Day 191: The Man and the First Solo Culinary Adventure; ‘Exquisite’

Image result for no united airlinesOh my god. If you have to fly and you ever have the choice between United and literally anything else, I highly recommend you choose something else. My brother’s trip was off to quite the inauspicious start. I dropped my brother off yesterday at Newark airport with plenty of time to spare. His flight was scheduled to leave at 1pm, we were already hugging and saying goodbye by 10am. I made sure he had everything, told him he was going to be fine, to be safe, that I would miss him, and I saw my little brother walk off for his first real taste of adventure.

At least…I thought I did.

I get back to an empty, quiet home, and before I can finish contemplating how I feel about that, I get the text message from him.

Flight delayed. Won’t be leaving til 7pm.’

Okay, there’s a problem there. He has a connection in Hong Kong to get to Manila, there’s only a two hour window between the two flights. He’s definitely going to miss this.

Take your itinerary to the gate agent. Let her know what’s going on. Stress that you are traveling alone ESPECIALLY to surprise your mother in the PHILIPPINES. They’ll get you on the next best flight or take care of the connection.’

If any of you happen to follow me on Twitter, you’ll know what happened next. When this happened to me with JetBlue I took to Twitter and they not only helped me get on my next flight, they upgraded my seat, gave me extra miles and future travel credit, and when I jokingly mentioned how hungry I was and how much I love the blue Terra chips, they had an agent bring me ten. I’d never felt so special and so appreciated by an airline before. I told my brother to get a Twitter, and what followed was a complete mess of him telling his story on Twitter, me liking and retweeting, both of us trying to get United attention, and both of us trying to get him out of this situation.

For those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter, first his gate was changed last minute to Image result for travel stress gifbe across the airport. Second it was delayed further because they didn’t tell the catering crew and so their plane’s food was at the old gate. Third they were on board waiting to take off because the plane had to be ‘de-iced’. Fourth, as they are preparing for takeoff, the captain informs them they’ve reached their FAA limit and can no longer legally fly and they will need a new crew. Fifth, they can’t, so they end up CANCELING the flight altogether. Sixth, you’ve got an entire plane now of distraught travelers and only one gate agent and one customer service desk.

Ultimately they had to reschedule my brother for an early morning flight on Sunday. Which was still better than most, as a family of four wouldn’t be accommodated until Monday. They offered him only $20 food credit for the inconvenience and were going to put him up at a hotel, but I picked him up again and just had to bring him back at 4am. Fun times. United didn’t even give him extra miles or anything. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Come on guys, really?!

I dropped him off and there’s been no trouble at least since. He’s on his way to Hong Kong and by the time I wake up tomorrow he should be in the Philippines to surprise our mother. Meanwhile I’ve been living it up all domestic style. I did some grocery shopping, cleaned the house, cleaned the bathrooms, did the laundry, and prepped my meals for the week. I even hooked up some Bluetooth speakers around the house so I could play music from my phone while moving around the house. And some of you will be very happy to know, I kept all my clothes on, despite a past post to the contrary. Hahah.
Wanted to share with you all the first of the next couple weeks’ culinary adventures. Japanese umaki (eel omelet), shrimp tom yum noodle soup, and Thai iced tea. The eel was particularly tasty, marinating it first in eel sauce and grilling it before wrapping it in a sweet Japanese style egg omelet. The soup had a spicy richness that was cut with lemongrass and lime and the sweet shrimp. I made a whole pitcher of Thai tea and opened up a can of sweetened condensed milk so anytime this week I can make myself a cool tall glass of that uniquely dark, sweet flavor. My dinner was tasty, filling, and not to pat myself on the back too much but, dare I say, exquisite.

Good start to the month, looking forward to more!

 

 

 

Day 191

Man: 160 Loneliness: 31

Day 23 Supplemental: The Man and the Jet-Blues

Ahah. GET IT?! THE JET-BLUES!

Because let me tell you…my experience with JetBlue yesterday was one for the books. I made friends, got free food, got home like five hours later, and received some future travel credits. Oh yeah. I’m no cheap date.

Let’s go through the timeline of events together, shall we?

JetBlue Flight 506 is scheduled to depart Fort Lauderdale at 5:30pm on Wednesday. I arrive at the airport rental car center at 2pm. I’m a very responsible traveler, as you can see.

Checking into the flight is actually quite painless. With the TSA lines at new record highs, it was a pleasant surprise to be able to stroll straight up to the agent and get through the checkpoint. From returning car, to security checkpoint, to waiting terminal, it takes no more than 45 minutes. Around 2:45pm I find myself with little more than two hours before my flight.

Warning sign number 1: Fort Lauderdale is not a JetBlue hub. They have limited flights in and out of FLL and as I approach my gate, I notice almost all of them are currently experiencing delays, each a minimum of at least an hour at this point. The anxious crowd next to me have been waiting since 2pm for a flight to Philadelphia which is now being displayed as departing at 5:55.

With this much time at hand I am tempted to avail myself of some of the airport’s services. They have a Pei Wei, a Chili’s, Shake Shack, and this new Food Network Kitchen featuring recipes from their network stars. Ooh it’s tempting but that would just be eating out of boredom. They invented Pokemon Go for that. I am able to use the service for about an hour until the battery drain combined with poor GPS signal stop my quest to be the very best that no one ever was.

5:00pm: Boarding process begins. No real complications here. The only benefit of being seated two rows from the rear of the plane is I get to board sooner than the other passengers, after those requiring assistance, Mosaic members, families with children, active service members, and Priority Legroom passengers. I make my way to my seat (always an aisle) and notice that only the window seat is taken. I cross my fingers, hoping for an empty middle seat to enjoy some more freedom and space.

5:18pm: Boarding is almost complete and still I am sans neighbor. Until THEY show up. A couple of middle-aged gay men saunter onto the plane, late. As they get closer to the rear I figure one of them is probably going to be seated next to me. No biggie. But apparently one of them feels otherwise. He begins to freak out, exclaiming loudly ‘oh no this is not going to happen’ ‘I do NOT fly without him next to me’ ‘how could the airline even THINK of allowing this to happen’. Now, as a former travel agent, frequent traveler, and overall decent human being, I know airlines are under no obligation, unless paid for, to honor or adjust seat reservations. Any number of things could have happened that would end up with them being seated separately. Either they or their agent did not make reservations when booking. They could have been standby passengers just lucky enough to get on. They  have booked last minute and had no reservations anyways. Either way, get on the plane, accept your fate, and let’s all try to be friends on this otherwise supposed to be short, simple, and sweet flight back home. No drama for three hours, please? I’m hoping that the more sensible one is the one I am seated next to. The next part is kind of a surprise and happened quite quickly. The flight attendant very politely, expectedly, and respectfully inquired what the problem was. Hostile #1 is belligerent and upset that they are not seated together. A very routine question, ‘are you supposed to be traveling together’ is proposed. Now Hostile #2 who was otherwise sensible is in on the action. ‘How dare you ask that’ ‘what is that supposed to mean’ ‘what do you think’ ‘why wouldn’t we be’. Iono. I think they’re fishing for a scandal. But here’s the kicker: Hostile #1 says to Hostile #2 quite loudly and for everyone to hear ‘don’t pay attention to her, she’s obviously from JAMAICA’. Now, to be fair, we all know that Jamaica is not known for being the most friendly to homosexuals. But this is completely out of line and she has shown no sign of prejudice. She has been nothing but professional and accommodating. Next thing I know the gate agent is back on the plane escorting the two off. Silver lining: the seat next to me is available again.

5:55pm: The whole debacle has caused an additional delay, but at least now we are taxiing on the runway. Our flight attendant is in the middle of the safety briefing and has just gotten to the ‘if the plane should suddenly experience a drop in pressure’ part when the captain speaks. ‘Uh…ladies and gentlemen, our grounds crew noticed a leak on the plane as we were taxiing, we’re going to uh…need to bring the plane back to see if it’s a short problem or a long problem’.

I’ll give you a moment to guess what kind of problem it was.

No really, go ahead, ponder. Take bets.

Are you ready.

It was a very, very, LONG problem.

‘Uh…ladies and gentlemen our uh…mechanics are telling us it’s a hydraulic leak in the landing gear, this plane is actually not gonna be able to take off anymore. We’re going to have to deboard everyone and get everyone on a different flight.’

Did you get it right? Good for you.

At this point we are now deboarding, and as I was seated at the very rear of the plane, yours truly wasn’t getting off anytime soon. My view was basically this.DeboardingWorse, the mob at the gate all flooded the poor agent at once. And because I was at the end, the line for the gate agent at E10 stretched to E6.

AirportMob

JetBlue1It’s time to leverage some social media and harness the power of a good Tweet. So, I started with this.

 

Which resulted in this.JetBlueReply1At this point resolution was clearly not going to come from the gate agent miles away. So I called the 1800 number and cooler heads prevailed. I was able to secure a seat on the next flight home and get one of those coveted extra legroom seats for free.

I was actually happy this resolution so I did say so. And they responded. But the next part was hilarious. I off-handedly tweeted that while I was happy with the situation, I was hungry and could use some Terra chips. Next thing I know I hear my name being called to one of the gates and I can’t imagine for what reason.

It was actually to give me Terra chips! The airline had seen my tweet and informed the gate agents to get chips from one of their planes and hand me four bags along with meal vouchers. I felt like a VIP. They knew my name, shook my hand, made sure I was alright and comfortable, and gave me my snacks.

Sometimes it’s okay to ask for something. Sometimes you don’t have to be afraid to see what you can get. If I hadn’t asked, I wouldn’t have received. What a crazy ordeal. Oh and my flight? Scheduled for 8:30. Didn’t leave till 11.

But still. A shoutout to JetBlue. They saw a situation that was clearly in the wrong, and they worked to fix it. I’m happy with the turnout. In fact I think they went above and beyond. I’d gladly and readily fly them again, and it’s nice to know they’re out there listening.