Friday, January 3: Thursday afternoon, January 2, marked the first time I’ve flown domestically in possibly 20 years. Maybe more. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time I flew somewhere within the U.S.A. as most trips I’ve taken within our borders have been by car.
I had no idea that airlines flying within the States have become such penny pinchers. First, when I checked in with United Airlines at 3:00 p.m., I was surprised and annoyed to find I had to pay $25 for my FIRST (& only) checked bag. I grudgingly paid it, but I wondered why the airline doesn’t just include your first piece of luggage in your ticket price. I’ve been flying internationally for the last 3 years, on every conceivable airline, and NEVER have I had to pay for my first checked piece of luggage!
We get settled into the plane as the temperature outside drops and a light snow begins to fall. Our plane is due to take off at 5:00, but at 5:30, we’re still attached to the airport by the boarding ramp. I’m watching the time closely, because I have a 1 hour layover in Denver, connecting to Burbank, California, and already we’re a half-hour behind. We’re told by the captain that we’re waiting for about 30 passengers from connecting flights. We wait. And we wait. And finally, I guess the 30 have straggled in, because they detach the boarding ramp and we slowly pull onto the runway.
We don’t get far. The captain announces that because of our delay, combined with the snow and the falling temperatures, our wings now need to be de-iced. This process takes another 30 minutes plus some. By this time, I can see that there is no way I’m going to make my connecting flight, as we’re already over an hour behind. And I thought this was going to be easy, this flying over the land of the free.
Free is one thing it’s not, because in addition to paying for my one piece of checked luggage, I also have to pay for any food I consume. The choices are slim: boxed snacks of crackers, cheese, hummus and apples. All for just $10!
The flight is uneventful, but when we arrive in Denver, it is 8:05 and my flight to Burbank was due to take off at 7:56. I think perchance the flight has waited for me, as we waited for all those connecting passengers in Washington, but by the time I run from one end of Denver airport to the other, it’s about 8:20 and I see my plane, still sitting on the tarmac in plain sight. However, it’s already been detached from the ramp and the door is locked and there is not one United employee in sight. I wave frantically out the window to no avail. I head directly for customer service.
Lined up at Customer Service are all the people who have missed connecting flights this evening; there are plenty of US and only one of THEM (meaning United Customer Service). I wait in line a full 1 1/2 hours before I get to talk to the one United employee manning the desk. She tells me I’ll be staying overnight in the Holiday Inn Quebec Street and I can take an 11 a.m. plane to Burbank on Friday. She then directs me to the hotel shuttle outdoors. I ask if the airline will bear the cost for this unplanned layover and she tells me it depends on what our delay is coded. Apparently if it was coded “delayed due to weather,” the airline would not have been responsible! My flight must have been coded something else, because in fact, United did pay for my hotel room and gave me meal vouchers as well. Ah, redemption.
When I get out to the shuttle, for some bizarre reason I tell the shuttle driver I’m looking for the Queen of Sheba Hotel. They all look puzzled until I look at the voucher and find it’s instead the Holiday Inn! Where on earth did I get that?
The Holiday Inn Quebec Street is actually quite expansive, modern and comfortable, even a little artsy, with a huge open lobby where you can look over the interior from the hallway/balcony outside each room. The breakfast buffet is delicious, especially the omelet with cheese, avocado and tomatillo sauce.
The shuttle deposits me back at the airport by 9:00, and our flight leaves right on time.
I’m excited during the flight to see the snow-covered Rocky Mountains down below; I wouldn’t have seen them if I had been on my night flight.
When I arrive in Burbank at 1:50 p.m., my suitcase is nowhere to be found. Research shows it went to San Francisco, and a flight is expected later that afternoon which can reunite me with my bag. I give my sister’s address, and head to the curbside where she picks me up in her nifty little Fiat.
We make a stop at her house, drop off my carry-on bag, meet her dogs, and then head out for sushi at Akari Sushi.
We share a Sunset Roll (sweet combination of shrimp tempura, freshwater eel, avocado, and crunchy powder drizzled with sweet sauce for perfection) and a Fire Dragon (tempura white fish & avocado with spicy tuna on top drizzled with a special sauce), accompanied by Sapporo and warm saké.
I’m of course worried that my bag won’t show up as promised, but I can’t sit around waiting at her house. Stephanie wants to see The Invisible Woman, a film about a complex love affair between Charles Dickens and a young actress named Nelly. We go downtown to the Sundance Sunset Cinema in West Hollywood. Where better to see a movie than in the land where movies are made? I find the movie ultimately unsatisfying, but our dinner of Japanese small dishes at Nanbankan on Santa Monica Boulevard more than makes up for it. More Sapporo doesn’t hurt.
Here is my artistic sister’s homage to our day. I adore her lists accompanied by paintings from her journals.
My sister’s illustrations can be found here: KONSUMERISM.RUN.AMOK: the most random of desires.