spirit in all things insane? And then when I made him do that double u-turn, he realized that I didn’t really care?

I should have been like, don’t worry about the restaurant, or lunch, or even the flight. Please, continue, I want to hear more about how Monsanto hates the fact that you’re a vegan, or why weather patterns are really a trick played by extraterrestrials to keep us from seeing their ships fly overhead.

And it’s all because, what, because I have to be at the airport three hours before a flight? We’ve got to wait on the tarmac for an hour just so we can take off? And then stand around at JFK for another hour before that luggage conveyor belt even kicks into gear? More waiting. Another cab. More traffic. All of the sudden it’s midnight. Why am I so tired? How could a whole day have passed and I didn’t get a chance to eat anything? Again, I think about people travelling along a dirt road in a covered wagon, everybody coughing and wheezing with typhoid and dysentery, so yeah, I’m very, very spoiled. But come on, why does a four-hour plane ride have to be such a huge deal?

Delta Airlines: You Suck

I’ve got a bone to pick. It’s with Delta Airlines. I’ve put this off for way too long, almost two years now, almost no chance at receiving any restitution, but I figure what the hell, I’ve got a story to tell at least. It all started in 1984 when my mother gave birth to a beautiful little me.

OK, seriously, my wife and I were living in Ecuador, serving in the Peace Corps, and come time to end our service, the US government gave us the option of buying us a ticket back to New York or giving us some money and allowing us to shop for ourselves. “As long as it’s an American airline,” the government said, “and you have to pinky swear.”

We took the cash and booked a flight out of Guayaquil for a pretty reasonable price. Whatever. Airline tickets are a huge scam anyway. Did you know the price you find on the Internet all depends on where you’re searching from and what kind of operating system you use? (Yeah, it’s kind of an Internet rumor, but I’m presenting it as fact here, and look, here’s a link I found from some web site I’ve never heard of before substantiating my almost baseless claim.) We found a good deal from Delta and we went with it.

It was a really numb, emotionally taxing day and a half. There were too many thoughts and feelings to process. We sat there in the Guayaquil international terminal just ready to be away, back somewhere, somewhere not so in between, you know, that hollow feeling you only really get in an airport, that delayed sense of not going anywhere, not yet, but not really remembering having been anywhere else. Wow, I’m so deep.

Anyway, it would be stupid of me to sit here and write out all the ways that everybody already knows why they hate airplane travel, the lines, the waiting, the more lines, the security, the pat downs, the random screening, the taking your laptop out and putting it in a separate bin, the buying a bottle of water for six dollars right before security and then security telling you that, sorry, you can’t bring that bottle of water past the checkpoint, that you can spend another six dollars on the other side. Just, please, it’s so fucking annoying. I’m getting actually upset just imagining it enough to write about it.

And even on my best of flying experiences, you get to your terminal, finally, and the plane is never going to leave when it says it is. Boarding always takes way too long. Much longer than you’re expecting. And taxiing. And then sitting on the tarmac forever. And then finally taking off. That’s best-case.

When things go wrong though, they don’t tell you about it all at once. No, that would be too painless. Annoying, sure, but let’s see if we can’t take this situation and stretch it out past the limits of human suffering. OK, yeah, that’s a stretch. But it was a colorful sentence. I’m sure AIDS and cancer are much more of a cause of human suffering that a layover. But just indulge me.

They just keep you there in the terminal for a little bit longer. Maybe an hour. Maybe two. And then maybe they’ll actually start boarding, pretending like some sort of progress is being made. But then, no, OK, actually we’re all going to have to do a reverse boarding, and then what’s the problem exactly? But every passenger is asking that same question, “What’s the problem? When are we going to New York?” and so clearly those people aren’t satisfied with their answers, so why add to the chorus of discontent?

That’s what happened to us. We sat around, all afternoon, all night. Pretty soon the airport started to shut down. I didn’t even know airports closed. Deltas wouldn’t tell us anything. When the flight was going to leave. How long we were supposed to just sit there waiting. They made us feel even more like cattle, more even than the regular plane traveler does who hasn’t had a huge delay.

Other passengers weren’t as patient as we were. One lady had an actual rage fit that lead to convulsions and her being sent away in a wheel chair. At least she got to sit. We were on the cold tile floor. Delta promised to try to find us hotels. Mission not accomplished. Some buses arrived eventually, but lacking that killer instinct to push aside fellow human beings in the name of looking out for numero uno, the buses left full, us still trying to find a comfortably clean spot on that vast airport floor.

It’s a good thing we didn’t get on that bus. It turned out not to be a hotel, but a brothel. Honest mistake. There are lots of brothels in Ecuador. Could have happened to anyone. More yelling. More convulsions. More wheelchairs. Finally, just when a riot was all but certain to foment, Delta tells us that, sorry, the plane is broken. A new plane will be coming in from New York. Eventually. At some point in the future. Definitely not tonight.

They never got us hotels. I literally spent the night squirming on the floor, falling asleep every ten minutes but waking up ten minutes later, some arm or leg deprived of circulation, screaming pins and needles for some blood. It was one of the worst nights ever. You ever pull an all nighter? You know how, when you wake up in the morning after a good night’s sleep, your breath is terrible, you need to brush your teeth? But without sleep, it’s worse, you can kind of feel it coming on gradually, the bad taste, the grime accumulating on your molars.

Understanding of our discomfort, Delta promised us four hundred dollars each in compensation. That was really nice of them. I’d endure a night of suffering for four hundred dollars, totally. And so everything looked like it would work out. We got on a flight the next day and eventually made it back to the States, where I resumed my ambitious career waiting tables and started this blog where I write a bunch of nonsense every day.

Oh yeah, but that four hundred dollars? What Delta secretly meant was, “We’re going to tell you four hundred each, to shut you up for the night, but when you get back to the US, it’s actually going to turn into one hundred each. And it’s not going to be real money, it’s going to be Delta Dollars,” or whatever stupid bullshit name some brilliant marketing whiz came up with to label its “store credit only” policy.

Sorry! And your compensation for the shittiest flying experience ever is … even more bullshit, but only a fraction of the bullshit that we promised. Fuck you Delta. I wrote email after email, vowing to myself and to the Internet that I would not accept the one hundred dollar voucher, that I was promised four hundred dollars by several Delta employees and that I had better get four hundred dollars. But nothing. This went on for months.

Finally I had to fly somewhere and I clenched my teeth, swallowed hard, and cashed in my one hundred dollar bonus. But that’s it. Delta, you have lost a customer for life. The next time I have to fly, anywhere, and you guys pop up as the cheapest option, I’m going to pay more, I’ll pay that extra hundred, two hundred, three hundred dollars, just to give myself the satisfaction of knowing that I’ll never give you so much as another cent ever in my life. I have never wished the demise of a company more than I hope you guys go belly up out of business. You are everything that’s wrong with America, its bloat, its arrogance.

We went back to Ecuador last summer. There was a problem with the return flight. But LAN Ecuador, our carrier for that trip, immediately put us up for the night in a really nice hotel, they paid us something like four hundred dollars each, cash, they gave us food, they said sorry, they valued our business, and they meant it.

I’ve made a big to-do about getting to my point here, but it’s this: Delta, you are the worst airline in the history of aviation, of transportation. I hate you. I’d rather have flown TWA Flight 800. I’ll never fly you again. I promise.