Well, yes, I was in Ireland for New Year’s. Hell, I was almost on a nine hour flight over the Atlantic Ocean for New Year’s – but I got lucky. (Actually, I got crafty, and a little bit verklempt. Or was it verklempt, and a little bit crafty? Anyway… I’ll explain that later.)
If you require visual aid, my series of half-assed photos starts here, on the bus from Gatwick to Heathrow. Somewhere along the way there are excellent photos of some big ol’ Irish hills. They aren’t mountains (I was assured), but they were somewhat… significant.
The photos do not well illustrate the story I will tell, but it’s better than no pictures at all. Yes?
Here we go.
The last two weeks before I left were a big scramble, like breakfast. I mean to say, like holiday breakfast, with family, before the dishes are done. Or the trash taken out. That kind of breakfast. Plans were made at the last minute when it seemed they were viable; a business trip to visit clients as good as friends, passport received, schedule cleared. I’d even meet my travel buddy in Atlanta, so I wouldn’t be all alone on that transatlantic flight.
I packed my office. I checked and doublechecked my luggage. My father drove me to the airport and put me on the plane to Atlanta. At least, he meant to. My flight was delayed two hours, so I sat in the terminal and kept myself occupied (and calm). They insisted I would be fine, and that on the very slim chance I might miss my connecting flight to Dublin, they would put me on a plane to Paris and get me through just fine, a few hours late. No problem at all.
We boarded, and flew to Atlanta.
When I touched down, there was just about no chance that I’d reach that connecting flight. So I ran. And guys, I just don’t run all that fast.
Dude, I tried. I ran like I ain’t never ran before! (I have to add that I was concerned about my grammar there, but finally decided that if I’m going to use ain’t I can damn well use the second ran for the sake of sound, instead of bothering with run, proper or not, and screw up the flow. I win.) I dragged myself and my carryon luggage all the way across the fucking airport. It was obscene.
But of course, I got to the gate with the bored-looking fellow leaning on his counter, standing in a sea of lonely seats and the lingering, empty essence of recently departed passengers, and though I did muster up the final energy to ask him if the plane had gone yet, I really didn’t need to, it was really obvious at that point, Heaven help me, what was I going to do now?
Der, of course the plane had gone.
I leaned against the counter for a moment to catch my breath, not caring much what the bored guy thought of it.
Then I went to the Delta desk to stand in line.
I checked my messages. Travel buddy was gone – during my mad dash I’d called his cell, and spoken with him very briefly. He’d said something about Manchester. A few stray voice messages. Paris. They told me they’d route me through Paris. Everything’s going to be fine.
I had this awful, awful feeling as I approached the desk. The queue was pretty serious. Delta had fucked with the flights of many people. The dude in front of me was making a quiet fuss and taking a long time to be dealt with. I didn’t begrudge him his fuss – I wanted to get the hell to Dublin and out of airports. Already I was tired. No more goddamn airports. Please.
When I finally had the chance to speak to a bonafide Delta employee, they told me Paris was out. Manchester was out. London was out. Everywhere was out. “I can put you on a flight to Dublin tomorrow at 7pm,” the woman said. She sounded like she thought she was being very reasonable. You’re the dumbass who planned a big trip right up against New Year’s, her demeanor cried. Ain’t our fault!
Of course, the day I am describing to you was December 30th. They wanted to put me on a plane at 7pm on New Year’s Eve. My New Year’s Eve was going to be a nine hour transatlantic flight.
I was flabbergasted. I had no idea what to say.
I told her I had to make a few phone calls, and I’d be back.
I went and sat in the nearest terminal and started to bawl. Blearily I dialed Angel’s number. She picked up and I just started sobbing. I tried to speak coherently, and I think I mostly succeeded, but I couldn’t help it, I was miserable. What the hell was I going to do? I wasn’t really going to spend New Year’s Eve cramped in coach, was I? What did they do for New Year’s Eve on long flights? Did the captain wish everyone a happy new year over the public address? Did they serve complimentary champagne? Did they all sit around quietly feeling sorry for themselves, or somnambulating about friends and family, half asleep with their knees around their ears and their necks aching? Feeling dumb for being on a fucking plane when the ball dropped?
Did they have a little party?
Angel thought of as many options as she could. There were people I could stay with in Atlanta. I didn’t have to stay in the airport, I didn’t have to stay in a hotel. But Delta didn’t know that – for all Delta knew (and certainly for all I was willing to tell them), I was a student with no real cash, and their stupidity (and cheerful insistence that I’d be fine, that I should go ahead and get on the plane to Atlanta) had caused me not only to completely miss my travel buddy, the one thing making this crazy new idea of flying over an ocean somewhat comfortable. And now they were going to ruin my holiday, too.
I went back to the Delta desk and got in line.
I was still crying. Everything was in my checked luggage. My cell wasn’t going to last long without the charger, and it felt like my only link to people who cared what happened to me. Verklempt as I was (I told you I was verklempt), I was determined to stay upset, I was determined to keep bawling. I had some idea that even if I tried to stop, I might not be able to, but I had to remember that a crying girl was likely to get better attention than a calm, collected girl. And I am capable of looking pretty seriously pathetic, I have to tell you. So I did my best, wondering if Method was actually controlling Misery, or if perhaps it was the other way around.
When I really think about it, I’m fairly certain I stood in that line three separate times, but I can only specifically remember two of them. I’m not sure why that is, or if I was so upset as to have hallucinated (or blanked out) certain bits. Once a nice woman tried to cheer me up. She made me feel a tiny bit better, and it was nice to know there were kind people in the world… in that stupid airport. But memory lapses, concerned strangers, or no, it doesn’t matter – I got the same numb Delta treatment across the board. There wasn’t anywhere for me to go. They wouldn’t comp a hotel room – they would give me a discount. If I hadn’t enough money for the hotel, I could stay in the airport. It was a twenty-four hour airport.
“I won’t be able to sleep, I have a laptop with me,” I said, horrified at the idea of getting no real rest between then and the next day… and then having to get on a flight longer than any I’d taken before, one where I was incredibly unlikely to be able to sleep.
“Your laptop will be fine, you can sleep,” the same woman said, looking at me like I was crazy. “This is a secure airport,” she said. It sounded snotty to me, in my state of disbelief. It might not have been. Hell, maybe it was.
I think maybe my mouth hung open for a moment. I couldn’t believe what she was saying.
I wanted to see a manager. “There’s really nothing anyone can do, she’ll probably tell you just the same thing,” the woman tried to explain.
Robot, with your canned answers, over and over again. Get me a goddamn manager.
I continued to look pathetic and damp from tears, and at this point I doubt there was any remaining calculation on my part. I didn’t swear once. I stayed meek and plaintive. In retrospect, I should’ve kept crying… and added yelling. In retrospect, lots of things!
“She’ll be down in a few minutes,” the woman said, still sounding like she was trying to discourage me. Pointless. Your struggle is pointless, silly sobbing girl.
I waited twenty-five minutes for a manager. I sat on the floor a few yards from the front of the Delta line with my carryons piled around me. I was so tired. I probably looked a mess. People gave way around me, not wanting to intrude on my personal space. My calculation returned somewhat. I attempted to exude sad and helpless and uncared for from my very pores.
The manager came.
He had a neat accent. He didn’t seem like a real human being, but he wasn’t a robot, and there were no canned answers from him. It took him two minutes to find me a solution. I would fly to London-Gatwick, take a shuttle to London-Heathrow, and get on a flight to Dublin from there. I’d have to uncheck and recheck my luggage, and I’d have to pay for the bus between airports, but I could be in Dublin by 5pm GMT. Peachy.
Now, let’s just not discuss the fact that Delta employees set me on the course of disaster. Let’s not fool ourselves and believe it was all the fault of the weather that delayed my flight from Akron-Canton. Let’s overlook the part where I kept the tears coming for a good two and a half hours before anyone bothered to give me more than a rote response, and then never batted an eye to ask what they could do to make it better. Fuck Delta. Didn’t they already go bankrupt? Apparently they don’t mind if I have a rotten story to tell about them. And while we’re at it, let’s just try and forget the part where they won’t pay for my shuttle. On top of everything.
Forgotten. Put me on a plane!
I weaselled a meal voucher out of the robot employee and went to get myself some dinner.
(The next installment, in case you’re interested, is here.)