Tuesday, January 20, 2009

everything is easy, part 2

Whew –I’m exhausted! It goes without saying, doesn’t it? But honestly, even with all the help I have on a daily basis here at my parents’ house, I end the day just wiped out! So, I’m going to multi-task while we watch 24. I don’t want to get on the plane to return home without at least posting about the second leg of our trip here! I hope it makes sense, since I'm not going to be able to go back and edit!


So, there we were, just landed in Chicago from Portland at 9:30pm local time. The boys had done wonderfully on the flight. We were late arriving, and the flight attendant from our flight helped me off the plane (last ones off) and helped me run to the other gate, which was in another terminal. When I got there, though, it was clear that something was amiss – the gate was packed with people. As I did in Portland, I went up to the counter and told the staff that I was traveling alone with my twin babies, and would need some help getting on the plane. The reception was much less friendly, in fact, she basically said “so?” and carried on with her business. It was clear that she and everyone around were overwhelmed and tired, so I just stepped away and started trying to keep the boys calm. There were no seats, and none were offered. The flight was delayed for one hour, then for two, and then finally at midnight, after standing in line for well over an hour, we were all boarded; I went along with all of the others in my zone, since it seemed clear that I wouldn’t be offered any “special treatment.”

While we were all waiting, a woman approached me, telling me about her own 4-month old baby and offering to help. I hung out with her, chatting during the wait, and then she helped me get on the plane, carrying one of the babies for me while I struggled on board with all the extra crap I was carrying. A kind man even put his coat around me and Shoghi while we were all stopped, waiting on the breezeway to get on the plane. Once on the plane, disaster struck. The flight attendants were trying to board the plane in just 10 minuted to the pilot would still be able to fly, and announced repeatedly over the loudspeaker that the passengers should push their way onto the plane. They actually told us to push and shove each other out of the way in order to get to our seats – three times. When at last everyone was seated (and presumably unharmed), the waiting began, and eventually the pilot timed out (the gate crew was even pissed at him – they said he didn’t want to fly and created delays just so they’d have to ditch the flight), and we all had to trudge off again.

Back in the airport, now at 1am, the waiting really began, as it became clear that we wouldn’t be flying out until 6am. Rather than stand in that horrid line to be reticketed, I just called the airline directly and learned that we’d all been assigned a flight anyway. I told Rebecca, my angelic helper, and then spotted a 70-something Chinese woman waiting in line who clearly had no idea what was going on. I introduced myself to her, asking if she spoke English, and when she said no, I told her in Chinese that I could help her out. So she joined me and Rebecca and we all began the long night of waiting on benches with no food, accommodation, or kindness from the airline. I resolved to keep myself positive, even though I had already run out of expressed breastmilk and was running low on both formula and diapers. It worked – the boys pretty much slept through the whole night. Rebecca and Mrs. Liu also took turns sleeping, while I kept myself up to watch over our belongings and the boys.

The next series of delays unfolded in the morning, much to my despair. I managed to get through the whole night, sitting up, attending the babies, trying to keep warm, without becoming disheartened, but when the delays started piling up at 5:30am, I started to get a bit antsy. I knew the babies would be up soon, and really, desperately wanted to get home. At one point, Rebecca went up to the new gate crew and pointed me out to them, asking again if I might be able to get on the plane early to get the boys settled in the seat. The response to her was one of the worst ever – the man told her that the airline no longer offers preboarding for families, and who was she to ask, anyway? Had I paid more for my ticket than others on the plane? She told him that we’d been there in the gate for 9 hours, and were exhausted, and then he said “well, that’s not my fault”! I don’t know, folks, where has the simple act of doing your job gone? Why the rudeness? If you can’t do something, just say it – you don’t have to be insulting or mean.

In the end, Rebecca and Mrs. Liu and I all sat together in one, crowded row of our flight from Chicago to Boston, which left at 9am, a full day after my travel adventure began. They were completely charming, wonderful people to help us as they did, despite their own weariness (Mrs. Liu had traveled that day from Taiwan, and Rebecca had been delayed in Chicago for almost 24 hours). Even though I could have done it without them, it really wouldn’t have been the same. This trip will forever prove to me that I can travel alone with the boys, and that even where there are obstacles, we will find kindness and assistance when we need it.

So, clearly, the last stage of the trip kind of sucked. There was exhaustion, terrible, terrible customer service, delays, and more exhaustion. Once we got into Boston, I burst into tears to see my mom waiting for us at the gate. From there, the boys really lost their tolerance for travel, and cried most of the way from Boston to the Cape, but we made it. We made it by the grace of God, and by the help and kindness of strangers, and a lot of patience. I’m glad I did it, but I’ll tell you this – the first thing I did after settling in here was to buy my sister a plane ticket so she can fly back with us when we return to Portland next week.

Hopefully my next travel post will simply be “everything was easy,” and be no more than a couple of happy paragraphs long. :o)


  1. I can hardly believe that customer service. What an assclown. I can't believe people.

    I'll be thinking safe travel thoughts :D

  2. I hope you (or someone helps you) write a pointed letter to the airline, and O'Hare airport. There is absolutely no excuse for the way you were treated. Write a nasty enough nasty-gram and maybe they'll give you free tickets or a refund.

  3. Oh! Thank God for nice people, but it's too bad that the customer service wasn't acceptable. :(

  4. No fair writing this post and not telling us the name of the airline so we can avoid them.

    I hope you complain. I think we all understand that delays happen, for whatever reason, but that rudeness is unnecessary.

  5. Celeste, this post made me cry. You are such a good mama and totally held your own, but DAMN. Enough is enough. Smart on securing the sister help!

  6. Eek! United's terrible customer service is how we got the voucher in the first place, but we were hoping you'd have better luck. I'm glad you made it safe and sound with at least some of your sanity intact.