Thursday, October 9, 2008

Baby come back

Ken and Mother of Ken have returned safely from Spain, although the trip home was not without difficulty. Arriving at the airport in Madrid in plenty of time for our 4:30 flight, we ended up in line next to two Spanish women who were trying to check at least four large bags. Correction—four ginormous bags. Neither of us had ever seen luggage this large before. Each of the suitcases was roughly the size of a small dining table and the weight of the empty bag alone probably came close to the allowed weight. Full of clothing and books, they were well over weight and the customer service people were trying to convince them to either take the books out or take them to the cargo counter. If they insisted on checking them, each bag was going to cost them 50 Euros more. When we left, they were still deciding what to do.

After walking several miles, we reached our terminal and about an hour later, went to get something to eat. As we approached the food area, Ken noticed that the monitors said our flight was delayed until 10:00 and that we were supposed to report to the customer service counter for more information. So, we walked back to get in the long line at customer service and we waited and waited and waited. An hour and a half later, we finally got to the front of the line, spoke with the customer service person, and were in the process of getting a different flight. During the hour and a half we were in line, the same two women were at the front of the line trying to resolve their issue (we later found out they had been there for three hours) and another woman was in line behind them, so we were third in line and still had to wait an hour and a half for service. As we all waited, the customer service people would stop helping customers to talk and laugh and then a disgusting greasy haired man came in and started groping and kissing the agent who was helping the people in our line. Completely unprofessional.

In the end, they were able to change our flight to one that flew from Madrid to JFK and then they got us another flight from JFK to Dulles. This one left at 5:00, so we would still get in at a reasonable time. They assured us that they were also going to notify the baggage people about the change so that our luggage would travel with us. We ate a quick lunch at one of the airport restaurants, settling on the pizza that looked like the least disgusting thing there, which isn’t saying much:

They didn’t start boarding the flight until about 4:40, so we knew that we weren’t going to be leaving on time. We finally left around 5:30. Mother of Ken ended up sitting next to a man who had some sort of disease that made him cough and be cold. He used his airline blanket to muffle his coughing—yet another reason to leave those things in the overhead bin. He continually pleaded with the flight attendants to turn down the air conditioning, at one point even beseeching them with folded hands. Obviously he had no idea that Mother of Ken is at a point in her life when there is no such thing as too much air conditioning. Finally the flight attendants reseated him in a warmer part of the plane. Mother of Ken thought she was rid of him for good but when they started serving the “snack”, he reappeared.

A word or two about the food on Iberia Airlines: AWFUL and DISGUSTING! The snack that we got on the way to JFK consisted of a couple of hunks of what appeared to be chicken, a wedge of what appeared to be cheese, a hard roll, a piece of spice cake, and something that looked like…OLIVE LOAF! Only there weren’t just olives in there but other things floating around. Mother of Ken’s seatmate to her right mentioned that “it was too scary to eat.” The meats and cheese were on a lovely bed of garbanzo beans.

We aren’t even sure what time we arrived at JFK, but it must have been around 8:30 or so. We went through customs and stood at the baggage claim forever waiting for Mother of Ken’s bags. Ken’s bags came through with no problem, but Mother of Ken’s luggage was nowhere in sight. We trudged to the Iberia baggage office to file a claim and then went upstairs to the United counter to get the boarding passes for our flight to Dulles. When we arrived, there was not a single United employee to be found, but shortly thereafter, we caught one of them getting ready to leave for the evening. She graciously checked us in (with the help of the cleaning lady!) and took Ken's luggage and we were on our way to security. At the security counter, we were told that we had been flagged for additional screening. At this point, we had about half an hour before our flight was supposed to leave, so we were a little worried about how long it would take. Mother of Ken almost got into a fracas with one of the TSA workers who started hollering about whose bags were still on the conveyor belt. At that point, Mother of Ken was contained in a glass box, like a phone booth, waiting for someone to come and do the “additional screening”. Throwing caution to the wind, Mother of Ken screamed, “They’re mine!” Then the TSA worker said, “I was pointing at you.” Mother of Ken replied, “It looked like you were pointing at that girl who gets to go through the security check unmolested.” We think the TSA worker then realized that it was probably not a good idea to mess with Mother of Ken at that time. Thankfully, everything went quickly and we arrived at the gate with about fifteen minutes to spare.

A United employee came over to us and told us that it was time to board our plane—there was no one else in the waiting area at the time. Just then, four people walked up and said that they were on our flight, so we were taken down some stairs and out onto the tarmac to a small commuter plane. Since there were only six of us on the flight, it didn’t take long to get everyone on the plane and we were able to take off on time.

Upon our arrival at Dulles, we got Ken's luggage and called the shuttle to take us to our hotel. Poor Mother of Ken didn’t have anything, so she purchased a few things at the airport and borrowed from Ken to tide her over until the next day. Along the way, Ken was attacked by some kind of allergy, so she spent a miserable night with a runny nose and a sore throat and did not get much sleep. When we got up in the morning, we took a cab to a nearby mall so that Mother of Ken could get some clean clothes to wear for her trip back to Kansas later that day. Yes, within twelve hours of returning to the United States, Ken and Mother of Ken were at a mall—we only wish it had been under better circumstances. As she left for the airport, Mother of Ken’s luggage consisted of these two bags, the polka dot one borrowed from Ken:

Mother of Ken arrived safely in Kansas, but spent the next several days on the phone with employees of Iberia Airlines, United, and American Airlines trying to track down her luggage. She received a different answer to this question every time, but we are happy to report that her luggage made a surprise appearance on the front porch this morning, courtesy of Federal Express. Mother of Ken could write an entire blog about her experience with the customer service representatives of Iberia Airlines. Suffice it to say, Mother of Ken considers the term “customer service representative of Iberia Airlines” an oxymoron.

Ken, on the other hand, spent the weekend with friends in Maryland where she was also reunited with McKenna. Here we are seconds after Ken arrived:

And a little later:

McKenna was very happy to see her mom again and hasn’t let Ken out of her sight for too long since Saturday. Before the big reunion, Ken and McKenna's Aunt Leah ate lunch at Chantilly, Virginia's answer to Babu's Dream Cafe (Seinfeld reference). They went to The King's Bite, which was recommended by Ken and Mother of Ken's cab driver:

Saturday night, Ken saw Mamma Mia for the fifth time (this time at the cheap theater) and went to bed early. Sunday, Ken went with some friends to see Michael Cavanaugh sing with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, which was lots of fun. For details about the concert, see this blog. After the concert, we ate at the Cheesecake Factory in Columbia (my GPS pronounces this "cheeesaacake") and had to sit through dinner with a bowl of salmonella:

On Monday morning, Ken and McKenna loaded the car and set out for New York. The trip back was uneventful except that McKenna puked in the car. She has never done this before and she was extremely embarrassed, but sometimes these things happen. Since we got home on Monday afternoon, we have been busy doing laundry and cleaning. Well, Ken has been doing laundry and cleaning. McKenna has been sleeping in her bed:

It’s good to be home, but Ken wishes she had someone to come ahead of time and clean the house and stock the refrigerator. Also, Ken had to deal with this giant pile of mail, made worse because she is currently receiving at least ten magazine subscriptions for free:

Before Ken returns to her regular blogging, a few words of thanks are in order. First, thanks to all of you loyal blog readers who made comments both on the blog and in e-mail messages while we were gone—we loved hearing from all of you. Neither of us would have been comfortable being out of the country for a month if we hadn’t known that people were taking care of things at home. So, thanks to Father of Ken for keeping things in order in Kansas and to Emily and Aaron for keeping an eye on the house in New York. Thanks especially to McKenna’s Aunt Leah for taking her in for a month (and to all of the people who helped her—Aunts Tricia, Kathy, and Mrs. G among others). McKenna enjoyed staying in Maryland and her mother felt better knowing that she was being taken care of by such capable and loving aunts. Finally, a big thank you from Ken to Mother of Ken for all of her support during the past month—cooking, cleaning, note taking, joking, laughing, encouraging, consoling, and blogging. This trip would not have been successful without you.

1 comment:

Leah said...

There is nothing wrong with visiting a mall as soon as you set foot off a plane. Absolutely nothing. :-)
Welcome back! Tell McKenna I miss her. I dropped more food on the floor that I had to pick up myself yesterday.