Saturday, March 18, 2006

Red Angel Looking Homeward

This story will make the point that I am not that smart, put together, or really love New York that much.

I was supposed to get on a direct flight from Singapore to New York after my business trip. I had an hour to board the plane. I didn't have a watch, I know I won't die without it. But I missed my flight because I was comparing two watches, one was half the price of the other one, in Singapore national airport.

Somehow the decision was really difficult to make. When I FINALLY bought the more pricy one (And I heard I got a better deal buying it in Asia than in the US. ), and run to my gate, it was closed. I missed it by maybe 5 minutes. The gigantic A340 is still there, but I could not get on. My bags were already unloaded and sent back to Lost and Found. I was told.

"Lost and Found"!!

When I was escorted to the exit since I missed an international flight not being a Singaporian, I waved to the persistent young salesman with anger, "You told me I have enough time." Yes, blame him. I felt so silly. He looked like he felt sorry for me.

Yes, I missed my flight buying a watch, you find that ironic. Maybe I was blind. The shameful and desperate tears I burst out was partially for my own stupidity, but mainly for missing my 18 hour direct flight to Newark in Business class. I can not take Coach back to New York from Singapore. It is just too long. And anything else got to be longer since the direct one beats them all by flying over the NORTH POLE.

4 hours later, I re-checked my bags and was on the 15 hour flight to LA. Luckily I still got business class. From there, I will connect via red eye to JFK, so that I can make a meeting on Sunday morning with some Chinese equivalent of Trump but much worse looking (even), for my company, which is eager to find a partner to enter Chinese market.

Only later on, I found out that these two routes are the world's first and second longest flying route ever, both records being held by Sinapore airline.

I felt better, enjoyed the endless food service, hot towels, pretty girls with heartwarming smiles, and went through the 200 something movie selections. Business class seats are super comfortable, But I could not sleep on the plane. When a big plane like that shook in turbulence, I got all worried and imaginative.

The business man sitting/sleeping beside me suddenly began to talk to me when the sign of Hollywood was glistering on the ground 15 hours into the flight: Did you see that? I thought he did not like me all the way. I almost grabbed his arms when the turbulence was too bad. But he was sleeping. Travel alone sucks but I have grown used to it now.

I had 6 hours to wait for my red eye flight. I lost track of time already. I looked at my new watch, that was still Singapore time, 13 hour different from New York time, and 16 hour different from LA.

After clearing the custom, I dragged my 5 bags to the counter of Delta, trying to check in. Yes, I need to take care of my two gigantic checked-in bags as well since I was going international flight to domestic flight.

Delta counter woman was totally confused by the ticket stub I showed her. " This says Singapore airline confirmed you for the China South Flight 850 operated by Delta 1881 to JFK" she gave me a look which I don't know how to interpret. But I almost said: yes, they say this is a global village.

"I can not find your record. You might have to go back to Singapore and let them redo it for you."

I am not going back to Singapore. I got my watch already. I hope she meant Singapore Airline. But I was not going anywhere.

"Plus I paid already. " That is the only protest I can make. I was exhausted, 20 hours after I bought the damn watch, yet I was in LAX. She asked for supervisor and they spent another 15 minutes on the computer and then checked my bags and gave me a boarding pass with no seat assignment. "You will get your seat assignment at the gate."

While I was waiting for them sort through the mess, there was a family of 5, two adults with 3 grown up girls waiting to check in with 10 bags. They seemed to be frustrated as well.

I thought I was good to go. I took my carry on which were 4 pieces of small items: my purse, my red Furla bag with the Thomas Lynch book I carried with me, phones, immigration papers, and IPod, my laptop and a white plastic shopping bag. Did I tell you I bought some chocolate and tea for my coworker in the Singapore airport as well.

I headed to the gate, settled down, asked for a Bloody Mary in the Mexican restaurant, and began to read my book. I called my friends in LA and told them I could not meet this time and I was only passing by. We chatted and hang up.

Around 9 pm, I walked toward the counter to ask for seat assignment. The father of the big family was walking toward the counter too. He was a step ahead of me. If only I KNEW, I should have run.

The blonde lady behind the counter was friendly. She took over both of our boarding passes and said" oh, you are stand bys". Deep breath. Deep breath. I can not blieve it but I gave up fighting already. I accepted the fate and had faith.

We standbys were asked to wait ASIDE while others got their seat or got their seat changed since "they don't like their mid seat". I just want a seat, a whatever. Damn watch. I looked at it. It was pretty, but stupid on my waist.

The screen shows the order of the stand bys: I am the 6th one since the family of five was ahead of me. There were 15 other people after me. Please, people, if you want to go to New York, plan ahead.

Finally it was our time. The lady announced that there were 3 seats left. I was relieved. The family of five could not possibly want 3 seats. I was all smiles. But I assumed too soon. The father and mother exchanged a quick look and said: OK. We will take it. One of the girl will come with us.

What, this is not the mission to the moon or Sophie's choice (Sorry for this one, sorry William Styron). A family should stay together. I began to laugh and talk to myself. I was going insane.

So I was turned away after a 15 hour flight trying to catch this plane to go to NYC by 9 in the morning. But that was not the worst. I asked: OK. Where should I get my bags? Loss and Found?

"No, you bags are ON the plane." So I am stuck here with my carry on. What is wrong with this trip. Everything. The damn watch.

"That is not even secure. If you think about it. My bags on and I am not" I tried to gain some ground back by being smart. Why don't they throw my bags off like Singapore Aireline did. "Don't worry. We scanned them already."

Of course you do. I wanted to smash something, if only I was in a bar with glasses....

I went downstairs to the ticket counter asking for next flight out. A friendly male staff quickly searched and said" everything is stand by for tomorrow as well." The word "Standby" traumatized me already. I had been stood by too long these days in my life, no more. When is the earliest flight that you can CONFIRM me on? Monday. OK. Let's do that.

I called my friends again" Surprise! I will stay for a day". I felt like unwanted distant relative. I just saw them back in Oct. So soon, I was back here, totally unplanned. They live in Irvine. My friend instantly got on the way to pick me up. I felt surreal.

I was sitting in the Delta arrival hall, typing messages on my blackberry to apologize missing the meeting next day. When a woman staff walked up, asking me: is that bag yours? I looked around, there was a plastic bag under the seat I was sitting on. No, It was not mine. She looked around and said, ok, I need to call security to remove the bag.

Before the security arrived, I removed myself first, you never know. Giving my luck, I could be sitting near a bomb. As a matter of fact, I could have bought a timed bomb which was on my waist right then.

Stay in friend's place was EVENTLESS and cozy. Just what I wanted. I had to borrow everything from electronic tooth brush to pajamas from the hostess. And I had to get up at 6am LA time to make a conference call. Half the time I could not hear a thing and I could not speak loud for fear of waking up my friends. But at least I showed my effort, I was trying to get home. I was at least in the same country/continent, although different time zone.

Next day I began to have anxiety attack about my bags that went before me. They could have got stolen, misplaced or damaged. They were abandoned and will circulate around the belt forever in some dim terminals of JFK. All my beautiful dresses, shoes and shopping items were inside those bags. I am afraid I will never see them gain.

At least, I have my watch with me. And tomorrow will be a new day.

Damn it! Damn it!

Weather is so beautiful in LA. I am not missing New York, really.

We got up at 5 am Monday morning to make the 8:35 flight. My friend joked about the friend he once tried to send off 3 times, with no success. I looked at him and said: Don't worry. I will live in the airport if they still could not find my record". He laughed loud.

I got into the line this time full of contempt to the stand by passengers, for, this time, I was confirmed. Although I wore the same outfit for 2 days already, I think I still looked neat and charming. Nobody knew my secret.

He tore off the boarding pass, then pointed at my hand: "you got too many bags. Only one carry on is allowed besides a purse/laptop". I know it won't be this easy.

"But they are all small items. Overall I am not exceeding space limit"

"Please consolidate. You stand aside, consolidate", as stubborn as beaucratic communists.

Aside again, I thought I was confirmed. I sighed and put my little black purse in the red Furla bag (A no-brainer consolidation). And from 4 items, I now had 3, red Furla, green laptop and white shopping bag.

Will that do? One more. You need to put this reduce one more.

Even without any indepth geometry knowlegde I can tell none of the bag can get into another. It is not humanly possible. One guy came by and tried to help and gave up. "I can check in this plastic bag." Tea and chocolate, who cares, I can lose them.

"No, it will be damaged." The airline staff was not without sympathy. He finally waved me in after I got all sweaty trying to deal with this bag issue. I was not sure I looked elegant and calm anymore.

There was a conspiracy going on to crush my soul.

A desperate whatever, not Angel, I am sure, looking homeward, with red eyes. That was how I felt all the way from Singapore, from the moment I stared at that A340 with despair. Home was on the East coast of this continent.

The airline turned out to be called Song, operated by Delta. It was pleasant and I liked the fact that captain explained about turbulences coming and leaving and why he asked flight attendant to sit down. Very reassuring. I need to grab arms again.

Movie cost $5 and there was great music selection. One album called Plans made me sentimental again.

Song Plane finally touched down in JFK. I saw the river and the familar buildings, the city, I was parted for so long. The city with you, those long corridors I walked through to see you before I left.

I went straight to the luggage service of Delta airlines. The staff asked for my baggage ticket and after some searching, said: we do have your bag, but they are at a different terminal.

So long there were here, not lost. When I finally saw them in a dark room full of bags that looked like being abandoned forever, one black and one orange, I was almost in tears.

You have went through so much: being scanned, opened, insulted, thrown off, separated from me, abandoned, yet you waited for me and we are finally together again.

Good things happen for people who wait and for bags who wait too.

When we (myself, 4 carry on and 2 luggages ) were all on that taxi, heading to Mid town, my Indian taxi driver asked: how is your trip, Miss?

(Which lag are you asking?) "Just fantastic! Thank you!"

And it was only 7 PM, I was looking at that watch again. I realized that I had to adjust it to 6PM, New York time.

I was back in one piece, and alive. I was home, although a good 48 hours later than I originally planed, if only I had not bought that watch.

But now I had a nice watch and everything else does not matter.

And I felt like the following cute and angry dog during my trip going back here, mostly angry at myself. But at the end of the day, I regard this whole exprience as a good journey, for I learned my lesson and found I have capability to laugh at myself. That is important.

And I hope this make you all laugh a little. I think sad blogs, like a sad young woman, should be banned from blog space or relationship.


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