New Careers for the Trekkers
Updated: Nov 9, 2019
You know the feeling you have when someone drops you off at the airport before a big journey? Except with my parents, there’s really no need for them to stand around and watch you go through the slide and scuffle process of pushing your overweight bulging luggage through the snaking line at the ticket counter, then try to catch that one last wave goodbye at the TSA line. So, usually, we say goodbye at the curb, as the police yell at us to hustle up our greetings and salutations.
Well, last time we were dropped off at the airport, we sent Amy on her way, and then realized we were at the Arrivals door, not Departures. Really? That’s not too big of a deal unless you travel like pack-mules. You don’t think they could just come down and get our bags here, do you? Thankfully, the security guard took pity on us, got us into what I think was a service elevator, and got us (and our 5 bags and 4 carry-ons) upstairs.
We were a good 2 ½ hours early for our international departure and I, like the picky seat chooser that I am, had already checked in online. So, aside from that little hiccup, we were feeling confident. Just drop off the bags and head for the gate (and maybe just check on that last cup of Starbucks for the year).
Strangely, there was only one woman working the ticket counter (we’re at LAX, mind you, not Omaha), so she informed all of us (the four of us in line), that, despite the efforts we had made to check-in early, she was the “baggage accepter” as well, so we should just wait patiently. Oh well. How long can 4 people to take to check-in, anyway?
When it finally got to be our turn, I handed the friendly agent our pre-printed boarding passes with our pre-printed receipts asked her if we could just drop off our pre-paid-for luggage. She looked at our tickets and said, “Do you realize that your return date is almost a year away?”
“Yes.” (I would have booked it even longer, but it’s against regulations to book more than 330 days in advance. We live there. But I thought the simple “yes” would suffice.)
“Well, I’m sorry, but that country doesn’t allow you to enter without a return ticket that is less than 90 days from your departure.”
FYI, the actual law is that you have to leave the country every 90 days, but we do that by driving across the border every 3 months while they decide whether or not we qualify for residency. Of course, she said we had no way of proving that we were going to drive across (since our truck doesn’t issue boarding passes), so we needed to buy another ticket there on the spot.
We’d heard of this little shenanigan before (thus, one of the reasons we showed up 2 ½ hours before our flight) so we told her we would happily comply. We asked for a fully-refundable ticket, so we could change or cancel the dates in the future.
“I can’t guarantee that it will be fully refundable.”
“Well, do you think when it lists the rules of the purchase, you could read them to us before we buy so we know?” (You know, since this is nearly $3 grand we’re putting on our credit card, we need to make sure we can make it disappear, as well.)
She decided that she didn’t want us to check us in, but she didn’t want to book us another ticket and asked us to step aside. So, we put on our “patient faces” (Joel’s “patient face” is so much more convincing than mine…….he kept saying, “Wow, she’s so professional and handling all of this so well without getting upset.” And I would mumble, “Are you kidding me?! Can she go any slower???” I think we had that conversation 5 times under our breaths.)
After the next several people in line behind us tried to check in (and quite a great line was growing now. It ended up outside!), many of them didn’t have return tickets either. Joel must have won the “patient faces” contest, because she finally turned to him and asked, “Would you go tell everyone that they have to have return tickets?” So, that’s when Joel, with his backpack on, became the airline’s representative. He went down the long line of waiting travelers who had previously known us as “That couple that’s holding up the whole line” and asked, “Are you aware that you have to have a return ticket? Is it within 90 days?” etc. while they looked at him like, “Is this really any of your business? What’s the deal with this line anyway?” Meanwhile, I stood at the front of the procession, off to the side a little, and waited for something exciting to happen….something like checking-in.
Finally, after realizing that by procrastinating the unavoidable (us and everyone else), she was assembling quite a long “secondary” line for herself, as well, the agent looked at us and said, “You know, I’m never going to be able to help you buy that ticket. There just isn’t time. Why don’t you use this other computer behind the counter and book it yourself?”
So, I stepped on the scale and over the counter (I quickly calculated it would cost $115 to check myself as luggage at this weight, but I can gain 55 pounds without a price difference, so that means I can allot myself 247 bags of pretzels on the next flight…..assuming I ever get to board!). And got onto Travelocity.com. Oh, I love Travelocity. Clear rules, refundable tickets, clickety-click, and we were on our way….until I heard my favorite ticket agent at the other end of the counter say, “Sir, I’m sorry, but you simply can’t check in without a return ticket. Go down to the girl in the blue dress and she’ll help you book your ticket.”
And that’s how I became a ticket agent for a day.
Soon, I had a fake line of unsuspecting fake customers competing with the real ticket agent and her real line for real flights and we were booking tickets with a colorful variety of airlines online. Baggage boys came to ask me when the next flight was and if they should take the luggage for it. Emelio wanted to know if he could get the next flight Miami. George thought these new rules were ridiculous (I winked and said sympathetically, “Oh, I agree!”). And, when it finally looked like we were going to miss our flight if I didn’t resign from my new hobby career, I stepped on the scale and over the counter and did a JetBlue outta there while everyone looked and wondered! (Well, maybe not true on the JetBlue part. There was no beer nor slide involved.)
When we finally arrived in country and everyone asked, “So, how was your flight?” we could answer, “Oh, it was great after we got on board.” No one ever asked what that meant.
(And don’t let me forget to tell you about what happened when we tried to leave the capital the next day, realized our license plate ends with a 4 which means no driving in the city on Tuesdays and there are no street names [I’m not kidding….it’s like living in a country with Candyland rules] so we had to HIRE A TAXI to lead us around the city through the ghetto so we could get over the mountain to get home because none of the locals knew how to do it any other way. They just know, if your number is up, you just don’t drive. Silly Americans, always trying to go somewhere or “get something done.” Nevermind, don’t remind me. That’s pretty much the story. Except that it took us 5 hours, 8 inquiries, 14 U-turns, and 3 cell phone calls to someone’s Uncle Juan Carlos to negotiate that maneuver.)