Planes, Trains, the Epilogue

After 10 hours wandering around London with my laptop on my back and a monkey in my pocket (more on that later), it was time to head back to the airport. At this point I’m just anxious to get this nightmare of a trip over with. I was able to get some sleep though. I ended up sleeping on the Piccadilly Line, the entire length of the line and halfway back, a good 2 hours or so. 

Back at the airport, I made it to my gate with little difficulty, and I had my confidence back after the previous days events broke my spirit, and asked the Virgin Atlantic rep if there was any fee, if I could sit in an exit row. She told me there was no fee and to just have a seat and she’d let me know.

20 minutes later she approaches me:

“I have great news, I was able to get you an exit row to yourself. And by the way we lost one of your bags. Just hang on while we get more information”, and before I could get a word in, walks away.

I walk over. “Pardon, but, did you say, you lost one of my bags?” 
She smiles “Yes. we found your tag, but it was not attached to the bag. so you must identify the bags.”

Meanwhile, the plane is boarding, boarding, and 30 minutes go by, and everyone is in the plane but me. And I’m told I can’t board the plane with misidentified luggage. So the flight is getting held up, and still no sign of my bag. I approach a desk attendant saying “I’m starting to get nervous about this, what do you think we try….” “sir” (she interrupted) “You need to sit down, and we’ll tell you when we know something.”

That being the first time I approached them in about an hour’s time.

Finally they bring up a bag that’s not my bag.

10 minutes go by, the agent approaches me,
|”We found your bag. its not identified”
“How do you know its my bag then?”
“Because your name’s on it”

I’m an idiot :)

So to make a long story short, I identified the bag, and surprisingly the next 10 hours of my travel were pretty fun and painless. I had a whole exit row to myself, dinner was lamb curry with chapati and rice, I slept like a log the whole time, and i talked to this hot flight attendant and she was very interested in my monkey.

Actually, it’s Jason’s monkey. It had to be removed from work, mainly because it screams at +4db if you throw or bang it against something. The flight attendant didn’t believe me, so she wanted to hear it scream. Most of the passengers are asleep at this point, I tell her she’s gonna have to be the one to do it.

So she starts shaking it, nothing happens, and she calls me a liar. So then I told her to hit me with it, and the screaming began, and she freaks out because she didn’t realize how loud it was, and pretty much everyone in our section wakes up to find her holding this monkey. And she is cracking up laughing. So what does she do? She hits me with it again. This continued for 10 minutes.

I arrive in Kenya, get my bags immediately, and breeze through immigration and customs. Nadia hasn’t arrived yet, so here I am, an American with a lot of bags, standing alone. After telling about 20 people I do not want a taxi, I ask a police officer for a public phone. Very seriously he says:

“We do not have public phones here. What I suggest you do, is find someone who you see is talking on their mobile, and use their phone to make the call.”

I love Kenya, and I’ve missed it incredibly. So I’m at Nadia’s place, just relaxing, got clean, unpacked, took a nap, and now I write this to you at 118 bytes per second.

Let’s start the tally:

Injuries: 0
Illnesses: 0
Police bribe money spent: 0.00 USD (0.00 KSH)
Bowls of Ugali Eaten: 0

I hope the last one rises significantly. Ok, I’m about done with this one. I’ll be on the balcony if you wanna find me, taking it all in.


Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

When your travel agent changes your itinerary for a profit

Photo Credit: Damir Bosnjak

Originally published as “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” on on September 21, 2008.

As usual, the words come once I depart, and I’ve departed, and the words are coming. I haven’t written a true blog entry since my last journey out of the country, back in November 2007, and as I sit on Virgin Atlantic Flight 68 to London’s Heathrow Airport, eyes singed from an inconsistent 4 hour sleep, not sure if I was too hot or too cold. My face was cold, my chest was sweating, and my legs had goosebumps. It was really, really confusing. I always considered humans warm-blooded creatures, but I felt like a reptile for the last few hours. But I digress. I almost did not make the flight, why? Because I tend to never learn that if my parents recommend someone to get me a “deal”, it never works out the way I want, and sometimes, spending a few extra bucks up-front is worth saving high blood pressure in the end.

And I was also trapped with a full bladder, unable to find a way past the lady who wouldn’t have woken up if a piece of overhead luggage fell on her face. Finally when my kidneys were screaming for mercy I had to climb over her, which wasn’t an easy task. My yoga is paying off though.

It felt like a terribly-timed joke when the person at the check-in counter at JFK told me there was no record of me flying on the printed itinerary I had in my hand. This itinerary was given to me by a travel agent at St. “Mark” Travel. I’ve changed the saint’s name for anonymity purposes (and yes, naming your business after a saint is pretty common among us Coptic folk). The agency accepted payment and booked my flight for me. Must’ve been some mistake, I thought, between e-ticketing or something of that nature. I was directed to the ticket counter, which believe it or not, is a separate department. The agent at the ticket counter told me that I was not booked on this flight but after about 15 minutes of phone calls and green-screen searches she discovers that I was booked for a flight that left yesterday.

How could that be? My itinerary, confirmation number with the airline, all pointed to my flight being today. This didn’t make any sense. Until some new information surfaced…

The Virgin Atlantic agent discovered something very interesting. Apparently 2 days after I booked and paid for this ticket, someone at the travel agency actually cancelled my ticket, and re-booked me on a different itinerary and a return flight to a different city than what I had booked! They also let me know that there was a significant price difference, and that the money was refunded to the travel agency.

Of course, one could say that after years of practical jokes I’ve played on loved ones, that this was the ultimate payback. I was kinda hoping Ashton Kutcher would run out from behind the lady in red and let me know how punk’d I truly was.

However, that didn’t happen.

I do not hold St. Mark himself, nor do I hold any patron saint of a travel agency personally responsible.

So what were my options? Pay the 200 dollar change fee to get on this flight, and pay the full price of the return ticket to fly to Boston from the city I was now flying back to? I don’t think I had a choice because “your ticket has a restriction, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Deep breaths. About to call the travel agent…

”Paul, you’re a consultant”, I thought to myself, “you can totally be professional and get answers without getting flustered.”

When I told her what happened, she said “Oh yea? Your ticket is different than what we booked? Why did that happen?”

“I’m not sure why it happened, I was hoping you could tell me”

After 20 minutes on the phone, it turns out I wasn’t going to get any answers, because she asked me back the same questions I asked her. I guess they thought it would be ok to just change my itinerary and hope I’d just figure it out.

Believe it or not, I’m writing this with a smile on my face. Why? Well it’s because I’m going back to Kenya! And two, I’m sure the 400 bucks will find its way back to me, either via my friend the travel agent, or by some karma related act of the universe, or maybe St Mark himself will hand me a check,

I’m not sure of the details yet.