Home for the holidays
The last few days in Trinidad have been hot, humid and hectic. We hauled Nine of Cups, finished all of our chores with much sweat and energy expended, got Cups all set for her respite at Power Boats, then packed and got ourselves ready for our trip home to Boston. We had an economy Jet Blue flight that departed Port of Spain at 0349. Yes, it was a cheap flight and the uncivil departure time confirmed it. The road trip from Chaguaramas to Piero Airport is about an hour and the taxi driver insisted that he pick us up at midnight to insure we were there in plenty of time.
Check-in was a breeze, other than we were singled out for a random luggage check. No big deal. We headed to the gate and heard the first announcement that our flight departure would be delayed 45 minutes for an equipment change (read that something was wrong with the scheduled plane and they had to find a replacement). Well, the 45 minutes stretched to nearly two hours and we finally boarded the flight at 0540. At least, we were on our way.
Now there's economy and then there's “economy”. Jet Blue takes economy to a whole new level. Would you like a pillow or blanket? No problem … $5/each! The movies on international flights are free … great! Want a headset? $5, please! We declined all offers until about 4 hours into the 6 hour flight when they offered complimentary OJ, coffee/tea and light snacks. The OJ cart came first and we indulged. Then came the coffee/tea lady.
“I'll have tea with milk, please”, I requested politely. David asked for coffee.
“Oh, sorry, you already had OJ...you can't have a hot beverage, too” and the attendant passed us by. Really? Then came the snacks … 0730 and they were offering Doritos and pretzels. Give me a break! What happened to granola bars or something more appropriate to the time of day? We declined, asking if we could possibly substitute tea and coffee for the snacks. With a bit of snippy reluctance, we finally got our coffee and tea.
We finally arrived at the gate at JFK Airport, NYC with an hour to clear Immigration/Customs and get onto our domestic flight to Boston. All things are possible … if you hustle. Enter a few more “delay gods”. The fast, efficient check-in machines at Immigration should expedite the process. You answer a few questions on the screen, slide in your passport, get your picture taken and a receipt pops out of the machine and you're good to go. Except David's receipt got jammed in the machine and no one could get it out, so he had to go through the process again at another machine which generated a duplicate check-in into the system, which put a big black X on the new receipt and put us in a very slow line for a face-to-face with an Immigration agent. The official was fast and efficient once we got to the head of the line, but the minutes were ticking away.
Next, we needed to collect our baggage for Customs inspection. Well, the delay in Immigration turned out to be a non-issue because when we got to Baggage Claim, not a single bag had come down the shoot yet. We waited and waited and finally a signal sounded, lights went off and the luggage started arriving. Well, other people's luggage started arriving … ours were the very last two pieces to come down the shoot. What luck!
We joined the tail end of the Customs line. It moved quickly, but the minutes were ticking quickly, too. We had that frustrated, out-of-control feeling in the pits of our stomachs. Luckily, no problems with Customs, but we needed to recheck our bags with Jet Blue for Boston. We found the recheck counter, but they were backed up and couldn't accommodate us. We were instructed to lug all the bags up the escalator to the bag check level and check them there. With persistence and a bit of persnickety-ness, we convinced the Jet Blue agent at the baggage check counter to expedite our bag check-in. She wasn't happy, but she conceded. We offloaded the luggage and literally ran down the terminal to Security.
We had a TSA pre-check validation on our boarding passes which allowed us to get expedited processing through Security. Hooray … almost there and we'd make it with at least 2-3 minutes to spare. Except … as our carry-on luggage went through x-ray, it was flagged for a manual check. They did a quick explosive-residue check and the alarms went off! David claimed the suitcase and while one agent unpacked our suitcase, inspecting one item at a time, David underwent a very thorough pat down. He hasn't been that thoroughly probed since the last time he was asked to bend over and cough. They put several items back through the xray scan and did another explosive residue check after calibrating their machine. We passed with flying colors, but the delay was just too much.
We repacked, gathered our belongings and David dressed on the fly as we ran to our gate … the last one, of course. The plane was still there, but the doors were closed. An agent called the plane, but no dice. We missed the flight. “Just go to Customer Service and they'll rebook you.” Grrrrr!
We joined the line at Customer Service where the affable agent was able to confirm us on the next flight to Boston. Hooray! That was the good news! The bad news? The flight was delayed due to weather. “Where was our luggage?” we inquired. Well, no one was quite sure if it made it on the flight we missed or if it would go on the flight with us or perhaps another flight, but they were sure it would show up eventually. Very comforting to know.
We hadn't eaten since last night's sandwiches in Trinidad, but nothing seemed appealing … $12 plastic-wrapped sandwiches just didn't cut it. We were getting grumpy now, despite the familiar Christmas carols playing background to the constant flight announcements. So close … yet so far.
Another flight announcement confirmed a further delay. The gate agent explained that the plane that would take us TO Boston was coming FROM Boston and it hadn't left the ground in Boston yet. We were emailing back and forth with Lin who was picking us up in Boston. It was overcast there, but no bad weather at the moment. Another interminable wait, but the plane finally arrived. We boarded and in 45 minutes we were in Boston. Our luggage was not at baggage claim, but miracle of miracles … it had made the previous flight and was waiting at the Jet Blue Customer Service office.
We headed out to the curb to the designated pick-up spot, but no Lin. It was cool, but definitely not the freezing weather we had anticipated. Our USA cell phone which we'd just charged before leaving Trinidad was dead as a doornail. I convinced a pleasant lady to make a call to my sister for us. Though Lin left an hour early, she was caught up in traffic. A 20-minute ride was taking 90 minutes. We waited and waited and finally spotted her. All the trials and tribulations of travel disappeared in the wonderful mix of hugs and kisses and hellos.
We're home for the holidays!