Best laid plan——
It has been a pretty mild winter in Missoula with temperatures rarely getting into the teens at night, and, in the last week, having the proverbial January thaw. There hasn’t been a lot of snow at one dumping, and the walk and back patio have only needed shoveling two or three times. In fact, my nose was even fooled into thinking of Spring a couple of days ago.
To be truthful, I’ve been feeling pretty smug about the mid-west and the “polar vortex” with subzero thermometer readings in the Dakotas and even in Illinois while melting snow was dripping down from our roof. But, recently I was hoping for some real winter weather to make me feel glad to get away to New Zealand. I’ve been keeping track of the weather in Auckland where I was confident that we’d be arriving this morning. It would be nice to have that change from an uncomfortable winter to a late summer in New Zealand.
Last Friday there was a sudden change in our local weather outlook, and it caused me just a slight bit of concern. A front was expected to slowly move into the Missoula area bringing a bit of rain by Saturday evening followed by some dropping temperatures with ice and snow by late Sunday afternoon. It brought a small worry, but our flight was to leave at 11:40 in the morning on Sunday.
Early, about six on Sunday I heard a noise outside our bedroom window, sort of a scraping sound, and I asked Sheila, as I was too lazy to put in my hearing aids, if there was someone shoveling snow. She advised me that it was the wind causing branches to rub across the neighbor’s roof. Half an hour later I looked out and saw that, not only was the wind howling down the street, it was pushing freezing rain across an icy glaze. The winter weather that I’d thought would be a nice send off arrived early.
Our plane boarded on time in Missoula, but was delayed in taking off for purposes of de-icing, but the late departure really didn’t make much difference in that we had almost a five-hour layover in Seattle before our flight to Los Angeles. We took that time to ride the light rail to downtown Seattle and leisurely tour the art museum. During that period, we looked out the window of the museum and noticed that it had started to snow, a rather unusual event in Seattle. On the train back to the airport we remarked on how pretty the city looked in a “winter wonderland” sort of way as the lawns and roofs began to turn white.
What a couple of dips.
There was no problem getting through security at the airport. TSA has changed from what that a lot was ten years ago when they were trying to emulate the Gestapo as they routinely took people behind curtains and told them to disrobe. In Missoula they chatted with us and wished us a happy journey. In Seattle the TSA folks even joked with me, and we were at our gate for our flight to Los Angeles with time to spare. But then things started to move slowly.
The gate agents were optimistic and assured the folks waiting to board that, even though the jet would need to be de-iced before take off, it would be done at the gate adding a mere fifteen minutes to departure time. That would mean that we would leave at six-thirty pm, and we would be at LAX in plenty of time to catch our flight to Fiji that would take off at ten-thirty.
Needless to say, but those happy little gate agents where lying through their fucking teeth. Our flight landed in Los Angeles about ten minutes before our gate closed that would have permitted us to fly to Fiji. In spite of the sprint of at least a mile through the bowels of LAX we arrived at the Fiji gate ten minutes after our flight left. No one was around to advise us what to do next, not at the Fiji gate, not at any of the international gates in the area.
Oddly enough, in all this emptiness, we spotted an information booth that actually had someone behind the desk. We rushed over and explained our situation to this air line expert and asked what we should do. When could we catch the next flight to Fiji and catch up with our luggage?
She was a young woman (of about sixty) with long silver hair tied back, and blinked at us through thick lenses of wire rimmed glasses. Her expression suggested that she was amazed, as if we had suddenly appeared from the air in front of her desk.
“Well,” she said as a beginning, looking around for something to prompt her answer. “Well, I think there are a couple of other people trying to get to Fiji.” As if that would be helpful to us. She appeared to be waiting for us to leave, and then, realizing that we expected more, she pointed to a couple of people in the distance standing in front of a Quantas gate. “Yes,” she said grinning. “They are over there.”
This whole scene seemed to be rapidly moving down the rabbit hole as we made our way to the “position closed” desk where a man with an Eastern Indian accent was expressing his thoughts on the situation to a man and woman who’d also missed the flight to Fiji. He repeated his ideas to us as the other two people seemed to stumble away in rejection. He said that the earliest we could expect to get to Fiji would be Tuesday (remember we are standing in front of him on late, Sunday night) as Fiji only flies out of LAX every other day. [By my reckoning, it would seem that Fiji Airlines has only one airplane.]
At this point, if Sheila and I were in a cartoon, a combined thought cloud would appear above our heads. Inside the thought cloud would be printed “FUCK!”
Sheila suggested that since we booked our trip through Alaska Airlines, it would be reasonable to try to make our way through this Wonderland and find their customer service office. After being misled by a Cheshire Cat and a mad hare we found the office, after midnight, to be, oddly enough, closed. But again, oddly enough, at lost luggage office, a clerk pointed us to a strangely placed cluster of Alaska agent desks where an amazing woman was able to sort things out for us. Sort of.
It took soooooooo long to find us a flight that would get us to New Zealand without having to go through Fiji, and it involved Fiddledum as well as Fiddledee. We eventually got our vouchers for a really decent hotel, but did not get to bed before 2:30 am.
So now, we are set to leave on the 11:20 pm American flight to Auckland. Who knows where our luggage might be: Seattle, Los Angeles, Fiji or New Zealand?