The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

“Air Travel Is So Glamorous” — Vacation Prelude and Part One

Prelude

Some of you have heard my explanation about the genesis of this vacation, and you probably want to skip this paragraph because it’s the same thing I’ve always said. And that is: After my dad died last year, my mother — a burnt-out caretaker 13 years his junior — was talking to her priest, who said to “Pat, I want you to travel.” She replied, “I’m going to.” He then asked “Where are you going?” And she said “Wyoming — Yellowstone!” This is that trip.

We could not have done this trip without Dave, and we were fortunate that he wanted to join us. After much consultation, we agreed on a 3-part trip: short visit with relatives in Utah/Idaho, 2 days in Jackson WY and Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park.

I carefully aligned our flights so that Dave and I were scheduled to arrive in Salt Lake City about 20 minutes before Mom, allowing us to meet her there. However, the morning we were to leave, as I was taking Eddie to the vet for boarding, I got an uneasy feeling that we had not made sufficient contingency plans. So I did something I rarely do — I called Mom while I was driving.

My car is manual transmission, aka stick shift. I need two hands to drive. There is no third hand available for the cell phone. So I called while sitting at what is normally a lengthy stop light.

“If something goes wrong, we’ll use Aunt Joyce as the switchboard,” I said.

“Why can’t I call you?” Mom asked.

“Because the voice mail on my cell phone doesn’t always work,” I said.

“Why?” Mom asked.

“Just trust me and don’t leave a message,” I said as the light turned and I had to make a left turn with a cellphone wedged between my ear and shoulder.

“But that’s not right,” Mom said.

HONK!!!! went the car behind me as I failed to put on my turn signal for the next sharp left I had to make.

“FUCK YOU!!” I yelled into the phone, meaning the driver, not Mom, which I had to explain once I was parked at the vet’s.

So we’re off to a good start already. I left my dubious Mom with instructions to call Aunt Joyce if there were a problem, and I said I would do the same.

Part One

Those carefully scheduled arrival times I mentioned above? They didn’t happen.

Dave and I were flying on Frontier, which is currently at the top of my list of Airlines I Don’t Hate Right Now. The day before, I did online check-in for the two of us because that’s the kind of thing I do.

Here is why online check-in is important: Say, hypothetically, you’ve booked a flight from Washington to Salt Lake City with a transfer to a connecting flight in Denver first. And say, hypothetically, that your flight to Denver is delayed 3 1/2 hours due to a mechanical problem. Under this hypothetical scenario, if you have checked in online, the airline may automatically rebook you on another connecting flight, maybe even on another airline, so that you do not have to stand in line with the teeming masses and figure this out at the airport. Which is what happened — we didn’t have to stand in line, because Frontier rebooked our second flight before we even arrived at the airport.

So thanks, Frontier Airlines and whoever came up with online check-in! Also, thanks for the two $50 vouchers, which are around here somewhere because I haven’t thrown out a single piece of paper since we left, although I will confess that I don’t actually know where the vouchers are. But I have them. Somewhere.

This begins a round of trying to contact Mom. As it will turn out, when we are on the ground, Mom will be in the air, and vice versa. All. Day. Long. So I call Aunt Joyce and tell her what’s happening. She wants to leave messages on my cell phone, however. I tell her no. Why is it that the 70-somethings don’t accept the notion of failed voice mail? Later that day, I spend the better part of an hour talking to my unhelpful carrier, and I still don’t have voice mail on my cell phone. This will be solved, but it wasn’t going to be solved while we were traveling.

Having nothing better to do, Dave and I go to the United counter, which is the airline that now has our second flight, from Denver to Salt Lake, and which is incredibly busy. The man who stands there directing people to his colleagues asks us what we want. Seat assignments, we tell him. He says his colleagues won’t be able to help. I look at them. They are under siege. But we decide to stick around and take our chances. Sure enough, when we do get to an agent, she gives us great seats in Economy Plus, for an extra charge. What do you get in Economy Plus? Nicer seats with extra leg room. I am 5′ 10″ and expecting to put in a 20+ hour day by time we land. Of course we’re going to pay the extra charge, which is only $39 each.

I then call Aunt Joyce, who volunteers to meet Mom at the airport since we won’t be there. It’s a 90-minute drive for her, but she and her husband will do that because otherwise my 76-year-old mother will be stranded.

Hours later, Mom calls my cell phone (and I have several voice messages from her and Joyce on my phone — too bad I can’t get at them) and actually reaches me.

“I’m in baggage claim, where are you?”

“Denver.”

“What?”

“Did you call Joyce?”

“No. Oh, wait, here she is.”

So that part works reasonably well. Dave and I then make reservations for a Hampton Inn near the Salt Lake City airport. Because our flight out of Denver is weathered in for a while, we arrive there just before 2 a.m. With the time change, this comes to a 22-hour day. We are not in the best shape at that point. The Hampton Inn is not all that easy to find, although the guy at the Hertz counter got us fairly close. But it is worth it. The clerk puts us in the quietest room he has open and, mercifully, we sleep. Sort of. If you don’t count Dave’s leg cramp in the middle of the night and my general inability to sleep from having been wired all day long. But eventually, we are something approximating rested, and get up in time for the free breakfast.

Hampton Inn gave us a great room, a better-than-decent free breakfast, and a few hours of sanity when we were desperate, all at a very reasonable price. Thanks, Hampton Inn!

Next up: Aunt Joyce, Sam, and the Idaho Cousins.

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June 29, 2009 - Posted by | death of a parent, random thoughts, travel, weather | , , , , , , , , ,

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