Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Change Fees: A (why murder sometimes happens) Mystery in Three Acts

The scene:  A home in Texas.  Daughter1(D1) is having her first baby, she lives near Baltimore.  She was due on February 23.  I am supposed to be in DC on March 6 for work.  I bought a plane ticket for the DC trip thinking I would have already been to see the new baby and been back to do my laundry before heading out again.

Act 1
Tuesday, February 28.  No baby yet.  Made the decision over the weekend to drive to Baltimore on Thursday no matter what happened  in the meantime.  Lots of baby stuff to transport and the original plan was always to drive there and fly home.  Baby to be induced Sunday the 4th...the same day as the flight I booked to DC for work.

D1:  They changed my date.  They will induce on Thursday unless I have the baby before then.
Me:  THIS Thursday?

D1:  Yes, this Thursday?
Me:  What time?

D1:  I don't know yet.  I just wanted to let you know they changed the date.
Me:  Let me call you back.

Act 2

Call Husband (H) at work.  He is sick.  Has been sick since sometime last week.  I was sick too but am better now, he is not, he is worse.  I told him to go to the doctor on Monday and am pretty sure I mentioned this over the weekend as well.  These "suggestions" were ignored.

Me:  D1 is having the baby no later than Thursday, they changed her date.
H:  Do you want to leave tomorrow now?  (harsh coughing...sounds of a lung tearing loose)

Me:  Yes, if you can get off of work, I would. 
H:  Okay.  (coughing)  The car needs to be rented.  (coughing, gasping)

Me:  Maybe you need to go to the doctor today.
H:  No, I don't.

Me:  No new mother on this earth is going to let you anywhere near her new baby sounding like you do.
H:  Let me call you back.

Act 3

Husband can't get appointment until Wednesday morning.  Housesitter/ dogsitter and other arrangements help determine that the original plan to leave Thursday is best.  This means we won't arrive until Friday night, March 2.  There is still a flight booked and paid for (non-refundable, of course) for me on March 4, a flight I won't need since I am now just going to put husband on a plane home when I drive from Baltimore to DC for my business trip.  Calling American Airlines.

AA:  Hello my name is (undistinguishable), how may I be of service?
Me:  I want to find out how to handle a situation.  I need to skip my outbound flight but keep my return flight.  Here is my record locator (recite secret code).  I was going to do this online but there doesn't appear to be a way to do it.

AA:  You did the right thing in calling Ms. Smith.  Cancelling the flight on March 4, one moment please.  (pause) There will be a $150 change fee associated with this.
Me:  I get that the flight is not refundable but I am not "changing" anything, I am skipping one leg of the trip.

AA:  That is considered a change.
Me:  Okay, what if I just don't go the airport on the 4th and just make my return flight?

AA:  If you don't make your outbound flight we automatically cancel the associated return flight.
Me:  Why?  Just because I didn't fly there doesn't mean I don't plan to fly back.  (That's a pretty big assumption obviously.)

AA:  The flights you booked are a package, they are linked.  I can cancel your outbound flight and you will owe the $150 change fee and will not be refunded the fare for that leg of your trip.  Now, let's look at the return flight.  So, your return flight on March 9 is at 1pm.  I can still put you on that flight but only in 1st class and the fare difference is $212.20.  You owe $362.20, how would you like to pay?
(a moment of silence, several actually)

AA:  Ms. Smith?
Me:  Sorry, I am confused.  I already had a seat in coach on the March 9, 1pm flight reserved and paid for.  Now you are saying that in the time we have been on the phone, that seat, that I reserved and paid for , is no longer available and I must pay $362 MORE dollars to make only 1 flight in addition to the$485 I already paid to make 2?  Seriously?  You must be kidding.

AA:  I am not kidding.

Me:  Let me call you back.

I ended up paying a total of $51.20 to take a later flight on Friday the 9th.  I understand what she is telling me but I definitely don't agree.  A change fee to skip the flight?  Isn't that double-dipping (or triple-dipping)?   They already charged me for the seat and will now charge someone else for the seat PLUS my $150 penalty.  I hope the person in 20A gets upgraded to first class.  Together, we paid for it.

And for those out there saying it is my own fault for flying American, well, this is Dallas so that is the best choice most of the time and I suspect Delta and the others would have done the same.  And for all of you Southwest fans, you can't fly non-stop from Dallas to Baltimore or DC or anywhere not in New Mexico, Oklahoma or Louisiana.  The Wright Amendment...look it up.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Imperial, California

Imperial is my least favorite destination thus far but I hereby reserve the right to change my opinion in the future.  Greenwood, Mississippi (awful hotel, food choices), Stockton, California (work experience, twice) and McAllen, Texas (everything) ran a close race but Imperial is #1, if you count from the bottom.

I didn't take any pictures during this trip and I always take pictures.  The pictures still in my head are bad enough, I didn't need to bring physical proof home.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, Imperial is 2 hours east of San Diego and 1 hour north of Mexicali, Mexico.  Ugly country.  Hot, dry, dusty, cactusy.  I remember a LOT of chain link fence.    

Really, it is Jake Gyllenhaal's fault.  Him or Jamie Foxx.  Or Universal Pictures.  I was trying to locate a hotel room for my stay but wasn't having any luck.  Everywhere I tried...booked, booked, booked.  Finally, I did the old fashioned thing and CALLED a hotel on the phone.  Like the others, they were booked so I asked what was up with that.  Jarhead, she said.  Huh?  The movie Jarhead is being filmed in the area so all of the hotel space is full with cast and crew.  When you look at the trivia information for Jarhead on IMDB.com you will find this,  "Filmed in the Imperial Valley in Southern California, which features conditions very similar to Iraq. Marines did use one of the local towns, Brawley, for training purposes due to similarities to Iraq."

Not that I have anything against Iraq per se but I am not planning to vacation there anytime (ever).  I am not a big fan of sand.  Or excessive amounts of sun.  I finally found a room at a nasty roadside motel.  Second floor in the back, no elevator, exterior entrance.  Not my favorite setup as a female traveling alone.  There was a single macramé swag lamp straight out of the 70's to light my horribly depressing little room.  The "refrigerator" (that was their word, I don't know what it was) made a ton of noise, slightly more than the barely functional window unit air conditioner.  No internet of any kind.  I think I got 3 very staticy TV stations, not that I could hear the TV over the refrigerator or window unit.  I can't even begin to describe the smell - in the room, in the halls, in the parking lot.  I ended up spending a total of $8 on food the entire week I was there, all at Taco Bell which happened to be next door.

My clients weren't engaged in my training.  More than one made it clear that they did not want to be there and had better, more important things to do.  (Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon comment.)  One woman openly complained about her coworkers and neighbors going so far as to say, "I think they moved the border and forgot to tell us".  Ultimately, this customer moved on and I have had no further contact with them.

The only bright spot was a quick genealogy side trip to the aforementioned Brawley.  My grandfather was born in Brawley in 1922, a twin.  No one could really answer questions about his twin sister Alberta, who had died "at a young age".  No information was known such as when or how she died.  I requested a copy of Alberta's death certificate at the county courthouse and they produced a copy while I waited.  I had one of my customers with me and when I said the cemetery was Riverside in Brawley she said, "I know where that is", and off we went.  We arrived as they prepared to close the gates for the night but they were kind enough to try and look up her location .  They found she was in an unmarked grave near the front of the property.  I left without finding her exact spot but, as my mother pointed out, I was the first person to visit the cemetery in well over 50 years.

A visit to a cemetery might not seem like a "bright spot" but for someone interested in their family history,  it was.  Rest in peace, Alberta.  Even if you are resting in the closest thing America has to Iraq.

Friday, February 24, 2012

There's No Place Like Home

I really don't like to travel.  I know people who have said that but when you start talking about vacation, not business travel, their tune changes.  Not me.  I don't like to travel.  When not on the road I work from home most days and even get resentful about making the commute to office.  This isn't a working in my pajamas thing either.  I get up and get dressed, put on makeup, fix my hair (most days).  There is just something about being home that I love. 

My house isn't special.  It was built in the mid-70's and looks like it.  It isn't particularly large.  But I love it.  I love looking out the windows at my neigborhood.  I love the configuration of items in each room.  I love knowing where D and I will sit to watch television or to eat dinner.  I know these may sound simple or even boring but they aren't to me.  When I reach my suitcase down from the shelf to pack for a trip, my dog sulks under the vanity while I pack.  I feel that way too, sulky.  But go I must and go I will.

Before the second week of June I will go to Severn, Maryland; Washington DC;  Laredo, Texas;  Omaha, Nebraska;  York, Pennsylvania; San Francisco, California and Amarillo, Texas...not necessarily in that order.   I know that there are people out there who travel more than I do and all I can say is I hope they love it.  I will make the best of it when I can and when I am not on the road I will be working on quilts and other crafts and will share some of these along with my adventures on the road.

To begin, let's establish the highs and lows for me up to now.  I began traveling with my job about 11 years ago and have been to quite a few places in that time.  Some were great, some were, well, awful.  Sometimes a great place was tarnished by my experience and substandard places made better by a great experience with my customer or the city.  As of today, California holds both my best and my worst:  San Francisco and Imperial.   Next time I will tell you what I love about San Francsico and what I don't about Imperial.