Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Silver Lining

Right now, I am relaxing with a belly full of French cheese, sparkling wine, bread (oh the BREAD), couscous, garden-grown vegetables, rice, and some delicious trout caught not far from here by mon pere francais, Michel (aka French dad).

Sounds like heaven, right?  Did I mention, we are in the Alps, the French Alps that is?  I will fall asleep to the sound of cow bells in the meadow next to me, quite a change to the alarms and music blasting from cars in Boston.  So you wonder: why call this post The Silver Lining?  Well, getting here was quite the adventure.

When we arrived to the Boston airport, 2.5 hours early, we encountered the beginning of the next 29 or so hours for us.  A long and slow line for Continental.  I must warn, if you have some sort of affinity or love for Continental airlines, stop reading now. 

Guess how I feel about being on the phone with Continental customer service? and I had more photos, but my French parents evidently do not know what antivirus software and the computer can not handle uploading...
 This would be one of the shortest lines we would have to encounter...

Our flight was delayed 45 minutes because the crew was en route.  After boarding the plane, we had to wait another 45 minutes.  At that point, we had given up on catching our connection to Barcelona, but figured that Newark was a large enough airport that we could find another way to Spain.  I was wrong.  The rest of our plane had to wait for customer service along with us.  It was 2 hours before we were able to speak with someone at customer service.  While Alex waited, I bopped from gate to gate, hoping to catch another flight going to Europe, but soon discovered it was routine to overbook all the flights, so customers that paid for those flights were getting bumped. No room for us... (insert Mary and Joseph joke here? too soon?)

By the time we had reached the front of the customer service line, it was around 10:15 pm.  We were given vouchers for a hotel and meals.  With some other disgruntled customers, we made our way to the parking lot where our hotel shuttle would fetch us.  I was told that the hotel was maybe 2 miles away.  The driver then informed me that it was in fact 28 miles away.  We passed other Radissons on the way to this place! 

Once we arrived, we encouted a fine example of customer service in comparison to Contenintals' look-away-don't-say-hello approach.  We got on their computers and sent some nasty letters to Continental, and ordered some food from the local pizza joint, the only place still open at that time. 

The next day we ate at the breakfast, wandered around the hotel looking for a bank in vain, and caught a shuttle back to the airport to wait 7 hours for our flight (a full 24 hours after our intended flight) to Barcelona.

Through all of this, I learned some valuable lessons:
  1. It will be okay: I wanted to freak out and cry, and okay maybe I did cry a little.  In my mind, this trip of a lifetime had not even begun and it was already derailed.  Alex, who taught me basically all the lessons I will recount here, shrugged his shoulders and said his famous phrase (well famous to me) its out of your control, there's nothing we can do.  Look at that!  Things are actually amazing now, once we got over that pesky jet lag. 
  2. Be nice to those in power:  Because I could not quite understand the fact that things would indeed be okay, I wanted to blame someone.  No I did not swear and scream, but I certainly was not very polite to the customer service agent.  Once we realized that the amount we were given for food vouchers ($18) was not enough, Alex asked calmly and politley for more, and whaddaknow? We got more!  Perhaps this is common sense for most people, and frankly its common sense for me, but when you are emotional and freaking out about lost hostel reservations, and a lost day, you lose a bit of common sense.
  3. A comfortable bed and hot meals are a good thing: Who was I to throw a shit fit? I had an amazing place to sleep (first time on a sleep number KING!) and food.  Really that is a good way to spend the first day of your vacation after a stressful and emotional move (and too many goodbyes). And to get real serious for a minute, much better than how the rest of the world has it.
Long story short, I am on am on a month-long vacation with a really great guy, can I really be upset about spending a night in Piscataway, New Jersey (don't go there, there's nothing there, at least not by the Radisson)?

Losing my regular access to internet tomorrow, so I am not sure when I will be back...

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