My alarm was not set to go off until 6:30, ungodly early enough for a Sunday morning, so I was surprised to hear a ring at 6:21. It didn't really matter that much since I had been up all night anyway. The prospect of putting your kid on a plane as an unaccompanied minor can lead to a sleepless night.
The automated voice from Delta Airlines informed me that my son's flight was cancelled. Fantastic. The plan was for him to meet his aunt in NYC and then go on to the UK to visit relatives.
No problem. USAir has a flight an hour later with seats left. Kindly switch me to that, I asked the Delta lady from the call center in India. After my first of several agonizingly long waits on this fine Sunday, Ms. New Delhi returns from a confab with her "supervisor" to inform me that it is Delta's policy not to rebook unaccompanied minors on other airlines.
Fine. Refund me and I'll call USAir myself.
I call USAir. The flight that leaves an hour later is now booked solid unless I want to pony up $600 for first class.
Called Delta back, hat in hand. What can you do for me? I ask Ms. New Dehli's understudy after cussing out the automated run-around machine for 20 minutes.
(Much more ranting after the jump.)
The original flight was out of Charlotte, a two-hour drive from my humble mountain abode. Nothing else out of the Queen City gets him there in time for his connection. New plans: drive to Raleigh, 3 hours, and maybe get the boy to JFK in the nick of time.
The original plan would have had me home in time to catch the end of the State-Florida game, I hoped. The new plan got me in range of 88.1 in time to hear Rodon handle the Gators over the first 3 frames. Visions of Monday baseball were dancing in my head.
A bonus to the change in itinerary was that I would belly up to an airport bar and watch the Pack until it was time for the boy to board. Let's just check in and get through security...
But there's a problem at check in. Delta claims I have not paid the unaccompanied minor fee. I have, but fuck it. I pay again with a promise to cuss somebody from Delta good tomorrow. Let's just get to the bar.
But there's a problem at security. They handed me a bunch of papers but neglected to give me a boarding pass. Oops. Back through the check-in line. Back through the security line.
But there's another problem at security. I am shittin' you negative when I tell you that the friendly folks at TSA pulled my seven-year-old's carry-on due to suspicious contents. They told us to stand back, that if we attempted to remove anything from the bag we would be arrested, as they rifled through the Legos, cookies, and DVDs that would sustain the little ADHD monster until touchdown in Heathrow.
The offending suspicious item: a rock that the little one found in the woods that he thought looked like a crystal. He wanted to show off his find to his relatives. The TSA folks told me that the rock looked like human remains when viewed through the X-ray machine. I cannot make this shit up. I'm sure seven-year-olds try to smuggle human remains onto airplanes all the damn time.
Ass hits bar stool. Bar is adorned with NCSU memorabilia, but the TVs are all locked on international footy. WTF? I'll have a beer and some ESPNU, and the boy would like the chicken tenders. What, no ESPNU? You call yourself a bar and all you have is the mothership?
But all is not lost. Some dude that goes by the handle of Akula had talked me into joining the twiitersphere only two days before. Hell, I'm even up to 34 followers already and so what if half of them are porn chicks trying to make a buck off me. I'll follow the game on twitter.
Except that there is no game to follow. Mother Nature, that heartless bitch, has decided to take a big ol' #ncstateshit. Rain delay. No more Rodon. FML.
Boy is finally safely on plane so I hightail it to the truck and tune-in Tony Haynes just in time to listen to Tzamtzis's first pitch sail into the everglades. By Greensboro I can't make out Tony from all the static so I take in the seesaw battle by twitter accounts over the phone. By all accounts I was missing a helluva game.
By the time I reach the land of the Swoff (Wilkesboro), I realize the reality of the possibility of extra innings, free baseball! I might get home in time to see the end.
Sister calls, frantic, tearful. She was a bit late getting through an unusually long security line and by the time she reaches the gate Delta has lost the boy. Good thing that extra c-note for an unaccompanied minor to and from his destination gets you such good care. Not only is my son missing in NYC, but making the flight to the UK is now completely out of the question. And Delta doesn't seem to give a shit. My sister gets passed from one rep to another, none of whom has the foggiest, until finally finding the boy in some lost and found holding tank for children in the bowels of JFK.
They boy is visibly shaken, but his spirits are buoyed by the rescue from a familiar face. I had pulled over to practice deep breathing techniques to stave off a heart attack when I got the good news that he was safe. Thank you baby Jesus!
Now, back to driving 20 mph over the limit while refreshing the twitter feed. Wife, who I have kept mostly in the dark, calls to tell me she's at her parents and to stop by. There is an empty house, my house, with a beer-filled fridge and a big-ass TV, but I take one for the team and detour to the in-laws.
A massive plate of cold, vile lasagna is shoved at me when I walk through the door. Turns out a family friend's daughters, ages 8 & 10, made it all by themselves and their mom was kind enough to give it to us. They "need" me to help them finish it. Not wanting to be rude, I gobble it before switching on the TV.
I tuned in the game just in time to watch the season end with Diaz getting rung up on a pitch 8 inches off the plate. Thank God the wife's old man had some Dale's Pale Ale for me to flood that lasagna back down with.
Sadly, the season ends but our story does not end there. Not only did the boy and his aunt miss the 7:20 flight, they also did not get on the 10:20 flight after waiting at the airport for another 3 hours on standby. This entire post was composed while I am waiting on hold with Virgin Atlantic to get them rebooked. I have now heard the Jackson 5 scratchily perform "ABC" 3 times over my phone's speaker.
And, in sum, it's as easy as 1-2-3: never, ever do business with Delta, and if not for the rain, the Pack is playing tomorrow and who knows. I guess we'll never know, but I'll let you know if my son ever makes it across the pond.