Saturday, July 13, 2013
Minnesota Meets New York City - Part 1
"WHAT?!" I screamed loudly as I opened the e-mail from United Airlines with the subject line: Flight cancellation.
As of 8:55 a.m. on July 10, your United flight from Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN to New York/Newark, NJ on July 10 is canceled.
"Shut UP!" I yelled as I tried to understand exactly what was happening. I looked at the other e-mails waiting to be read and I saw one from Lily, "Today is finally here!" Without thinking, I e-mailed her back, "I just got an e-mail that your flight was canceled! Calling Tara now." I grabbed the phone and dialed Tara's cell number. As soon as the cheery voice greeted me on the other end of the line, I blurted out, "Lily and Jason's flight was canceled for no reason and I just got another e-mail telling me they rebooked them on a flight tomorrow morning, but that will be too late! What are we gonna do?" Tara tried to remain calm, "What?" she began before changing her tone and immediately started to problem-solve. "Ok, here's what needs to happen. One of our carriers just delivered twins so I'm waiting for the hospital to call me back. You need to call United and tell them that Lily is a patient and it is a medical necessity for her to get to New Jersey tonight. See if they can get her on another flight. Have them check their partner airlines, too. If they can't help, I'll look into other options when I'm off my call. Just relax! They'll get there."
I hung up the phone and tried to chill out a little bit, but I knew there were a lot of restrictions on our timing. It was about 9:30 AM, at this point, which meant it was 8:30 AM in MN. Lily needed to work a half-day which is why we originally booked the last flight out of MN at 7:30 PM. Because they live two hours from the airport, anything earlier really wouldn't give them enough time to arrive at the terminal, check in, go through security and get to the gate before the boarding process began. But, before calling United, I had to ask Lily, "Are you able to leave earlier in the day?" She responded right away, "I'm not sure how it would all work out." I totally understood. We weren't only dealing with Lily and Jason's work schedules, we also had to consider a sitter for their kids and their ride to the airport. This random flight cancelation had about 10 people scrambling just for our party alone!
I took a breath and called United. As I punched in the confirmation number and told the automated system I needed to speak with a live person, I begged myself not to scream at the poor agent who would be unlucky enough to answer my call. "Thank you for calling United Airlines, how may I help you?" BREATHE! "Hi, I have a problem." What did Tara tell me to say again? "Um, I have...no...I mean...A flight was canceled tonight for no reason and I have patients on that flight who need to be in New Jersey tonight for medical testing first thing tomorrow morning!" Gotta love verbal diarrhea. "Ok, let me see what I can do." I heard the clicking of fingers on a keyboard and then, "I can put them on the four o'nine P.M. flight. Does that work?" I have no idea. "Umm, it might, but I'm not sure. They live two hours from the airport. Do you have a partner airline you can check for something later?" I e-mailed Lily as I waited, "Can you leave at 4:09?" The agent came back to the line, "I can put you on a Delta flight at five twenty-two to Laguardia." Ugh! Laguardia SUCKS! I was still waiting for Lily's reply and I needed to make a decision, "If I put them on the four o'nine and they can't do it, can I change them again without penalty?" After assuring me that would be ok, I confirmed the 4:09 flight and e-mailed Lily to let her know. "I'm not sure we'll make it to Minneapolis on time. Hopefully we can get it to work out. I see that American Airlines has a 2:10 flight out of Rochester, MN." Since Rochester is only a half an hour from their house, it seemed like a better option than rushing them around to get out of Minneapolis. I checked the website, found the flight, went to book it and almost had a heart attack when I saw the price was almost $1000 per ticket.
E-mail from Tara, "What's going on? Is everything set?" I explained the options to Tara, who immediately called Lily and got back to me. "They're confirmed for the 4:09 out of Minneapolis. It'll be a little bit tight, but they should make it."
I was able to breathe again. I looked at the clock and realized it was only 10:00 AM. I never have that much drama before noon! Now that everything was back on track I was finally able to start my day. Things were just peachy for almost a whole two hours!
From: United Airlines. Subject: Flight cancelation. Body: As of 11:55 a.m. on July 10, your United flight from Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN to New York/Newark, NJ on July 10 is canceled.
NO WAY! Wait! I know what happened. All of these automated systems make mistakes, right? They probably just sent the cancelation notice from the original flight again. Yeah, I'm sure that's what happened. Right?
I typed "United.com" into my browser and signed in to my account. I looked at my confirmed reservations and didn't see anything for July 10th. But I did see one for the next day, July 11th, at 11:30 AM. "Are you KIDDING me?!" I screamed loudly enough to startle Jimmi, who was in another room. "What happened?" He asked as he walked into the kitchen where I was yelling at my computer screen. "They canceled their flight AGAIN!" He looked as confused as I was. "Why?" he asked innocently. "I DON'T KNOW!"
I called Tara again but it went right to voicemail. I e-mailed Lily, "Don't leave. Your flight was canceled again." I called Tara again with no answer so I e-mailed her. "Their flight was canceled again! I don't know what to do!" She wrote me back and apologized but she was on a conference call and wouldn't be able to help for another hour, but I should look into all options and she'll help as soon as she is off the call.
I called my mom. "Their flight was canceled AGAIN! Why does this keep happening? They need to get here tonight!" "Relax," my mom instructed. "They'll get here." I wasn't so sure. I called United again, but this time I was a little less calm. I used the same medical necessity speech as I had before and explained that this was the second time the flight had been canceled for no reason. "It's showing weather in Newark," she explained. I looked out the window at the blue sky and bright, yellow sun and shrieked, "What weather? I'm forty minutes from Newark and there's nothing going on!" She curtly replied, "You're not thirty-thousand feet in the air." Fair enough, Lady. Fair enough. "I have a three o'clock flight I can put them on but it connects in Chicago." They're not gonna make that. "Is there anything later? Anything into New York City or Philadelphia?" I was desperate. Laguardia seemed like a terrible option after the first canceled flight, but at this point, anything in the general vicinity would have beed a suitable option.
While I waited I texted Lily:
"Any chance you can make a 3:00 flight?"
"But in Rochester or the cities?"
"In Rochester or Minneapolis?"
Why isn't she getting this? Oh, I'm a moron. I'm abbreviating Minneapolis as MN, which is the abbreviation for Minnesota. They're BOTH in Minnesota!
"I don't think we'll be able to make that one."
The agent started speaking again, "There are two seats left on a four o'clock into Philadelphia and two seats left on a five o'clock into New York City." WHAT SHOULD I DO?! "If I book them on the three o'clock into Newark and they don't make it, will they be able to get on one of the other flights?" She was very nice, "It depends on availability, but there are enough options that they should be able to get something."
I confirmed the 3:00 flight into Newark and texted Lily, "You're confirmed on the 3:00 but there are options if you miss it. When you get there tell everyone you're late and haul ass to the gate!" I didn't get a reply so I assumed they were rushing around getting everything together. I looked at the time. It was 1:20 PM. 12:20 PM in Minnesota. If it takes them two hours to get to the airport they'll be there at 2:20 for a 3:00 flight. That doesn't leave any time for traffic or check-in or security lines.
They're not gonna make it.
It was from Tara. "I finished my conference call and I'm here to help. What can I do?" I explained the situation to her and told her I was sure Lily and Jason would never make it. I didn't even know if they'd left for the airport yet. A few minutes later Tara wrote again telling me she'd just spoken to Lily and they were, in fact, on their way. She explained to Lily that the midwestern politeness would have to be thrown out the window as soon as they arrived at the airport because they'd need to push to the front of all the lines and explain that they were late and needed to get to their flight for medical reasons. In the meantime, Tara was planning to check out options into Newark on other airlines just in case they didn't make it. "Positive energy! Positive energy!" was her mantra as she tried to talk me off the ledge.
I found things to occupy my brain as much as I could for the next hour and a half until, finally, I heard from Tara. "They just got to the airport," she wrote at 2:56 PM. Since it was only 1:56 in Minnesota, I was relieved that Lily and Jason still had at least a half an hour to get to their gate before the boarding process began. That was a good start. Twenty minutes later I got another e-mail from Tara, "They're at the gate!" I think we all let out a collective sigh at that point and I texted Lily, "We'll be waiting for you with lots of alcohol."
And then they were on their way.
Jimmi and I arrived at the airport twenty minutes before their flight was scheduled to arrive. I was surprised that I wasn't nervous at all. We waited at the bottom of the escalator that leads into baggage claim from the main terminal and as the moving stairs lowered the people into view, I watched as feet became legs became bodies became faces. Nope, not them. Nope, not them either. My phone vibrated. "You here?" Lily asked. I looked around and didn't see anyone who looked even a little bit like their pictures. "Yes. Bottom of the escalator," I replied. "Near carousel 6." "Coming over now," she answered. I looked at Jimmi, "I guess we're at the wrong escalator." I turned around and scanned the melting pot of people walking through the baggage claim area. Not one blonde, blue-eyed couple crossed our path. Where are they? And then I saw them! I saw the couple who had just rearranged their entire day about thirty times to make it to New Jersey tonight so Jimmi and my baby plans could continue on schedule. "You're here!" I squealed as I hugged Jason and Jimmi hugged Lily and then vice versa.
We walked to my car chatting casually about the flights and all of the drama from the day. They were so easy to talk to and nothing seemed forced or uneasy. Since Lily hadn't eaten since breakfast we decided to introduce the couple to a traditional New Jersey diner on the way to their hotel. "You need to try Taylor Ham," I insisted and described the pork product that is only found in my home state. Twenty minutes later my GPS brought us to a diner I'd never been to before but was recommended by my brother. The smell of fish greeted us as we opened the door and I was tempted to turn and walk out. Unsure of another restaurant on the way to the hotel that would be open at 10:00 PM, we had no choice but to stay and hope for the best. We placed our orders, with a side of Taylor Ham, then continued our conversation about kids and sports and anything else that came to mind. I couldn't believe how easy it was. The expected awkwardness of a first-time meeting with two couples who'd never laid eyes on each other was missing completely and it was as if we were old friends getting together and catching up on our lives. We ate and talked and joked and laughed and never had a break where there was nothing to say.
After the bill was paid we got back into the car and headed to the hotel. We had to be up very early the next day for our all-day extravaganza at the fertility clinic. "See you at about seven forty-five," I said to Lily after we'd made sure they were checked in and settled. More hugs were exchanged then Jimmi and I walked back out and started the 30 minute drive home. I couldn't stop smiling as I thought of how well this first night had gone. Just a few hours with this amazing couple and I was absolutely sure they were the right ones to take care of our tiny bundle for the first nine months of her little life. I knew they willing to do this for all the right reasons. I knew there was a reason I had to weed out all the trash Agency A had sent us. The timing had to be right to lead us to Lily and Jason and I was so glad we'd found them!
I went to bed that night with a stomach full of pancakes and a heart full of hope.
But the next morning I had an entirely different feeling...