Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Journey to Alaska

   So my Alaskan adventure begins with... an adventure in KC. Not sure I'll use Travelocity again after this one. To get the best flight times & prices, they booked me on Frontier & United on the outbound flight, and Alaska & Frontier to return. Not as simple as it could be, but I wasn't concerned.
   ...Until last night when I went online to check in for my flights, and I got a message about "technical difficulties" for both airlines. Called to confirm my reservation & asked the agents to check me in, & they couldn't check me in either. The first one said my reservation had been cancelled & she reinstated it. Both told me to arrive at the airport early and check in there.
   So I arrived in plenty of time & went to the Frontier desk, & was met by a very friendly agent, Sue, who almost immediately furrowed her brow. All the flight numbers that printed when she checked me in didn't match her screen. She called 3 different people to figure out what to do. She was so sweet, calm, and helpful--EXACTLY who you'd want in that situation. She got me checked into the Frontier flight & suggested I call United.
   I didn't know that United and Continental were merging, which seems
to be what threw everything off. It was a huge cluster-you-know-what.
The agent on the phone had to cancel the Frontier leg of my flight for
my reservation to even show up on her screen. Her words were, "if I can get this straightened out for you, we should both buy a lottery ticket." Well, Irene is my new hero (Sue too). Again, she was almost perplexingly calm, which helped my nerves. I reeeeeally wanted to get to Alaska!!!
   So I made it on the plane and sat down to relax. A few minutes later, the seats next to me filled. And then a handsome young gentlemen came up & politely told me that I was in the wrong seat. "I'm booked in 13F. Did I sit in the wrong place?" I asked. He laughed & shook his head. "I'm in 13F too!"
   We compared the passes. Indeed, Travelocity &/or Frontier airlines booked us in same seat. %@#!!! He was funny and we joked about who was going to have to sit on whose lap.
   Now I wanted to be nice, but I also really wanted to go to Alaska (as I may have mentioned) so I secretly hoped that possession IS nine-tenths of the law. After all, my @** was in the seat first! Fortunately they found a seat for him and we were on our way. The universe may be trying to stop me from going to Alaska, but the universe doesn't know who it's dealing with!!! :)
   Act 2 was a lot more fun. I was seated next to Susan from Denver, who was returning from a high school friend's funeral in Boston. And a woman whose name I've unfortunately spaced on, whose husband has worked for the FBI in KC for many years, and who just retired, who was headed to Tucson to see her dad for Father's Day. (And she lives at Antioch & 135th. Small world!)
    The three of us chatted the whole way, but I felt that strong, instant connection with Susan. She's about 20 years older than me, has a husband and 2 kids, a black lab, a foreign exchange student from France, and a 28 year old pianist who has performed at Carnegie Hall living in her basement. She hikes, she skiis, she has an outstanding sense of humor.
    Susan told us about her late friend, who was a marathon runner amd who never smoked, but developed lung cancer. Tragic.
    Susan talked about the east coast where she grew up, & she said she had never visited Acadia, so I begged her to go. She was returning home to this houseful of family, boarders, and several friends visiting from Atlanta. She has 1 night to recuperate before they all drive up to the Tetons to go hiking together. We both cracked up as she descibed the chaos & what she feared she might come home to.
    When she heard I work for Hallmark, she was excited to hear about our personalized cards online, because she likes to write her own messages & usually buys only blank cards. She talked about her wish to have the right card for her late friend's husband, whose birthday was only 2 days after his wife passed. It's always humbling and insightful to talk with others about these things...
    In the end, Susan pulled out her boarding pass and wrote down her name, home address & phone number, and kept telling me that I must come stay with her, if not go skiing with her, next time I'm in Colorado. She said, as long as you like dogs, you're welcome! Done and done.
    And just like that, a day that could have been exhausting and frustrating is one of the best in recent memory. Everyone I've encountered today has been so warm, fun, and relaxed. It's a good reminder that "things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out."
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