Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Mpls./St. Paul Airport, day of departure

(picture courtesy of: MPR News )

Ok, we are settled in at home now...unfortunately. But that means a few posts and pictures of our trip!

I have to say, not traveling since 1993 by plane, our airport adventure proved to be VERY frustrating and a really bad way to wake up in the morning the day we left. And who would think that at 5:30 in the morning the airport would be so busy and hectic. Guess I don't get out much! Anyway......

We awoke at 4:30am and got to the airport by about 5:20am. Because our flight information told us to arrive at least 2 hours early, we figured this would be plenty of time. Hell, an hour early would have been plenty the way we were herded around like cattle there. And impatience? Holy cow, some of those airport employees are downright nasty!

So, we got to this 'foreign' place and had e-tickets with NOT a clue how to get an actual ticket in our hands. Well, because the mode there is rush rush rush, it seemed that no one had the time to actually tell us what to do. One lady told us to put in our drivers license number, the machine said 'confirmation' number but the slip of paper we were told to print out had a variety of names for a variety of numbers and the machine had no option to put in the drivers license.

So we stood at this machine and some guy walked by and we flagged him down and he was kind enough to point to the exact number that we were to put in...or maybe it was a lady? I don't know, I was half asleep and so lost in this whole morning shuffle that I just can't even remember those who took a second of their time to help those of us who never travel. And I know, they don't know we don't travel a lot but if I were to see someone looking around, flailing arms, shrugging, looking a little exasperated, and most importantly...holding up the line, I guess I would think that perhaps they might need some help figuring something out? But that's just me, I'm an observer. And I would like to point out that when we were asking for help, directions were very vague so it wasn't like we weren't trying to get some assistance as well. Once we were given this information, that whole process went very smooth and quick...about 10 minutes all told?

Next it was the security check in! Oh my god, I was trying to read sign after sign after sign, in small print, to figure out what we needed to do. Pat was getting rushed along by the guy sitting on his butt yelling at everyone to hurry as the guy casually checked id's and tickets. I seriously thought Pat was gonna pop him one because already, the tension was building.

In the meantime, I'm digging in my carry-on trying to get everything out that needs to be out (according to the signs), Pat was telling me I don't need to do this or that, I'm asking him what we need to have out, my hands were full and I had a ticket and my drivers license in the other hand hanging on to them for dear life while this line is moving like a conveyor belt. There was NO time to breathe here, it was moving along like highway traffic in this place.

So, we got to the check point and it's more rush rush rush.....put your stuff in this bin, take off your shoes, take off your jackets, empty your pockets, pick up that lap top and take it out of the bag, put everything in your hands into the bins. Needless to say, I was starting to break out in a sweat due to the intensity of the pace these workers were making us keep. We got through security fine EXCEPT when they told me to throw everything in the bin, that meant my license and my boarding pass. Because we were being rushed through so fast, I didn't feel like I had the time to put these things in a safer place and since I couldn't cram them in my pocket because we had to empty them, that meant I had to throw them in the bin with the baggies of toiletries and shoes and purse and film and camera, and, and, and. When I put them in there I swore they were on top with the other boarding passes.

Once the bins came through the other side we started to quickly grab our stuff. Pat then asked in a frantic voice, "LeAnn, where's your other boarding pass???????" ....my boarding pass was missing, not my license, just my boarding pass! As we raced to get all our stuff back in the carry on bags, Pat's computer back in it's bag, jackets on, shoes on, we were searching high and low for this pass...it was no where!

Finally, finally a KIND person who was working at the end of the belt asked us if everything was ok. I practically screamed at her that NO, EVERYTHING WAS NOT OK. But I refrained, after all, it was only 6 in the morning or so and I hadn't had my coffee and I only felt completely out of my element...why yell and make matters worse. So this lady, who barely spoke English was told that we lost one of the 4 boarding passes we had..it went through the machine in a bin and poof, it was just gone! Her response was to just stand there and look at us and shrug....

Man, it was hell for me because I KNEW I put that pass right on top, under my license, next to my wallet. We didn't know if they would allow us to print another, the idea of having to go through all that crap AGAIN was a dreadful and very irritating thought, and seriously, we only had the dumb thing not 2 minutes earlier, what the hell happened to it! Could the morning have gotten any more frantic!

We looked, we tore our pockets apart all over, we tore our carry on bags apart, I tore my purse apart even though there was nothing in it, I tore my wallet apart....shit!!!! Pat was less than pleased yelling at me, I was yelling at him...it was your typical comedy half hour in the airport.....and all the while I was thinking, I know I threw that thing in the bin because I was told to put everything in the bin by the security people...

Now remember, I said this lady was kind...I didn't think that at first because of her reaction when I told her what was going on because frankly, I didn't think she gave a damn, that she was just as insensitive to those of us who NEVER travel and wrote us off as the idiots we probably looked like. I pretty much had given up on getting help from ANY of those 8 or 10 people who work in this area because none of them really seemed to care and I was near tears. Suddenly with my back turned, helplessness and the unknown engulfing every fiber of me, there was a light, frantic tapping on my left shoulder...I turned and there was this kind, barely English speaking woman looking at me with huge eyes and pointing.

There, underneath the x-ray machine was a white slip of paper, upside down..she pushed me along and kept wagging her pointing finger at the slip of paper...and the relief that washed over me was so intense I cannot even tell you. Then I got a pang of nervousness cuz what if it wasn't my boarding pass, then what....but I stopped my thought process and went an picked it up. There like a big flashing neon black light was my name in the upper corner.

I thanked this woman so many times and wanted to hug her but thought that would be a little inappropriate not to mention I would have security guards cuffing me or something.

Once we made it through that chaos we breathed a HUGE sigh and said, "We made it!" and walked on in shock at how much things have changed since we'd last went on an airplane. We ended up at our gate an hour earlier than we needed to be and this was after we got coffee and went to the bathroom. All told, the fiasco of entering into the airport took us about 20 minutes or so? But while it's happening it's funny how it seems to take an eternity.

Once we sat, I realized how out of breath I was, how hot and perturbed I was, and just how I pray to god that the rest of this stuff would be less frantic and crazy. Just really not a great way to start out a day, especially before the rooster crows!

Next to come....getting on that airplane!

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