Wednesday, July 14, 2010

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

So if you weren't aware - my mom is a FANTASTIC writer. (artist, storyteller, teacher, entrepreneur, manager, role model....the list could go on) I recall as a child people telling my mom should should take her stories of teaching and put them into a book - I mean the kind of material she has had to work with could not even be made up. (I'm sure other teachers reading this know what I'm talking about!) I still hope that one day as the daily tasks of running and BUILDING a fantastic business start to slow down for her she makes her way back to writing.

So while I sometimes find it difficult to take the time to sit down and write (cause I'm sure there are a million other things I could be doing with this 30 minutes) - I remind myself that stories deserve to be told and I said in my Grandpa's Eulogy - you have to be your own historian and storyteller.

Well this morning I found myself reading a story that just has to be re-told (and documented). We had a Sacco Reunion in Chicago over the weekend and while I'll blog about what we did later this week my cousin Erin documented her travels back from Chicago last night and I just have to share. Why you might ask? Cause you just can't even make this stuff up....(hope you don't mind me sharing Erin!?!)

Titled: Travel Travails by Erin Sacco Pineda

PROLOGUE: During the rental car ride from Milwaukee to Chicago, Mike says, "this has been cinematic." So true, my dear, and we weren't even through at the time.

INTRODUCTION: For posterity's sake, I am describing the ridiculous situation that Mike, Kristin, and I found ourselves in yesterday as we attempted to get home from the First Annual Sacco Family Reunion in Chicago, IL. To clarify, we booked flights to and from Milwaukee, WI in order to (a) save money on the plane tickets, and (b) take advantage of Julie and Dan's fantastic generosity of spirit and SUV-ness (we love you both). After checking out of the condos in Chicago on Sunday, we drove back to Milwaukee. Our flight from Milwaukee to San Diego (transfer in Kansas City) was scheduled to depart at 12:45pm on Monday, July 12th.

CHAPTER 1: Mike, Kristin, my Dad, Nolan, Jacob, and I left the Best Western Milwaukee Airport & Conference Center at 10:30am via airport shuttle with plenty of time to spare. Everything appeared to be going as scheduled. Unfortunately, shortly before boarding the plane, the gate attendant announced that a bird had hit the plane's engine during it's prior flight and so a mechanic had to come check things out. Not long after it was determined that we would need a new aircraft. The aircraft we were to use was coming from Baltimore, so the flight would be delayed until after 2pm. Because many, many passengers were making transfers in Kansas City...semi-controlled chaos ensued. Meanwhile, we went and got something to eat.

CHAPTER 2: When we returned to the gate, a long line had formed at the desk and they were making preparations to board the passengers on the new plane. Because families with small children can board near the beginning of the process, Kristin sent Mike and I (with Nolan and Jacob) to save seats together. However, prior to boarding we heard that our options might be limited to staying overnight in Milwaukee or flying to Kansas City then back to Chicago Midway then to San Diego through Denver. I told Kristin I had no intention of zigzagging the country for the next 10-11 hours with two lap children. Kristin made our position known and called us to get off the plane (much to the frustration and confusion of the gate attendant, of course). We made our rushed goodbyes to my Dad while returning to the terminal (he went ahead and boarded because he was going to Phoenix). Ultimately, he made his transfer in Kansas City and got home at a reasonable hour.

CHAPTER 3: Now it's about 2:15pm, and we are still in Milwaukee. I think that we have just decided to spend the night in Milwaukee, but the gate attendant says he can get us on a non-stop flight from Chicago Midway to San Diego that leaves at 7pm. Semi-noncommittal, we agree to be booked on that flight with the intention of determining what our options are via Milwaukee on Tuesday. We send Mike to the rental car desk and we go to the SWA ticket counter to see what flights might be available on Tuesday out of Milwaukee (by God's grace - the babies are asleep in the stroller at this point, rather than screaming their little heads off). Turns out, there are no available flights on Tuesday via Southwest or AirTran, so we go to check out the 2 car seats that Southwest has graciously offered us for use between Milwaukee and Chicago and we meet Mike in the rental car center.

CHAPTER 4: National, our preferred rental car company, has no available vehicles. Mike is standing in the Hertz line while Kristin and I walk up and down the row of counters and ask Thirfty, Dollar, Alamo, Budget, Enterprise, etc. if they have available vehicles. All say 'no,' as does Hertz. Kristin suggests we look for an off-airport location so Mike hits Expedia on the iPhone. I go outside and tell the person in the Ground Transportation booth our sob story. She says we would have to take the 3pm bus to Chicago O'Hare and then a shuttle between O'Hare and Midway in order to make it on time. And then we watch the 3pm bus drive away. I return to the rental car center where Mike is sitting on a bench, seemingly able to make a reservation for a Hertz minivan via his iPhone. When done, he returns to the Hertz desk with his confirmation number and they process the rental. AND I REPEAT: Now that we have a reservation, they suddenly have cars available - and no, it was not explained that if we made a reservation online or via phone, then they could rent us a vehicle. They literally said they had no cars available. Needless to say, I'm furious.

CHAPTER 5: Kristin is trying to keep me from screaming at the rental car agents. I think about calling customer service. Mike finishes with the Hertz agent and starts toward the garage. I decide I can't not say something so I walk up to the agent who was just helping Mike and say, "can you explain to me why we were able to make a reservation online and you couldn't just make one for us here?" And she tells me, "we can't do that here, we don't have the ability to create reservations." I thank her, walk away from the desk, and say to Kristin, "ok, that's the stupidest business model I have ever heard of, but I can't be mad at them for being the grown-up equivalent of the check out counter at a roller skate rink! We go to the car.

CHAPTER 6: We get into the minivan. Mike backs out of the parking space and promptly rear-ends another Hertz rental car. Thankfully there is no damage to either vehicle and we are on our way (back) to Chicago. The drive should be about 90 minutes, 2+ hours with traffic (we expect to hit Chicago around 5 or 5:30pm). We have approximately 3 1/2 hours until our flight from Chicago is supposed to depart.

CHAPTER 7: Our arrival at Chicago Midway is within the expected timeline. As we walk away from the minivan I mention to Mike that if Southwest doesn't reimburse us, that will probably be the most expensive car rental of our lives (approximately $4.50/minute). We return the car seats to the Southwest baggage office, take a bathroom break and head to security. Once through security we all start looking at our boarding passes in order to determine what gate we need to go to. Mike says "D-20." Kristin says "why does mine say we depart at 7pm and yours says 6:55pm?" We realize we are booked on two different flights. We all agree that having gone this far, we need to find a way to get on the same flight, primarily because the boys are likely to have meltdowns after being dragged through this day and we will need another set of hands. We go to Gate D-20.

CHAPTER 8: On the way to Gate D-20, which is at the end of the concourse, of course, we figure out that the 6:55pm non-stop to San Diego (on which Mike and I are booked) is delayed until 8pm. At the gate the attendant advises us that the flight is also overbooked so it is unlikely that Kristin will be able to get on it. However, the 7pm flight through Denver to San Diego is not overbooked and is not delayed. Mike and I are placed on stand-by on Kristin's flight and I we return to D-2 to await the result. Best case scenario is that we get called for this flight prior to boarding, so that we can get on the plane together during the family boarding time. We change diapers, scarf down food, and wait.

CHAPTER 9: The travel Gods finally shine down on us. Mike gets called from the standby list. When the attendant figures out we are flying together, she just processes us both without making me wait longer. Boarding group A is lining up while Kristin is changing baby diapers. We get on the plane and get seated together. Oh, what sweet relief!

CONCLUSION: The boys did well on the flights (unless you count Nolan biting me in the cheek) and slept through a good portion of the last one. My mom met us at the airport with blankets, formula, diapers, and socks for the boys (we were running low on all), provided a much needed helping hand, and took Kristin home from the airport. We arrived at home at 12:30am Pacific (2:30am in the Midwest), exhausted, but not otherwise worse for wear. Thus concludes 16 hours of travel hell.

Ok - doesn't that just make you tired? Here is a picture from "the buddies" at the Lincoln Park Zoo - looking hot, tired and not all too happy. Somehow I imagine there was a lot of similar sentiment from them on their journey home!

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