Saturday, December 2, 2006

Trying to Leave Vancouver

After reading my kitchen faucet story, my friend, Carolyn, recounted a story to me where she had difficulty getting onto her plane due to an expired driver’s license. Here is an amusing excerpt from her email after the expired license had been revealed:

"But, lest I have a hidden desire (unknown to me and very surprising for a person with flight anxiety like I have) to become a terrorist, the ticket agent at American Airlines noted the difference! Anyhow, I'm pleased to report there were no explosives on my cell phone or shoes (verified by collecting samples and running this through a machine), and I hadn't accidentally included knives or guns in my luggage or on my body! However, when I got to the checkpoint I remembered the diet coke (of course I had one which I meant to drink on the drive over but I wasn't that thirsty) and immediately surrendered it! So, the good news is I was cleared in Tulsa and Minneapolis. The bad news, I may join you on the list of suspicious persons at the airport (do we get FBI files for our offenses?)."

Well, reading Carolyn's amusing anecdote reminded me of the time I almost did not get out of Vancouver, B.C.

Leaving Vancouver

Before I begin, I must give a bit of background to this story. I had flown to three different cities in less than three weeks on three different airlines. Needless-to-say (although obviously I feel compelled to say it anyway), I was exhausted after three weeks of networking at conferences, seeing the sights in the evenings, and sleeping in hotel beds. Also, when I flew to Vancouver, I booked my flight on Northwest Airlines, but it was actually serviced by Alaska Airlines. The prior week, I had flown on Continental Airlines, but the route was serviced by Northwest Airlines. Okay, the background is set.

The conference ended on Sunday, and I knew I was supposed to catch my flight that afternoon after my poster session. Unfortunately, I could not find my flight itinerary, so I could not remember exactly what time I was leaving, nor could I remember for sure which airline I was on. In my defense, I WAS suffering from sleep deprivation.

So, I left immediately after my poster session thinking I could just insert my credit card into the electronic check-in kiosks at airlines I knew I had booked tickets on recently. This way, I could find my itinerary without embarrassing myself too much by going to a ticket agent. Alas, there were no electronic check-ins there. This was a HUGE bummer!

Given my recent flights, Northwest Airlines kept popping into my mind, but I was pretty sure I had flown on Alaska Airlines coming to Canada four days earlier. What a dilemma. Which airline do I embarrass myself at first by admitting I can’t remember my itinerary? I finally settled on Alaska Airlines.

So, I wait patiently in line, and finally my turn comes up. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “Well, hello there!” (obviously trying to establish trust with a big smile and friendly greeting). “I am kind of in an embarrassing situation. I seem to have lost my itinerary, so I can’t remember what time my flight is supposed to leave, nor can I remember for sure which airline I am on. Would it be possible for you to check and see if I am flying on your airline this afternoon?

Ticket Agent: “Are you serious?

Me: “Sadly, I am. I have flown numerous flights over the last three weeks, all on different airlines, and I just can’t remember my itinerary.” (Okay, so I overstated it a bit when I said 'numerous')

Ticket Agent: “How many days ago did you fly here?” (I paused to think about this, trying to figure out whether to count Wednesday since I had flown in very late that night.)

Me: “Uh, well, uh, four days ago.” (I should have just said Wednesday night)

Ticket Agent: “So, you are telling me you arrived on Thursday, and you can’t remember what airline you flew in on?

Me: “Well, actually I arrived late Wednesday night.” (ah, finally, the truth was out) “And I think I bought the ticket on one airline, but it was serviced by a different airline.

Ticket Agent: “So, it was five days then!

Me: “Uh, I guess so.”

Ticket Agent: “Do you even know what day it is today?” (Now here is where I really blew it because I thought she was asking about calendar date, not day of the week)

Me: “Uh, hm, I am not sure, uh...

Ticket Agent: “You don’t even know that it is Sunday, and you expect me to allow you on a flight?

Me: “OH!!!! I thought you meant calendar date.

Ticket Agent: “Okay then, what month and day is it?

Me: (Oh nuts! I don’t know) “Uh, well, uh, hm, uh, well, I am not sure, but it is late March.

Ticket Agent: “It is April,...April 1st” (well crud!)

Me: “Oh come on, I was close.

Ticket Agent: “You need to wait right here please.” (and off she went to get her supervisor - just great!)

Before I proceed with this story, I should point out that in Vancouver they probably have encounters like this every-once-in-awhile due to all the heroin addicts there. In Vancouver, methadone (a synthetic opiate) is legal, and is used as a treatment for heroin users. Many places give it out for free. So, I can just imagine this particular Ticket Agent probably thought she was dealing with some stoned-out guy who did not know where he was at or what he was doing. I am sure my blood shot eyes did not help (remember, I was sleep deprived!!!).

Ticket Agent: “THIS is the guy I told you about.” (as she points at me sneers)

Supervisor: “Let me get this straight. You don’t know what airline or what time you are leaving? Plus, you don’t know what day it is? Am I correct?

Me: “First off, I thought it was late March, not realizing today was April 1st. My error. In regards to not knowing the airline or flight, as I tried to explain to the LADY over there...” (at this point I gave her a sneer back - oh yeah!) “...I have flown numerous flights in the last few weeks, all on different airlines, and I misplaced my itinerary. Also, I have not slept much in the last few weeks since I have been in hotel beds. So, I asked her if she could please check and see if I was indeed flying on Alaskan Airlines because I think that is the airline I flew here on … but to be honest, I think I might have purchased the ticket on a different airline, maybe Northwest or Continental.

Supervisor: “Well, I think something fishy maybe going on, but I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt and check. May I please see your ID?

So, I gave him my driver’s license (clearly before the new passport rules). He took one look at it and said, “You do know this is expired don’t you? By two years!

Me: “What?” (Ticket Agent now gave me another sneer - what a stinker!)

Supervisor: “You license has been expired for two years. How long have you been here?

Me: “Four, I mean five days, uh since Wednesday. Hold on, I think I have my passport in my computer bag.” (this is when I appealed to the good Lord to please let me find my passport, please, please, please, please - oh, thank God!). “Here is my passport!” (whew!)

Supervisor: “Okay, Mr. Plunkett, just a minute.” (tick tock tick tock) “Mr. Plunkett, you are indeed flying on our airline this afternoon, but you booked the ticket through Northwest Airlines. You will need to go to their Ticket Agent. Sorry for the inconvenience, but we have to be safe.

Me: “No worries. Thank you for checking.

At this point, I would have loved to stick my tongue out at the Ticket Agent and say “nanny nanny boo boo.” But, I refrained myself, and marched happily over to the NW ticket counter.

And that is how I left Vancouver. Whew!

No comments: