Sunday, August 9, 2015


Loose ends. Who among us feels tidy in those few hours before the dash out the door that first day of a holiday? There were those last meetings to attend, then the checklist of all those items that needed to be dealt with for the trip, a list that should have been written on lined paper but instead became a spinning set of disjointed words swirling around in the miasma of my mind. Plucking them out as I could like Lucy and Ethel trying to grab all the chocolates running by on a conveyor belt I grabbed what I could and the rest just slipped by.
We had ordered a minivan from 777-7777 to get us, our two large suitcases, three carry-ons, Emmy's purse which had grown to the size of Santa's toy bag on his Christmas run, my U.S. postal satchel and a Victoria Secret shopping bag filled with sandwiches, chips and fruit. The truth is neither Rick nor I are particularly calm fliers especially when not every "i" had been dotted and every "t" crossed. For this trip we had one major "t" left without its crossbar, our boarding passes.
Try as we might to get ourselves checked-in online we were completely unable to make the TAP site follow our instructions and spit out our passes and seat assignments. Every attempt was met with a final window saying "failure" followed by another email from some TAP computer asking us why we hadn't checked in as of yet. After our fifth attempt we went to the phone lines where we waited approximately twenty-seven minutes and forty-one seconds for an agent with mediocre English. Our agent tried to get our boarding passes using the same process as we had with the same results, "failure". He finally told us we'd need to do what the screen on our computers had told us on our five previous attempts: we'd have to go to the terminal and speak to the desk agent at check-in. What he failed to tell us was the desk agents wouldn't be there for the day, they'd only show up two and a half hours before departure. We aren't calm travelers when things don't go as planned. Flight departure time: 5:55pm. Shaver/Melahn departure from our Manhattan apartment: 11:30am. Emmy stayed out of the fray vocally but her face kept forming the expression for, "Are you kidding me?"
Now for that cab ride, we nor our driver had done a traffic check before we all got on the road. Seeing the line up for the Lincoln Tunnel should have tipped us off. It was a massive back up. Apparently sometime in the early morning a dump truck had tipped over and caught fire on the New Jersey turnpike and traffic had been stopped in both directions. It was going to be a nail-biter of a ride to get us to Newark. What should have been a forty-five minute drive at most ended up taking two hours and it would have been double that if our driver hadn't decided to throw traffic etiquette out the window and drive the last six miles on the illegal shoulder while I grabbed the sissy bar and white knuckled it all the way to the terminal.
We arrived around 1:30 to an empty row of ticketing desks. As I said, the desks weren't to open until 2:30, but we hadn't been told that by anyone of our TAP phone line agents. Our reward: we were first in line. When the agents did finally appear and they did print our boarding passes they couldn't give us three seats together.
Two of us had seats we thought were a window and an aisle and the other was thirty rows back. Emmy had wanted a window seat so she could use her birthday gift, a Go-Pro video camera, to take pictures of the take-off. It was decided that she and Rick would take the two seats together and I would take the loner. Boarding was a cattle call with everyone trying to stampede the gate. Emmy made it in first since her ticket was the one with the 42E designation and they were trying to board from the back of the plane forward. The plan was to have her grab my 12E seat and I'd move back to her 42E when our ticket group was allowed on. The surprise was walking in and seeing her in the middle section of a two, five, two row configuration. Apparently E and F are dead center in that seat alignment. One of the stewardesses had already taken Emmy under her wing.
The stewardess intercepted me and guided me to my seat - her seat, the last middle seat at the very last row of the plane. I squeezed in between a six-four hulk who continued to fight me for our common armrest for the entire duration of the flight and a young ninety pound woman traveling with her cat.  Her routine for the journey included wiping her plate clean at each meal, gobbling snacks in between and then sneaking into the bathroom after each eating episode for twenty minutes at time presumably to purge her self of whatever she ate while the cat meowed and peed in its carrier.
A woman with a three month old sitting on one of the outer seats finally came to apologize to me while the young woman was on one of her bathroom trips. She had changed her baby's diaper three times thinking the stink was coming from her child. She eventually realized the smell wasn't coming from the kid but from the cat. Sometimes traveling means you just have to grin and bare it.

We bit on twenty-five euros apiece after the flight from hell to spend our time between flights in the luxury of the ANA lounge at the Lisbon airport. Splurges are by definition a spending of money freely and without remorse. Well I'll second that. We needed relief and we found it in Lisbon.
The ANA lounge offered showers, sleeping rooms, an open luxury seating area stocked with snacks and I don't mean potato chips and Twinkies. They had prosciutto, Camembert, speck and brie sandwiches, berry tarts with custard and pain au chocolat. They had juices and sodas, beer and hard liquor. Sometimes money does buy everything.

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