Thursday, January 10, 2008

hook, line and sinker

U.S. Airways sucks Ass with a capital "A." I'm marooned in McCarran airport in Las Vegas right now, waiting to get on the next departing plane to Tampa to visit my dad and family for a long weekend. When I made the flight plans initially, I had a close connecting flight (like 26 minutes to get from one plane to the next) so as you can imagine I had a siginifcant amount of anxiety. I took several steps to ensure that I would make my connection, or at least have the chances of making that connection in my favor. Some of these steps included calling U.S. Airways and trying to get an aisle seat towards the front of the plane and neurotically pestering every flight attendant I encountered at the ticket counter, at the airline gate and on the plane. Of course when I got to my original departing gate I noticed there was a 1/2 hour discrepancy between the time the plane was leaving on the marque and the time on my ticket (not in my favor either). I reiterated my concerns to a batallion of flight attendants and some of the reassuring bullshit they fed me were lines such as:

"Don't worry, we'll gain time going to Las Vegas because we're riding on tailwinds."

"We'll get there a 1/2 hour earlier the scheduled, so you won't notice the difference and still make your connection."

"Well, you connection is running an hour late from it's point of origin so you'll have time to spare to get to your next plane."

In my naivety I bought the reasoning they gave me and as we were landing the captain made a sort of back pedal comment to the affect of "uhhh...some of you may have missed your connecting flights, we will have a U.S. Airways representative at the gate to help you make arrangements for the next flight.

Great. The first thing I thought was this message applied to me. The eternity that passes from the moment the plane parks and the time the doors open and passengers start filtering out is amazing. So after I get off the plane and into the terminal wing there's no agent waiting for me, and it's a really unfamiliar place. I have to get my bearings and there's no maps or any clear signage to direct me to where I need to go. I confirm with the monitors that my flight had taken off 10 minutes ago. So the bullshit about my connection being behind an hour was something to placate me and after I weed my way through the maze of slot machines I find the U.S. Airways customer service desk.

The people working at the desk seemed extra tired, like they were pulling double shifts or something. The woman who helped me had dark circles under her dark circles. I explained the whole thing to her and she shook her head and said, "never believe what the flight attendants or the pilots tell you." Great, next time I won't I guess. I mean, what are my options? The customer service woman prints up my tickets and informs me that the next flight to Tampa is the red eye, which leaves about 7 hours from when I was standing there. 7 hours?? I asked if I could have a free round trip ticket or a meal or something, but my request was met with an "nooo, I'm sorry ma'am, we can't do that for you."

I take a seat briefly to call my ride in Tampa and let the family know my new arrival times. While I was on the phone, the crew who were on my last plane who assured me I would make my connection walked by. I started harassing them, I said "thanks for the flight guys. Guess what? I missed my plane. Thanks, yeah, have a great night, enjoy your next probably on time flight." They didn't even acknowledge me. Jerks.

So I take my ticket and leave, annoyed but trying to make the best of it because I really don't have any options. I noticed the departing gate on the ticket was F28, which seemed weird to me because I don't remember seeing an "F" wing. After wandering around here for a 1/2 hour, I asked a TSA agent if there was a map or floor plan somewhere. He looked at me as if I had 6 heads, so I proceeded to explain what brought me to the point of meeting him. I showed him my ticket, and the letter "S" is stamped all over it. The TSA guy told me that means I've been singled out for extra security screening and I won't be let on the plane.

What?? As you could imagine I was really annoyed now. I marched back to the tired lady who printed this ticket for me and relayed the conversation with the TSA guy. She was annoyed and told me he was wrong to tell me that. Then she was asking me who told me that. I didn't get his name but I told her it was the guy who was sitting by the exit to baggage claim. She reassured me again that I wouldn't need extra security screening and the gate information would be released a few hours prior to departure.

Okay, problem solved, now I just have to bide my time.

At one point I played $2 on slot machines, won $12 then lost it all. Ahhh, such is Vegas. I'm not a gambler and feel guilty even giving up that $2. But I'm sure I spent less then some of the other slot zombies spent.

Las Vegas is an interesting airport. I haven't been here for about 10 years, and didn't really remember anything about it except there were slot machines right in your face as you stepped off the plane. That hasn't changed. I'm trapped behind the security area, going between Terminals A and B. I sit in a spot for a while, watch people, use the internet (McCarran Airport's only saving grace is free wi-fi) and watch TV shows on my computer. Then I move to a different spot and do the same thing all over again.

City of Las Vegas

The power outlet situation here is kind of weird; there's no outlets in the gate areas. I thought I found some floor outlets but after I flipped the brass lid there were only empty holes beneath. There are places to use electricity hough; there are these uncomfortable metal bar stools in front of a Verizon display touting free electricity, a bar with about 12 outlets on it. So I sit in the comfy chairs and wear my battery down then move over to the uncomfortable metal stools and recharge.

I'm sitting in the Gate B2 area, where I think my plane will depart from (unless there's another gate change or problem). This areas pretty empty with the exception of a few lone travelers like me and then there's two chatty flight attendants sitting a few rows in front of me. It's a pretty man (wearing a lot of jewelery and has really nice hair) and a heavy set woman. They seem to be talking about co-worker or something that's coming off as gossipy. I have my headphones in but no music playing (thanks for the idea cuz!) so I can be aware of what's going on around me. I'm paranoid and lived in NY for a while so I'm constantly surveying my surroundings, watching people in window reflections to see if they're watching me, to make sure no harm comes to me. Not that it will, it's just the paranoid part of me speaking now.

Speaking of paranoia, I only brought carry on luggage with me for this trip and I'm glad I did because I don't know if I checked luggage when it would ever get to Tampa. I've heard horror stories from people about having their luggage lost for days.

There's an amazing variety of people coming through here. The travelers could be divided into two major groups--people moving fast, catching planes, arriving and getting to their hotels or home, then the slow movers (like me), dejected, despondent individuals killing time until their delayed or next plane leaves. Those two groups could be divided into sub-groups--fancy dressed people who smell like money, average joes connecting to flights, degenerate gamblers, people from foreign countries (again, sub groups--big families or business travelers), and old non-descript people who could fit into any of the sub-groups.

I just looked up and the heavy set flight attendant was staring at me, then quickly looked away. I'm not getting anything to eat or drink on this next flight because she'll put her dirty poo finger inside my cup and serve me water with those E.coli germs mixed in my beverage.

Okay they left. I heard her say something about the break room so I'm off the hook from that stare-fest.

Another flight update--my departing gate has been moved to gate A23. Trust me when I say it's a journey from B2 to A23. Not much in the way of stuff to do here, and for the Las Vegas area I must say I'm disappointed. There's a Fox Sports Bar, The Budweiser Lounge (barf), 2 Starbucks, a Burger King, some sandwich place I got a Southwestern Turkey Club from, a frozen yogurt place, an oxygen bar, a fancy candy by the pound place, and several empty areas that seem like they are waiting for an airport improvement. Many many slot machines, either in glass walled rooms or just out in the open.

One thing that's really annoying is there's these really aggressive U.S. Airways customer service agents standing at these tables all over the airport, opening up a conversation by asking if I'm interested in something free, a free flight or cash, some kind of ridiculous hook to get me to stop and hear the rest of their schpeil. So everyone at these tables that asks me I bitch to them how I'm stuck at this airport for over 7 hours and nobody from U.S. Airways offered me a free flight, free meal, sincere apology for abusing my trust...the least they could do is give me a free stuffed animal or pilots hat.

There's signs all over the place here advertising shows in Vegas and one that caught my eye was this game show event people could go to. It seemed audience members are picked to play some kind of games for money by either Bob Eubanks, Chuck Woolery or Jamie Farr. Now I get Bob Eubanks and Chuck Woolery. But Jamie Farr?? Corporal Klinger from M*A*S*H? What does he have to do with game shows? I'm glad those guys are working and all, but the big advertisement is scary. Bob Eubanks' pants are practically hiked up to his armpits. And all three have several crows feet on each eye. It's a whole flock of crows on their eyes. They look way too tan and very creepy.

So I'm over at gate A23 now, and there's another group of gossipy flight attendants. The night is much quieter the the day. I can clearly hear the distinct different dings and beeps from different slot machines. There's constant loudspeaker announcements that are so hard to hear and understand I think the NYC subway announcements are clearer. I like watching people play the slot machines; some of them look so determined. Everyone's carrying a Starbucks cup. If I drink coffee now I'll be up on that entire red eye. Hopefully I can sleep and wake up in a warm, sunny, tropical place. It's about 52 degrees in Las Vegas right now, I have 2 shirts and a hooded sweatshirt on and I'm cold. I keep putting my hood up like Obi Wan Kenobi. I wish I could have used a jedi mind trick earlier to get the plane here on time, or at least get something for my trouble.

I have a good seat and don't want to get up and go to the bathroom and risk losing it. My ass is starting to hurt. I can't wait to get there.

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