Plane travel has become such a monumental hassle that I try to avoid it at all costs, only giving in to it when absolutely necessary. Funerals fall under that category, so this week involved plane travel. I was reminded of why I try to avoid it when I got a computerized voicemail telling me that my flight had been canceled. No explanation, just canceled. The recording had my confirmation number, full of easily mistakable letters (wait, is that a V? Maybe a B? Did he say F or S?) that no amount of re-listening to could clarify. Continental's lines were busy and I sat on hold for twenty minutes after fiiiiinally getting through their stupid computerized system (no, I didn't say "upgrade" I said REPRESENTATIVE) which seems specifically designed to Piss. You. Off. When I finally got the representative she was huffy and sighed often, making me repeat the confirmation number not once, not twice, but TWELVE TIMES. I explained that I had had a hard time understanding it because I only had it from the computerized voicemail. She sighed loudly, "Repeat that again." I repeated again. And again. And again. She then admonished me, "you know, it's really hard to understand that number over the phone. Repeat it again." When I told her that YES I WAS AWARE OF THE DIFFICULTIES IN UNDERSTANDING IT, YOU SHOULD TRY GETTING IT ONLY FROM A STUPID COMPUTER, she hung up on me. I got to call back and once again do battle with the ridiculous computerized answering service (no, I still don't want a frigging upgrade!) and another twenty minutes on hold.
Meanwhile, my mother is checking the website for information, and it still shows my flight leaving in two hours. She calls Travelocity, sits on hold for a long time, and when they finally answer (before Continental fiiiiiinally does), they tell me that the flight hasn't changed-- it's still leaving in ninety minutes. On the upside, he gives me my confirmation number, complete with clarifiers (B as in Bravo, V as in Victor). We figure we better skeedaddle to the airport. Just to be sure I wait on hold with Continental, riding along in the car and listening to them tell me over and over that they are merging with United. (Ineptitude Squared!!1!!!! Awesome!!!1!!!!!) When, halfway to the airport, someone finally comes on I find out that my flight has, indeed, been canceled. Still no explanation. After much negotiation, I am finally rebooked on a different set of flights.
Waiting for my new, later flight, I am sitting next to an older fellah on the phone with his son back in Oregon. He says, "oh I have to tell you. I went through the security here, and you know, I have no butt, so I always get a bit worried when you have to give up your belt, but I always have a free hand, you know, so it hasn't been a problem. But I give up my belt and they make me go through the xray machine and, well, they make you put your hands up in the air to take that picture, and you know, I have no butt so my pants just dropped down to my knees! The lady just looked away, so that was good, but, hehehehe, there ya go!" He then made several more phone calls, all of them business related, all focused on sales orders and stuff, but it was hard to now associate him with anything other than dropping trou in the security line.
During my layover in Newark I discovered that the "silent" setting on my phone is not silent when I attempted to serreptitiously snap a picture of an outfit that was giving me a bit of a panic attack. It made the camera shutter noise REALLY LOUDLY. Thanks, camera phone. Checking in the camera settings later I discovered that there is no silent mode for the camera. WHAT THE HELL? But yes, those are multi-colored, tie-dyed leggings. What you can't see are the dark red & blue diagonal split toe nails or the t-shirt with the metal studs that outlined a calendar-like picture of a trio of fluffy kittens. Or that she was somewhere on the far side of 60.
The woman with the scary pants got on a flight to Toronto. I was subsequently surrounded by people going to Richmond. In particular, a gaggle of women who had all gone on some trip together that seemed focused on shopping. They spent the next hour complianing about how "these people" are "so rude." It was unclear to me what they meant by "these people." The most charitable description, in the context of the things they were saying, is that they were referring to New Yorkers. It was quite clear, however, that their prejudices may run deeper than regional issues. I wished very badly to get on a plane going back to Boston.
And Richmond struck again, proving itself, once more, to be a place where I just shouldn't expect stuff to be done right. Clear signage at the airport? Only if you want to get on 64. If you want to get back on 895, you best already know how. Because what I really wanted was to be forced to take a long, backtracking detour.