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An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2009-04-21 19:17
Subject: [travel] New York, New York
Security: Public
Tags:books, china, food, funny, new york, personal, travel, work
What a day. Flight from Portland to Dallas was simple enough, with a first class upgrade to ease my tired body and mind from jet lag. I also had grabbed a first class seat to New York, but when I arrived in Dallas, I found my flight had been cancelled.

Several phone calls and a failed attempt to standby later, and I was on a flight about four hours behind my original schedule, which was to be here in time for dinner. Problem is, the seat I got assigned was the one by the lavs in the very back, for which I had lost a first class seat, and had no shot at my usual exit row. Meanwhile, emails to my colleague already in Manhattan and to my department admin generate several calls to the hotel to confirm my late arrival.

Then when it's time to board that flight, we're told we're on a ground hold from air traffic control in New York. Because it's a ground hold, they board us anyway, then go hot rodding around the DFW taxiways for 20 minutes or so before grinding to a halt and waiting for the queue to free up. We'd been advised 40-70 minutes, but they made out a little under 40. More emails ensue concerning later arrival, more phone calls made on my behalf.

Sitting next to a flight attendant on the plane deadheading back from my same cancelled flight, she tells me it was cancelled due to traffic issues in New York. The dead hand of the City has already reached out to freeze my soul, I realize.

We finally get to LGA about an hour behind this flight's schedule, which puts me five hours behind my original schedule. All the airport concessions are closed due to the late hour, so I can't even grab a sandwich. Downstairs in baggage, the English skills of the American Airlines baggage agent are so poor that she can't understand what I'm trying to ask about my luggage arriving on an earlier flight. (Think about that, putting someone in that job who can't understand that kind of question.) She kept pointing to a row of suitcases where my luggage wasn't, then told me to wait for this flight's luggage to appear.

It finally does, not on the carousel marked for it. I walk over there, and presto, another row of old luggage, including mine, which has been waiting for me the whole time I've been following the baggage agent's instructions to wait for the luggage from my late flight.

I go out to the taxi stand, which was designed by an optimist who thought perhaps two people would need a taxi from La Guardia at any time. Forty people in line, forty cabs waiting for them, and it still takes fifteen minutes to get a cab because they can't get in to the freaking stand to pick up passengers. Driver doesn't know where my hotel is, I call for information. Hotel welcomes me to New York, tells me to come on over. Off we go into the madness that is the FDR.

On arriving at the hotel, I am told very apologetically that they have no room for me. They are oversold, and had not been notified of my late arrival. To my certain knowledge, they'd been notified at least five times, starting around noon, but none of the phone calls which ended with "no problem" included anyone making a note in my reservation.

I have a fit. (This is rare for me, I am generally very nice to people in the service industry, who are almost never at fault for whatever idiocy is in play, and even if they are, having a fit doesn't help much.) I apologize for my fit. I am given a top floor suite at another hotel four blocks away at a "very discounted rate." I am given $10 for cab fare. I am given a cab.

Mirable dictu, the new place has a room for me. It is a suite on the 36th floor. Once I get in, I discover the bathroom door is locked and will not unlock, necessitating a call to Engineering. I discover there is no wireless, so I can't sprawl in bed with my laptop, but at least the Ethernet works. I discover room service will send up goat cheese ravioli and an apple-pear-avocado salad with blue cheese.

Basically, a one-day trip to New York has turned into far more hassle than a full ten days of roaming around the breadth of China. On the other hand, I have goat cheese ravioli in a very tall suite. And I have been reading this book on the Beguin heresy in fourteenth century Languedoc, because sometimes one ought to read way outside one's habitual zone.

Originally published at jlake.com.

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Karen, aka Ana Lake, ska Aine inghean Cathal
User: summers_place
Date: 2009-04-22 03:32 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Sounds like an interesting book. The rest, annoying as hell, of course.

But, goat cheese ravioli!
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Jim Rittenhouse
User: jrittenhouse
Date: 2009-04-22 04:04 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yeah, details on the Beguine book.
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International Bon Vivant and Raconteur
User: nick_kaufmann
Date: 2009-04-22 03:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yup. Welcome to New York, where we try to make everything as aggravating as possible!
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misofuhni: Panic Button
User: misofuhni
Date: 2009-04-22 04:03 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Panic Button
And Welcome to New York, you (insert expletive of choice)

Yup, that's New York for you. Having tagged along for your ride in China, I too found it strangely odd that all of your very well co-ordinated flights and travels went so smoothly, while here it's nothing but aggravation. Have yourself a nice, warm bath on this rainy night, and call it a day.
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CJ Marsicano (CJマルシカノ)
User: cjmarsicano
Date: 2009-04-22 05:14 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Reminds me of when I had to fly back home to Pennsylvania from Calgary ten years ago. My connecting flight in Toronto was postponed to the next morning because of a really badass thunderstorm. Had to wait in line for two hours for a hotel voucher, then break into where everyone's luggage was to get my bag, then catch the next shuttle to the hotel they gave me, which had to weave through downtown Toronto, post-Carnival.

Complicating that, I had been up since the morning before, because the girl I was seeing in Calgary had the bright idea that we should check out of the hotel room we were sharing a day early and have an all-night club crawl with a couple of friends to kill time since my flight was leaving at 5:30 AM. Like Henry Rollins said once, "Sleep deprivation makes everything neat."
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Brenda Cooper
User: bjcooper
Date: 2009-04-22 05:18 (UTC)
Subject: Quite a challenge
But New York does that anyway right? At least for writers? Grab our souls even from some far distance, dance our dreams awake, start and stop the journey inexplicably, and somehow manage to be both support and nemesis? And even in this New Media age, it'd be tough to be us without New York. Have fun while you're there!

Edited at 2009-04-22 05:19 am (UTC)
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Douglas Cohen
User: douglascohen
Date: 2009-04-22 05:22 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Wow, Jay. I'm really sorry.
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Kate Schaefer
User: kate_schaefer
Date: 2009-04-22 05:23 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Any time I encounter that word, its completely inappropriate soundtrack Beguins to play in my head.

What's the book? The only book about heresy in Languedoc at that time which I have read is Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie's Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error, which is utterly fascinating. I read it thirty years ago, so there must be other works on the subject by now.
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User: manmela
Date: 2009-04-22 07:00 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Interesting hearing how you hate NYC (or NYC hates you) as for me it's my favorite US City. Philadelphia on the other hand...
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User: swan_tower
Date: 2009-04-22 08:21 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You know, this landed in my flist just above a post by Ellen Kushner that seemed very apropos.

You were/are frustrated rather than sad, but your remedy appears to be the same.
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User: austspecfic
Date: 2009-04-22 08:38 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Oh Dude what a day! Hope the food was good at least.
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Anton Strout
User: antonstrout
Date: 2009-04-22 13:14 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The taxi lines at LGA KILL me! If I wasn't always exhausted returning to NY, I'd find them hysterically comical. Glad you made it, eventually!
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Amy Sisson
User: amysisson
Date: 2009-04-22 13:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Ye gods, Jay! Hopefully all the bad travel juju just got its Quota of Jay for, say, the next 20 years.
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User: threeoutside
Date: 2009-04-22 13:34 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You should send this to The Consumerist (http://consumerist.com ).
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Kenneth Mark Hoover
User: kmarkhoover
Date: 2009-04-22 13:51 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Welcome back!
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willyumtx: Sad Keroppi
User: willyumtx
Date: 2009-04-22 18:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Sad Keroppi

Talk about travails. Just one thing after another.

I thought that eventually, you'd get to a good resolution.

"... and then the bathroom door was locked."

Remember, if you can survive in NYC, you can survive anywhere.
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User: lindadee
Date: 2009-04-22 19:00 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"Service" and "New York" is an oxymoron, says someone who grew up there. Ever since I moved to Seattle, any time I have had to deal with someone in New York, "service" has meant "How many roadblocks can I throw in your path before I have to do something for you?" I had hoped things had changed recently, but I see from your post they have not.
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