And the drama continues:
The remainder of 30 March:
There were more flight delays. Did I mention that my flight @ 1726 was first delayed by two hours, then canceled? That the cancelation was too late to make the 1810 flight to JFK? That, by the time the wonderful woman at the Lounge service counter managed to find me an alternative, the only option was Newark at 2150? Or the slight fact that the inbound for that fight was delayed so that instead of taking off on time we didn’t load the plane till 2300? Or that the saga continued with being stuck on “green hold” which apparently means being loaded, on the runway verge and engines powered down while the NYC area airports sorted themselves out due to all the changes, delays and weather?
The end result is that I didn’t land till 0059 followed by a wait of about 45 minutes in which the baggage dude kept saying my luggage would be up at any minute. I finally ignored him to check with the woman manning the lost baggage computer. No, my luggage wasn’t lost – it had taken my original flight to JFK! Now, the lovely woman in the United Lounge had called the baggage room and personally spoken to the chief there. He had assured us he would retag for the correct flight. Obviously it didn’t happen which I suspect was because my luggage was already on the way. But since my original flight didn’t go, it must have made the 1810….
My story doesn’t end, but I need to insert a side light. While waiting at the counter in the lounge I met a retired Air Force guy who was on his way to South Africa. His connection was out of JFK at 1000 the following morning. Meanwhile, for some strange reason, one of his bags had gone to Montreal from Denver. It had been located, but they couldn’t promise him it would be routed to JFK s in time. He was contemplating waiting for it at Dulles, then driving to JFK. Now, in good weather that is not a pleasant drive, in the sleet between DC and NYC I just shudder to think.
Upshot of it all, his bag got back to DC and he was booked on the Newark flight. (Remember, I didn’t know about my wandering luggage at this point). Maus had managed to find a car service to pick me up at the airport and drop me at my hotel near JFK. It was not inexpensive, but the alternative was to forgo completely any sleep, forfeit my prepaid hotel and just take the shuttle to JFK in the morning. About this time, I noted an email from Lufthansa: They were very sorry, but my 4 April flight to Miami was cancelled. Looking through Star Alliance, there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to get back to the US on the 4th in time to make my 1900 connection to Phoenix. Didn’t matter how I looked at it – it was just not possible, at all.
Just what I needed, right? It is about 0130 at Newark, terminal 1, United baggage claim area – 31 March 2014.
So now you have me standing in Newark without luggage. You have Dick (the retired AF guy with his luggage) whose hotel is also over near JFK. And the car hire who wants to be called. After 15 minutes on hold using Dick’s phone since I am not interested in making a long distance 800 call on my phone – they first deny that I have a reservation and then question the whole thing since there was “no record of what kind of car I wanted.” Hello? I don’t care what kind of car – I just want my luggage and some sleep. After a bunch of arguing (prepaid – can I have a refund? Oh, we have found it……) the dispatcher (3rd one) says 30 minutes for the car. Car 34 as a matter of fact. I almost lose it. I mention there are now two of us. Oh, but the reservation is for one. Right, I said but it is not like you guys answer the phone – attempts to call you back multiple times failed. Want to give me a refund? No, car on its way.
The reason for the refund is that there are several drivers standing around meeting flights that have been cancelled. Given a refund, we could have been out of there almost immediately with a driver who would have been delighted for the fare.
Car 34 shows up. He doesn’t want to deviate – he doesn’t want to make more than one stop. He wants to go home, we are his last fare and he is over his shift. Fine – just take us to JFK. From there Dick waves, catches a cab to his hotel where he might get 5 hours before heading back to catch his flight. I go to the baggage office. It is closed. There is only one handler at this time of night and he is currently running the carousel for a just arrived flight. About 30 minutes later he finishes and opens the office. Handing over the claim tags (and one of the few times in my life I actually have not lost them) I am invited to the back and easily identify my luggage which has been there for hours. It made the 1810 flight to JFK…..
I stagger out to the cab stand and catch a cab to my hotel which thank goodness has not given away my room. It is now 0345 in the morning. Lufthansa’s phone lines are busy. I fall face first onto the bed just barely remembering to set an alarm. Two hours later I am up, blearily taking a shower and attempting a caffeine revival. After looking at public transportation options to Ft Hamilton, I look out the window. Sleet and snow. The front desk finds a car service for me and assures me that my luggage will be there when I return.
The traffic is horrible and it takes almost an hour to drive the 17 miles. Building 114 is not that hard to find and I sit down to await Maus. Txt from her says that the subway has issues and the R is not stopping at her station. She manages to arrive just before 0900. Since this is an ID card office with appointments, I don’t think they really appreciate people missing their time slot. As it turns out, it took only five minutes. (She is a student now over 21, needed proof of school, grad date to get a new card plus my signature. The form I did in KTown was deemed “not to have the magic words in the correct formulation.”) After searching for a quiet place to call Lufthansa again we wound up next door at the Health Clinic. It is manned by one SFC and is scheduled to close. But he kindly let me use a phone to reach Lufthansa. Busy, in the queue, disconnected – wash, rinse, repeat. 30 minutes of this nonsense and I was increasingly stupid with fatigue if that was even possible.
Hiking toward the subway, Miriam suggested that rather than spend 2 hours getting back to the hotel we find a car service. Asking at a Deli – they pointed out a building not three away. Walk to blue door, enter. Classic stereotype of a dispatcher with computer screen, headset, teased hair and gum. No problems – she can have a driver in a couple of minutes and names a price. Cheaper than my ride in. Can he make two stops, one to pick up my luggage and the second to drop me at JFK? Sure – $10 more. Definitely cheaper than ride in plus cab fare to airport. I go for it.
No worries – I am at the Lufthansa ticket counter at 1100 follow shortly by half a dozen others. The counter opens at 1200. The lovely woman running it shows up at 1120, puts up all the stanchions , signs and tells us it is ok to line up. She reappears in uniform and opens up early. To my surprise she is able to deal with both reservations as my flight out today is the second 1/2 of my Feb inbound and 4 April is the front half with the return in Oct. After checking out all the options including British Airways through London she confirms that I can’t make my follow on connection. She reschedules the Friday flight to May (catching my Independence OTS eastern bound TA) and today’s flight (which is overbooked) for early Oct (which will let me return from the Legend OTS TA and Canadian frolic).
It is now 1215 and I am beyond exhausted. I have nothing to do and nowhere to be till Friday. I also have neither a US phone nor internet access. I attempt to think. I would pay for internet if I had something to do with it. Or phone if I had someone to call. It is at this point that I discover that almost all the US phone numbers I need are in the Verizon phone. The one that disappeared into the chaos of our Heidelberg house and hasn’t been seen for months. An attempt to search my hard drive nets only one phone number for Brad & Chere. I get the answering machine. I can’t find any for Carmen or Don & Kim Bosco.
My choices are now to fly somewhere at huge expense (one way ticket) or stay in NYC (which still leaves the get to Florida by Friday issue) or figure out an alternative. Needing more time, I decide to take the Port Authority bus into the city. Oh, Penn Station. Right! At 1355 I buy an Amtrak ticket to Miami complete with sleeper. Plane + hotel in NYC + meals = about the same price the train and solves several problems all at the same time. The only other alternative which would have been rental car would not be either safe or sane. Being too tired to drive means a start tomorrow (hotel bill for tonight) plus 1-2 nights on the road plus gas and no way to relax. By 1410 I have dropped off my luggage and am drinking tea and munching a muffin in the 1st Class Lounge (who knew that lounge access comes with that particular ticket). Our escort to the train arrived shortly before 1500 and I was in my solo compartment and asleep before we rolled out of the station at 1515.
I was marginally awake at the next couple of stops. Enough to take a couple of pictures before zoning out again. Room service for dinner at 1700 and I went out for the count. No wifi on this train, although it might be possible to pick it up in a couple of stations with scheduled longer stops.