Escape from New York

Back in ’81 Kurt Russell made an awesomely horrible movie (aren’t all of his movies just awesomely horrible though?) called Escape from New York in which New York City is a high security prison and Russell, obviously the leading man, must extract the president and save him from the gangs of ragged thugs imprisoned in that foul cesspool of a city. This intense, action packed drama (please wipe up that pool of sarcasm when you get the chance) was set in the distant and unimaginable future, 1998. My guess is that John Carpenter dreamed up this little yarn while stuck on a plane at JFK airport.

All in all the weekend was a rousing success. MJ was a huge hit with my grandmother and visa versa; I got the chance to visit with cousins I hadn’t seen since my brother’s wedding last year; and I got to visit with a friend whom I had not seen in quite some time. Of course, MJ, being the sleep deprivation expert that she is, decided that to sleep in someone else’s borrowed crib was thoroughly unacceptable and instead insisted that if there was to be any shut eye had it must be in bed with me, resting on the artery which conveys blood to my hand, ensuring that while she slept I was incapacitated by a dead arm and just uncomfortable enough to be forced into wakefulness. But that’s a story for another time.

I have plenty of pictures and some stories to share, but first things first.

NEVER fly on American Airlines with a baby. Perhaps I was pampered and spoiled by the treatment CableDad, MJ and I received from the crew and personnel of Alaska Air (I’m also permanently spoiled by Air Canada. Have I mentioned recently that I miss Canada?), but American Airlines has no concern or care at all for its passengers. Let’s start off with my major complaint: there is no pre-boarding, not for single women traveling with twins seemingly under the age of two, not even for an older woman who was in a wheelchair.

When I heard the announcement for the First Class pre-boarding I wandered with MJ up to the counter to inquire about possibly boarding with her since I had to install her car seat. The response I got was, and I quote, “I said First Class. Are you First Class?” Eyeing me up and down, “I don’t think so. As I just said, go sit down until I call your group.” What??? At that point I was dumbfounded – it was one of those moments in which you wish you had an appropriate response but that reply only comes to you a day or so later when there is no hope of using your snappy comeback. I probably should have been more offended. Did I mention that this same attendant had been snarky to me only 20 minutes earlier when I had inquired about the gate change? “I’m not ready to deal with you yet. Does the sign say New York? No. I’m still dealing with the last flight.” At which point he turned to his companion worker and said not so under his breath, “What is wrong with the people? Can’t they even read?” Hello! I’m standing right here. I hear you, you little twerp. A man with a genuine Napoleon complex. Keep at it little man, it doesn’t make you any bigger.

As I was saying, I probably should have been more offended but I looked around at the other people around me hoping for pre-boarding and noticed the aforementioned woman with young twins in a double stroller who was trying to keep them calm while negotiating a gate check for her double wide, and the elderly woman in a wheelchair who was also not allowed to board and get to her seat before the mad rush of anxious and irritable travelers. Then I looked at myself with one not-presently-crying baby, able to walk and assisted by my little brother. (Nick, you rock! ) I realized my difficulty boarding was minimal. But seriously? No pre-boarding? Not even for the wheelchair? You’ve got to be kidding me! Needless to say that since this hassle took place on the Miami side of the trip, it also took place on the New York side. You have a baby, a car seat a diaper bag and luggage? Tough shit. Whatever. I just won’t fly American anymore. Problem solved.

The attempted break out from New York, however, was much more dramatic. After having made it through security (which wasn’t half as bad as I had expected) and arrived at the gate, we settled in to wait for the hour before boarding for our flight began. Yes, we had arrived ridiculously early, but as I said, the security check took about half the time I had expected. I phoned CableDad to tell him that we were at the airport and to keep and eye on our flight through flight tracker. He was presumably still asleep (lucky bastard) because he didn’t call me back until right before we got on the plane. I told him we were about to board and he expressed his enthusiasm that we would actually take off on time. (CableDad and I have a long standing joke about how it is impossible to get out of NY on time, no matter what time of day or from which airport you depart. This attitude is mainly a byproduct of repeatedly waiting for flights carrying relatives who never seem to land less than 4 hours after the scheduled arrival time.) I told him not to tempt Murphy and that getting on the plane was not the same as taking off. I should have known.

We got on the plane (last, thank you very much American) and settled into our seats. MJ was doing her best to remain in a good mood but she was exhausted, not wiling to nap and Uncle Nick was across the aisle and therefore unflirtable. (Can I make up words like that?) So, all buckled in and waiting for take off, I played with MJ to keep her occupied. She was fussing a bit about being hungry but I didn’t want to give her a bottle before we taxied out or she would have nothing to drink to help her pop her ears when we actually got going. Then the announcement came. “Sorry folks, we’ve got some bad weather on the ground and the ramp is closed so no planes are going in or out. We’ll update you every 15 to 20 minutes.” Every 15 to 20 minutes? NOT a good sign. Oh yeah, I forgot, “Please remain in your seats with your seatbelts fastened.” Still trying to distract MJ. Did I mention that she now has 4 teeth coming in and is highly volatile at the moment? Next announcement (15 to 20 minutes later): “Sorry folks, the weather is still preventing us from leaving and we’re shutting down our engines. We’ll keep you updated. Remain seated, but you can now use your portable electronic devices.” (Ok, I am paraphrasing, but you catch the drift.) Also NOT a good sign. I took out my phone and called CableDad to let him know what was happening. He was aware. Love that flight tracker and weather.com.

Luckily for everyone around me, MJ took that moment to pass out from exhaustion. Two hours later she woke up and we were still at the gate. This time she was pissed.

Admittedly my problems were significantly fewer that those poor people (most of the passengers it turned out) who were making connecting flights in Miami. The flight attendants made repeated announcements about how they had no information about connecting flights and would people please stop asking them.

Anyway, to make a long story short (too late!) we eventually took off. Of course, since MJ had napped rather unexpectedly in her car seat during our delay she was up, full of energy, irritable due to her teeth and desperate to make up for lost time. Keeping her amused during the flight was no small feat. She wanted to be standing and jumping and flirting with everyone around her. She also couldn’t understand why this was not an OK way to spend her time. I have to admit, the guy in the seat in front of her was incredibly understanding. Not only could he not recline his chair because of her car seat but he didn’t complain once about her bouncing and pterodactyl impressions. (Mr. 4A, thank you VERY much.)

As anyone who has flown recently knows, airlines no longer offer your food on your flights. You can purchase such tasty items as “meat sticks” (no, I’m really not making that up) from the galley for the low cost of $5. No, they weren’t willing to bring the snack cart around to the seats. Food was to be distributed on a strictly first come first serve basis. Well, our particular flight was under stocked. Luckily for us we sat near the galley. Not that MJ eats “meat sticks” and not that I was particularly attracted to the idea, but Nick was able to get a snack to hold him over since neither of us had seen food in about 6 hours and it was not looking like we’d be getting home in time for dinner. Not surprisingly they ran out of food which caused quite a stir from the hoard of passengers (“Folks, please don’t crowd the aisles”) swarming the galley where they were told to go to get food. As you can imagine this set off quite a bit of grumbling from the crowd. Luckily there was no Fletcher Christian amongst us and our captain’s name wasn’t Bligh, but I’d be surprised if more than one hungry passenger did not consider that particular option.

At long last we landed at Miami International Airport. We were about 3 hours late, which meant we landed smack in the middle of a lovely squall. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with Miami weather, let me give you this interesting tidbit. During the summer it rains. A lot. Mostly between the hours of 3 and 5. Actually, most Miami residents would agree that you can set your watch by the summer rain storms. As our flight was supposed to land in Miami at around 2 pm we should have missed the rain. Since we were nearly 3 hours late we got caught smack dab in the center.) I should thank our luck that the captain was allowed to land and we didn’t have to circle the area for another hour. However, in a lovely display of symmetry as soon as we landed we were informed that the ramps were closed due to the storm and we would have to sit on the runway until the captain got the all clear. Mind you by this point MJ had rejected every toy, had furiously gnawed through all of the celery sticks I had brought and had already spent at least 45 minutes of the flight crying. Poor kid.

CableDad had watched our flight land on flight tracker and had left the house to come pick us up (we live very near the airport). As soon as the captain announced that he was shutting down the engines and we could again use our cell phones until we started to taxi up to the gate, I called CableDad and let him know that we would be later still. He said he would circle the airport until he heard from me again. Oh yeah, and by the way, how was the baby doing?

In an attempt to retain some sanity I phoned my mother (Hi, Nonna!) who was also watching our progress and she informed me that we were in between squalls. It looked to her that if we could make it to the gate in the next 15 to 20 minutes we’d be home free. Otherwise another squall was coming in and we’d be stuck out on the tarmac for the duration. The captain: “Folks,” why did he always address us as ‘folks’? “we have just been giving our all clear to taxi up to the gate. Please get back in your seats.” 5 minutes later: “Folks, we can’t begin to move again until everyone is seated and safely buckled in.” 5 minutes later: “Folks, please return your stowed luggage to the over head bins and regain your seats or we will not be able to approach the gate.” Ok, I admit it. At this point I was nearing my wit’s end. SIT THE FUCK DOWN PEOPLE!!!! No. I didn’t scream that out. I wanted to, but I didn’t.

At long last we arrived at the gate and were given permission to get our luggage. (Of course the usual crowd of people hopped out of their seats the moment the attendant announced “please remain seated until the fasten seatbelt sign has been turned off”.) I called CableDad. He was still circling. The airport was a madhouse. MJ and I made it off the plane but Nick nearly didn’t. He was accosted by a flight attendant who was certain his name was Alejandro and was her sole responsibility.

I got into the terminal and turned around to say something to Nick and he was no where to be found. I didn’t panic, but I thought about it. Luckily before my stress kicked in Alejandro came strolling into the terminal and told me why he was detained. “I’m NOT Alejandro. No, I’m NOT traveling alone!”

So there you have it. We made it home. However, one thing has been made abundantly clear to me through this ordeal. Sorry, Andrea, no I will not be flying with a baby on a holiday weekend. CableDad, MJ and I won’t make it to New York for Thanksgiving. We might never be able to get out.

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~ by CableGirl on Monday, July 30, 2007.

12 Responses to “Escape from New York”

  1. Oh, my travel hell! I can hardly even begin to comment, but oh, boy can I commiserate. What a crazy, insane nightmare Paige! For you, for MJ, for EVERYONE.
    Loved the post, I could really feel the frustrations mounting! And the details like Captain Bligh? Hilarious.
    Also, a nod to meat sticks, whatever the hell those are.

    By the way, we’ve had bad experiences on American too and will forever avoid them. Even if it means paying a bit more for another airline.

    Sorry it all sucked, but I am glad you’re back, if only so I can read all about it. Can’t wait to see photos!

  2. Thats a bad experience, I always thought american airlines was better, I hated united.

  3. Ahhh nothing brings out Evil Brandy (and the urge to talk in third person) like horrible flying experiences. I have to say though, if you like Air Canada, you would LOVE WestJet (based out of Canada). They make Air Canada look like a bunch of thugs. I’m not even sure if that makes sense but really, it’s just better. And they still give free snacks. And they have leather seats. Good stuff all around. Glad you survived your trip!

  4. We’ve got to travel with the kids to the other coast AND Memphis over, gasp, Thanksgiving. Wish us luck. It sounds like air travel has just deteriorated since I last flew with the kids in April 2006.

    But you’re right about Mr. 4A. Those passengers are gifts from the travel goddess. I’ll have to write about a passenger from hell one of these days.

  5. Thats a pain , i remeber last year i had to sit on the runway for like 4 hours , I had nothing left to do by the time we took off!!!

  6. That sounds like hell. And airlines wonder why they are constantly flirting with bankruptcy.

  7. OMG! That sounds terrible! The whole pre-boarding thing (or I should say lack of) drives me up the wall. I would write American Airlines and tell them about that rude woman. I flew American Airlines on Thursday and I was really surprised that they didn’t get out the free pretzels anymore (United, which I flew on the way back, did.) I was annoyed because when I trying to exit the plane yesterday, this woman behind announced that she wasn’t on a school bus and didn’t have to wait. This was before I even set foot into the aisle. She and about 5 people pushed past me and wouldn’t let me out not to mention grab my bag. This wasn’t a private jet.

  8. Oh. My. Holy. Crap. That sounds like an utter nightmare. I think that at least one nasty letter is in order–particularly in reference to the jerk at the counter who eyed you and told you that you clearly weren’t first class and should therefore sit down. Yikes! Absolutely disgusting. I’m glad you survived…

  9. Oh my goodness, Cablegirl! What a mess. And what a hero you are for not completely losing it. And bravo to Mr. 4A, and to Alejandro for sticking to his guns and his identity. Welcome home!

  10. Flying with young children is always an adventure. I cannot believe there was no preboarding and that the captain turned the engines off TWICE! I would never fly AmericAN AGAIN.

  11. Luckily I have a friend who has given me the contact information in order to file a complaint with the airlines for the treatment we received. Not that I actually expect it to have any impact, but it will feel good. 🙂

  12. What an awful ordeal. I’m a total bitch to people who are rude to me. I would have gone off on that beotch.

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