Thursday, March 19, 2015

Whiling Away While Up and Away

For the greater part of a recent two-hour flight I studied what appeared to be perfectly placed hair spikes on the precise crown of the back of a man’s head. (Spike Dude) Using the pinch-method zoom on my phone camera to snap the accompanying shot caught the attention of Guy To My Left who leaned decidedly away from me.

I began to wonder:

Does Spike Dude twist those teensy gathers of hair into little spindles, or does he haphazardly use a spiking gel? Or both?  I pictured his morning hair grooming taking place in a three-way mirror, found myself curious as to how many times he might sigh, flatten them and start over.

Does he always manufacture the same number of spikes? Every time he moved his head I tried to double check my count, which fluctuated so I had to start over. How long has he worn that do? His head is nicely shaped for it. 

Time whiled away as I compared Spike Dude’s head shape to Shaved Head Man—or was he really Bald Head Man?—seated a row closer to me. I tried to picture myself without hair, imagined how much easier life would be. My dad was mostly bald. I dig bald heads. I remembered the day one of our dear bald-headed friends showed up wearing a toupee. A horrid toupee that screamed TOUPEE! For decades he wore various toupees, each evolution looking more natural, right up until a recent unconquerable rash forced him to give them up. Such a sad day for him... But I didn’t want to ruin my relaxed flight time being sad so I refocused.

I wonder who influenced Spike Dude’s hairdo? I tried to picture Hollywood types, fashionistas still sporting spikes … Huh. I could only envision the current Mohawk trend. Michael Strahand came to mind. How long have spikes been out of vogue?

Maybe the spikes are an accidental result of a hat situation …which diverted my attention to a study of Gray Hat Guy directly in front of me. I decided he had the perfect size hat for his head. Does he typically wear baseball caps? Bet he does. His ears reminded me a little of my dad’s ears which endeared this stranger to me—this stranger whose face I had not seen but whose back of head had likely never been studied that closely. Or maybe it had. I cast my eyes around to see who else was studying the back of heads. Impossible to tell when all I could see was the back of heads.

Spike Dude changed position. I retrieved my phone, snapped another picture, used the pinch method to enlarge it, compared my first capture to the second. Guy To My Left shifted further away from me. I’m creeping him out. 

I stopped to consider if I was creepy, decided I was not. I’m just an old creative type who’s very entertaining in her own mind. I smiled, which I thought could be construed as creepy, which further entertained me so I smiled more broadly. I considered taking 20 more pictures just to see if Guy To My Left might actually crawl over his chair arm into the aisle to get away from me.

Heart zing! Perhaps Guy To My Left is a sky marshal who’s not moving away from me but rather leaning to unsnap his holster.  I put my phone away, wiped the grin off my face. Went back to staring.

After I calmed down a new thought struck me. Spike Dude may simply suffer an unconquerable cowlick to which he applies heavy product in attempts to make it obey. But it doesn’t and never will. Although it frustrates him, his Happy Hair is adding eons of distraction to my flight.

I relaxed, closed my eyes, gave thanks for all the wonders of the world including Spike Dude. May his life be as merry and self-entertaining as mine. 

And may you all be able to relax during your next flight without wondering what someone is thinking about your hair, your ears--your life.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Tweets, Texts, Emails, Phone Calls & Whiskey


What a great plan: American Airlines Flight 2315 (which was of course Envoy also sort of known as American Eagle) direct flight from ABQ to ORD home. Seats in row 10. Huzza! Super plan, right up until they first posted delays and then ... canceled. We learned of the cancellation via a recorded message to my cell phone which arrived simultaneously with notification of same on FlightStats, which I’d been dogging. This explosion of wonderfulness occurred about two hours before departure.

Here we go.

Our son had been through this a few days previous. Around noonish via email he was notified that his AA ABQ to MSP connecting flights were canceled for his next-day flights and replacement flights left him driving in the middle of the night from MSP to his final destination. It took hours and hours and hours on the phone and disconnections and starting over and then having someone difficult to understand tell him they could see flights he couldn’t see on the website (Oh, really?—and another disconnect) until finally he left a message, assured he wouldn’t lose his place in line and that someone would phone him back when it was his turn. Sometimes one just has to go to bed. Hours later around 11:30 p.m. he received a call rebooking him for a day later than originally scheduled but with the sane and suitable replacement flights he'd been trying to get all along. Via PHX not DFW. Enough said.

Fun fact: while he was on hold I tried every online trick I could think of to help him. This included sending a Tweet out to @AmericanAir. After all, I’d just read an article somewhere whereby an AA customer touted timely Twitter help she received after she accidentally ended up outside security. Their quick response Tweet saved her from missing her flight. Why wouldn’t I try that?! SUPER MOM TO THE RESCUE!

6:58 PM 2/22/15  @AmericanAir Any hints to get through to and stay connected with you to rearrange weather related cancels? Hours in now w/nothing.

11:58 pm 2/22/15 @TwinkleChar Please continue to wait, Charlene.

But enough about my son’s trial. Back to our dilemma.

I phoned AA from our hotel room (close to the airport and with a free shuttle) to rebook flights and was put on hold. As I kept the phone to my ear and replayed our son’s plight in my head I said to my husband, "Let’s take the shuttle to the airport now. I want to be able to talk directly to a human and be available to reroute in an instant."  A storm was due into ABQ later in the day. GET US OUT OF HERE, right?

When we arrived at ABQ  hubby and I both noticed no other airlines had customer lines. Only AA. About 20 folks.  From the line chatter and grumbling we soon learned everyone in that line was trying to reschedule their canceled Chicago flight. The line was moving (hahahaha) very slowly. One dude at the back of the line, trying to make a connection, yelled thus and demanded folks MOVE IT ALONG!

Oh, that always works. To get you stared down like the dumb petoot you're acting like.

About 25 minutes in I was still on hold and we were next up to the counter.

[While all this was going on and I was still on hold, my call waiting sounded. It was American Airlines. I clicked over (holding my breath I didn’t get disconnected) to listen to a recording telling me they were sorry about the cancellation, that there were no other direct flights, but not to worry that we’d “been protected” on alternate flights.  If I had a pencil and paper handy, which I did, the recording said I should say CONTINUE and they’d tell me what and when. CONTINUE, I said, but the voice was sorry it didn’t understand me. After three more failed attempts for it to understand CONTINUE it said I should call American Airlines. Goodbye.

Alrighty then. I clicked back over to my holding.

An AA rep eventually came on the line. I told her we were next up for the counter at the airport and asked if we should just hang up and let them handle it. "NO!" Seriously, she nearly yelled. She reassured me that yes we were “protected” and confirmed on flights connecting in DFW. The next day.  I explained there was a storm coming into ABQ that evening and couldn’t she please get us out of there. I was uber nice, funny even. Charming you might say. After long pauses and an “I know this is crazy but…” The only thing she could offer was Albuquerque to Phoenix to NYC (don’t remember which airport) to ORD.

I can’t possibly imagine anything going wrong there, can you! Oddly, we declined.

We hung up in time for the gate agent to tell us the same thing. Sometimes things just are what they are. At least we weren't about to miss a wedding or funeral or our last moments on this earth with someone we loved. Just lean into this, Charlene, I said to myself, and be grateful. Visions of whiskey began to dance in my head.

I phoned the hotel, which I'd highly recommend. The kind manager, who said he understood our precarious situation when we’d earlier checked out, answered. I asked for his very best rate. He extended a “distressed passenger” price of five bucks cheaper than our previous night which had been a good deal to start with so I said thank you very much and okay and he said he'd send their free shuttle (van) ride back to the airport to retrieve us.

There is nothing like feeling both “protected” while also affirmed you are “distressed.”

We opted for our same room which hadn’t yet been cleaned but we didn’t care. We often blow off housekeeping anyway. We like to leave our stuff strewn all over the place.

[begin group texts to our sons]

1:04 p.m. -   So we get to go home tomorrow now, barring the incoming storm doesn’t hose that. No longer nonstop. Routed via DFW. Will keep you posted. Checking back into Comfort Inn for distressed passenger rate. Where’s the bar?

[We enjoyed a four-hour, time-killing eat and libation session at Applebees across the street, got a dinner sandwich to go, watched TV and retired early for the first of our next day’s flights due to depart at 9:01 a.m..]

Yep, that storm arrived. Here's the view out the ABQ concourse window flight morning.
8:35 a.m – 9:01am flight shows on time out of here so far but DFW now has weather warnings involving ice.  Ah, travel.

9:49 a.m. - Seated on flight one.

10:07 a.m. -  And now… Deicing…

10:17 a.m. -  And … now a bunch of other stuff [gas] and then deicing and then …

10:42 a.m. -  Seriously we are going to deice.

1:07 p.m. -  At DFW. Still showing #2315 leaving on time at 2:55 but standing by on #2309 departing at 2. Just got here. Whiskey ordered. 

[Then whiskey and diet slammed because, miraculously (or so I thought, even though we had the very back row) ...]

Dad's View
1:54 p.m. -  We are on early flight! In end probably won’t save time now since made us check bags last minute and tons of empty overhead space on board. Grrr. This is dad’s view. Oh well, still hope to make Irish COD [College of DuPage] performance tonight. [Note to TL readers: it never occurred to me when I bought these $50+ each tickets weeks’ previous that we wouldn’t be home for them, since we were due in the day before.]

2:07 p.m. -  And now starts delays…Need gas. Will then get in line to deice. Lesson learned: stay the course.

2:26 p.m. - Original later flight beating us out. Haven’t even pushed back yet, then deicing. Then luggage pickup in ORD. More whiskey please. [Although no whiskey was available to us. Just wishful texted thinking. I kept checking FlightStats on our original flight too, which stayed on a par with our speedy standby maneuver. I later learned DEPARTED only meant pushed back for both flights seemingly having a race to lose.]

2:37 p.m. - And now ... Nobody is leaving Dallas. [meaning on our plane] Flight attendant disarming doors.

2:51 p.m. -  Final update (hahaha): we are now leaving DFW at 3:35. Welcome to captivity. So glad I pounded a whiskey. [Referring to the 1:07 pounding, not another whiskey people!]

3:54 p.m. - We’re waiting for deicing. Hahaha!

4:19 p.m. - We’re on our way to get deiced. Hahahahaha!

4:34 p.m. - We’re on our way to decing. Bwahahaha!

4:43 p.m. - Still on the ground in DFW

Email to Joe Brancatelli at, a longtime road warrior and my travel guru. 

4:49 p.m. [Can you tell I’m bored?] Been on our way home from ABQ since canceled direct flight yesterday. Been in plane on ground at dfw today since 2. It's now 4:30. Travel sucks. Bless you for enduring.

4:52 p.m. – [from Joe] At 3 hours you have the right to disembark

5:07 p.m. -  [text to sons] Just now getting de-iced.

5:20 p.m. – [Email to Joe] We're out on tarmac. Been here forever now. Just got deiced, we think. FlightStats lies. =:-O Says we left 3:47. Thanks for outreach. Makes me feel better. We have been so jacked around but you know what it's like. Oh well, more material. [always a writer]

5:24 p.m. – [from Joe] The dot rule is three hours ON THE TARMAC. They can't hold you longer. Dot rules

[I don’t explain to Joe till the next day that we had one chance--that 2:37 disarming doors text where the captain said looks like maybe 3:35 pushback--to get off the plane. The captain said we’d have to take everything with us if we deplaned and if the flight received clearance ahead of predictions they wouldn’t wait and he didn’t advise we get off.]

[We finally take off. Whiskey and diet ordered, paid for with credit card, received and happily consumed. Souvenir picture.] 

7:17 [Back to texts to sons] Just landed in ORD. Still taxi. Then get luggage [Note to TL readers by way of reminder that there was plenty of room for our bags in the overheads] then wait for limo. Probably missed whole Irish show but will try to catch end.

We quickly stopped at a no-line fast food on the concourse and bought one quarter-pound cheeseburger to split in the limo. We had the limo driver take us directly to College of DuPage where we arrived just before the intermission. We checked our bags in the coat room and I ordered a whiskey and diet. Anyone surprised? Anyone? A friend who also had tickets gave us a ride home.

We later learned—and for a few days running—that hundreds of people slept on cots at DFW. Maybe they are still there. So we were the lucky ones. Our flight crew out of DFW, who remained pleasant, efficient and sympathetic, shared with us that they were on their fourth flight of the day. All previous flights had gone well. They’d started flying at 5 a.m. that morning and they didn’t deplane until after we did, sometime around 7:30. 

After two days, many texts, one Tweet, a few Emails, countless hours of holding phones calls and some whiskey along the way, it was agreed upon that at least we weren’t them. Talk about a long travel day ... Bless you, flight crews. Bless you.

PS In case you were trying to count, I had two whiskeys over four hours at Applebees on Thursday. Friday I had one before our second flight, one on flight two and one at the college, which made for three drinks (and no driving) over a period of 7.5 hours. (I am a responsible drinker.) It just looked like more because I used bright flashy pink and large type. For emotional reasons. Hey, I'm a girl who likes whiskey. Deal with it. :)