Seventeen hours into my western European barnstorming tour and I’ve already experienced the highs and lows of international travel.
The trip started out better than I could have expected. The itinerary is Portland to Philadelphia to Madrid to Mallorca, with plenty of time between stops to transfer. I arrived at PDX a little later than intended, but with plenty of time to take care of all the necessary tasks associated with air travel. When you travel as much as I do, you learn the paranoia which drives people to arrive in upwards of two hours before their departure time, is completely unwarranted. You should leave a cushion, but an hour is plenty, at least that’s what I’ve found.
And I know I’m not alone in this opinion, as when I arrived in line I recognized a familiar face. Kaleb Canales, one of our assistant coaches, was pushing a luggage cart through the same line. It was at this time that I discovered Kaleb was also going to Mallorca to put Rudy through a week’s worth of workouts. This was unexpected, but incredibly exciting, as not only is Kaleb an all-around great guy who I look forward to hanging out with over the next four days, but he also speaks fluent Spanish. Granted, they primarily speak Catalan in Mallorca, but Spanish is a lot closer to that dialect than English.
So I say goodbye to my girlfriend and shuffle off through security. There’s still about 40 minutes until the flight to Philadelphia, so I decided to order a breakfast sandwich from one of the delis in the concourse. I figure I’ve still got plenty of time to spare, but that's assuming the woman in the kitchen, who I could clearly see from the dinning area, would actually commence cooking food.
Said cook proceeds to strike up conversation with any and anyone passing by, be they interested or not, while I and three other customers wait patiently for simple orders to be prepared. I wait, and wait, and pace, and wait, and check the time and wait some more. With 10 minutes left before my flight is scheduled to depart, I inform the fellow at the counter that, as much as I enjoy fried egg sandwiches, I can’t justify missing my flight for one. I tell him to enjoy my breakfast and walk down the concourse with nothing but a Snapple, which I purchased for the sole purpose of washing down the sandwich. As I’m hurry away, I wonder if I’m allowed to expense meals I don’t ever get a chance to eat.
Side bar: Lately I seem to be on a streak where all of my flights are at the last possible gate in the terminal. This happened numerous times during my trips to and from Houston during the playoffs, and it’s happened again today, twice. End sidebar.
The flight is scheduled to depart from the last gate in terminal. I make it in time, thanks in part to a large tour group that is taking a bit of extra time to work through the line. I notice that Kaleb is sitting at the gate waiting for everyone else to board before doing so himself. This is another trick that those who travel regularly eventually learn: there’s no reason to wait in line at the gate. You’re going to be sitting in that seat for the next however many hours, so what’s the rush to plop down with expediency? You’ve got an assigned seat and they’re not going to leave without you, so chillax for Pete’s sake.
As far as seats on a plane go, I’ve hit the jackpot on the first flight. Window seat, exit row with no one sitting in the seat next to mine. That’s mad legroom, on a cross-country flight no less. And as it turns out, extra legroom really takes the sting out of forgoing an already purchased breakfast sandwich.
The flight to Philly is easily the most comfortable trip I’ve ever taken on a commercial airline. I read, take a nap, read some more, enjoy a couple cups of ginger ale, and before I know it, I’m in the City Of Brotherly Love, or at least in the airport which serves the City of Brotherly Love.
Kaleb and I de-board. We’ve got different itineraries from Philly, as he’s connecting through Barcelona. I find it somewhat curious that we’d be taking different routes but pay it little mind. Since we’ve both got a little more than an hour before our flights we decide to grab a bit to eat.
Interesting fact about Kaleb: The guy loves Chick-fil-a. Loves it. I eaten alone twice with Kaleb, once in Houston and once today at the Philadelphia airport, and both times we’ve dined at Chick-fil-a. And both times Kaleb ordered and gleefully consumed quantities of chicken sufficient to feed two grown men. I don’t know if the fact that we don’t have Chick-fil-a in Oregon which compels Kaleb to gorge on it whenever he gets the chance or if that’s just how much chicken it takes to fill the guy up, but either way, the man can down some fried bird.
We discuss our plans to meet up at the airport in Mallorca before heading to our respective flights for destinations in Spain. My flight from Madrid to Mallorca is scheduled to get in about an hour before Kaleb’s, but I figure I’ll wait for him to arrive so we can head to Rudy’s camp together. Best laid plans.
While haggling at the ticket counter over whether or not I paid extra for a window seat (which I did), I overhear some discussion regarding one of the cardinal sins as it pertains to the airport, that of leaving a bag unattended. A guy who definitely works for the airline is talking to someone at the counter about a bag, which was seemingly without owner and had since disappeared. Evidently the police had been called, and I heard mention of a bomb-sniffing dog, but again, I paid it little mind. I boarded the plane after sorting out with window seat situation.
But the plane sits on the tarmac. Supposedly the pilot is waiting for some maintenance to be completed, but I notice numerous airline officials are walking through the plane opening up all of the overhead compartments. It’s at this point that I figure they’re looking for the unattended bag. I guess maybe I should worry about these sort of things, but I don’t. We wait for about 45 minutes; the pilot comes on the PA again, swearing he’s just waiting for paperwork to be delivered. I figure this is a cock and bull story to keep people from freaking out, but maybe that’s just my imagination. Then again, you don’t want to tell a plane full of people who are about to fly over the Atlantic that there may be suspicious luggage on board.
Regardless, the flight goes off without a hitch. I have the chicken dish, watch Gran Torino, an episode of Flight Of The Concords and two episodes of Entourage before getting some shuteye. I awake as they’re handing out something that resembles cheese Danish for breakfast, and about an hour later we’re on the ground in Madrid.
I wasn’t able to get my boarding pass in Portland for the flight from Madrid to Mallorca. I was told this was no big deal, as all I would have to do is go to the Spanair ticket counter, show my documents and collect my boarding pass. I only had about an hour between flights, but I was assured it would be plenty of time.
And it was, but the only problem is that Spanair flight 5538 from Madrid to Mallorca doesn’t exist. The man at the Spanair counter, Luis, is on the phone as I walk up to the desk. He’s agitated. I don’t know much Spanish, but I hear the word “comida” and can tell he’s pissed, so I figure he’s probably due for a lunch break which I surmise by the end of the call, isn’t coming. I show him my travel itinerary, which he goes over for a few minutes before informing me that my flight is actually on AirEuropa, a few gates down the line. I set off for AirEuropa’s gate with the clock ticking.
There is a 10:15 flight to Mallorca on AirEuropa, but I ain’t getting on it. They don’t know who I am, don’t have a seat for me, and are quite perplexed why Luis would direct me to their airline when my documentation clearly states my flight is booked on Spanair. At this point it’s becoming quite clear that something is amiss.
So I head back to Luis with more determination. I explain that, while AirEuropa might indeed have a 10:15 to Mallorca, it’s not my flight. Luis is more focused this time around. He puts in my name again, nothing. Passport number, nothing. Rechecks the flight number, nothing. I don’t exist, at least not according to Spanair. Luckily for me, my luggage does.
My luggage has a number. It can be tracked, and in this instance, it’s proof that I am supposed to be on my way from Madrid to Mallorca on Spanair. I’m just along for the ride; my black suitcase is now calling the shots. I’m the accessory to its travel plans.
Luis, hungry as he is, spends another 15 minutes on the phone sorting things out. As it happens, my connecting flight, while paid for, was never booked by the airline. I won’t say which airline dropped the ball, but suffice to say, someone will be listening to the agitated and possibly curse-filled rantings of yours truly before the day is done.
So now it’s noon in Spain, 2:58 AM in Portland, and I’m waiting for the 1:30 Spanair to Mallorca. It could have turned out a lot worse, all things considered, but then again, I’m not yet on that plane.