OK. I wrote this post on Saturday (today is Monday). I will play you a tune, then explain with a little background then get right to it. So start the music and scroll on down:
A little over a year ago, my parents moved to Jacksonville, FL, where my brother (a doctor) had built an apartment for them above his enormous garage. They have independence and care, and could enjoy life away from the Wisconsin winter. That was the theory.
Shortly after they arrived, my mom started having breathing trouble. And about a year after they arrived–during which she had barely had a chance to get to know Florida outside of their apartment and the hospital–she died.
That was November 1. Back in September, my brother and I had discussed plans for the holidays. He and his family generally spend every other Christmas in Arizona with his spouse’s parents, and he asked if I was willing to come down and spend Christmas with our folks. I thought that would be great and cleared my calendar, then made travel plans.
After Mom died, I went down to Florida to spend some time with Dad and my brother and we talked again, deciding that it would be best if Dad came up to Connecticut to spend Christmas. My tale from Saturday picks up from there. I’ve edited it a bit, but this is essentially what I wrote, sitting at JFK on Saturday morning. It’s self-pitying, yes.
About a month ago, I spent a couple of hours on the phone figuring out how to get my dad from Florida to New England. The only flight I could get involved a five-hour layover in DC. So I made plans to fly down earlier, meet his plane, and spend the five hours with him. I planned to be at Bradley airport at 7:00 this morning, plenty of time for the 9:00 departure. It’s a 50-mile drive on I-91.At 6:30 last night, JetBlue cancelled my flight from Hartford to DC. Given that the weather is a bit rough, understandable, I guess. But this meant that if his flight wasn’t cancelled, he’d have five plus unaccompanied hours in DC. He’s 87, has some short-term memory issues, and other health issues. My brother and his family were scheduled to leave Jacksonville at noon.
So I called JetBlue. It took me over an hour to reach a human.Do they have a lounge at DCA? No, they don’t. Does American (hereinafter AA) have a lounge at DCA? Yes, they do (I happened to have a day pass for American’s Admiral’s Club, and if they wouldn’t take that by phone, I could buy one there with credit card). Great! Can JetBlue do a meet and assist? Yes, But. Well, really, no.The Meet and Assist can take my dad between JetBlue gates, but not to the AA club. OK, does JetBlue know of anyone who can help? No, but I can call DCA and find out (it is now 8:45 pm).If I want, I can cancel Dad’s flight and reschedule it for some time next week (except that my brother and his family are leaving for two weeks in AZ at the same time my dad’s leaving to come up here. In fact, that’s why he’s coming here, and booking flights this time of year is a contact sport).
I find a truly beautiful person named Lisa at the Terminal B information desk. It’s her first day on the job. She goes to work and finds Traveler’s Aid who, for free(!!) will pick up my dad at his arrival gate, take him to the AA club, make sure he’s OK there, and then get him from the AA Club to his departure gate. GREAT! She makes several calls, to them and to me, to coordinate things. We’re all set.
If you know anyone who works in airport administration at Reagan/DC National, please show them this blog entry and tell them that Lisa, at the Terminal B information desk, should be named Employee of the Year (but for 2017, because 2016 sucked).
All set. Except for one little thing…
Six different numbers, including referrals by computer systems and agents, fail to get me through to the central AA club desk until—in spite of promises that it stays open 24/7—I reach the desk and it’s closed until 8:00 this morning. CLICK. At this point I lose it. I scream obscenities into the dead phone for a few minutes, then write that number down on top of my list of other phone numbers.OK. Calming down, I figure I can call and take care of that no matter what it costs. Good. It’s 11:30 by now, and I hit the hay.
At 4:30 AM my brother calls. His one of the only numbers that gets through my “quiet hours” setting. He’s had an idea. He can get JetBlue to route Dad on a direct flight to JFK, arriving just after noon. I look outside. It’s snowing in Connecticut, but not too bad. We agree, he calls JetBlue, and I climb into the shower to wake up. Figuring it may take some time to drive the 90 miles south to JFK, I start immediately, pausing only to grab a bad cup of coffee.
I average literally 20 MPH on the way to JFK, well more than doubling the usual travel time. I see between 10 and 20 cars off the sides of the road, and in New York a couple of lanes are blocked with an ambulance and a pair of shattered cars. An idiot driving at 10 MPH on the line between lanes endangers all around themselves, myself included. A Jeep fishtales in front of me, and I keep wondering what one of those semis would do to my Honda Fit. I am extremely happy that I bought new tires earlier this fall. Most of the roads (the Wilbur Cross and Merritt Parkways in particular) haven’t been cleared of snow.
I have never been so happy to pay $33 for parking as I am that morning.
At the airport, I discover that Dad’s flight is now expected c. 3:00 pm.Oh! An update just now! 3:49 pm.
So I have a while to sit. At least I found a coffee shop with chairs.
FML. FML. FMF,F,F,F,F,Fing L.
Eventually, the board pushed Dad’s arrival time to 8:00 pm, but JetBlue managed to get a plane to Jacksonville, and he arrived around 6:30 pm. His bag was misplaced, but eventually located
By this time, I had spent eight hours in the airport. A word about airports, not specific to JFK:
At the best of times, airports are unpleasant places. They are full of people, who are noisy, and small shops, many of which have loud music. They are also full of hard surfaces and high ceilings (the latter, I suspect, to give a sense of freedom associated with air travel–total bullshit), which make the noise much worse. In fact, I think someone must have turned up the Muzak in JFK, because the crush of bodies waiting for flights (probably twice to three times the usual number) would have attenuated the noise.
If you’re outside the gate area, which you generally are if you’re not traveling, there is nearly no place to sit down, and the food is lousy. Dunkin Donuts was about the best on offer.
I spent a couple of hours walking around the terminal, took the train around the loop of terminals, and then managed to wankle a gate pass out of Jet Blue. A gate pass meant that I was, on pain of being treated like a convict searched while being incarcerated , able to pass the barrier and wait for my dad inside the gate area.
Inside the gate area, there are small restaurants with chairs and tables. There is WiFi (severely overloaded and insecure), and there are shops selling USB to micro-USB cables for $25. And there are AC Outlets, so I am able to recharge my computer (the battery is good for five hours, but I had longer than that to wait). And the noise! Oh the noise noise noise noise noise!
Airports could be better than this. They should be.
That is all.