Friday, September 08, 2006

Gilligan's Got Nothing on Me

To say that we had some travails in our travels may be a bit of an understatement.

After many nights of less than ideal sleep, I had even less on that Thursday evening, August 17th, given the stress of getting ready which included packing which is quite the ordeal when one considers that along with 4 laptops (don’t ask), a tent, two sleeping bags, an air mattress and enough clothes to begin to satisfy my inner diva, there was finishing progress notes and a termination report for work, and deciding which school notes and books I would take with me. School work you ask? Yes, I know, but really I set my sights very realistically, but a very different reality presented itself so no school work got done. Where was I? Oh yes, leaving.

We had an early morning flight – 7:30 departure, out of Oakland. The night before I had made reservations with a taxi company (not to name names or anything but... Yellow Taxi Service 510.644.8181) to pick us up at Jennie’s house, where we were leaving one of our cars. After arriving in Alameda, there were numerous calls back and forth with them promising the cab was mere blocks away. Then, I got a call from an unknown number. It was a different taxi company saying that the one I called couldn’t make the pick up and this lady was promising me a car. Promises, schmises. Finally I called this other taxi cab company and said we can’t wait any longer, cancel the cab, we would drive ourselves to the airport. So much for arriving 1.5 hours before our flight to check our four bags.

The next steps went more smoothly except for not being able to reach our friend Adrienne, who had our itinerary, to which she had replied that she should be able to pick us up. In addition, a random border type person had left a car there that we would be able to use to bring ourselves from Western Massachusetts to Maine. Yeah, right. Nice try. Finally upon arriving at Bradley I reach her by phone. “Oh hi! Is that today? I’ve been at DAR State Forest where I don't get a cell phone signal. Mikey and the kids and our family are camping out. There’s no way I can get you. Oh, Keith’s car? He came by and picked it up out of the blue.” Sigh. A rental car is arranged for, which includes getting quoted an outrageous sum but also told if we use the courtesy phone and make reservations we could probably get a better price. Luckily this is true.

The upside of all this, up to this point, is we have a car to use and an empty house to crash in. Crash we do! We brainstorm all sorts of options about transport, and are quoted an enormous sum for a one way drop off with the car we already have through H*rtz. Monday we drive back down to Bradley, rent a different car from National (thanks to Mikey’s tip that they are much more reasonable about one-ways) and return the H*rtz car. Merrily we drive to Maine, confident that we can find someone to lend us a car to drive to Portland the next day (from Poland Spring) to return the car. A lovely newbie to camp, who renamed himself Fox during camp based on a dream where he asked for a spirit name (again, don't ask), lent us a car. While taking care of a million other things, I hop on the National’s website to find directions to their site. The directions seem odd, and conflict with Portland Airport directions. As in no relationship between the directions can be found, but I figure, the company’s own website would know the address. Right? Evidently not. After going around in circles and all around North Portland, I call them where a rude woman answers the phone. She doesn’t apologize for the website mistake but does tell me that it works just fine for her and then suggests that I pull into a gas station to ask for directions to the airport. She and the gas station guy say “You need to get on 295 South and get off at exit 5B.” Have you ever been on a highway, anywhere, where they don’t say it’s an airport exit? Me neither until now. It is not clear AT ALL. By instinct I go in the right direction but am wavering just a bit in confidence given how the morning has gone thus far, so into a packy store I go. Actually I send TGF since I am not sure I can contain myself from setting fire to something or breaking down in tears. At this point I’m really not sure which is more likely.

After a few more circles at the airport itself I find the right place to enter and a nice young woman with one of the little machines prints out a receipt. However there is bit of a problem. The quote for the one day, one-way rental was $92 and here is a receipt for $291! I can’t even see straight by this time. I barge into the counter area and I swear I have never in my entire life gone straight for the jugular on a service person. N-E-V-E-R. “Well you returned it late so there in an additional day charge”. Hello – I called you saying I was totally lost and had been driving around for over an hour trying to find the frigging airport because of your website’s directions! “Please don’t yell mam'm”. I still haven’t even truly raised my voice, but whatever. “Please don’t insult me that way”. I didn’t, I merely threatened to retract the payment on my card and write a letter (which I still need to do). “However I am a representative of the corporation and therefore you are attacking me.” What I wanted to say was “I’m sorry you have such a deficient self-esteem that you can’t separate yourself from the company.” In the end “the best I can do” totaled $100.

So at this point we have had to get our car out of daily parking at the airport (Thank you Ruth and Jennie for coordinating this for us), renting one car for about $200 and another for $100. All money we hadn’t budget for at all.

Fast forward almost two weeks, it’s time to leave camp and I put TGF in charge of finding a rental car to get us from Maine back to Massachusetts (and ultimately the airport). She is getting quote of around $240 and both of us are freaking out. I hop on the computer (computer internet access at camp is a whole other post – no really – that I may leave to TGF to write about) and find a deal for $170 through Alamo, which is also really National. Cue the foreboding music. Why didn’t we hitch a ride with some friends? Did I mention to one very large roller board suitcase that is more than half my height, the next one down being about half my height, an average carry-on roller board, the two duffle bags, and two stuffed backpacks? Another lovely camper drives TGF to the airport to pick up our 3rd rental car of the trip. Third, people!

We are so tired out that we decide to try to find a cheap motel for the night back in the Happy Valley. As much as we adore Adrienne and her family, they are loud and there is a near constant state of chaos there. There goes another $65. We had also hoped a quiet space would allow for some nookie time. But no, we were so exhausted that we fell asleep for about 10 hours!

Because we had no control over when TGF picked up the car we had a drop off time that was way early for our flight. So trying to be good doobies, TGF calls to find out how much they would ding us for dropping off the car 1.5 hours late. The attempts results in her being put on hold and then the call is dropped. She calls back and the woman is rude. “I have people here, you need to hold”. “Well I can tell you right now there will be a charge.” She then clicks TGF on hold without giving her a chance to say, “okay, yes I will hold”. I am furious. I call back, pretending to be TGF and immediately ask for her supervisor. I am put on hold for over 5 minutes, where she comes back on the line saying the supervisor is not available, could she help. “Well since you were just rude to me when I just called a moment ago, I’m not sure.” I explain the situation, albeit a bit tersely as I am at my limit with this crap. She states that it is $15 dollars an hour. “Wow! Kind of excessive, huh. That's some racket you guys have going there”. Yelling, actually yelling at me she says, “You don’t need to berate me. It’s half the day rate for each hour. Do you want the 2 hours or not!” I reply that yes change the drop off time and if by some miracle we show up at 2:30 I expect the additional charge to be removed. Sheesh.

Finally at the airport (after being charged the additional $30) we need to redistribute our belongings to avoid an additional charge for one piece of luggage being over 50lbs. As boarding time comes and goes, there is an announcement that there is a small mechanical issue they need to look into. The flight was supposed to leave at 5:30pm. At about 5:45pm they announce that the mechanic won't be at the gate until 6:30. Apparently they were flying the mechanic in from Cleveland. Did I mention we have a connecting flight? It becomes clear that we will miss our connection but I have hope that there will be one more flight out of Chicago to Oakland. The gods are still laughing.

The only flight they have that evening would deliver us to San Francisco at about 12:30am with no way to get to Alameda Luckily we head over to the gate and speak to a lovely gentleman who listened to our plight of needing to get home sooner rather than later. Obviously we didn’t mention that our refusal of a flight that would deliver us at Oakland at 12:20pm the next day was because of a date to meet Ruth and pick up our beloved Puppyman. After some key strokes, we had a voucher for a hotel (free shuttle to said hotel), and a 6 a.m. departure (it was now about 9:30pm) with a transfer in Denver, which would deliver us to Oakland about 10:10am. The Wyndam Hotel O'Hare afforded us the best bed we had slept on our entire time away. A plus, definitely. We arrive easily but our luggage did not. Paperwork filed, a taxi found, pick up our car at Jennie’s, a quick stop home to see the cats, and off to the Albany Bulb to see Ruth, Piccolo and Wyatt. Afterwards I ride with Ruth up to her home in Kentfield to pick up our other car.

A nap has been had. Pizza was just delivered. Next on the list, appease the Gods of Transportation and Travel.


wen said...


i did wonder where you'd gone because the blog was so quiet! :)

your story sounds like my travel stories. we must never ever travel together or even book the same flight! lol

glad you are back safe and sound and full of pizza and napified.

Jennie said...

I need a nap!