The morning after Sunday’s concert, I had to get up far earlier than I wanted to. You see, I had a flight out of LaGuardia at 11am. But since it was considered an international flight (up to Canada), I was supposed to get to the airport by 9am. Ok, but I had to drop off Lance (yes, I name my rental cars) by 8:30am. And I was about a 2 hour drive (“maybe a little more in rush hour” according to the hotel front desk) from the airport. If you do the subtraction correctly, you end up with 6:30am as the time I needed to leave. And because my non-morning-loving self cannot coherently function without a period of time for me to sorta wake up and shower, that meant I needed to get up no later than 5:45am. This after I got back to the hotel after my hour and a half scariest-drive-I’ve-ever-had-in-the-rain back from the Ridgefield Playhouse. Because nothing will keep you awake like the combination of live music, your birthday, and the adrenaline rush of thinking you are going to hydroplane headlong on super slippery roads into an errant deer and over an embankment into a river below.
Why am I setting up the story like this? I need to impress upon you how little sleep I got. This is important for the rest of this post… (oh, exposition right there).
Anyway, I get my unwilling ass up at 5:45am, shower, repack, and check the flight status (on time) before getting into my unloved rental car Lance (who was appropriately named after a briefly-held college boyfriend who promised muscle car action but really delivered a bunch of loud whining and mushy steering) to make the drive down to LaGuardia. Let me say right now, I hate LaGuardia Airport. I have taken many flights into the New York metro area and have significant experience with Newark, JFK, and LaGuardia previously. LaGuardia would rank with a root canal without any laughing gas in terms of how much I loathe it. So why in God’s name did I opt to fly out of there rather than any of the other airports? Well, Air Canada was by far the cheapest option up to Halifax and only flies out of LaGuardia or Newark – not JFK. And Newark would have been a much further drive from Tarrytown than LaGuardia. So, in what I thought was an act of well-thought-out calculations, I decided that I would take my chances. (Foreshadowing)
So, I get to the car rental office, drop off Lance, and get on the bus that drops me at another bus station to take yet another bus to the correct terminal. And then I enter the doors to see a line stretching through all of the roped off sections and down the hall… Ok, good that I got here early. Well, when Air Canada suddenly flashed up on the screen that every flight was either delayed or cancelled, the line ground to a complete halt. After 30 minutes of not moving, I see the screen refresh to show my flight to Montreal that had been delayed has now been cancelled. Lovely…
So, because the line hasn’t budged an inch, I call Air Canada and get the dreaded “all agents are busy assisting other customers, would you like us to call you back in 45 minutes?” message. I had progressed 3 feet (1 meter) in the line when the agent called me back. After much clicking on her keyboard, she cheerfully announces that she can get me on a 8:30pm flight out of LaGuardia up to Toronto with a connection to Halifax, getting in there at 2:30am the next morning (instead of the 3pm this afternoon that I was originally scheduled for). That is the best she can find without making me wait until tomorrow. Apparently Air Canada, despite being a Star Alliance member, does not actually try to get any of their passengers on a different airline, let alone one in the alliance. I found this out because I asked her check United (which I know for a fact also flies to Halifax because I debated on whether to take that more expensive flight out of Newark and was now thoroughly kicking myself for not doing so, longer drive to Newark be damned because now I was going to be forced to sit in god-awful LaGuardia for 11.5 hours).
It was 11am by the time I got to the front of the line to drop my suitcase off and collect my new boarding passes. I couldn’t use the kiosks because, as the phone agent told me, I was already checked in for the earlier flight and my bag would likely get held indefinitely in LaGuardia because of the U.S. border control process. In a rare act of thinking ahead, I grabbed a clean pair of undies, my pajamas, a brush, and deodorant from my suitcase and shoved the lot into my already overcrowded backpack – just in case I was stranded.
For whatever boneheaded reason, the TSA Precheck line was not operational; so then I got to stand in line desperately trying to retrieve my deodorant that had fallen to the furthest most reaches of my pack so I could put it in the bin to prove that I wasn’t someone with nefarious intent. I am so used to Precheck that I didn’t know until barked at by the agent that I also needed to dig my Kindle out of my backpack and turn it on to prove it worked normally. (Thank god I am obsessive about making sure I charge that.)
Finally, I was through security only to find out that the section I was going to be stuck in for pretty much an entire day of my life was under construction and therefore, had significantly limited places to eat, bathrooms that were open, and seating areas. I have been to third world airports that offered more amenities and comfort than where I was currently incarcerated. I walked up and down the narrow corridor heaving with half the population of the metro New York area, sulking and cursing the day I bought my airplane ticket. And then, because my day couldn’t get worse enough, at 3pm, my Toronto bound flight posted a delay…
I will admit, dear readers, that I very seriously considered telling Air Canada to shove it and ask them to return my money. I had decided that maybe this was a sign from my dad that he did not want me to travel to Canada. I thought that going home with my tail between my legs and spending the week on the couch crying about how unfair life is was a better option than continuing to sit in LaGuardia for 14 hours and then having to find an airport hotel in the area that didn’t have bedbugs only to come back and do it all again tomorrow. But then I checked my reservations for the places in Canada and realized that I was past the cancellation penalty date.
Despite me allegedly being on the standby list for earlier flights, my name never did get called (although I noticed the aggressive people who stood berating the agents somehow managed to jump the standby line). And therefore, at 9:15pm, I boarded my flight to Toronto knowing full well that I was very likely going to miss my connection to Halifax but preferred being stuck in Toronto far more than being stuck anywhere near LaGuardia. And naturally, when I landed in Toronto and did the immigration/customs/connection process, the agent at the connections desk seemed to take sadistic pleasure in telling me that although my Halifax flight was delayed, it wasn’t delayed long enough for me to run through Pearson Airport to the gate, the doors had already been closed. And for the coup de grace, she said that because my cancellations and delays in LaGuardia were weather-related, she wasn’t going to give me a voucher for a hotel stay.
I’m not exactly sure what expression my face made at that point. Murderous, most likely because then she looked me directly in the eye, saw something that apparently frightened her very much and told me that she was going to make an exception though and handed me an envelope that contained a voucher for the nearby Crowne Plaza.
Air Canada apparently had issues with a flight inbound from Athens because an entire 787’s worth of people were waiting for the hotel shuttle. I chatted with a few of those passengers who told me that they had to sit on the plane in Athens for four hours while watching the wildfires burn ever closer to the airport. In comparison, I shared my 12+ hours in LaGuardia story. Most agreed my situation was worse, because LaGuardia… When the shuttle came, I being without any suitcase, quickly jumped to secure a spot in the van. There was a small silver lining to having had my suitcase held hostage by the airline, I suppose. When we parked at the hotel, there was a mad rush to get in line for check-in and I was able to be one of the first to join the tail end of the line of passengers on the previous shuttle.
Waiting at the check-in for only about 10-15 minutes, I was finally motioned to step up to the desk for my turn when a man (I refuse to call him a gentleman) who had just gotten off a later shuttle came barging up to the desk, ranting that he had two kids and it was late and he wasn’t going to wait in that long line to get a room and he wanted one RIGHT NOW. Keep in mind, he was carrying a child (maybe 5 years old) in his arms who was passed out asleep while he was ranting at the top of his lungs. I thought he was going to take a swing at me if I didn’t move out of his way and give him my place in line. Just when I thought – fisticuffs, great I’m going to jail the day after my birthday but I will punch this entitled man in the gonads first – a woman who had been waiting patiently in line went up to him and started screaming at him, telling him that he was making the line move even slower by his antics and she had a child that was actively throwing up (and she was, into a plastic bag, as a quick glance confirmed) and she wasn’t acting like an asshole and for him to GET BACK IN LINE RIGHT THIS SECOND!!! I was most impressed and seriously considered asking this woman to tutor me in assertive behavior.
Finally, with a room key in hand, I went directly to the bar… seriously, because the kitchen was closing and I hadn’t eaten all damn day because I didn’t want to leave the seat that I was able to pounce on in the waiting area in LaGuardia (an open seat being rarer than hen’s teeth or whatever that saying is, anyway, it was damn near impossible to find an open seat). Finally, after getting something to eat and about 7 refills of Sprite with a little vodka thrown in for good measure, I made my way to my room and tried to settle down enough to sleep after my debacle of a day.
My flight to Halifax was scheduled for 1:15pm the next day; so while I was extremely irritated that Air Canada wouldn’t put me on any of the 4 earlier flights so I could, you know actually start my vacation after their delay, I was glad I didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn either. Because at that point, I was already into a sleep deficit and throwing more on top is never a wise idea for me.
Grateful that I had my pajamas, I finally fell asleep. It had been one of the worst travel days I had had in a very long time and I was really hoping that my trip experience would only get better from here on out…