Thursday, May 22, 2008

Adventures in Air Travel

The short version: I'm in Madison. My luggage is still in Chicago.

The long version: I'd checked one bag, and had a small rollerbag and a backpack as carryon luggage. The backpack holds the computer, reading supplies and knitting; the rollerbag holds the CPAP, a change of clothing in case I get stranded somewhere, and meds.

My Newark flight was so crowded that by the time I got on (I was boarding group 4 because I had an aisle seat), there was no space in the overhead racks. So the flight attendants told me I had to check the rollerbag.

"Oh," I said. "You mean a gate check?"

"No," they said as they pulled the bag away from me, "we have to check it through to Madison."

"But there's medical equipment in there! It's fragile!" This is true; I've had CPAPs break when I checked them. They let me remove the main unit of the CPAP, which I cradled on my lap like a baby, and I also managed to grab about half my meds, including the antidepressants. But the change of clothing, and the hoses and such for the CPAP, all got checked.

Meanwhile, we left Newark an hour late. I only had an hour to make my connection in Chicago, so I was sure I'd miss it. When we got to Chicago, the Madison flight had been delayed, so I had fifteen minutes to get from the very end of Terminal A to Terminal F. O'Hare doesn't have any shuttle trains or moving walkways: you have to hoof the whole way. I hoofed it, but I didn't run. I figured there was no way I'd make it.

I got to the Madison gate, and the flight was boarding! So I got on. "Do you think there's any chance my luggage made it?" I asked an attendant.

"Of course. You walk. Your luggage drives."

But my luggage didn't show up in Madison: not on that flight and not on the next flight from Chicago, either. The very nice baggage person looked up my suitcases on the computer, discovered that they were still in Chicago, and told me that they'd get to Wisconsin either around 10:30 tonight or sometime tomorrow morning. They'll be delivered to my hotel. So, still cradling my main CPAP unit, I got my hotel shuttle and checked in. I'm not at the main convention hotel, where I always stay, but which sold out this year; I'm up the street. So after I checked in, I went to the Concourse to register.

I got my registration packet and went back down to the lobby, wondering where I was going to eat. There are tons of restaurants here, but I didn't feel like walking anyplace. Because I usually stay at the Concourse, I belong to their Rewards program, so I decided to see if I had enough points for a dinner in the hotel restaurant.

It turned out I had enough points for a dinner for two, but I only wanted dinner for one. This was a very complicated twist, evidently, and while the desk clerk was talking to coworkers to figure out how to handle it, Inez and her student Nita came up, and we had a lovely conversation until the desk clerk finally decided just to give me a gift certificate for $50 for the hotel restaurant, which would be worth half my points.

In the restaurant, I saw Alma Alexander and her husband, who were finishing their own dinner but invited me to join them, and stayed until I'd finished mine. We had a lovely chat about Star Trek, fantasy and trauma, Shakespeare, and various TV shows, and I had an amazing dinner. Really, I think it's the best meal I've ever eaten. I had edemame beans as an appetizer, followed by juicy, perfectly prepared swordfish with soba noodles and veggies, followed by a chocolate caramel tart that was, well, orgasmic. Gary and I once had an astonishing chocolate caramel dessert in San Francisco, and this one was every bit as good.

Final bill with tip: $43 and change. My server told me apologetically that they couldn't give me change on a gift certificate. "But you'll still get the tip?" I asked, and she assured me that she would. "Okay," I said, "so just take the balance as your tip."

It was a feel-good experience for everybody.

After dinner, I ran into Jacob and Rina from Tachyon. Oh, and I'd run into Suzy McKee Charnas at the airport. I told everybody the luggage story, and everybody commiserated and asked me if I needed toiletries or a nightshirt. I had toiletries from the hotel; what I really need is clean underwear, but nobody else can help with that. I guess I'll wash what I'm wearing in the sink, in case my suitcases don't arrive tonight.

Hey, at least I'm here instead of stranded in Chicago. Things could be worse!

1 comment:

  1. Ugh! It seems that flying through Chicago and WisCon is a bad combination. We had problems the year we did that. (That year, many people's luggage did not arrive for a while.) Of course, we found this time that flying through Kansas City was a different kind of problem.

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