Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Seat 23A

January 10, 1212, it still feels strange to write 2012, I still have to pay extra attention when writing the date for the New Year. Tomorrow we will fly to Buenos Aires, Argentina but I have to print the boarding cards and confirm the seats I chose awhile ago. Once the boarding cards are printed, I am guaranteed this seat. United Airlines and Continental Airlines have merged for 2012 and each website tells me to go to the other website. I hope there will not be any confusion since I really booked on Continental but now do all the answers and printing on the United website. While the official date for the joining of the two airlines is March 1, 2012, the beginning of the year brings the dreaded paperwork, the joining of websites, computers, etc, into play. Without me knowing it, I booked the flight during the transition period; let me see how it will work out. For the first leg from Toronto to Washington, DC I booked seats 5A and 5B. For the longer trip from Dulles to Buenos Aires, I printed the Seats 36A and B.

January 11, 1212. We are seasoned travelers, Carol and I have packed many times and still, every time we pack we pack either too much or forget something. In my mind now I pack just like always for a motorcycle trip, even though this will not be a trip made on a bike. I priced motorcycle rentals in BA and the daily rate is $140. – US each, way too much to spend. A rental car would be $40. – US. In order to make our trip easier and not be restricted with small cubes and balanced weights, we went and bought old fashioned suitcases, albeit the latest creation from Samsonite. No, this is not the suitcase you have someplace in your closet, this is the year 2012 and even suitcases have developed. I am amazed. The handles to not stick out, a hidden tag pocket for your address on the side, locks that the TSA can open, four rollers that swivel well and the suitcase does not tip when standing on end, no matter what. The pull handle retracts easily and is long enough to wheel the contraption along well, etc. This is the “cat’s meow” in the latest of the latest in luggage and is guaranteed for 2 years against any defects. I am well pleased with it.

The taxi is ordered for 3.30 PM even though the flight is not until 7.30 PM. I hate the rush at the airports, I like to take my time and not be chasing the clock. I take a Kindle along so I can always read a book and watch the other travelers who do chase the clock and seem to be in such a hurry at all times. Besides, I do not want to get stuck in traffic on the highway in the taxi at the start of rush hour at 4:00 PM, so planning for a leisurely trip is my way to go.

We dropped ourselves off at the Continental counter, since we booked through Continental but we needed to go to the United counter since we really fly with a United flight. Here is where I learned something new, never mind where you book, go to the counter of the actual airline that flies you. OK, so, since it is just around the corner that is an easy change for us, we have plenty of time. Amazingly, there is no line, a gentleman, friendly as pie, takes all of our paper work and chats with us. I have never met a friendlier person to book us in. He acknowledged our boarding passes but asked if I minded if he upgraded us. On the flight from Dulles to BA he could give us seat 23B and 23C, we would have better leg room and maybe we could switch with someone near us in order to sit next to each other for the long, almost 11 hour flight. I thought it was nice of him to do that and agreed. After this pleasant check in, we rolled our suitcases to the conveyor belt for loading and after waiting a few minutes in line for the TSA we were ready to fly. No hassle, no hurry, a very pleasant friendly experience. Planning is everything.

The first leg to Washington, DC’s Dulles Airport took off about 10 minutes early since all were on board and the captain managed to get a clearance by the tower for an early lift off. It did not help us much on the U.S side; we had to circle and were 15 minutes late on arrival which was not nice since we had to search out the new take off gate in another terminal. I have had bad experiences in London, Heathrow with changes of planes and changes of terminals. I do not like them at all. I really prefer direct flights, but there were none from Toronto to Buenos Aires. We had 75 minutes between flights in Dulles and now, due to the delay we are down to 50 minutes.

After landing and looking at the board we learned we have to walk, luckily without going thru customs, about 15 minutes to reach our new terminal. There are no shuttles, no carts that one could use to get to the new destination. Fortunately, we had a rucksack as hand luggage, so, while heavy with paper work and portable computer, etc, it was a good way to carry everything. We made it on time yet I wonder if that system could not be improved upon, not everybody is fit to haul their belongings in and out of planes. People carry more belongings on them today because to check in baggage for short flights there is a $25. - US charge for checked in luggage. A complicated system of rates has been established to haul freight while flying and some bags are allowed while others are not. The same system or a similar one, is now being tried with food services. It was not clear if we had food for the long trip to BA since our confirmation specifically read ‘NO” food services available. But I am jumping the gun. We did not have any food service from Toronto to Dulles but it was only a 1 ½ hour flight.. We are boarding now to fly to BA.

Boarding pass in hand we enter the plane and find seat 23B and C, our designated seats. Since nobody sits in Seat 23A, we smile and I move to seat A, We are now seated next to each other and the plane is filling up, when a woman, dressed in a grey top with khaki pants, big glasses, curly, frizzy unruly hair, overweight, stands next to us holding a suitcase and a huge bedroom pillow. I smile at her since it is obvious she wants her seat, seat 23A. I offer her my designated C seat as an exchange but no, she insists on having her window seat. Without putting up a fuss, we yield and I move to my originally allotted seat but Carol is unable to take her seat as the lady has her baggage all over both seats so Carol sits on my arm rest temporarily to allow passengers to get by. We will now have an aisle between us for the duration of the 11 hour flight. Or so we think!

Well, Carol makes a long face but such is life, I know she would have preferred to sit next to me, yet what can we do? My seat neighbor, a young man with long hair and dressed like a business man asked if Carol would want to change. He does not mind sitting next to someone, he likes to talk. Wonderful! So while I remain in seat 23C, Carol now moves to seat 23E. Between us is an empty seat, a middle seat and we both have lots of leg room.

So we have the frizzy haired lady, the young Business man, an aisle, my seat an empty seat and then Carol, then an aisle again. The business man is happy; he starts talking to Ms. Frizzy. Well, Ms Frizzy is not happy. I forgot to mention that young man was a bit heavy, I noticed his body odor and I am not sure I would have liked his talking but he volunteered and our new seating arrangements are rather nice now.

A few minutes go by and due to her complaining, a stewardess gives Ms Frizzy a new seat someplace toward the front of the plane. The young man now has 2 seats to himself. He moves to the window seat and makes himself at home; he spreads out his computer, his pillows, opens up all his business papers and is totally settled in.

Now Ms. Trouble arrives. She brings a “wheel along” suitcase that does not fit in the overhead bin. She has a blowup neck support and additional pillows. Literally she is 4 feet wide and 4 feet tall. Her hair teased up and she oozes out ‘trouble’. A Stewardess is with her, she is the last person to board the plane and she insists her assigned seat is, yes, 23A although she has no boarding pass.

Now what? The young man is puzzled, he packs all his stuff back and is ready to yield the seat but it becomes obvious that both do not fit in the seats. The stewardess offers the lady a seat up front in business class but no, she wants seat 23A. She insists. What to do, offer the same seat to the young business man? NO! He gets assigned a seat further back in the plane and amazingly, he is happy, he has a neighbor one seat removed he can talk to. All is well, right? Not yet!

Ms. Trouble settles in now, her suitcase needs to be stored under the seat in front of her. She just stood there, she was too fat to bend over to do it, and so a Stewardess came and had to help her. All her pillows are unpacked and she settles in seat 23A, next to the window. Her feet do not reach the floor, she is too short. Naturally, she needs a blanket right away and again a stewardess brings her one. She cannot figure out how to turn the lights on/off and I made the mistake of showing her, but I quickly realized she is trouble. I totally ignored her from then on but watched never the less. She confused the light switch with the call button for the stewardess every time. Instead of turning the light on, she called a stewardess. But finally, Ms Trouble is settled in when Ms. Frizzy came back with her suitcase and her pillow. Now what? A stewardess is called. It seems the seat assigned to Ms. Frizzy had been claimed up front and she needs to go back to her original seat. But Ms. Trouble refused to move. Now that she is all settled in, she wants to stay. And here we stand, at the gate, ready for takeoff but the seating has not been settled.

A second stewardess comes to help in the conflict, and then a third shows up. We have a stand-off. Ms. Trouble sitting in her seat, luggage all around her, pillows propped to help her sit, blanket pulled up to her huge, no neck double chin and Ms. Frizzy, indignant by now, demanding her window seat; this cursed window seat 23A. One more steward show up in order to settle the arrangement and to get the flight off the ground as we are by now 20 minutes late. Ms. Trouble refuses to budge. I do not understand the conversation by now, since Ms. Trouble switched to Spanish even though her English sounded native. It is mayhem, Ms Trouble feeling slighted, Ms. Frizzy indignant and 5 Stewards/ Stewardesses trying to reason with any of the two ladies. Since possession is 9/10ths of the law, Ms Trouble won the battle. Ms. Frizzy was given an aisle seat, exactly like the one I originally offered her. She did not get her window seat. The business man however, happy as a clam had a talking neighbor, Carol and I were happy and Ms. Trouble??? Well, she was still sitting on the plane at the end of the flight in Buenos Aires, nobody helped her with her luggage and since she could not bend over to retrieve it from under the seat, she might still be there, I don’t know, I left the plane, wondering why some people are so obstinate, so downright ignorant and even stupid.

After a sleepless all night flight, it was nice to be met at the airport and driven to our apartment.

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