Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mis-Adventures in Air Travel

My MEF NV posted about her adventures as a pseudo travel agent today and I was reminded of a travel story from my past.

A few years ago, my very single, bachelor uncle passed away unexpectedly.  He lived on the East Coast so we had to make some hasty travel plans to tend to his estate. Being a seasoned traveller, my Dear Old Dad (DOD) took care of making the arrangements for us.  His challenge was to book one-way flights to DC for 5 people at the last minute.  If you ever met my father, you will know that he is extremely detailed oriented and liked to make sure that he got the best deal.  He poked around on the internet looking for the best airfare and finally came up with a flight that met his budget criteria.  Mumbling and grumbling about having to spend "that much" on a flight, he went to book the flights when he found out that you could only buy 4 tickets at one time.  He bought the first round of tickets for my uncle's siblings and himself.  He then booked my flight separately.  When the total came back, he couldn't figure out why there was such a difference in the price per ticket. He poured over the confirmations and checked and rechecked his calculations.

Now we already know that he is detailed oriented so we all assumed it was some glitch in the reservation system or a freak drop in the airfare.  Finally, we discovered that there were 2 flights to DC that left at or near the same time.  On in the morning and one at night.  I was the sole passenger booked on the AM flight.  He quickly called the airline to see if he could fix his mistake and they happily agreed to change his flights - for a slight rebooking fee that almost doubled the price of the original tickets.  There was no way that this was going to fly (no pun intended) with his frugal German heritage.  Thankfully, the reservation agent gave him a cheap option out.  She told him that historically that flight was rarely full and that they could try to fly standby to catch the morning flight.  Problem partially solved!

For as long as I can remember, my uncle had lived out of town.  None of us had an extra key to his house.  When we asked about how we should get in, the local officials said that we could essentially 'break-in' the same way they did.  In order to facilitate the illegal activity I was about to undertake, my DOD persuaded me to take a cordless drill in my suitcase since I was the only one confirmed to arrive in the morning.  

So we get to the airport and check in.  We definitely raised some suspicions as we had one confirmed one-way ticket and 4 stand-by one way tickets. Did I mention that we were flying to the nation's capital? About one year after 9/11 and it was near Labor Day? In those days, the security screening was done right at the ticket counter.  The agent asked me to open by bag and questioned what I had in a plastic grocery bag in the corner of my suitcase that had a vague outline of a huge pistol.  Not wanting to undergo a full body search, I opened my mouth to politely answer the agent when DOD appeared behind me and answered "Don't ask!".

I groaned as I envisioned spending the next 8 hours under a bare light bulb answering rapid fire questions from the good cop/bad cop trying to beat a confession out of me.  I decided that honesty was the best policy and while shooting DOD the dirtiest look I could muster, timidly replied "it's a drill, ma'am".  "Why on earth do you have a drill in your suitcase?" the agent asked.  Continuing down the honesty is the best policy path I blurted out "Well, I need it to break in to a house." DOH!  In hindsight, that probably wasn't the best answer considering the look on her face.  I swear she started to pull to pull out her walkie-talkie to call for back up and have me hauled off to the pokey when I quickly explained the whole story. While it wasn't really any of her business, I sure didn't want to go to jail for some suspicious terrorist activity.

Once she understood the situation and that I wasn't going to violate any national laws, she let me go after making me disconnect the battery from the drill. I lectured my DOD all the way to the gate and of course, he thought the whole thing was funny.  Sure funny for him, he wasn't the one who had visions of bright lights and rubber hoses dancing in his head! 

1 comment:

NV said...

Man! You definitely have the travel stories!