Thursday, September 14, 2006

Trip from Hell

I realized that I underestimated the extent of fiasco on the first night of arrival.

Everything started to go wrong as soon as I stepped onto the American soil.

Literally. Not in the pouring rain on my way to the airport on the morning of 9/10, not in the run-down Terminal 2 building at the Chiang Kai-Shek airport, not at Narita airport (apparently the only pleasant part of the journey), nor during the 12-hour trans-Pacific air time (though not necessarily painless). But in Chicago.

Chicago O'hare airport is considered the American soil, right?

The immigration line was long, and the only source of entertainment while standing in line with a 10-pound backpack weighing down on my shoulders after 16 hours of flying was watching the security dog (the quietest beagle ever seen) walking around sniffing every passenger's bag. I wonder if my own Shiba-inu at home would ever live up to acquire such great professionalism.

Then going through customs and struggling to *somehow* squeeze my luggage back to the luggage belt among other tens of thousands of luggage carts next to me. "Beep!", the lady scanned my luggage tag. "Gate B9. Go out this door, take the escalator up, take the air-train to Terminal 1 and go through security, NOW," she yelled at me. "Wait, my luggage ...," I was about to say. "No, go now, you've got no time. We'll take care of it."

I looked around trying to relocate myself. "Terminal 5," a huge plastic sign hanging right above the belt. Alright, I really need to run.

15 mins later arriving at Terminal 1 and again struggling to get through a long line of security check as fast as I can, I arrived at my gate. "Departure Time Rescheduled at 4:40pm." Great, a whole hour to kill ... Why was I running so hard again?

4:20 pm, no sign of boarding. I checked the monitor again. "Departure Time Rescheduled at 5:30pm." What?!? ... Now, why is the AC so strong here? Mind that there are people flying in from tropical regions and it's only 60 F/15 C outside?!?

5:10 pm, everyone boarded, and the aircraft was about to pull out of the gate. "Ladies and Gentlemen, we have just been informed that due to a road construction at the Boston airport and extended air control, we won't be taking off till 6:30. We apologize for any inconvenience that we've caused you ...", the pilot's announcement woke me up from semi-deliria.

By then, I'd been up for 24 hours straight. I wish I could just scream.

"When is Boston not under construction?", I heard one of the passengers in the back chuckled.

Good question, my friend.

9:30 pm, my flight finally landed in Boston Logan Airport. By then, I'd been freezing for 2 hours. "Sorry, we run out of blankets and passed out all the pillows."

Since when blankets and pillows are reserved for the business class only?

Down in the baggage claim area, I checked my watch. "At least I could get home before 10:30." Then the carousel started to ring with an ugly, alarming sound followed by a huge crashing noise. A min later, the same sequence repeated 3 times.

Great, now the carousel is broken. Do people know what "maintenance" means in this airport?

9:50 pm, luggage from UA 182 slowly stream-lined out along with those from other 4 other flights at another carousel. No one should ever attempt to put 5-flight-worth of luggage on one carousel. Never.

10:30 pm, no sign of my big luggage. I asked the four United crew members standing aside chatting, each with a big bottle of Dunkin' Donuts coffee/smoothies in their hands. "Do you know if there's more luggage coming out for UA 182 flight?" The guys looked at each other till one of them finally said, "I don't know, Ma'am. Did you check the carousel?"

Hello? What do you think I was doing for the past 45 mins standing here?

"Are they possibly in any of these piles?" I asked again, pointing to mountain-high suitcases behind them in a blocked-out area. "I don't know, Ma'am ... If you want to go in and check it for yourself ..."


11 pm, I realized that back in Chicago airport they weren't kidding when they said that there were 100 people on standby for the flight. Seeing that there're quite a number of suitcases sitting around on the carousel with luggage tags printed "UA 182," I realized that they must have loaded suitcases of the standby folks and forgot to load the ones who actually took the flight.

11:10 pm, I walked to the United office filing a report.

"Do you offer any compensation for delayed/lost baggage?"
"No, only if it's NECESSITY and nothing may be compensated for the first 24 hours."
"What do you mean by N-E-C-E-S-S-I-T-Y?" I asked. "Everything is necessity to me."
"Well, necessity like NECESSITY! Like your change of clothes, toiletries, etc. And no report may be filed until after the first 24 hours."
"... ..."

"So is there a number at this airport where I could call to check the latest status of my los-, *ahem*, well, delayed bag?"
"No, there's only a 1-800 that you could call."
"But it's going to put me through a long automated answering machine system right?"
"Well, you go through the system till the very end and you can say 'Agent' to talk to an agent."

Sigh ... This kind of conversation after 30 hours of flying across the Pacific Ocean + continental America ... I was meant to be on the losing end.

12 am, home. I dialed the 1-800 number to make sure that the lady at the airport who defined the meaning of "NECESSITY" for me indeed filed the report correctly. At the end of the 5-min yelling and shouting session with the voice recognition system on the phone, the message came back saying, "I'm sorry, all of our agents are currently busy serving other customers. Please call us back at another time. Goodbye!"

"(*Click*) ... Doo-doo-doo-doo ..."

Wait, I thought the message should be: "I'm sorry, all of our agents are busy serving the other customers. Please continue to hold until the next available representative." And the "Goodbye!" really doesn't need to sound that cheerful.

12:30 am. In the same T-shirt that I've been wearing over the past 32 hours, I called it a night. Or shall I say - a very very long journey?


梅ちゃん at 5:16:00 AM



at 9/16/06, 3:29 AM Anonymous Lurker said...

O'hare is the worst thing that has ever happened to aviation. I avoid it at all cost.

Hope you found your luggage. Transpacific is always a pain.


Post a Comment