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Monday, January 5, 2015

How Victoria Almost Missed Vacation

Rachel - "Are you going to write about how you missed your flight?"
Me - "I don't know.  It's a sore subject."
Rachel - "Yeah, you might lose your credibility.  I mean, you're the vacation girl... they're going to be like, 'I'm not listening to her.  She can't even make her flight.'"


It's still a sore subject.  But I'm going to tell you anyway.  Something I realized a few years ago is that it's people's imperfections that make them interesting... relatable... imperfections make people likable.  So I'm going to admit my mistake to you in hopes that maybe you'll like me for it... or at least maybe you can find some joy by laughing at me.

For Christmas vacation, my dad booked my flight wayyyyy in advance to get a decent rate before they sparked for the holiday travel.  Because it was booked so far in advance, I didn't yet know my schedule for my final week at school.  So I ended up booking a red-eye flight that left Friday evening and arrived in Orlando, Florida early Saturday morning.  My family would drive to Orlando on Friday to spend the night, then pick me up from the airport Saturday morning.  We'd then all drive to Fort Lauderdale and board our cruise ship Saturday afternoon.

Since my relocation to LA, I've flown much more than I typically do in a year.  That being said, this has not been a good year of flying for Victoria.  Due to heavy post-Thanksgiving traffic, I missed my flight from Atlanta back to Los Angeles and had to cross my fingers that I'd make it on the next stand-by flight and not have to spend the night in the airport.  Since I'd already missed one flight in 2014, I wanted to be sure that I made it to the airport in time, so I left ridiculously early.  Traffic wasn't bad, so once I made it through security, I realized that I had almost two hours before my flight and decided to sit down at a bar in the airport and have dinner and beer.

Bad mistake.  Somehow, I managed to miss boarding for my flight on United (which, I must add, boarding time was not noted on my ticket, and I still have no idea how I just missed the window).  I walked up to the gate and realized that the doors were locked and the people were gone, and I could see my airplane at the end of the terminal, but I could not get to it.  I went immediately to guest relations with United, and that woman was absolutely no help.  What I learned was that United didn't have another flight from LAX to MCO until the next morning... which would put me in Orlando at 5:30 PM... about the time the cruise would be departing from Fort Lauderdale.  So I made a tearful call to my family and told them the terrible news - I would not be joining them for our Christmas cruise.

Rachel wouldn't hear it.  She was calm and encouraging throughout the entire process.  Woke up from sleeping to search for flights on different airlines, while I ran around like a madman from terminal to terminal.  It was incredibly stressful.

Thank goodness for Delta (by far my favorite airline at the moment).  I was able to book a flight to Fort Lauderdale that connected in Atlanta.  My estimated arrival time? 3:45.  Ship's all-aboard time? 4:30.  Connection time in Atlanta?  50 minutes.  Would I make it?  We'll find out.

I didn't make my United flight, but my checked bag did.  Thank goodness for that because there is no way my bag would have made my tight connection in Atlanta, and I did not have time to wait for it at baggage claim.  After getting surprisingly good sleep on the cold tile floor in Delta's baggage claim at LAX, I made it through security and realized that I did not have an assigned seat, and there was not enough space in the overhead bins for everyone's rolling luggage.  So I went to the desk and cried about how I had a tight connection which my bag wouldn't make, and even if it did, I didn't have time to collect my bag at baggage claim.  The woman I was speaking to didn't understand my need to carry my bag on, but as I explained my situation to her, the man beside her quickly printed me a boarding pass and ushered me to board with first class.  I wish I got his name so that I could properly thank him.

Another strike of luck is that my connection was in my "home" airport, ATL, which I am very familiar with.  So I knew exactly where I was going when I arrived and was able to efficiently run (not the first time I've run through an airport... and I'm sure it won't be the last) to my gate.

Flying Over Fort Lauderdale

While I was up in the air, my family was still working away at getting me there.  They booked a limo to pick me up at the airport and spoke to port authorities to let them know that I was on my way.  My sister said that the first guy they spoke to was very pessimistic.  "That's why you don't fly in the day of."  He didn't have any hope that I would board the ship in time.  And then they met Kathleen.  When they told her my flight landed at 3:45, she didn't have any concern.  "She'll make it.  And if she's running behind, I'll try to wait on her.  But I'm confident she'll make it."

My driver knew I was in a hurry and suggested that I not show them that I was in a hurry.  "If you look like you're in a hurry, they'll suspect you to be a terrorist.  You fit the description of a terrorist perfectly."  Hmmmm.... I don't know of a terrorist who is a five-foot tall, blue-eyed female in her 20s, but I'm not going to say it couldn't happen!

I arrived to the port and heard my family cheering from the promenade deck.  Because I was so late, most of the signage was removed, and a lot of people were on break.  I had to walk around before I could even find the entrance to security.  When I got to check-in, I didn't have my Set Sail pass physically, but my dad had sent me a photo.  I gave it to the lady at check-in when Kathleen saw me and came over.  "Are you Victoria?"  "Yes."  "Her family is already aboard the ship and has filled everything out for her."  I had to sign a medical waiver... and then it turned out that there wasn't a credit card on our room yet, so I don't know how they let Rachel on the ship without a payment method, but luckily I was there to save the day (ha!).

It was weird to see the cruise terminal so empty, and I wasn't quite sure where I was going, not having other people to follow.  Finally, I made it up the gangway to the ship and was greeted by the "ding" of my Sea Pass checking me in, as well as my family cheering loudly, a Dos Equis for me in hand!

Lesson Learned:  I do not have time to eat at a sit-down restaurant before my flight.  I need to go straight to my gate and sit there until it's time to board.  And if I'm hungry, then maybe I can grab some fast food.  Even then, I need to be extremely cautious when it comes to time.

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