Sunday, October 18, 2009

Flying out to Deutschland

I looked like what I’d imagine an insane first-time traveler looks as I sweated my way through security lines with not one, but TWO laptop computers. One was this tiny Acer Aspire; the other was my 5 year old Apple dinosaur, still good for running music and dvds. I wore two coats as I rolled an engorged suitcase, on which I’d also strapped a pink monkey blanket. Add an aqua blue messenger bag, crammed with books that had to be removed from my checked bag, and you have the idea. Did I mention that I felt the need to buy a Portland shot glass for $2.49 and a Portland coffee thermos for $9.95 after I got to the airport? I’m also wearing a blue t-shirt with Powell’s Books written inside a graphic of the state of Oregon.

Now you see why the poor ticket agents may have felt bad for me.

Or not.

We arrived at the airport this morning about 6:45AM. Carrie and Oatie dropped me off. I got out of Carrie’s car with my 50 pound (army green- no joke) duffel bag and blue bag over my shoulder and carrying my orange bike-in-a-box. Carrie followed with my rolling carry-on. She gave me a hug and off I went.

I proceeded to the line. A NWA lady walked up to help me right away.

After my fiasco of the night before, discovering that I could have only one bag (resulting in emergency bag consolidation) and the bike was going to cost double what I’d been told, I decided that I’d go with the expectation that NW would do the right thing. My horoscope (everyone knows that’s God speaking to us, right?) had told me that if I expected the worst, that was what would happen; if I expected the best, then vice versa.

The first lady told me, “The bike will be $300.”

I said, “I’d been told over the phone that the bike was $150-175.”

She said, “Yes, but our fees have changed. It’s $300.”

I said, “I called last week and the man on NWA phone said $150-175. I could’ve shipped it for free.”

She said, “How could you have shipped it for free?”

“I had a container shipped to Germany. I’m moving there.”

She disappeared and spoke with her supervisor, who then came over and said,
“It’s $300 to ship your bicycle. The fees have changed.”

“I know, but I was told on the phone it was $150-175. Your fees aren’t listed on your website. The only way I would have known this was by talking to the person on the phone.” I maintained my composure. (Probably because I was half-awake.)

She and the ticketing agent went over to a different computer and shuffled papers. I waited. Patiently.

“You already spoke to a supervisor and they told you it was $300.”

“Yes, that was last night. I didn’t speak to a supervisor, the woman on the phone spoke to her supervisor and they told me you were the only ones who could change the fees, so they told me to ask you when I checked in.”

They went away again. And shuffled more papers. Then came back and said, “We’ll charge you the $175.”

“Ok, thank you.” It was only fair. But with airlines, little is fair these days. Once you buy a ticket, you’re at their mercy. No compensation for errors, late planes, lost or broken luggage, the list could go on.

I waited as the woman typed in my info, charged me and got my bicycle tagged up. I said something about how NW has been a good airline and I’d thought I might have to check in with Delta.

She said, “Soon we’ll be no more- it’s sad. It brings a tear to my eye.”

“I know. I’ve been flying with them for so many years because I’m from North Dakota. They’ve always been good to me.”

After everything was tagged, I loaded my 50 pound duffel, aqua messenger, the bike-in-a-box and my rolling suitcase and walked over to the luggage drop, where the man said, “Let me help you with that large item!” Taking away the bike-in-a-box.

I said, “That’s not the big one,” showing him my shoulder bag.

Knowing I could make it with all my luggage was empowering.

I walked off, lighter, when my phone rang. It was Carrie. I told her everything went fine. She said, “That took you a long time at the check-in counter. What were they doing? I was watching you from outside the whole time.”

How sweet it is to have a sister like that.

The last few days at her house were a good ending to my time in Portland. This time when she dropped me off to move overseas, there were no tears of emotion. It was just another move, to a country I know.

“I’ll see you in Germany,” we said.

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