The recent marriage of our son in a different state gave me the opportunity to return to my favorite place...the AIRPORT. Just can't get enough of that insanity. I booked flights for myself and our three youngest with frequent flyer miles. You know, that awesome rewards program where you have to use your mad skills to outwit the airline and actually get to where you need to go at the time you need to be there. They make it as challenging as possible by eliminating any days and times that normal people like to travel and by offering flights with 26 minute layovers with plane changes. Game On!
Our flight out left at 6:18 am. Our connection was in LA. We were flying on United. I checked in 24 hours ahead. I paid for the extra bag I was planning to check. I mapped out my plan and timed everything to include a little extra for possible glitches. What!? Glitches me? Never! I got up at 3:00 am and had the car loaded with kids and baggage by 4:00 am. We got to the airport without incident--not too many people on the road at four-o'clock in the morning.
I found long-term parking. San Diego Airport likes to keep it interesting by moving the parking around randomly--it's always a fun surprise to find that parking lot you used two weeks ago is now a fenced off construction site. We parked right next to the Commuter Terminal but we needed to get to Terminal 2 because we were on United. We hopped on a shuttle and made it there with time to spare. But, oh dontcha know--all LA flights leave from the COMMUTER TERMINAL? I guess it would have been useful to have that printed on the boarding pass I printed off 24 hours earlier or perhaps shared with the customer in some way--a sign perhaps? We waited by the red sign under the pedestrian bridge with several other surprised LA passengers. The Airport Loop shuttle eventually picked us up and gave us the Grand Tour of the whole awesome San Diego Airport Construction Fiasco and eventually dropped us back about 50 yards from where we had parked to begin with.
We hurried into the Commuter Terminal and I was relieved to see that I was next in line to drop off the bag I had already paid for online. There were three employees checking bags and each seemed to be expert in the art of taking as long as possible (make elderly people go back to the computer kiosk and start over with printing off their own boarding passes, and shout instructions at them as they try to figure it out). After standing there idly for 10 minutes while that went on, two of the employees disappeared. Just as I was stepping up for my turn, the lone employee called out the name of the guy who had just strolled in and shoved his bags under the stretchy rope things. Apparently he was quite chummy with our helpful, courteous United ticketing agent--they discussed his trip to Bermuda and the recent unrest in the airline industry as well as the various pros and cons of his favorite coffee shops. By now I was worried about making our flight but I knew I just needed to leave the bag and get through security. As he swaggered off, the employee looked at me with contempt and asked if I had checked in at the kiosk; had I not learned anything from those poor elderly people? I explained that I already had our boarding passes and also had paid for my bag. Oh, but you must STILL check in at the kiosk. Really? I was supposed to know that? I could have done that with all that idle time I had there standing in line. I went to check in at the kiosk as she called the next people forward. WHAT? They don't have to check in at the kiosk? I entered my confirmation number and got the message:
"It is too late to check in for this flight. You will need to choose a different itinerary for all four passengers."
I looked up and said in a panic "It says I'm too late to check in!"
Suddenly, our "Employee of the Year" had a sticker for my bag printed and placed on it and my bag was given to a baggage loader. The youngsters and I ran to security--which, in the little Commuter Terminal is one lady who wanted to know the ages of each child and how Sam got so tall and how Shayla liked having so many brothers. We tried to be quick but not pushy and as we got past her and removed all of our shoes, jackets, belts, etc., I saw that they were doing the individual screening. At the same time I heard, "Gale, party of four. Report to Gate Four. Your plane is boarding." I went first so I could run to the counter and explain that we were there and coming. As I was pointing out the youngsters who were being carefully x-rayed and patted down, I saw Shane get in line for the wrong flight. I yelled from across the terminal just as he handed his carry-on to the agent to be tagged. Everyone turned to look at the crazy mom and I motioned for my kids to follow me as I ran out onto the tarmac to catch our plane.
On the small puddle-jumper planes, you check your bags on the tarmac and they load them in the belly of the plane. All the baggage had already been loaded but they hadn't closed it yet, so luckily they got someone to come and pick ours up. We boarded the plane and took our seats with a sigh of relief. But we were not the last ones on the plane. Mr. Chatty Bermuda strolled on after we did, sipping his coffee and looking like he had all day.
We began to move and it looked like we were going to take off on time--but then the pilot informed us that due to noise laws, we had to wait until 6:30 to take off. Since we had a whole 26 minutes to catch our next flight to Portland, that 12 minute delay was no problem. Thank you so much for offering a 6:18 flight knowing full well it couldn't leave until 6:30.
We made it to LA and waited anxiously for our carry-on bags, that we really couldn't "carry on", to be unloaded and handed over to us. Then we made a mad dash for the gate--literally running at top speed--we made it just as they were loading the last of the passengers. Once again we slumped into our seats with a sigh of relief. We were grateful we made it, but sad we didn't have even a minute to grab something to eat. I should have packed a few snacks. They weren't able to serve even drinks because, YAY, we had to pass through some Santa Ana winds just to liven things up. We bounced and dropped like we were on a roller coaster--exciting for the kids, not for the mama who avoids all thrill rides-- I get plenty of excitement raising eight children thank you very much.
We made it to Portland and it didn't disappoint; we were welcomed back to our home territory by grey skies and moisture. We went down to baggage claim to pick up our one checked bag. And use the restroom after our eventful journey. Only to be greeted by policemen and some pretty serious looking dogs sniffing around the carousel...and blocking the way to the restrooms. We were lucky enough to get our bag and look for other restrooms before the full contingent of cops and dogs showed up a few minutes later--about the time Andy got there from Connecticut.
Let's just say "All's well that ends well"--and I might also add that I got up at 3:00 that morning to make sure I had time to wash my hair. So, on the bright side, my hair was clean.