Monday, March 17, 2008

In All Fairness to the Airlines: Shopping, Cart Rides, Great Movie & My Luggage

The connections on the return flight to McAllen, Texas left me little time to spare. I knew this when I booked the roundtrip flight for my February trip to Pittsburgh but the frequent flyer options limited my choices…30 minutes to connect in Cleveland, 1 hour in Chicago, or longer in Detroit. I decided to take my chance with Cleveland.

I arrived at the Pittsburgh International Airport early in hope of switching my ticket to a direct flight from the ‘burgh to Houston. No luck. That flight was already overbooked. I called Ed, “I’ll be in McAllen by 7:30 PM if I make my Cleveland and Houston connections. No problem with Pittsburgh, I am already at the airport.”

Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) is a shopping mall for travelers. Knowing this, I think ahead and leave room in my carry-on bag for a few indulgences. I’ve been told that the Clinique store at PIT is the only free-standing make-up outlet in the US. Usually, Clinique is part of a department store. The make-up is available to order on line, but who wants to pay for shipping? New eyeliner was on my shopping list.

An eager sales associate at Brookstone demonstrated the merits of a pillow guaranteed to prevent snoring by lying with one on a demonstration mattress. “Too big for the carryon…free shipping,” he offered. In Victoria’s Secret I tried on several styles of bras and bought none. I bought the silver and gold linked earring and necklace set at the $9.99 Store. I had resisted buying it on my last walk through this store in August; I gave in this time through.

At the gate, I read USA Today and Wall St. Journal. And, I boarded the plane with the One Pass passengers taking my seat in the last row of the seats. There’d be no quick exit in Cleveland and only 30 minutes to connect.

I must have had a panic look on my face when I asked the cart driver in terminal D how to get to C because he immediately offered to give me a ride usually reserved for the elderly and non-ambulatory travelers. “Thank you, I have a tight connection,” I said sincerely. If a guardian angel was watching me, it was today. The driver radioed ahead and had a cart waiting for me at the bottom of the escalator. This driver took me as far as she could go and radioed for a cart to wait for me at the next escalator. I had a personal relay in Cleveland and boarded the Houston flight as they called for One Pass travelers. I could hardly believe I made the connection. Text message to Ed: On plane in Cleveland, see you tonight. XO

I normally get lost in a book on these three-hour flights. Not today. The in-flight movie starred Robin Williams, one of my favorite actors and comedians. I settled in to watch August Rush.

On the ground in Houston, a cart was parked at the gate. The man seated next to the driver noticed me looking left then right to get my bearings and directions to my gate. “Hey driver,” I heard him say waving a $5 bill. “Let’s give this pretty lady a ride to her gate.” The driver gave a “Yes, sir” to the tipsy fellow and I climbed in the second row of seats. Text to Ed: On cart to gate in Houston. I will make this connection. Bag may not make it. XO

I added another $2 tip to the driver when he dropped me at the blue One Pass carpet and I boarded the plane to McAllen. My head felt dazed…two tight connections, carts at my service. This never happened in all my seven years as a road warrior.

One last hurdle would be the luggage. When the baggage carrousel in McAllen, Texas began its rotation, I only gave a passing glance to the red bags. Surely, mine would arrive 24 – 48 hours later. But, there it was…damp from the Cleveland snow and Houston rain, PLONSBARY. Text to Ed: Meet me outside baggage claim. I’m here w/bag too!

March 6, 2006

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