I’m heading back east in a month to see the grand-kids and go to a couple of functions I’ve not been able to attend since I moved to California.
The first event is called “Irmastock” and it is a barbecue held in tribute to The Ex’s late Aunt Irma, who was one of the finest people I have ever had the privilege to know.
She was a fantastic cook (the absolute best eggplant parmigiana in the universe!) only to be outdone by the fact that she was such a generous and loving person with an absolutely enormous heart. Towards the end she was rather debilitated and spent her last days in a wheelchair and had to use oxygen to aid her breathing. But nothing could hold her back from enjoying life and especially her family!
I remember one of the last times I saw her, she’d rolled her wheelchair over to the stove and even though she had so many difficulties and couldn’t walk, she was stirring a big pot of “gravy” and gave an absolutely huge smile when she saw me.
She was incredibly positive to the very end and the family celebrates her life every year and this year I will get to participate.
The second event is NJ TapFest, which was founded by my late friend Dennis’ daughter, Hillary (who, in the tap world, is known as Hillary-Marie.) She has an incredible talent. Hillary created this workshop and show in 2010 and Dennis was so very proud of her. She is all of just-turned 20 years old. Dennis and his family are such wonderful friends that I decided this year NJ TapFest could not be missed. Maybe I can help fill Dennis’ chair that night, but it is highly doubtful anyone will ever be able to fill his shoes.
Well, now we come to the theme of this blog and the title, Merger Madness.
I fly Continental Airlines. I have flown them since its inception and anytime I have flown another airline, I have always thought that the other airline was not as good as Continental.
I’m on a bit of an austerity drive and since this sudden decision to go to New Jersey was not in the budget, I decided to take whatever measures I could to get the cheapest flight possible. With the surging fuel prices, the ever-diminishing direct routes and the fact that Continental, for heaven-knows-what-reason, has merged with United Airlines, this became a challenge.
I found a round trip ticket that got me a direct flight to Newark, but was considerably cheaper if I stopped over in Denver and changed planes on the way back. Sounded very doable.
Well, the flight to Newark and the return flight to Denver were both on Continental, but the last leg, from Denver to Orange County, were United Airline’s baby.
I booked it all online, as I always do, but for some reason I could not select a seat on the last segment. I finally called Continental and after being on hold for about 30 minutes (thank heaven for speaker phones although their choice of music is rather poor! How many times can one person listen to Love Potion Number Nine?) I got a person who happily attempted to get me a seat on the UA flight. It wouldn’t “take” as she called it. She said this happens sometimes and I should check back later in the day because it would probably go through. She told me if it didn’t, to call United and gave me the number. I thanked her and hung up.
I “checked” for three days. I was still standing up on the last leg.
Finally I broke down and called United.
Apparently, they “outsource” their call center. After 40 minutes on hold, during which the only music played was the really bad version of the UA theme, Fly the Friendly Skies, I got someone whose name I cannot pronounce and he was not feeling very friendly…nor was I.
After the preliminaries, he reported that they had absolutely no record of my being on that flight from Denver to OC and I needed to call Continental again, get a new confirmation number and then perhaps he could find me a seat.
At first I was nice. I tried to explain to him that I had spent a ridiculous amount of time on hold with both airlines in attempting to just get myself a seat assignment and Continental told me to call him. He didn’t buy that. I asked to speak to his supervisor. He told me he was the supervisor and he was “backing up” the other agents because they were so busy. No doubt with other people with non-existent reservations they’d made months ago trying to get a seat assignment.
I am ashamed. I went completely off on him. I don’t even know what I said, and this is so unlike me, but I was crazed. I vaguely remember thinking something like I was going to eat only beef the rest of my life, but I don’t think I actually said that out loud. I finally hung up and thought to myself “You will be holding the bathroom door open for people because you will be in the very last seat in coach. But maybe not, because you will be in the very last middleseat in coach…between two COS’s (“Customers of Size”) who had garlic sandwiches for lunch.”
I called Continental back. On hold for yet another 50 minutes. I now know all the words to Before He Cheats probably since who ever was in charge of supplying the waiting time music was incredibly ticked off with her boyfriend. It looped over and over and over again. Along with Love Potion Number Nine. The young woman who took my call was very apologetic. She pulled up my reservation and attempted to rectify the situation. That was when she explained to me that the problem is that the two reservations systems, Continental’s and United’s, don’t “talk to each other.”
I was getting a little punchy by now and I responded, “I’ve been divorced for three years and my Ex and I still talk. Continental and United are on their honeymoon for heaven’s sake…and you tell me that they don’t talk to each other? Sounds like this marriage is doomed.”
She burst out laughing and put me on hold. Again. It was okay because by now I’d figured out that I could do a sort of wait-time karaoke to amuse myself.
She came back on the line, thanked me profusely for being so patient (obviously CO and UA don’t talk, because she wasn’t aware of how I’d gone off on her counter-part on the other side of the world.) Then she said the most amazing thing and this has never happened before and probably will never happen again.
“If you are willing to take the earlier, direct flight from Newark to Santa Ana, we will put you in first class for the inconvenience.”
Are you freaking kidding me?
Arrive home an hour earlier and get bumped to the front of the plane and go straight through? This was like getting a ticket to Nirvana, not John Wayne Airport. I tried not to sound too excited. It probably was inappropriate that I blew her a kiss and said “I love you” as I hung up, huh?