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Saturday, July 31, 2010

May Delta Airlines burn in the deepest, darkest parts of the fiery bowels of Hell.

Or at the very least, get their fucking act together.

Local time: Sunday, 1 August, 9:39 AM.

Friends, I write to you from the Republic of Korea. I departed from my local airport Friday morning, American time. It was a mildly uncomfortable trip, with a frustrating beginning and a maddening end.

But before I start, let's play a game. Count how many explanation points "!" (that one doesn't count) I use throughout this post. The winner gets...well, we'll get to that at the end.

Fiance drove me to the airport, and we arrived with plenty of time for me to check in for my international flight. I had a brand new passport, a brand new international driver's license (watch out, world!*), and everything I could possibly need for a whole month in a large suitcase, a small suitcase, and two carry-ons. I was set.

*That one counts as Number One. The next one will be Number Two, and so on...

I bid farewell to the Fiance, and headed through security.

There are seven members in our traveling troupe. I arrived at the gate to find MSgt House (just House from here on out); TSgt Canuck (just Canuck now) was off doing cartwheels in the corner. (No, he wasn't, but I have no idea what he was actually doing, and what I wrote sounds more fun.) I saw the disgruntled look on House's face from a mile away, a look I was already familiar with from our trek out west to Kansas in May. This is a look that says, "I really don't appreciate the universe throwing roadblocks in front of me, and if it doesn't cut the shenanigans, I will not hesitate to slit its throat." As I walked up to him, he informed me that our flight to Detroit was delayed. (Canuck thinks it's 'cause POTUS was in Detroit that day; yesterday for you.) The delay would have made us miss our connecting flight. Unacceptable, I tell you!! (Oh snap, a twofer. These happy couples will be peppered throughout. Enjoy.)

As I stated in the first sentence of the preceding paragraph (that means the group of sentences directly above this one), there are seven members of this merry band. Tiny Dancer was the first to get re-routed, and he alone went through Atlanta; his was the last seat on that plane. Mrs Milhouse, RG, and Mom-pants found out about the delay when they were checking in, so they got taken care of there. House, Canuck, and myself went to the counter at our original gate to see what could be done. The employee, Tim, didn't say much. I initially felt sympathy for him; we weren't the only ones affected by the delay, and it seemed like a lot to deal with that early in the morning. (I came to regret this sympathy later. That sympathy-leeching bastard.) He spent a lot of time (nearly 45 minutes) typing away on his keyboard and holding a phone to his ear while saying almost nothing into it; I assume he was on hold most of the time. (Or was it all a show?? To appear busier than he actually was?? But I'm not the sort to linger over outlandish conspiracy theories of deliberate sabotage, and I digress.)

Finally he told us that we were being re-routed through JFK (oh, the joy) and would be boarding a connecting flight from there. He looked out our baggage check receipts and asked us to describe our respective suitcases. We were assured at this time that our luggage was also being re-routed. We were issued two boarding passes each that stated SEAT REQUEST, meaning we would given our seat assignments at our new gate. Mrs Milhouse, RG, and Mom-pants were also re-routed through JFK, and though all six of us would experience the same troubles in New York, New York, I am now coming to believe that they're being re-routed at the check-in counter before they even checked their luggage is what, at the end of the long journey, left them better off than the trio that I was part of. The two trios became six (no, really, do the math!) at the new gate; we received our seat assignments from that flight, and were told we'd get the next ones at our connection.

We landed in JFK at 1:00 PM USA East Coast time (that is not the real name of that time zone; Google the real one) and learned that we would have to go outside security (damnit; I was carrying two laptops, for pity's sake), out into the sun, and walk to the next terminal over for our connecting flight. I immediately didn't like this; our connecting flight was scheduled to leave at 2:00 PM, and while I haven't been inside JFK since I was kid (or was that La Guardia?? Newark?? Hmmm...), I still remembered it was as bad as BWI, and I worried about having to go through security again. All six of us walked up to the Korean Airlines ticket counter to check in, only to be told that our "boarding passes" were no such thing; Delta had given us pieces of paper that did not have existing reservations. And we couldn't make them on the spot; we were firmly, but kindly, directed to a third terminal, where we would find a Delta ticketing counter. We were told that as long as we were back to check in by 1:30, we would make the flight.

So we went back out into sun and walked to this terminal. The group in general had a pessimistic expectation that we would not make the flight; I was a tad more optimistic. Mrs Milhouse took the opportunity to run outside for a cigarette; it would be her last one for over fourteen hours. We finally got the reservations via Delta Fucking Airlines (I hear they're renaming themselves), and rushed back to the Korean Airlines desk at the second terminal. (JFK needs to come up with a better way for passengers to get between terminals. Tampa has trams!! No leaving security!! Get with the times, JFK!!) I am srsly having a field day with these...

Korean confirmed our honest-to-gawd existing real-life reservations, issued the genuine get-us-the-hell-out-of-here boarding passes, and we were in line for security by 1:25 PM, baby. Everyone was a bit more optimistic by this time about making the flight, everyone except House, who was still muttering about missing it and still had That Look on his face; because the line for security, while not terribly long, didn't seem to be moving at first. As the TSA agents checked our tickets, we explained the situation. The one lady, the Goddess bless her (remember, I'm a Wiccan now),undid one of the ropes, turned her back and said, "I'm not looking." Sweet!! So we got just a little bit ahead in the line, and then the next TSA agent was nice about not making us wait too long to take our turns to go through the scanners. We were in line to board the flight by 1:40. Whew...but this was not the end of our troubles, my friends. Not by a long shot!!!!!!!! (Bonus, baby!!)

I'm gonna Tarantino this shit for a second (real word, look it up in Webster's Dictionary of Dane Cook-isms: The Oxford Edition, publishing date 2000-something), and backtrack a week or so. If you've ever flown overseas (anywhere in the US to Alaska, Hawaii, or Puerto Rico doesn't count, you pansies), you know it's no cake walk. (What the hell does that mean? What is a cake walk? I hear those words, and I literally imagine a tightrope made of cakes. Srsly. Someone explain this to me. But again, I digress.) So Mom-pants, knowing that our company has ca$h moneys to spend as the end of the fiscal year draws nigh, attempted to arrange for us to have business class seating for our flight to the Korean peninsula, so that we might be comfortable. Our company approved it; GSA (Google) approved it. But when it got the lead civilian in our section of the agency we are contracted with, it was poo-pooed. He said the flight had to be at least 14 hours long to get approval.

Our flight was originally scheduled to be thirteen (13) hours and fifty (50) minutes long. At the time, Canuck joked that the plane would circle around Seoul for an extra ten minutes before landing. Remember that. Write it down and hang on the fridge to reference in a few sentences or so.

I didn't really sleep on the flight. I think I got a grand total of 2.5 hrs of napping in. I couldn't get comfortable, and oddly enough I wasn't really tired. So I read a bit, and when I got tired of that I took advantage of the interactive screen on the back of the seat in front of me. I watched three movies in a row (Clash of the Titans [I love you, Sam Worthington]; Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief; Ondine), and played some puzzle games.

Alright, grab that note off the fridge. As stated previously in the first sentence of the paragraph-before-last, our original connecting flight out of Detroit, which coincidentally enough was also heading to Korea (imagine that), was scheduled to be 13 hours and 50 minutes long. Well, with us now flying out of JFK, and Tiny Dancer flying out of Atlanta, our connecting flights were now going to exceed 14 hours. To rub salt in the wounds (which you should never, ever do, because it is very painful and probably not even very sanitary, in all honesty), as we came upon the City of Seoul, the captain came over the intercom to inform us that our landing would be delayed for fifteen minutes due to air traffic congestion. (Can you imagine, bumper-to-bumper traffic in the sky? Can't be safe.) I had to cover my mouth to keep from giggling. Elsewhere on that very same plane (not a plane next to it; not a plane behind it; that EXACT plan that I was sitting on at that moment of time), those who had heard Canuck's joke (the one on the note on your fridge; I told you to remember it) also got a chuckle or two (or ten, it's quite possible, but I didn't count, and neither did they) out of that. I am fairly certain, if I know Mom-pants, that this will be rubbed in That Civilian Guy's face upon our return.

Now, let's Tarantino this again to that moment on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States of America when we found out from Korean Airlines that we were not (allow me to reiterate: NOT) booked with them. I began at this time to worry, and as far as I could tell I was the only one who did, that our luggage wouldn't make it. Think about it: Delta obviously failed to re-route us through the second part of our journey (which was kinda crucial, you know); why would they succeed with luggage where they failed with passengers?? But Mom-pants kept insisting that our luggage had been checked all the way through. I argued that we had thought the same for ourselves, but that this obviously hadn't been the case. She continued to insist our luggage would make it; so I let it go, but didn't forget about it.

So I really shouldn't have been surprised when we got to the luggage carousel in Seoul and waited in vain for my brand-new suitcases. Mrs Milhouse, Mom-pants, RG: they all got their luggage. Myself, House, Canuck, the trio re-routed by Tim from Delta: no luggage. We were the Three Musketeers of Getting Fucked in the Ass...with no lube. The Korean Airlines personnel checked their system, and and while they couldn't guarantee anything, the computers told them that mine and Canuck's things were on a flight scheduled to land after 0400 local today, while SH's suitcase was on a flight scheduled to land after 0500. They took down our information, informed us they had a delivery time in the morning and one in the evening (so if our stuff does arrive, we'll have it by this afternoon, Goddess willing), and told us that they would call us before delivering if it did arrive, and that we just had to meet the delivery person at the gate to the base.

Having nothing to claim, we breezed through immigration and customs (my passport's cherry has officially been popped), and met up with Tiny Dancer, who happily informed us that he had not been plagued with any of the problems we'd encountered. (There was a minute there when I maliciously contemplated gathering all the luggage and setting fire to it. But that would have been spiteful.) The next bus to the base wasn't scheduled to leave until 8:00 PM Asian Time (again, not the real name of this time zone; Google the shit out of it), so we still had a little over an hour. I knew we wouldn't get to the base in time to hit up the Base Exchange for a fresh set of clothing. So it was the craziest luck in the world that, directly across from the ticket counter for a bus, was a store that had not only all the toiletries I needed to get through the night (minus deoderant), but also single packages of underwear. Woot!! (I checked, they were clean.)

I can't wait to fill out my expense report to get reimbursed for those panties. It's gonna be hysterical, I tell you.

We're in billeting, and if I may say so, this is genuinely the nicest base inn that I have been in. It felt amazing to take a hot bath and wash away more than 24 hours of stress and put on a fresh pair of underwear.

Now, friends, please keep your fingers crossed. It would make my month (since, you know, I'm here for a whole floggin' month) if my luggage is delivered today. Then I can really relax, put on clean clothes that do not reek of traveler's sweat, and look forward to meeting new people who are probably gonna piss me off, and then forget about said people and go sight-seeing. After all, it's not every day a girl like the Dread Pirate Davi finds herself in Korea.

Got a number for them there explanation points? Submit them via blog comment, and I will announce the winner and the Mysterious Prize in my next blog post...maybe.

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