I had the worst flying experience of my life last week, so I would like to share the lessons gleaned with you, so you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did!
1. Don’t fly United. Until last weekend, it was my express belief that two layovers was a small sacrifice for a couple hundred bucks’ price difference.
Then I found myself in Washington, a contender for “Worst Airport Ever,” after a late United flight and much fruitless cross-airport sprinting, with United telling me there was “nothing” they “could do.”
My late United flight had caused me to miss my next, surprisingly on-time, United flight and they couldn’t get me to New York until long after my transatlantic flight had flown. But because my transatlantic flight was Aer Lingus, not United, they couldn’t redress me in any way.
I even cried!
(On a related note: Have you ever heard the song “United Breaks Guitars?” Check it out here.)
Luckily, once in New York long after my final, transatlantic flight had left, Aer Lingus, mumbling about how incompetent United is, put me on standby. Which brings me to my next point,
2. Flying standby is like being on the waiting list at your first-choice college. Waiting for “the decision” (their words not mine) was one of the most stressful experiences of the day.
Am I good enough? Was I charming enough? Did I ace the interview? And even then, the only way in is if somebody else fails to show up. Doesn’t matter if they’re lying injured in a gutter, I need that spot!
Luckily I got in…er, made the flight. Otherwise there would have been (more) tears.
3. Kids and parents these days are as smart and oblivious, respectively, as the Rugrats and the parents on the Rugrats.
Waiting for my new flight to board, I had to sit on the floor, as I’d joined the party late and all the seats at the gate were taken. I was content to sit on my own, in silence, ruminating on how maybe my day was finally turning around (it wasn’t). But toddlers just don’t understand social cues!
This little chicklet that can barely walk just waddles right over and plops down in my lap with a big old book called “Physics for Kids.”
In my day we read books like “The Rainbabies.” And we didn’t sit down on strangers! But this little some-amount-of-months-old just commenced reading to me in baby gibberish, pointing and giggling uncontrollably at cartoons with captions like “Accelerator” and “Gravity.”
Of course, this prompted me to wonder if Dr. Toddler was flying alone, or being missed by someone. I started formulating the posters I’d print: “Found: One toddler, blond hair, studying physics, cannot speak English.”
And then my tired eyes found her probably tired mother. It had to be the woman over there with 4 other kids.
She did finally see me and waved distractedly as if to say, “I don’t care. Take her. I dare you to.”
4. Frequent flyer does not = good flyer. Despite my best efforts to ditch her, the toddler did try to board with me. But what appeared to be an eight-year-old sister had the foresight to come grab her hand and drag her back to the mass of seething, roiling childhood that was their family.
Thus I could finally relax on this long-awaited transatlantic flight. I took a sleeping pill and sat back to wake up in Dublin.
But it was some time after the “meal service” that my stomach began to feel, well, not so normal.
I turned to the stewardess in the aisle and asked if she had a sick bag. Her confused face and the nearby people looking at me peculiarly made me think that perhaps no sound had managed to escape my lips. “Bag. Puke bag. Do you have a sick bag?” I tried again.
“Oh, yes, one moment.”
Now, I can’t think of a whole lot of different circumstances in which one is asked for a bag to catch vomit. But every instance I can think of is one of urgency.
Unfortunately, this stewardess didn’t seem to grasp that concept. And so that little plastic bag that your blanket comes in, as well as the side of the plane, and a bit of my seat all managed to get…ah, soiled.
Did you know that the entire plane seat just pops right on out? (“Duh,” my mom said later. “Do you listen to the safety presentations? The seats are floatation devices.”)
Well the stewardess just popped that seat right off and brought out a new one. An entire bathroom was cordoned off for my continued use and to store the items I’d, ahem, put out of commission.
“I don’t know what’s happening,” I kept muttering in the pits of my despair. “I do this flight all the time.”
And during a recent night when I couldn’t sleep, I counted, as if to prove my point to those skeptical stewardesses. That was my eleventh transatlantic flight. Eleventh!
Anyway, I guess the moral of that story is, Aer Lingus, I owe ya one!
And I’ve come to warn you, seasoned and unseasoned travelers alike. No matter how cool you think you are, you, too, are susceptible to whole-plane humiliation.
It feels a lot like that.
Does anybody else have flying advice or humiliating flying stories to share?