Saturday, December 10, 2005

I love New York?

How prescient of me to have written on Thursday, "New York is surprisingly nice but I'm sure by the time I leave I'll have some cranky episodes to report..." Boy was I right.

Where do I begin? I arrive at LaGuardia Airport (a $35 cab fare) at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday for my 5:00 p.m. flight like a good passenger. I get through security and wonder if I can get on the 4:00 pm flight and surprise Cranky's Wife. No luck and the plane takes off. I wait knowing I'll be in the air in an hour. (Yeah, right). We hear there is snow in Chicago but we board the fully loaded plane before 5 and buckle in. Everything seems fine. We remain belted in, fully loaded and at the gate at 5:30 pm. "Attention," the Captain broadcasts, "We have two problems. A maintenance issue which is being worked on and a weather issue with O'Hare." He continues, "We are going to push away from the gate around 6:30 and sit on the tarmac until after 8 pm but we are going to Chicago tonight," giving us all hope. If you want to get off the plane to get food and water and a magazine go ahead but be back by 6:00." I race off the plane and load up like I'm going on a three-week survival hike.

As I'm walking back on the plane at 6:00 I hear the Captain say, "Well, we should be flying around 8" when another passenger entering the plane tells the pilot he just saw in the terminal that the flight was cancelled. I go back outside to figure out what to do while the more experienced travelers call their travel agents and American Airlines to book them on another flight. Turns out it didn't matter since every flight was nearly fully booked and besides as I found out the next day none of the flights took off.

So now I am stuck at LaGuardia with a cell phone that is dying with no chance of getting to Chicago standing around a few hundred Chicagoans wondering what we do next. There are hundreds of people in line trying to get to one, yes, one ticket agent who thinks she is being funny in a New York way when she says, "look, I used to have wings and fly around but not anymore so I can't fly you to Chicago tonight." After going to another gate counter I got a reservation on the 9:00 am flight for Friday. Should I stay and hope to get on stand-by? Not with 45 people on stand-by lists on each of the next few flights that night. I don't think "lucky 46" is in my future. Besides, as I said, turns out none of them left. The 9:50 pm flight was ready to take-off until the accident at Midway Airport happened when a Southwest plane landing slid off the end of the runway and out onto a street killing a 6 year-old boy in a car with his family on their way to grandma's house. Now that's a bad night to say the least.

Some stranded people started to drink and wonder how they were going to get back their checked luggage or even their carry-ons which were gate checked. Didn't look like American was going to fish them all out but just send them to Chicago whenever they could. On top of that there were no hotel rooms within 40 miles. I at least had a floor to sleep on back in Manhattan or Brooklyn but that was another $40 cab ride. My cranky level was off the charts. Then just when things couldn't get worse my cell phone dies. I am cut off from the rest of the world. The frequent flyers around me all have Blackberries and I start to ask can I send an email to my Cranky Wife? (I need to get one of those things but with my luck I'll buy one the day NTP shuts them down over patent issues.) I did manage to get my phone numbers off my cell before it died so I could reach my people in the city to ask If I could sleep on their floor. Give us your tired, your hungry, your poor huddled masses whose flights were cancelled due to snow in Chicago and have no extra pair of underwear.

A $40 cab ride back to the upper west side (woo-woo) and I am nearly out of money. After getting set with a floor to sleep on I go out and hit an ATM. "System unavailable." Another salt for the wound. Good thing NYC never sleeps and there are more ATMs than people there. I replenish my funds buy a slice of pizza and a falafel sandwich. Slept for a few hours and woke at 6:00 am. It's snowing like mad outside. I call American Airlines to find out if any flights are going out and the wait is 20 minutes. I also go online to American and Laguardia and no info is there. I mean why use the internet to distribute information to thousands of people scattered all over NY when not updating your websites is so much easier? After nearly an hour without reaching a human I hang up and get a cab to LaGuardia praying flights take off. On the way there in the cab we stop at a traffic light and to my right is the restaurant used in Seinfeld. It's neon sign says, "Tom's Restaurant" and I get a photo. After another $35 I arrive at the airport. The 8:00 am flight was cancelled. Wonderful. I figure I'm never getting out of here. Yada, yada, yada it stops snowing, a plane shows up and we take off nearly 2 hours late.

I de-plane (wenever say "de-car" or "de-elevator" why "de-plane?). and don't have a cell phone so I find pay phones to call a taxi service. Eighty cents for a local call!!?? What the F***? I have enough and dial. Wrong number. Kill me now. Just end the misery. Consider it a mercy killing. I go to a Starbucks Express. They won't make change until I buy something. This is now a real Seinfeld episode. I go back and call on the pay phone. "You have reached American Taxi, please hold." Three minutes goes buy and "please deposit 50 cents rings in my ears but my sobbing drowns it out. I go to an American Airlines luggage counter and say, "You've ruined my life over the last 24 hours, I want use your phone." Still can't get through to American Taxi. Outside O'Hare the taxi line is long and rides are $52.00 to my house. I go to the taxi van service - they aren't going to my area for hours. If I had my scissors that the TSA confiscated in New York I would have plunged it into my heart. Just then a guy comes up to me and in a "need some companionship?"-way who looked like an elderly Wal-Mart greeter said "Need a taxi? I'm with a livery service." $30 dollars later I'm on my way. He tells me on Thursday it was 3 hours from O'Hare into the city if you could have even gotten a cab. So maybe it was best that I didn't get out of NYC the night before because I might have spent a night at O'Hare.

I arrive home and after 10 minutes I'm back outside clearing my driveway of a foot of snow. At least it was Chicago snow.

So I'm glad to be home, I never want to travel again and my cranky level has returned to about a normal of 7 after hitting 13 -- as in Spinal Tap "it goes to 11." Now I can surf the net and see all the other things that would have been the subject of my crankiness had I known they were happening.

I still love New York but next time I'm bringing more clothes, more money and cell phone charger.


Anonymous tom said...

If you ever go again, the M60 bus runs between LaGuardia and Manhattan. $1.50 each way (change only, or a fare card) can't be beat.

And, if you're less cheap but don't want to pay $35 for a taxi, you can get away with paying $20 to the 1/9 stop at 125th and Broadway, then taking the subway wherever you need to go.

Could be worse. Could be raining.

4:33 PM  
Blogger Crankyboy said...

Yeah, I think I knew there was a subway but at 7:00 am trying to make a 9:00 am flight I didn't want to be an explorer. Next time I'll be better prepared.

5:39 PM  
Blogger Ellen Beth said...

Didn't you know that there are free phones at the airport with a direct line to American Taxi? No joke.

7:24 PM  
Blogger Crankyboy said...

I don't think it would have mattered since they put you on hold forever anyway.

8:08 PM  

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