It must be my lucky day!

This morning I was up early to catch the shuttle to the airport. The night before my new shuttle-friends made fun of me for booking what was probably a bit excessively early of a time but I was not risking missing this flight! When I got to the airport I used some of my extra time to grab an Einstein Bros Bagels bagel for breakfast before going through security. Yummmmmm! There was no Pre-Check line for me today so it took a bit longer. I still found their staff very efficient and almost unnaturally friendly. The burly young man who scanned my passport looked up at me and said, “You’ve changed your hair color.” I stared at him confused for a minute thinking I don’t know this guy. How does he know I dyed my hair? Is he stalking me? Should I be afraid? until I realized he was looking at the info/photo on my passport. Goodness Kris, you really need to get more sleep… There really wasn’t any covering up my dumbfounded stare so I just giggled and was like, “Since I got my passport…yes, I dyed it.” To which he laughed and replied, “I like it. The red really suits you.” Why thank you Mr. Handsome Homeland Security Agent. Apparently there really is something about my stranded hobo look that appeals to the men of Denver airport. At least today I was in clean clothes, although I’m not certain when the last time I washed my hair was… :s sketchy …
Fun Airport Security Fact: The George R R Martin Game of Thrones series books are printed differently than most books. It results in a thicker cover and different binding that shows up weird when X-Ray scanned. In both Denver and Edmonton security has asked to search my bag because there was an unidentifiable object in it. When I unzipped it both agents reached in, pulled out A Feast of Crows, laughed and showed it to their coworkers then let me continue on.

Once past security I grabbed a snack for mid-plane-ride and camped out at my gate. It felt weird to know that I would definitely have a seat on this plane. I still felt stupidly nervous though. I guess some habits are hard to break…plus they still could cancel the flight all together. Then the gate attendants called for boarding to begin. All I could think was “I’m getting on a plane!!!” Then she called my boarding group. And then I got on the plane. And it pulled away from the terminal. And it taxied down the runway. And it took off. And it flew all the way to New York!
You kept waiting for something bad to happen in there, right? Well so did I, but it didn’t!
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I got to Newark without a hitch. I even had an empty middle seat in my 3-seat row. Maybe my luck is changing?! I was by the aisle but the nice man next to me let me slide over and snuggle up close to peer out the window at NYC. Today I totally saw the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. It was just from the plane but, hey, still better than Denver. Frankly it was the most exciting thing I’ve seen on the trip so far. I think I’d be kinda sad to leave except that I plan to be back in NY in a matter of months with my old Wonder & Wanderlust travel-buddy Justine.

It was exciting to wander around a new airport, plus I was just so happy to be out of Denver. I’m sorry DIA. It’s not you, it’s me. You’re a perfectly nice airport but I am going to attempt to never return. Flights will no longer just be judged by ‘Which is cheapest?’‘ but also by ‘Am I willing to be stuck in that connecting airport for 4 days?‘ I had to change terminals so I hoped on a bus that took me to Terminal A. There was an Earl of Sandwich right by my gate so I munched down a sandwich and apple juice while I waited for what could be the fligt that actually takes me to my desired destination. Eventually the gate attendant made the announcement and I boarded the plane! Oh my god, I’m actually going to Nashville! I thought this day would never come!
There was no one beside me again on this flight. It was a smaller plane so I was able to scatter my belongings over both seats in my row. It turned out to be an extra blessing when the plane got so hot I thought my feet would melt. Putting them up on the seat next to me might not have been the most polite, but it kept me at a much better temperature.

When we touched down in at BNA (aka the Nashville airport) the plane literally broke into applause. I’m dead serious about this. Over 75% of our flight had just come from Denver and was arriving over 24 hours after their intended arrival time. Personally I was stepping off the plane only 68 hours after originally scheduled. “Only 68 hours?” you say. “It’s seemed longer.” Yes, yes it did. It was the longest 68 hour so of my life.

I was skipping through the airport I was so pleased. Soon I was skipping in time to thet live country music being played right there in the middle of the arrivals terminal. This city is already so cool. I caught the hotel shuttle out front and soon arrived at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. We are staying here until KG’s conference is over, as it is the host hotel. I’m so glad we are because it is indescribably amazing. However I will attempt to describe it later in its very own blog post. I met KG at a musical dancing fountain on the center of Delta Island (seriously, this hotel needs a post all of its own).She showed me to our room where I was reunited with my suitcase. So many clothes! I immediately changed. It didn’t matter that I had washed my one outfit last night, I was sick of it.
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We went for supper at the Jack Daniels restaurant in the hotel. One wall was made entirely out of whiskey barrels and the decor somehow embraced both classy hotel restaurant & dicey honkytonk. I had southern fried chicken & a Tennessee tea (which is basically a Long Island ice tea with JD in it). KG had a half-rack of ribs. In true Americna fashion the meals were too large to finish. I mean did they actually expect me to eat a full 3 dense pieces of fried chicken? Perhaps they did, but would they prepared when I simultaneously had a heart attack & slipped in a food coma after?
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We finished off our night with some hotel exploring…but that’s hush hush right now…
Love & Luck,
Kris

PS: Here’s my one nice picture of Denver…to remember the good times:
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#strandedinDenver

This morning I woke up with absolutely no idea where I was. I groggily rolled over to check the time on my phone and found it in its usual spot…on a totally unfamiliar end table in a unrecognizable room… For one surreal (and kind of terrifying) moment I could have been anywhere, until reality came crashing down, squashing me under the memory of Denver. Apparently the 40 hours with basically no sleep kind of did a number on me. Taking in my carry-on bag and one 2-day old outfit laid out on the desk I recalled that I was at the Holiday Inn Express Denver Airport and was going into Hour 35 of #strandedinDenver.
I found out it was too difficult to get to anything worth seeing in the actual city of Denver (there doesn’t seem to be a lot, mainly parks & art museums but it’s winter & I’m uncultured…apparently their public library is nice) so I got a late checkout and hung out in bed for awhile. Eventually I headed to the airport with hunger as motivation to get moving.

I took the chance to explored a bit more of my new home, aka the Denver airport, today. Before going through security I browsed the shops and halls in the main entry. Then I took the time to catalogue each of the stores & restaurants of Terminal B. Mainly I was on a search for a clean pair of socks (FYI I found some! They’re men’s but at least I haven’t been wearing them for days.). This adventure was inspired by a comment a friend made about looking into the DIA conspiracy theories. “What conspiracy theories?” you ask excitedly…or at least you would if you’re anything like me. I immediately took to the internet to read the blogs of crackpot fools and eccentric lunatics…or hard-hitting investigators, if that’s how you look at it.
It is “widely” believed that DIA is a secret headquarters of the Illuminati, New World Order or American Neo-Natzis. The last comes from speculation that the airport, taxiways and runways create a swastika when viewed from above. It’s believed that there are secret tunnels, chambers and bunkers beneath the airport that will house the new government of a post-apocalyptic government in our impending future. Backup for this can be seen “everywhere,” including in the creepy gargoyle in a suitcase mounted on the wall by the exit, the even creepier (and kinda disturbing) murals scattered about baggage claim and the creepiest red eyed horse (aka “bringer of the apocalypse”) statue in front of the building.
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Anyway, back to my day… Going through the security line was super-duper, uber quick. DIA has this fancy thing called TSA Pre-Check where about 1/5 (that’s my observation approximation) of travelers are randomly sorted into a separate section. First you are swabbed for drugs/explosives/whatever they are always swabbing for. Then you go through the metal detector/bag X-Ray area. So what’s so different? The second part is basically half-assed. You don’t have to remove your shoes or jacket or scarves. You don’t have to open up your bag or remove your laptop. You don’t have to go through the full-body scanner. You just breeze through the shorter line and continue on your way. So convenient.

Once back in my trusty Terminal B I gobbled up a grilled cheese & french onion soup for lunch, got whistled at by another young man (seriously, my unkempt hobo look seems to drive the men of the Denver airport wild with desire) then headed to the gate to wait for my flight. I use the term ‘my flight’ loosely as I didn’t actually have a ticket to get on the plane. I know it’s hard to keep track of all the journies I’ve attempted to take so I’ll remind you: 6:01pm flight to Nashville for which I was 3rd on the waiting list. You might recall that I was 3rd due to a United system screw-up and that the oh-so-helpful Customer Service lady had made a note on my standby pass that I was actually to be first. As so as an attendant join me at the gate I presented her with the most valuable (to me at least) note. The gate attendant then preceded to do absolutely nothing about it. She didn’t seem to care in the least that I was being conned out of my rightful place. Jerk. In the end it didn’t matter though. Departure time came & went and 2 hours later, when the captain still hadn’t arrived & they had been unable to board the plane, the flight was cancelled. Again. If you’re keeping track that is 3 consecutive flights from Denver to Nashville that have now been cancelled. It had been approximately 36 hours since they successfully got a plane sent off to that particular location. Were talking unreal bad luck for me guys.
When they announced the cancellation everyone immediately lept to their feet and practically sprinted to the Customer Service lines. I was last to arrive because I made a stop off at the gate desk. I’d be rolled over to the standby list for the next flight, right? Wrong! The jerk told me the standby list didn’t roll over between days…even thought that was against everything every other United employee had told me so far. What?!? Seriously United, work your shit out. So, as I said, I was last to arrive in the 3+ hour long CS line. I guessed I’d be pushing for 15 hours total now?

Mom & I Facetimed again so that I could rant & rave rather than taking my anger out in a physical way. ‘Why is that crazy chick over there trying to pry up airport seats?’ ‘Check out that crazy chick over there bowling people over on the moving sidewalks.’ ‘Did that crazy chick over there just turn into Godzilla?’ Flight cancellations & delays are one thing, but the inconsistencies in the United policies and the glaring lack of compassion in their procedures was incredibly frustrating. Mama P wasn’t taking anymore of it either. If you haven’t seen Mama P in her crusader for good/what is coming to us mode you are missing out. When she turns Mama Bear she can get shit done and make shit happen!
She called up my arch-nemesis Ron 😑 to try and get some results while I stood in line. I told her there wasn’t much hope. The guy behind me had just called Ron 😑 to change his flight reservation and Ron 😑 had told him the wait time to talk to someone was over 2 hours. I told the guy to stay on the line because the odds were good he’d still get through before we were able to see someone in person. Oh, Fun Fact: United finally added Hold!
But Mom had been warned of Ron 😑‘s antics so rather than say she wanted to change a reservation she said she had other issues. This got her a On Hold wait time of 12 minutes! Go Mom! I ignored her for awhile so she could talk to a mobile representative. Also, I was already seething and you all know how Ron 😑 gets me extra fired up! Instead I discussed ‘weather‘ with 3 young men in front of me. They all agree that it is a bullshit excuse. The on-the-phone customer service person wasn’t able to get me on the standby list for the next flight (that has to be done in person at the airport) but she coudk book me on a flight to Nashville through Newark tomorrow. I said do it! It was the same flight track as my already book Thursday flight, but 24 hours sooner. Plus it would be nice to have a confirmed ticket and not have to sit there feeling sick about whether there’d be any room for standby customers. Now let’s keep our fingers crossed that it isn’t cancelled!

Thanking my mother and every god I could like of (God…Zeus…Thor…they all control the skies, right?) I left the CS line. I guess 11 hours total will have to do πŸ˜‰ Retracing my steps from the night before I hitched a ride on the hotel shuttle to the Denver Airport Holiday Inn Express. Tonight I made friends with a young man from Atlanta and some Southwestern flight attendants. They told me horror stories of people they’d met at Laguardia who’d been stuck for 5 days. It made me feel a bit better about my 3 days…although they were stuck in NYC, basically one of the coolest cities on the planet, while I was stuck outside of Denver, basically Canada but more boring.
The hotel had a laundry room so I decided to wash my 3 day old clothes. The only problem with washing the one outfit you own? What do you wear while you wash it? I wrapped my LuLu Lemon Vinyasa scarf my sister had given me for my birthday as a skirt and zipped my jacket up over nothing. That would have to do.
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Peace out from The Least Exciting Place Ever Denver!
Love & hopefully more Luck tomorrow,
Kris

Rooooonnnnnnn!!!!!!!!!

Guess what loyal followers?!?! I am back to travel blogging! Yay!!! Today’s post is about mine & roomie KG’s first day of our Nashville trip…but don’t jump up to spread the news too quickly because I have still yet to make it there. Our nomadic saga begins on the way to the Edmonton airport:
Mama & Papa P were kind enough to drive us to there. Due to mine & Kristin’s inability to begin packing before the absolute last minute we left home a little late. It ended up being irrelevant when we received an email stating our 3:15pm flight was delayed until 4:14pm. No biggie…that still gave us an hour+ layover in Denver and time for a snack before we took off. Actually, that was probably better! …but perhaps I spoke too soon…
By the time we got to the airport we were taking off at 5:01pm leaving basically no layover…but the second flight might be delayed too, right? Arrival at the ticket counter saw us being turned away from check-in. Apparently both our plane and the second Edmonton-Denver plane (that was to depart an hour after ours) were still in Denver and possibly only one would be coming. Until they had confirmed our flight wasn’t cancelled we were stuck outside of security. Harvey’s anyone? Midway through my burger & onion rings I received yet another “United Airlines Flight Delay Update” email. 5:49pm departure. My flight tracker app showed our connection as On Time still so that was a bust, but at least we were going somewhere. We could catch the next Denver-Nashville flight. Oh Kris, how naive you were…thinking it was all so simple…

When we reached our gate we were finally informed that the delays were due to ‘weather.’ Can I rant for a minute about the explanation ‘weather‘? Because it seems like the least descriptive excuse ever. Where is this ‘weather‘ occurring? Is it good ‘weather‘ or bad ‘weather‘? They do realize that everywhere is experiencing ‘weather‘ all the time right? Right now even Hawaii has ‘weather‘…pleasant ‘weather‘ that doesn’t affect air travel, but still ‘weather.’ “Harsh winter weather in Denver” is a quality reason. “Poor weather on the East coast causing delays in the Denver flight schedules” is a full explanation. “Weather” is just bullshit.
When an attendant finally joined us at the gate we brought up our connection issue. Could we get moved to the next Nashville flight that night please? No, we were on the last flight of the day so we’d have to wait until the morning. Ok, could they please put us on that one then? No, it was booked up. Could they put us on standby for it? No, you have to be at the airport to be put on standby. Fair enough, but could they possible find us a new path to Nashville? No, they had no access to the system for that. Could they rebook us on the flight that Mom had found for us? No, they actually had no write access to the system at all. Could they do anything helpful at all? No, the only people who can help you are the service reps at the Central Hub. You can access them via the 1-800-number. Obviously we had a lot of questions. And obviously we heard a lot of No’s. And obviously YEG employees are not trusted to problem solve.

Feeling rather dejected and under appreciated as customers we (along with every other North American traveller) tried to phone the Customer Care number. Prepare yourself for Rant #2 folks because it is coming…
Could the United Airlines Customer Care phone system be any more infuriating? Don’t bother responding because I already know the answer: a resounding NO. No, it could not. It is already the most annoying thing on the planet. Your call is answered by an automated voice…let’s call him Ron 😑. At this point I need to make it clear that it is not merely Ron. It is Ron 😑. You must say it like you are Christian Bale’s Batman and you are so pissed off that you are actually growling out the name. That is Ron 😑. Ron 😑 pleasantly tells you that he doesn’t need to transfer you to a live person because he can solve all your problems with a few quick questions. Ron 😑 stop getting people’s hopes up! You can’t do shit. You can’t even figure out my confirmation number without making me repeat it over & over. But wide-eyed, hopeful, first-time-calling you doesn’t know this, so you answere Ron 😑‘s questions with zealous. You’re amazed that a resolution can be so easily found while just talking to a machine. Yeah it would be amazing…if it were true…and not a giant LIE Ron 😑 has fabricated to mess with your head! But I am spoiling the ending… Soon Ron 😑 has all of your information. He’s got your reservation number. He has your name. He’s figured out your flight details and that you want to change them. Everything’s falling into place and you’re on the edge of your seat awaiting the big finish…

“I’d love to transfer you to a Customer Representative but they are all busy. Goodbye.”

Goodbye. That’s it. Then it just hangs up. Ron 😑 f-ing hangs up on you! What? We told you we could solve this without a real-live person but we actually can’t. And because there are none available at this moment you’re SOL. Goodbye. Hang up. First of all why did I spend 10 minutes working through all of your questions if you were weren’t going to be able to help me anyway? And then you’re just going to hang up on me? What about Hold? Have you heard of Hold United Airlines? Because if I’m just repeatatively calling hoping I’ll be the one person in North America that randomly gets their call answered I’m giving up. At least if I knew I was number 545 on Hold I would know that in 544 people I’ll get a turn and anyone who calls after me will be dealt with after me. Since when was it ok to make customer service a random lottery? Needless to say I was so irate that I was yelling obscenities at the automated voice (Screw you Ron 😑!) in the middle of the terminal. Oh well, wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been “that crazy chick over there.” I made sure to document my frustration on the internet as well…because that’s what people do now-a-days, right?
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Eventually we ran out of time to one-sided-argue with Ron 😑 and had to get on the plane. It was good we did because the Edmonton-Houston-Nashville flight mom had found for us ended up being cancelled and being stranded in Denver is still better than going to work and being a regular person.

The flight was fine. The Flight Attendant & Captain were so very cheerful and nice. I have to say, as much as some of United’s procedures & systems make me want to punch them in the face, their staff is awesome. They’ve been extremely pleasant, even though I’m sure people have been yelling at them all day (I’ve limited my yelling to just Ron 😑) and compassionate in their understanding that we all just want to get on our way. While in the air KG & I ate multitudes of Salt & Vinegar Pringles and Wine Gums as the healthiest of dinners and played ‘Would You Rather?’.
Would you rather be run over by a steamroller or a hundred mopeds? (Steamroller…at least it’s a quick death)
Would you rather marry Liam Payne or Ed Sheehan? (Ed is so dreamy…and a ginger!)
Would you rather live next door to Harry Styles or under Simon Cowell’s stairs? (Simon Cowell is my hero.)
Would you rather let your hero die (for us this was obviously 1D members) or save his life but have to live out the rest of your life in Avril Lavigne & Chad Krogers bedroom? (I’m not a selfless enough person to endure that kind of pain.)
Would you rather be burned alive or have to marry Ron 😑? (Burned Alive! Burned Alive!)
Provide your answers in the comments below!!!

As predicted we missed our connection, although by an annoyingly close margin. Flight Delay Updates told us that our second flight has also been pushed back several times, just not enough times to match YEG’s delays. The Edmonton staff had told us to talk to the Customer Service folks in Denver to get rescheduled. Denver is a Central Hub so they had the authority to help us. We came across the end of the line for the first CS desk long before the desk itself. We’re talking a Disneyland-ride-worthy line. Luckily we had done our research on the plane and knew the terminal layout from the United inflight magazine. There were still 3 other desks to put our hope in. The line for the third was much shorter, although still epically long, so we joined the throngs of other stranded travelers to wait. Shortly after joining a lady passing by ranted at us about how it had taken her 5 hours to get through the line from the exact spot we were standing. 5 hours? Hopefully not.
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But less would have been good luck, and it was becoming clear that was something we didn’t possess. 5 hours turned out to be spot on. While waiting we received an email saying we had been automatically placed on flights through Newark on Thursday. Not really as soon as we were hoping. That would get KG there in time for the last day of her event conference, aka the main reason we were coming to Nashville, and would leave us stranded in Denver for 3 full days. Plus New York is not having the best of luck with getting flights out of their airports either. We were hoping the waiting would be worth it and we’d see some improvement. At the counter (5 hours of standing/sitting/laying later) we spoke to an amazing employee who was soooo helpful and nice and lovely. I repeat that the United employees are not the problem. It was sounding like she was already multiple hours into overtime and was still doing everything she could to help us…and be wonderful while doing it. I wish I had written down her name so I could send United a letter about how pleasant she was. Our trusty CS agent was able to reschedule our Thursday flights so they were the same, unfortunately there was nothing sooner available, and then put us on the standby list. It wasn’t much but she assured us that standby was something to believe in. With all of the flight cancellations and delays a lot of people were missing their connections. Earlier that day she’d cleared a 20 person standby list on one flight and still sent it off with empty seats. For Nashville we would be standby travelers number 10 & 11. Not too far down but annoying how we would have been 2nd & 3rd if they’d been able to put us on the list from Edmonton.

By the time this was done it was the middle of the night…literally. It was 3am and we were starving…and not even drunk…normally if it’s 3am and I’m starving I’ve had some slightly deviant fun beforehand. Being the middle of the night, nothing was open. Not a single shop. I really think the Denver airport food vendors are missing out on a fruitful business opportunity with this late night, stranded crowd. I was so thirsty I thought I might die of dehydration and KG was having hungry stomach pains. eventually, with the help of another super friendly employee, we located some hidden vending machines. Our midnight meal of water, pop tarts & cookies was a nice compliment to our candy & chips dinner.
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Feeling utterly exhausted we located a secluded spot behind some chairs at an end gate and settled in for what was left of the night. Although it provided some shelter from prying eyes it also was right next to a window. At 4:30-ish we had to haul our frozen bodies to an upstairs business corral…like the study spots in the university library…to resettle. The end space was larger than the others and allowed us both to curl up. This business corral is now my new home (as I now live in the Denver airport). Its warm, dark-ish (when you’ve climbed under the desk) and relatively quiet, with just airport appropriate white noise (suitcases rolling, moving sidewalks buzzing, etc). So tell me Homeless or Hippie?

With Love & (No) Luck from Denver,
Kris