Sanguine In Sacramento

So we needed to get from home – East Texas – to Sacramento, California. After my usual due diligence on ticket prices (a week of obsessive comparing of every possible combination of dates, flights, and airports), we settled on a flight out of Love Field in Dallas. This is the smaller, homelier cousin of DFW airport.

Well, we needed to get to the airport and a shuttle would cost 120$ for two people, so we decided to take the train. It left from about 30 minutes from our house, so I arranged for a friend, Karla, to pick us up and take us there.

Unfortunately, the only train left at 9:30 and the flight left at 7:00 PM that night – and the train ride was only two hours, so that left 8 hours to kill in downtown Dallas, so I set up a visit to the Dallas Aquarium to surprise Crystal.

The day of the flight, we woke up early (8am is early for me). I had asked Karla to pick us up around 8:30, so we could be there to check-in at 9. Anyway, before we could leave I had a few last minute things to do first. Naturally I forgot to do a few of them, so we actually left around 8:40. But being ten minutes late is no big deal, right?

Well, it wasnt. We got dropped off at the train station in plenty of time, printed out our tickets at the machine, and waited. And waited. The train was supposed to come at 9:25. At 9:50, we were informed that the train was running late (the smarter ones among us had figured this out by now). At 10:30 one of the women told us that her daughter had called her from the train, and it had been parked on the rails for about an hour. At 10:45 the train was moving again, but stuck behind a freight train which was apparently going about 10 miles an hour and couldnt get out of the way.

Finally at 11:45 the train showed up. So our being ten minutes late to arrive really wasnt a big deal. Well, once on the train it was a pleasant 2-hour ride to Dallas. Once there we walked downtown, past the JFK memorial (Crystal commented Oh, I knew JFK was assassinated somewhere, but I wasnt sure it was Dallas, whereupon I told her to stop speaking before she made me embarrassed to be seen with her. I said it in the nicest possible way, of course.

So then we grabbed a snack of Asian fast food and went to the aquarium. I think it was the first time Ive ever managed to pleasantly surprise Crystal – usually she hates my surprises. It really was an incredible zoo. The size of a medium-small office building, there was an incredible variety of birds, animals, and fish. It was a tad expensive (22$ p/p), but it was at least twice as good as any other zoo or aquarium Ive ever visited. Of course, they had this evil little monkey with a mustacheEvil Little Monkey, who loved to run up to the edge of the cage and wait until I was ALMOST focused on him with my camera and then zip away just as I pressed the shutter. He did this a dozen times.

The otters swam around in circles, and at the corner of the tank where I was trying to take a non-blurry picture, they would pause with their heads out of the water, laugh at me, and then swim away just as I hit the shutter. I think they were somehow in collusion with the monkey. At least we have about 30 blurry otter pictures to remember them by.

So the zooquarium was a big hit. After 3 hours we were hungry again so we grabbed a bite then got on the bus to take us to Love field. We arrived in plenty of time, got to the airport, went through security, got to the gate discovered Yay! Free wi-fi! then discovered Man, the flight is delayed an hour!

This wouldnt ordinarily bother me, but I had a 45 minute layover in Houston to catch the next flight, and if we were an hour late yeah. So we waited about an hour for someone to show up at the gate we could talk to, they finally did and we were given two options: spend the night at houston in an airline-paid-for hotel and take a flight to Sacramento the next morning, or take an airline-paid-for taxi to DFW and take a flight on American airlines tonight, which would keep our schedule and give us less flying time. Naturally I chose option B.

So they told us to leave the airport, grab the first taxi we saw and give them the voucher and relax. We did so, I presented the voucher beforehand, he said no problem, then when we got in and had gone half a block he said two person, two voucher. I said we only had one, and he repeated two person, two voucher. I said No, two person, one voucher.

He grumbled to himself the rest of the ride, but I made it clear I had no intention of falling for his scam. So far, every taxi ride Ive taken in the USA has been a distinctly negative experience. So far, not one driver has understood English, or been able to speak even a few words without an accent so thick it sounds like another language.

Every driver has tried to scam me for more money (when the base fare was ridiculous enough), and lied to me about the price, the distance, or knowing where the destination was, just to get me in the cab. Im not saying all cab drivers are like that, but so far theyre among my least favorite people.

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, we arrived at DFW. Well, we were dropped off at the wrong terminal, so we had to take a shuttle to a different one. We went to the check-in for American Airlines, and he fiddled with his computer and said were sorry, but this flight wasnt confirmed.

I told him I had no idea what that meant, and he said well, United Airlines called us, found the ticket, and printed you the voucher but they didnt wait for us to respond and confirm the reservation. As it is, the plane is full – in fact, were overbooked by 5.

So he called Uniteds offices in DFW, but they had all left for the day. So I called Uniteds 800 number. An automated system answered, I pressed 0. He said I think you said that you want to talk to an agent. Thats possible, but if youll just answer a few questions, I think I ca (his last words were cut off by me pressing 0 again).

He said Ok, youve asked to speak to an agent. We can do that, bu (0 again). He said Ok, Im transferring you to an agent. But first, please answer one question (I resisted the urge to press 0 again), is this domestic or international. After that I was transferred to an agent.

Well, her first suggestion was that we try talking to American Airlines. I asked her how she supposed I knew American was full. So then she looked in her computer, and said she could book me on a certain flight leaving at 9:40, and I said thats the one you already tried to book me on, but its full.

Then she said OK, I found a flight leaving tonight at midnight, arriving in Sacremento at midnight tonight. I told her that wasnt possible, we couldnt arrive at the same time we left. She said it was because of time zones. I told her I understood time zones. We were separated from the west coast by 2 hours. It was a 4 hour flight. She argued with me for awhile longer and then dropped the subject. So she tried to send me late the next day, and a variety of other undesirable options.

Everytime she did this, she would say Ok sir, can I please put you on hold while I look for flights for you. That was fine, but she used the exact same words 7 times on that call. And if I ignored her, she said them again. Sigh. Anyway, she said to get vouchers wed have to find a United agent. I told her if I could find one, I wouldnt have called her.

Well, it occurred to me that somewhere on this airport there had to be someone who worked for United after hours, so we tried a different terminal. They had all gone home, so we asked someone, he said there was no one there. Finally I saw someone (off-duty) who worked for United and explained the situation and she told me to go to the baggage claim.

Surprisingly that worked. All this while I was still on the phone. So I sent Crystal to talk to them while I worked on the phone, and after another 30 minutes of trying on the phone and her telling me there were no other flights I could take, Crystal said the agent inside found a flight first thing in the morning – so I told the agent on the phone to forget it, Id found someone here.

She seemed rather miffed. I had her on speakerphone and even the local agent was amused by her tone. I guess after an hour working with me, she resented being replaced by someone else – which wouldnt have happened if shed actually helped me.

Well, to make a long story short, Crystal had gotten them to give us vouchers for lodging, dinner and breakfast, and not only that – bumped us to first class. First class!

Crystal explained to the agent that we appreciated it, ordinarily we didnt belong in first class, and I interjected that I was surprised they allowed me in coach. If they offered seats in the baggage compartment Id be in there.

So we called the shuttle to take us to the hotel – which never showed. So we called again. It still didnt show. So we called again. Finally it arrived. The rest of the evening went well.

Surprisingly it really hasnt even delayed us that much. We have to take some public transportation in California anyway to get to our final destination, and after all of this extraordinary hassle I think well only be delayed by about 2 hours.

Interestingly, when we were first reassigned to the American flight, I was happy because we got a non-stop flight which actually was less flight time and would get us there at the same time – so it would have worked out better than before.

After that fell through, we wound up getting in first class, free food and lodging, only delayed by 2 hours in the long run – so it worked out even better than the better we had before. So like Ive always said – it works out for the best. Sometimes, even for the betterest.

Posted on May 25th, 2012 by Natnee and filed under United States | 2 Comments »

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