Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Flight from hell

     So, yes, I know that once again, it has been a while since I posted, and once again, I will give the same lame excuse...I've been TRAVELING!  I just returned from an awesome Alaskan cruise with the other Train Wreck and we had a blast.  Now that I'm home and possibly have some downtime, I'm going to try to get some of the Alaska stuff up as well.  But first, let me tell you about the flight home.
     I have been on dozens of flights since my first one at age 15.  Honestly, I couldn't count the number of flights or airports I have encountered.  I've been on good flights and on bad flights. I even endured a nine-seat puddle jumper in a thunderstorm flying from Nassau to my little island of San Salvador when I was living in the Bahamas with Club Med. I've made numerous trips 'across the pond' (Including one in First THAT was the way to fly! Spoiled me for all other flights after that!), but this flight back from Vancouver takes the cake.
     The flight out to Anchorage had a stop in Salt Lake, which added some time to the flight. It was a full flight and the idiot in front of me, of course, had to recline his seat, so my knees were wedged under him the whole 4 hours. But after that, we had absolutely gorgeous weather the whole week we were in Alaska. However, while we were enjoying that awesome weather, here in Las Vegas, they were having severe thunder storms and flash flooding. 

     Our flight home was on West airline I hadn't been on before, but Delta just put us with them as a sister airline, I guess.  I didn't mind because it was a only a 3 hour straight flight from Vancouver to Vegas, and like Jet Blue, they have TV's in the seats in front of you and and wrap around headrests. It was also nice that the flight was less than half full, which meant almost everyone could have their own row.  That is always really great for us tall people, and my mom's back was really not doing well so the extra room was appreciated even more. 
     Now, about an hour before landing in Vegas, the, up to then, non-eventful flight got a little more interesting.  I would describe it as a cross between "The Twilight Zone" (the Shatner version of course, because he's the man and we know I'm a die-hard fan!) and Stephen King's "Langoliers".  We hit the weather that was pounding Vegas and it started pounding us. I was really glad mom and I keep our seat-belts on when in our seat regardless of how much turbulence there is, because when we started rocking and rolling, we actually came up out of our seats a couple times, as least as much as our belts would permit. We were sitting behind the wings (a bad place to sit if you know anything about planes in storms and landings) and I just couldn't stop OCD'ing enough to just shut the damn shade. Maybe I was expecting the gremlin on the wing. We were all over the place!  Mom was sitting in the row in front of me and I asked her if she was alright (it takes a lot to fluster mom), but at one time I was starting to get really concerned.  I later told dad it was "scary" but mom said it was "concerning" so I had to amend my comment to "alarming". I was just starting to think about whether I should try to make that last phone call home to say goodbye, when we came into view (albeit through the clouds) of Vegas. The ride did not get any smoother.  At one point, the pilot literally had us on our side trying to make the turn for landing.

     Through all this, with the exception of an occasional expletive from someone at a particularly bad bump, that plane was quiet.  It didn't help. I was holding on to the back of mom's chair with both hands, considering prepping the barf-bag as a precaution for the onset of motion sickness and still unable to look away from the wing. As we came in for landing, the pilot was dipping the wings a little too much for my comfort and when I saw the runway beneath us, for a minute, I really wondered if he would level out in time because it looked like just a few feet between wing and runway.  Had that wing hit, we would have spun out, broken up and likely exploded on the runway.  Yes, I first think of the worst scenario.  Fortunately, the pilot pulled it off in the last few seconds and we landed safely.  For the first time in my life, the entire plane applauded the landing.  They then happily got off the plane ASAP.
     Mom and I were the last ones off since her back was really bothering her. I had asked for a wheelchair to be waiting at the gate in Vegas before we left Vancouver. It was there, but the terminal was completely empty and alien to us. (What ever happened to porters to push the wheelchairs, or those little golf-cart thingies you always see when you DON'T need them?)  Then it occurred to us that we were in the new Terminal 3, which has just been completed and is HUGE. This was the first time either of us had been there.
     The 'baggage claim' sign pointed down an escalator across from the gate, but with mom in the wheelchair, I needed to find an elevator. With no one to ask, we finally stumbled across one and got on to go to the lower level. When we got there and stepped off the elevator, there were two glass doors in front of us which slid open and led to a tiny sally-port and another set of glass sliding doors to the right.  The problem was, where THOSE doors led was an apparently unused part of the new terminal. It was dark, and there was carpet down, but no chairs, desk, etc. and the one side was still covered with construction plastic. Thinking we had gone to the wrong floor, I tried to take mom back on the elevator, but of course, those first two glass, sliding doors wouldn't open from that side.  OK, off on another adventure!

(Imagine this, only dark and at night)

     We went out of the sally-port into a hallway leading between the wall and the carpeted area and finally saw two employees. I asked if we were headed in the right direction of baggage claim and the one ignored me and the other just nodded.  What? Are we hiring the mute in this section of the airport?!  So we started following the baggage claim signs.  Let me tell you, that new terminal is ginormous! And we couldn't find any employees anywhere for help.We finally wandered long enough to find the baggage claim and there were a few people there from another airline, but the carousel that our flight's luggage was suppose to be on was just going around and around, with no baggage and no people nearby waiting.  WTF, now? Just as I was starting to lose what little patience I had left, an announcement came over the P.A. that anyone claiming baggage from our flight must come to the security office to claim it.  Oh, crap.  What could possibly be wrong with our suitcases?  Or did we lose them somewhere over Utah when we were trying not to barf all over the plane?
    So we went to the security office and there were our two suitcases.  The security agent told us they had just collected them because everyone from our flight had come and gone long ago.  That was how long it took us to find the damn thing. She saw us come up to the carousel and made the announcement. Because she couldn't just stick her head out the door and say, "In here!"? Next came me trying to maneuver a cart with all the luggage and my mom in the wheelchair. Honestly, I don't remember how I did that. Hmmmm.

     We went out the door for passenger pick-up like we've always done at the other terminal, but of course, this one had to be more complicated.  Apparently, there were two passenger pick-ups and the one dork I could find to give us instructions had no clue what he was talking about.  Back in we went, up to another level and out again to hopefully be where we needed to meet dad. And he actually found us!  
    Ugh. In conclusion, I really don't want to have a tougher flight to blog about at a later date.  This little adventure in air-travel will be plenty, thank you very much!

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