Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Be It Ever So Humble

Our trip was great, but it was so nice to get home.  Especially because I thought there for a while that we might never make it back.

Our final morning in Seoul we went to breakfast with Ju at an American breakfast place.  She ate pancakes for the second time in her life, which sort of blew my mind.  Their pancakes were delicious.  I thought it was funny that Ju didn't put maple syrup on hers (I'm sure it is not healthy enough to be up to her standards).  Having learned my lesson of not eating a good breakfast the day before (an apple and granola bar were not enough to get me through the grueling day in Happy Suwon), I ordered banana nut pancakes and a side of scrambled eggs with cheese.

After breakfast we walked back to the apartment and finished packing things up.  Ju gave me a white jade ring as a birthday present (love her) and we hung out for a little bit before heading out so Brandon could catch the bus to Suwon (shudder) and we could catch the bus to the airport.  It turns out that Ju and I wear the same size shoe so she tried on my sandals and I slipped in her silver platform heels and wobbled around for a minute until she decided "it might be dangerous for your baby."  Clearly I need more practice walking millions of miles in high heeled shoes.  Ju also showed us pictures of her cute little brother and an adorable picture that she and Brandon had taken together at one of the many photo booth/stores located around Seoul.  It has a cartoon design around the border and Brandon has a huge cartoon heart on his chest.  I laughed so hard I almost cried.  It was adorable.  Ju promised we could be facebook friends and I hope we can be sisters-in-law (no pressure, Brandon).

The bus to the airport was uneventful, although my dad was so spastic you would have thought we were running late instead of three hours early.  We managed to get checked in and return our rental cell phone with no major problems.  Our flight was also uneventful.  I slept a little bit, watched a cheesy movie, and avoided eating airplane food that reeked of curry (the "vegetarian" meal).

Once we landed in San Francisco, though, things got crazy.

We were supposed to land at 11:15.  Our flight from San Francisco to St. Louis left at 1pm.  A tight schedule, but do-able.

If we hadn't been in row 41 of the airplane, making us the last off the flight and at the back of the line going through customs.

If customs hadn't taken more than half an hour.

If our luggage had come through right away instead of being nearly the last off the plane.

If our luggage hadn't been short-checked to San Francisco instead of checked to go all the way to St. Louis (possibly our fault, do to a very confusing exchange with the girl at the baggage check in Seoul).

If we hadn't had to run all the way out to the domestic terminal to check-in and check our bags with United.

If we hadn't had to go all the way back through security to get to the domestic gate.

As it was, there was no way we were making that flight.  And United couldn't get us on another flight until 7am the next morning because they were overbooked and lining people up on standby.  But they wouldn't give us a hotel voucher or reroute us through another airline because our ticket was purchased through Asiana airlines so United said we had to talk to Asiana about it.

So we jogged up to the international terminal (dragging our suitcases) to talk to Asiana.  Only we couldn't find their counter.  Where Asiana had been the week before were signs for Jet Blue and Virgin Atlantic.  A Jet Blue worker overheard us trying to figure out what to do and told us Asiana had closed their counter half an hour ago (wtf???).  He sent us to a courtesy phone to call Asiana.

So I talked to a girl on the phone and explained the problem.  She told me that our flight got in at 11:36am.  I agreed.  And our St. Louis flight left at 1pm.  Yes, I knew this.  She then said, "You must allow at least two hours between flights."

I sort of exploded, "You sold me this ticket!  And the flight was supposed to get in at 11:15 but it was late!"  Then she put me on hold for an eternity. When she came back on the line she said, "Are you at the airport?"

I said yes.

She said "Then you need to talk to someone at the counter there."

To which I replied in a tone that was verging on hysterical, "There is no one at counter!  We came here to talk to someone!  The counter is closed!  There is no one here for me to talk to!"

By this time I was shouting loudly enough that everyone in the Jet Blue passenger line turned to stare at me.  It didn't matter.  I had essentially been awake for 22 hours and was beyond shame and common courtesy.

So then she put me on hold for another eternity before finally saying a manager would come talk to us.

The manager was a middle-aged woman who was not very nice.  She totally implied that it was our fault that we missed the flight, like we were dilly-dallying around or something.  We told her that other passengers had also missed their flight because they were in line with us at United.

She wanted to know where they were.

I said, rather nastily, that I didn't know where those people were.  Maybe they got on a United flight.  Maybe they were going standby.  "They are not my problem!" I informed her, "I just need to get a flight home!"

Then she said that a Korean couple on our flight made the St. Louis flight.

I stared at her and felt like my eyes might bug out of my head.

Then I took a deep breath and calmly explained that we were in the last row of the plane and that we had to re-check our bags.

Then David added that we ran through the airport and that his wife was four months pregnant.

Then I said that that she needed to put us on a flight to St. Louis that afternoon.

She seemed to have a little more sympathy then because she told us we could go sit down and wait while she worked something out.  Twenty minutes later, we had a flight to St. Louis for Saturday at noon (through Denver, not non-stop like Friday's flight), and a hotel voucher for somewhere called "Citi Garden."

As we left she said, "We checked and that Korean couple did make the flight."

We turned and walked away without saying anything to her, but I couldn't resist saying loudly to David, "Oh, I'm so relieved to hear that Korean couple made their flight?  Aren't you just thrilled for them?"

I might have been a little bitter.

I was also slightly suspicious of our hotel because it had a recent name change (it had been a "Good Nite" inn and between "Nite" and "Citi" I cannot get excited about the kind of hotels who do creative spelling in their names).  But anyway.  We hopped on a shuttle and got to the hotel.  It looked shitty on the outside but was very nice inside (evidently the result of some very recent renovations).  We dragged ourselves and our luggage up to the front desk, showed them our voucher, and the receptionist told us, "Sorry, we don't have any rooms available."

Just when I thought my head would explode, she added, "Until 3 o'clock."

It was a little after two, so we staggered over to the lobby sofas and I proceeded to fall asleep in the hotel lobby (classy) until the room was ready.  Once the room was open, I washed my face, brushed my teeth, and passed out until dinner time.  We walked over to a Houlihans for dinner, watched the ballgame, and then were asleep again by 10pm.

Only to wake up at 1am.  Wide awake.  We both were.  Wide awake enough to watch all of Father of the Bride, Part II and an episode of Law and Order.  I finally managed to doze off again and we woke up around nine to shower and head to the airport again.

San Francisco's airport is crazy and I had a brief moment of fear that we would actually miss this flight too because the line to check in was so long and the line through security took a million years and then I got freaking patted down because I was wearing a long hippie skirt and obviously could be concealing who-knows-what underneath (besides concealing the fact I wasn't wearing underwear--my efforts not to overpack left me a little breezy for the flight home...).

But we made our flight and a nice lady traded seats with me so I could sit by David and have an aisle seat (to accommodate my need to pee every 20 minutes).  I guzzled water all day and my ankles and feet didn't swell at all, so that was good too.  I made a few phone calls during our layover in Denver, and we got into St. Louis at 9pm. 

The dogs were delighted to see us but I think I was happier to see them.  My bed had never felt so comfortable, although after sleeping on a mat on the floor for a week, the mattress was almost too soft.  May take some adjusting to get used to that!  Our sleep patterns are still jacked up, though.  We were both awake at 3am (that would be 1am San Francisco time, 1pm Seoul time) and hungry.  So we tossed and turned, then finally got up and ate cereal and toast, sorted laundry, and went back to bed around 5:30am.  Got up at 10:30 feeling pretty rough.

I definitely feel more jet-lagged than I did after going to Europe last summer, but I'm scheduling a massage for Tuesday afternoon and not letting myself take naps so I hope that I'll be good as new after a couple more days.  I just hope the laundry will be finished by then...

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