Thursday, September 18, 2008

Going Home

Today was “fly home day.” I’m sure there are some out there that agree with me when I say “I DREAD flying.” It isn’t that I’m afraid of the actual being in the air thing. On the contrary I feel absolutely no fear of climbing onto an aircraft and trusting that it will get me there safely. No, it is the actual process involved that I hate. I hate the airports, the ticket counters, the unpredictability of it all. It doesn’t help that I see to have the WORST luck under the sun when it comes to flying. As some of you will remember I got stranded in Miami airport in May of 2007. It took me close to 40 hours to get from Tegucigalpa, Honduras to home.  Then on May 30th of this year I was scheduled to fly home again. I arrived at the airport only to find out that the flight I was supposed to be flying out on had crashed and would not be flying out. I ended up having to make the 5 hour drive up North so that I could fly out of San Pedro Sula.

Well I woke up today praying that this day of travel would be without incident or struggle. I got ready, put my bags in the truck, and headed for the city. I arrived exactly 1 hour and 59 minutes before my flight. As I walked up to the counter I saw that there were just 3 people in front of me…. I would be checked in with plenty of time to get to my gate. Heck I would even have time to grab a coffee before I flew out. However, as I stood in line I realized that I had forgotten one small fact… TIH… this is Honduras and nothing is ever quick or easy.  Those 3 people in front of me took just under AN HOUR to get checked in. Meaning by the time I got to the counter I had 67 minutes to do what I thought I would have 2 hours to do. Doing the math I knew that I still had enough time as long as I skipped the coffee run.

I stepped up to the counter, handed over my passport, and waited for her to give me my tickets. This is the portion of the story where the problems started. My original ticket left out of San Pedro Sula and instead of taking a bus the night before I booked a ticket from Tegucigalpa to San Pedro. The guy at the Taca office assured us that I would be fine in doing it that way. He promised that I wouldn’t even have to get off the plane since that same plane would be the one I was taking to Miami.

So when the lady at the counter handed me just ONE ticket I started to worry. I began (in Spanish) explaining that I only had 30 minutes between flights so I needed my ticket for San Pedro to Miami as well. At first she informed me that she couldn’t even find my reservation for the second flight. When she finally found my flight information she told me that she couldn’t possibly print off my ticket for the second leg. Instead I was going to need to get off of the plane in San Pedro, get my luggage, recheck my baggage, go back through security, and re-board the exact same plane I just got off of…. Oh and I’d have exactly 30 minutes to do it ALL!  

The desperation began to set in as I realized I may not make it home today.  I quickly started telling her that she and I both knew that I would NEVER make my flight if I did all that. I also mentioned that the guy had promised that it wouldn’t be a problem. Maybe it was the tears that were streaming down my face, maybe it was my broken Spanish, maybe it was simply because she was afraid I was going to start yelling at her. Whatever it was she finally went and got someone higher up than her. As the lady walked up I felt slightly better as she immediately began speaking to me in English. With new determination I began explaining the situation all over again. After listening to me she promised to be right back … and low and behold she came back and offered me a seat on an American flight. She told me all I had to do was go to the AA counter and check in.

Feeling lots better I headed that direction and was immediately greeted by a cute older gentleman who I would adopt as a grandfather figure if I could! As he took my passport and began checking me in he said the dreaded two sounds… “uh oh.” Looking up at me he was like “honey you will never make your connecting flight if you fly American.” Seeing my tears he quickly reassured me that he wasn’t done yet that he was going to see what he could do for me. Within minutes he had found me a new flight from Miami to Atlanta. He printed off the ticket to save me from having to check in while in Miami. He also checked my bags all the way through Cleveland so that I wouldn’t have to recheck them either. All in all the man saved me a lot of time ….he gave me hope for maybe actually making it on time. I mean the new flight left 45 minutes later than my original flight but that still only gave me an hour and a half to get through customs and get to my flight. And inevitably it would only give me an hour to get to my gate for my flight from Atlanta to Cleveland.

Then to make things worse the gentleman (grandpa) informed me that he couldn’t find the information for my last flight of the day. There weren’t enough people booked on the flight so Delta had dropped it and rerouted all the passengers to other flights… the catch: I hadn’t received an e mail telling me about the changes so we had NO idea what airline I was now booked on let alone the flight number.

Thanking “Grandpa” profusely I left the counter and started thinking through how to figure out the last leg of my trip. The first problem: I had no minutes on my phone and no lemps (the local currency) on me. Seeing one of the moneychangers that we are friends with I quickly made my way toward him. I asked him for a favor and he graciously told me “yes…anything.” When I explained my problem he, without a moment of hesitation, reached into his wad of money and handed me a 100 lemps. (5 dollars) I’m guessing he doesn’t make $10 - $20 a day doing what he does… meaning he gave me a large part of the days wage. As I promised to pay him back he told me that it was fine… that I didn’t need to worry about anything. As soon as he handed me the money he showed me where I could go get a phone card.

I made my way across the street and returned with my card. I quickly began calling my mom, dad, sister, Mike, Colby…. ANYONE that could help me track down the information for my last flight. An hour later my amazing (very pregnant) sister had not only found the number but had tracked down all the information I needed.

I’m now sitting on the plane about 30 minutes from Miami. So at the least I know I’ll make it to Miami. I’ll get back to you on what happened with the rest of my day….such an eventful morning already! 

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