Luck be a lady flying through LAX

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Trip type: Business

Airline: Delta

Route: MSP – SJC via LAX

Outbound

“The early bird catches the worm” are words to live by. Although not a travel novice in the least, I do not like to cut my travel time too short. (As my friend Andrea found out when she was two minutes late to pick me up for a different trip to California the other week and I was already Googling the number for a cab.) I’m always at the airport plenty early so that if anything goes awry, I’m ready to take action.

As it turns out, this worked out beautifully last week. To save over $1k on my travel, I was connecting through LAX on my way to San Jose and was starting the day with a 7:35 flight to Los Angeles. I arrived at the gate around 6:30 and after not even a minute was called to the podium.

“Ma’am, is San Jose your final destination?”

– “Yes.”

“Did you check any bags?”

– “No.”

“Would you like to take the direct San Jose flight instead of connecting?”

– “Is that a real question?”

Although already wiling to jump at the new itinerary, I did ask the agent if he could get me a decent seat as I was worried he was going to put me in a middle seat in the back of the plane. He said he thought he could do all right and handed me a new ticket for seat 1A.

Yep, I flew direct, got in an hour earlier than I was scheduled, and got a first class upgrade. Not too shabby.

Inbound

The flight home was not as magical (although really, how could it be?). I started off my day of travel getting beaned by a fly-away air hockey puck (long story but basically I was at one of those ‘cool kid’ tech conferences where they had a bunch of arcade games setup by our booth…I think you can figure out the rest. Actually, can I just side-bar here for a moment? If you’re a man reading this and you attend conferences where women are the minority of attendees, can you make a concerted effort to not be a dingbat? In addition to these guys who were so careless they missed hitting me in the eye by 1″, there was another gem of a gentleman who asked me “Did you used to be a model when you were younger?” Yes, a real person said this. Please don’t be this guy.) and was not looking forward to a very tight connection at my favorite airport (LAX) to end what had been a long week.

Boarding at SJC, we were on a small regional jet which meant we had to gate-check our bags. Usually I like gate-checking because it takes out anxiety about overhead space and makes the cattle call slightly more sane but this time I just inwardly groaned when I saw the pink tags come out because it meant we’d have to wait for the 60 or so carry-ons to be brought up when we landed.

Sure enough, even though we got in on time, I had to stand around for 10 minutes waiting for the bags to be brought around. My connection time was already scheduled for 44 minutes and I knew every second was going to count. I called my husband and asked him to look up what gate number I was going to next so that I could make a break for it after I got my bag.

Finally with bag in hand, I sprinted across Terminal 5 to the next gate and got there just as they started boarding my section. I sent my mom and E this picture from the jet bridge:

Delta jet bridge

Made it with 27 minutes to spare.

This was not my closest call, but it certainly felt like it. You see, I was determined to get home not just because if I had to spend another minute at LAX I was going to lose it, but because there was a Mother’s Day celebration at my son’s school the next morning. With an arrival time of 1 a.m., there wasn’t any room for error if I was going to make it to “Muffins with Mom” and see my kid for the first time since Sunday night. Thankfully, it appears luck was on my side for this entire trip. I may have even teared up during takeoff from the relief.

And yes, I made it to muffins at 7:30 the next morning.

takeoff from LAX

Evening takeoffs are the prettiest.

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Becoming ‘That Family’: Adventures in Parenting and Flying

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Trip type: Personal

Airline: Delta

Route: BDL – MSP

Ah, the many joys of flying with a child. Where to begin? The ridiculous amount of items you have to pack? Standing in a never-ending line to check said items? Knowing that no matter what time your flight, you’ll disrupt at least a nap or a meal, if not both?

The biggest joy of flying with a child, of course, is the actual flying. We’ve flown with H basically every six months of his life: 6mos., 11mos., 1.5, and soon at just about 2 years. The wonderful thing about children this age is that they are continually changing, growing, and surprising you. Something that seemed insurmountable, unpronounceable, or simply unfathomable the day before is suddenly something executed with such practiced ease, you can scarcely remember a time you didn’t have a tiny person standing on your coffee table throwing crackers to the dog.

This also means that their demeanor, triggers, cheerfulness, and everything else can change in an instant, too. My child who was an absolute dream to fly with at 6mos. was a holy terror at 1.5…and this is our story.

En route back to Minneapolis from Hartford, we learned what it was to be “those people”. H had missed both a normal meal as well as nap time and things went downhill very quickly. It’s hard to comfort a child when you’re in a three-seat row and only have two seats. And when the seatbelt sign is on and you can’t get up. And when there is just no consoling to be had.

Basically, he cried for nearly an hour with nary a pause save to gulp air for more crying. We tried food, water, distraction, comfort, singing, iPads, a new diaper, pacing (once the light went off)…everything we could think of. I knew he was tired and I knew there was nothing I could do but wait him out: he’d either fall asleep from exhaustion or make me permanently deaf.

Luckily, the former won out. But not before I caught a few nasty looks from other travelers as well as overheard the woman in front of us ask the flight attendant if there was “any sign of it quieting down back there”.

Now, I’d like to pause here by saying that naturally, I have been annoyed by a child on an airplane. Who hasn’t? Particularly as I’ve aged and gotten closer to having a child of my own, I’ve tried to be charitable about it, especially when it’s a crying child (versus an under-supervised misbehaving child). That said, it grates on you. I get it. I’ve been there. I once flew from Amsterdam on a flight with a child who – I kid you not – cried the entire 8+ hour flight.

But here’s the simple truth I now know for a fact to be true: No matter how annoyed you are, the parent(s) with the child would do anything they possibly could to make it stop. The next time you’re annoyed by a child losing his tiny mind on your flight, please remember the following:

  • The parents know that it’s loud–it’s loudest next to their eardrum. Your exaggerated sighing is not helpful.
  • The parents know that it’s been going on forever–they are counting the seconds until the flight lands and they can escape your glare. Your reproach is not helpful.
  • The parents know that “some kids like X”–they have tried every trick up their sleeve and then some. Your suggestion is not helpful.

Here’s the thing about flying–it’s public transportation of a more expensive, annoying variety. You never know who’s going to sit next to you or what you’re going to encounter (this blog is testament enough to that). Like life, however, you have to try and make the best of it.

And for heaven’s sake, be nice to that poor parent. She wishes it was over, too.

At last.

At last.

Is there a doctor on the flight?

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Trip type: Personal

Airline: Delta

Route: MSP – BDL

En route to Connecticut for Thanksgiving with a squirrel-y 1.5 year old in tow (more on that in the next post…), we heard one of probably the top three things you don’t want to hear from your flight crew: “Is there a doctor on the flight? Or a medical professional? Please meet us in the back of the plane immediately.”

Although it was a small plane (2×2 – not an ideal size for corralling a child who has finally decided he wants to walk and is hell-bent on doing so at every opportunity), there were a surprising number of people who stood up including a general practitioner, an ophthalmologist (how many times do you think the eye doctor wishes it were an eye emergency so he could save the day?), and a couple of nurses. I chalk this up to the vast and experienced medical industry in Minnesota.

A young man in the back of the plane had a seizure and was laid out in the back galley of the plane. There was some debate about an emergency landing but luckily he came around and had medication with him as this was a preexisting condition. I would later see him at baggage claim and he couldn’t have been older than college-aged, on his way home for the holiday with his family. I can’t imagine how scary it was to have that happen while flying alone (or how terrible it was for his family to learn of the episode occurring while he was in flight) but I’m incredibly grateful there were medical professionals and a calm crew on hand to help out.

As it turned out, we dodged an even bigger travel bullet as we were flying the Tuesday of the Thanksgiving week. The next day the East Coast was walloped with a nor’easter that canceled thousands of flights. Although it seemed like more of my typical bad flying luck, it turned out to be a good thing we flew when we did!

Enjoying the snow!

Enjoying the snow!

 

Catch-up Vignettes II

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I’ve traveled quite a bit in the past couple of months but I’m behind on posting…luckily no disasters to report. Here are some highlights from September/October travel. Two trips coming up in November (including one over Thanksgiving with a baby)–get excited!

Nashville Broadway

My first trip to Nashville was fabulous – will absolutely be back

Recap 1: BNA // MSP

On the heels of my last trip, I was off to Nashville for a Junior League conference. After three intense days, my friend and League President Elect, Jen, and I were headed home on one of the earliest flights available Sunday morning. The weather was perfect, the skies were clear…and two flights were canceled. Luckily, neither was ours. Unluckily, all the cranky and panicked passengers trying to rebook kept coming to our check-in counter trying to get our flight rep to help them (rather than stand in the long line they were supposed to be in)…and she kept giving in.

Despite her repeated pleadings over the PA system that she needed to board our flight before she could help others, they just kept piling up…and she kept helping them. It was infuriating when it was five minutes before we were supposed to depart and she was still elbows-deep in the rebooking system. It was pretty funny, however, to watch all the passive-aggressive Minnesotans quietly queue up and then loudly sigh and stare at the hapless desk agent (self included).

SFO take-off

Taking off from SFO

Recap 2: MSP // SFO

Mid-October I went to San Francisco for one of the largest conferences I’ve ever attended. With over 140k in attendees, it is the stuff of my agoraphobic nightmares. The entire city is overrun and you’ll wish you had a BA in Logistics and Crisis Management. Or some really good anxiety meds.

With a lot riding on my attendance from an execution standpoint (the meticulously crafted Master Details binder wasn’t going to get there on its own, you know?), I needed the flight schedule to run flawlessly. Happily, my flight out was exactly on time…and filled with everyone from Minneapolis going to the conference.

If there’s one thing I get sick of hearing when I get on a plane, it’s “I’m so glad you’re sitting next to me!” This comment is not as lascivious as it sounds; rather, it’s almost always said by very large men who are thrilled I (presumably) won’t be using all of my seat…or any of my arm rest. It was a long flight out.

Home again, I’m here for another couple of weeks before it’s back to California and then out east for Thanksgiving. Stay tuned!

Misty

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Trip type: Business

Airline: Delta

Route: LAX-MSP

Last week I was back to the most dreaded of inefficient airports, LAX. My hatred is both well-documented and well-earned at this point, so it was no surprise when we spent an hour on the tarmac after arriving (on time) to find that our gate wasn’t ready. I’m honestly not even fazed any more when this happens at LAX because I just expect everything to be delayed/crazy/just short of an all-out disaster. And I am always right.

At any rate, this story is actually about my trip home which has a very happy ending. I had flown to LAX in order to drive three hours to Lake Arrowhead for a Sales/Marketing retreat (life’s tough, see below). I flew out Monday and was headed home late Thursday. Because of the drive time, I was on the last flight (before the redeye) to Minneapolis for the day at 6pm, landing just after 11pm.

I was nervous about this flight time for many reasons. For starters, it was preceded by a long drive from the mountains through rush hour traffic. In greater LA. Second, there was no room for error because if I missed the flight, I’d have to hope I could get on the redeye or stay the night (which would really louse up my carefully scheduled Friday morning in Minneapolis that included getting my hair done). Third, it was the Thursday heading into Labor Day weekend…if anything makes a bad airport worse, it’s holiday travel. Finally, and most importantly, I had been away since very early Monday morning and was dying to see my beloved tiny human (and his father).

For all my worry, everything worked out perfectly. Due to some scheduling changes with my driving partner, I ended up coming down the mountain much earlier than anticipated. With great traffic on our side, I breezed into LAX at 2pm and was through PreCheck by 2:05. After checking the flight board and seeing there was a 3pm flight to Minneapolis, I raced to the gate to see if there was any chance it wasn’t completely full. As luck would have it, there were seats available and as the agent printed out my new boarding pass, I actually got a little misty-eyed–you would have thought he built me a seat on the plane himself. He might as well have.

While LAX will probably never get off my most-loathed list, getting home three hours earlier made my day.

arrowhead big bear california

Lake Arrowhead

lake arrowhead

At your service

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Trip type: Business

Airline: Delta

Route: MSP-ORD

Navy Pier Chicago

The ferris wheel at Navy Pier

For this story, we won’t even need to leave the gate. Headed to Chicago for a conference, I was ever so impatiently lurking around the gate while the (late-to-arrive) plane was emptying out. (This is my usual MO for boarding an aircraft because I don’t enjoy leaving anything to chance–such as whether or not there will be overhead bin space. Even though I board right away, I like to control the uncontrollable. It’s part of my charm.)

At any rate, lurking as I was, I didn’t realize just how close I had ventured to the gate area until an elderly couple got off and came up to me asking where the C Concourse was located. I pointed them in the right direction and commended myself on living up to the “Minnesota Nice” hype. I figured it was just a one-off until a middle-aged woman approached me and asked if I could get her a driver to take her to baggage claim because she had a foot injury. I told her to ask one of the nearby agents in a red vest as those are the Delta concierge staff. She thanked me and headed off toward a guy with a walkie-talkie.

Now I was a little flustered and looked up to see a man catch my eye. He laughed and said, “You’re under a monitor and these people seem to think you work for Delta.” At first I just chuckled politely because I think it’s pretty clear I wasn’t working for Delta (what with my luggage and phone and all…and no, I had left my red vest at home that day), but then he pointed above my head and I realized I was standing underneath the monitor that’s at each gate with the connecting flight information and recalled that they usually make an announcement when you pull into the gate that there will be an agent by the information screen to help. Apparently I was now that agent.

While profusely blushing, I muttered a “Thanks” to the man and stealthily scooted back a few feet. I really hope everyone else on that flight figured out where they were going…

LAXadaisical

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Trip type: Business

Airline: Delta

Route: MSP-LAX

On my definitive rankings of worst airports in the world, LAX is right at the top of my list. Even when things go smoothly, they are somehow laced with chaos and anxiety. I steel myself every time I enter that airport for the fresh new hell that awaits. This trip was no different.

The bright spot of flying to LAX is that the companionship is never lacking. From the woman in un-ironic cat ears to the usual omnipresent “”producers”” (double quotes because of how hard they try to act like you should wonder who they are), it was pretty great gate-watching.

Arriving in California, our gate wasn’t ready. Of course. Thirty minutes later, we deplaned and I attempted to leave the airport as quickly as possible which was hampered partly by us arriving to the last gate on the concourse and partly because there was construction everywhere (as per the usual. I have yet to fly to LAX and not encounter a construction project).

A colleague was picking me up down on the baggage level and it took her a good 40 minutes to even get into the pick-up area and then another half hour for us to find each other in the insanity that is collecting people at LAX. How can a city with highways boasting what seems like 16 lanes in each direction only have one lane for pulling over in the arrivals section of the airport?

Headed back to the airport Thursday, I thought we had left enough time to get all the way up from Orange County. Unfortunately, I forgot to budget time for the traffic shenanigans that are a staple of California–even at 5:30 a.m. We made pretty good time to LAX but I nearly bit my fingernails off as we approached within an hour of my flight and we were still fighting our way around the drop off loop to get to the Delta terminal. Unreal. I’d guess it took us a solid 20 minutes from arriving on the airport property to get to the Delta doors. Pre-Check is the only thing that got me through security and to the gate on time.

I’m just counting the minutes until my next flight West!

Catch-Up Vignettes

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Someone asked me the other day if the travel blog was going away since I haven’t updated it in a while. Have no fear; the domain is paid up and the travel adventures continue!

That said, I have been remiss in posting. So allow me to catch you up on my spring travel. Our vignettes’ theme is, as always, chaos.

Recap 1: MSP // BDL

For H’s second excursion by air, we were off to Connecticut for Passover. We hoped for a repeat of his stellar performance to and from LA in November but it was not to be. Unbeknownst to us, H was on his way not just to the East Coast, but to developing a double ear infection as well. It was as fun as it sounds.

Recap 2: MSP // SNA (by way of PHX)

Tickets to John Wayne (one of the loveliest airports in the country) were absurd so I was forced to connect through Phoenix. On US Air. I was pretty stabby by the end of this one.

Clearly I try to only ever fly Delta to keep all my status consolidated, but if I must fly someone else, I try to ensure it’s not someone that’s in the process of being acquired. Unfortunately, the fare could not be beat so US Air it was.

The flight to PHX wasn’t terrible except that I was fighting a terrible virus (thanks to living with a host monkey) and was just starting to slightly recover. Although we stopped in Phoenix, I was continuing on the same plane and we were set to depart 35 minutes later. I got off to stretch my legs and was unpleasantly surprised to find the cattle call that was the US Air gate area. Every flight was taking off within 10 minutes of each other, there were people everywhere, and the staff clearly was over. it. Magical.

Usually a boarding vulture, with my bags already on board, I was free to hang out and watch the chaos of the boarding process. I don’t know what was going on with my flight but everyone was a hot mess. People had no idea what they were doing; there were SO MANY tiny dogs in little bags; carry-on bags were absurdly large and over packed…this was the gate where they would film a reality show where people scream at the desk attendants because their flight is late.

I was so close to death’s (and sanity’s) door by the time I got to California that I booked a direct one-way ticket home on Delta instead of connecting back through Phoenix. At least this story has a happy ending.

The lovely Gateway Arch

The lovely Gateway Arch

Recap 3: STL // MSP

Away for a Junior League conference, I was on the plane bright and early to get home on a Sunday morning.

And this is literally the only thing I can remember about this flight so it must have been the best flight of my life!

Currently writing this post from somewhere over the Plains as I’m en route to California once again. A longer post will be coming to recap this one…LA-bound flights always have the most interesting clientele and the woman wearing leopard-print cat ears is just the beginning.

King of the World

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Trip type: Business

Airline: Delta

Route: MSP-ORD / ORD-MSP

I’ve referenced it in previous posts, but it never ceases to amaze me how every air traveler seems to think he is the first, last, and only person to ever fly. The sense of entitlement, selfishness, and poorly mannered meltdowns should probably not even phase me at this point, yet I cannot help to be surprised and baffled by it. Behold the wonders of my quick trip last week:

  1. Right off the bat I was cutoff by a guy for the scanner at security. Frankly, I expect better from the Pre Check lane but I was proven wrong. With two lanes merging, I was about to get behind the woman from the opposite line when an enormous man stepped right in front of me. He knew he cut me off and didn’t make eye contact as he literally threw his weight around to get one body length ahead of me. When he was randomly chosen for a pat-down five seconds later, I gave him the biggest, sweetest smile and told him to have a nice day.
  2. At the Surdyk’s check-out, the woman in front of me loudly demanded to know if the crackers in her snack box were gluten free. Now, the box actually said the crackers were indeed gluten free (as pointed out to her by the cashier), but she “just wanted to check”. Then, “just to be sure”, she made the cashier re-pack the box anyway. She turned to me and said, “Sorry, I just really can’t tolerate gluten, you know?” “No, I’m pro-gluten,” I replied.
  3. At the gate, there was the typical salesman wrapping up a deal as we waited to board. These guys absolutely kill me. While I usually assume they’re faking a call to sound important, the gentleman I had the pleasure of over-hearing actually seemed to have real business…and a preoccupation with someone named Julie:

“Hey, bro–” (yes, he called his colleague ‘bro’. I’d like to paint the picture that this is a combed-over, short/stout 50-something man talking into a BlueTooth that he’s cupping around his ear and toward his mouth) “–so just make sure you copy Julie…”

“…”

“Yeah, so get that done, add the 10% discount and then send a note to Julie and copy me.”

“…”

“So send it to me and Julie and then we’ll get it done. Yeah, bro…”

Seriously, shoot me.

4. My favorite implosion of manners came at O’Hare on Friday morning, where I watched an epic meltdown between a middle-aged man and a barista. I was at a tea place (where, incidentally, I ate the worst muffin of my life) when I heard loud cursing as a cup fell from the barista ledge onto the floor. And then this exchange ensued:

Man: @#*&$ @#$&! And now I’ve scalded my hand! Can I get some ice for my hand?!

[Scrambling, ice handed over, someone comes out to clean up the floor]

Man: (As the barista is making the new tea) And why isn’t there any milk out here?

Barista: I’m sorry, we don’t keep milk out.

Man: Who would want tea without milk?! Can you make me a chamomile with milk, please?

Barista: Is 2% ok?

Man: Do you have whole?

Barista: No.

Man: Well then I guess that will have to be ok then, won’t it?

Yikes. Granted, I wouldn’t be very charming if I had just scalded my hand either but he was rapidly deteriorating and I could not look away. He then went on to list all the things wrong with their tea setup (the honey was nearly out, again there was no milk, there were no extra lids). He did glance over at one point and we locked eyes for a second. I’m pretty sure the look on my face was something akin to “Sorry you hurt yourself but you have got to get a grip and stop yelling at the 19 year-old making you tea with milk”. He looked away and then stormed off when his tea with second-rate milk was ready.

Looks like another magical year of air travel is ahead of me!

Drunk and Orderly

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First post of 2014 – and we have some catching up to do!

Trip type: Personal-ish

Airline: Delta

Route: MSP-PHX / PHX-MSP

In January I was off to Arizona for a Junior League conference in Scottsdale. After the godawful winter up in the tundra, I was looking forward to thawing for a long weekend with some of the most brilliant and hilarious women I know. First though, I had to get there.

Shenanigans at the airport were minimal. I’m still traveling with the pump and always get a little anxious about whether TSA is going to want to completely dismantle it at security, but there seems to be some healthy leeway granted in the Pre Check lane.

On the plane, I met my seatmate early on. He seemed fairly nondescript when I first sat down—middle-aged, mild mannered, quiet—but looks can be deceiving. It wasn’t until the drink cart started making his rounds that things got interesting.

As soon as it popped into our line of sight, 18B reached for his wallet. On-plane drinking is certainly something I too enjoy, but on a morning flight in business casual, I have to wonder if there’s a great story. My money was on a gin and tonic or Bloody Mary so imagine my surprise when he ordered three Chardonnays. Yes, three. Just right off the bat. On the one hand, I admired that he just went for it (and wouldn’t be calling the flight attendant back every 20 minutes for a refill), but on the other hand—really?

18B proceeded to throw back bottle after bottle after bottle in fairly short order before lolling his head toward me, muttering “You’re a dream”, and promptly passing out. It was a magical time.

I must have requested big drinkers when I booked my ticket because the same thing happened on the way home. This time it was a younger gentleman but he too whipped out his credit card the minute the wheels of the drink cart were in motion. He ordered two Bloody Marys (maybe this is binge-drinking etiquette on planes? Order them all at once?)  with beer backs and settled in. Unfortunately, he did not find me as dreamy.

All in all, not such a bad start to another glorious year up in the air. I’m not sure how much I’ll be flying this year (less than my craziest years but more than last year), but you can be sure I’ll be blogging about it!