American Crow

Flying Through O’Hare Makes Me Feel Like ****

In Chicago Blogs, O'Hare on August 20, 2009 at 1:47 pm

Useless I am on my way to Charlotte for my cousin’s wedding.  I hate travelling.  Pre 9-11, I used to travel for work about 17 weeks per year.  After about four years of constant delays, luggage mishaps, security nightmares, and standby list screw jobs, I looked for a different line of work and avoided airports at all costs.  It even bothers me to come to the airport to pick up friends given that the Soviet Red Army is guarding the drop off / pick up lanes with their ticket briefcase and yellow glow stick.

I left my South Loop apartment over two hours before the flight left.  After catching a bus to the “EL” stop, I took the train to another train, which then took me to O’Hare.  The bus was fine, and the first “EL” train was also fine; however, the second train was a ridiculously slow.  I have no idea why.  Construction on the tracks?  No.  Train in front of us?  No.  Rush hour (i.e. many passengers getting on and off)?  No.  Homeless dude urinating on the tracks?  Not today.  I think that the slowdown was the result of pacing the train.  The CTA is on a budget crisis and they probably have less trains leaving, thus slowing throughput.   What should only take 50 minutes is now taking over an hour and 10 minutes as the driver is waiting at stops longer and driving the train slower.

After all this trouble, I still made it to the airport with 50 minutes to spare.  I wasn’t checking any bags and already had my boarding pass.  It took me about 7 or 8 minutes to get to the security line from the “EL” station.  The line was longer than usual, but I was figuring no more than 20 minutes tops.  This should give me at least 20 minutes, which is more than enough time to walk to the terminal.

Couple of problems with my estimates starting with the screening process.  The bottleneck in the operation was not necessarily the number of people in line but rather the TSA security officer taking far too long to check through bags.  We had tons of people standing and waiting for their bags to go through the screening machine.  Once I actually made it to the machine, I had to wait at least 5 minutes before my bags actually made it through.  I left security with 10 minutes to spare before my flight left.  I then noticed that my flight was leaving Terminal C and I was in Terminal B.  The only way to get to Terminal C from B is to walk in this very bizarre 80s-modernistic, Alice in Wonderland-esque relaxation tube.  The tube is so long that I think its dropping me off somewhere in Wisconsin.

Where is the white rabbit?

Where is the white rabbit? Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!

The mind bending spa music gave me my Timothy Leary moment of clarity.  I had a vision of myself as my morning’s healthy and nutritious breakfast being chewed up by the teeth of the “EL” and the stomach of the TSA.  I am now entering the intestine of the “Love Tunnel” on my way to the anus of Terminal C.  It is fitting description of the events, given that commercial airlines typically treat their passengers like a bowel movement.  Take my nutrients (i.e money) and poop me out.

I ran to the gate.  When I arrived, the door had been closed.  The ticketing agent (aka Nurse Ratched), returned to tell me that the flight was sold out and that they gave my seat away to a standby customer.  “How could you do that,” I proclaimed.  “I checked in on-line and have my boarding pass.  I’ve been waiting at this door for over 5 minutes”

“It doesn’t matter” said the agent while looking down and typing away on her keyboard.  “If you are not here 10 minutes before your departure time, we provide seats to the standing list.  Also, I called your name on the loudspeaker.”

I love how airlines get to write the 10 minute non-guarantee rule without checking with me first.  It is a “fine print” example of a company inventing rules that seek to benefit only them.  I cannot think of another situation where a company will give away your purchase if not claimed 10 minutes before delivery.  In my opinion, the seat is mine and if I don’t get it nobody should.  The reason this rule exists is because airlines are so incompetent they cannot profit without it.  Next thing you know they will start charging you for bags.

The ticketing agent was hearing me but not listening.  She has probably heard my story a million times before.  I loved her irreverence while she continues to type away not making eye contact.    She is like an automated call center.  I was waiting for her to say ‘Press pound after your response.’

“I was stuck in security,” I replied.  “Does your loudspeaker work over there?”

She finally look up at me with an annoying frown.  “No,” replied the agent.

“What was I supposed to do?  Security couldn’t get me through the line any faster.”

She shrugged her shoulders confirming her indifference.

“Look, I know you don’t care, but what am I supposed to do now?”

Her ears perked up.  “Sir, I do care.  Head to gate C16 for customer service.  There is another flight leaving in two hours.  See if you can get on the standby list.”

I am fuming as I walk to customer service.  Is it just me, or does every airline customer service area remind me of a a combination of a refugee camp and a Ponderosa buffet.  Stranded passengers from around the world come here for any and all issues, which are in turn completed by the lowest quality of employee.  Seriously, I think employees are assigned to Customer Service as punishment.  Also, why are the lines typically moving slower than the DMV at lunchtime?   This particular line probably had 15 or so people in it with 3 agents.  After 40 minutes, I finally get to the front part of the line, but by this time the line has easily doubled to 30 people.  In an act of unbelievable arrogance, two of the agents leave the desk and are replaced by one agent.  Are you kidding me?  If you have 3 agents and the line grows, what happens if you only have 2 agents?  Is the government overseeing this operation?

5 minutes later I finally get to the desk.  It takes the agent another 5 minutes to put me on the standby list and issue my ticket on a later flight.  The standby flight leaves in an hour and a half but is delayed by an additional hour.   I’m never getting out of here.  Seriously, this airport needs an enema.

This might be a little small for this logjam

This might be a little small for this logjam


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