Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

April 28, 2013

HOPKINS: A couple of horror travel stories

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — My wife Colleen and I are entertaining guests from out of town this weekend. Yesterday we brought them to Lockport to take a look around.

During the course of their visit, we talked about some travel experiences — bad travel experiences — we’ve had over the years. These stories made us laugh but one thing we kept saying: It wasn’t funny at the time.

The following is a lightly-edited column I wrote in June 2009. It includes a couple of these stories... including one involving an airline for which we will never — ever — have a kind word to say:

I’ve had a rash of bad vacations or road trips recently. They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. If so, then I’ll soon be invincible whenever I leave Western New York.

Take last weekend, for starters. A group of us went to Cleveland to see the Yankees play the Indians, and we were including a visit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Trying to save a few dollars, we planned to use a AAA discount for the rock hall. The catch was, we had to visit a AAA site in northeast Ohio to get the discount. I contacted the office in Mentor and a woman there gave me directions. It was five minutes off I-90, she told me. Unbeknown to me, my wife Colleen also got directions off the Internet.

We decided to use the Internet directions, and off we went, the women leading the way and the guys in a second car. The women had the directions to the AAA office. We turned off Interstate 90 at the correct spot, but I watched the women zip by a turn-off I remembered from the phone directions.

A few miles farther north on Ohio-44, we finally turned off. We called the girls, and were assured this was on the directions they obtained from the Net. As we continued on our trek to seemingly nowhere, my friend Chris tried the GPS device on his cell phone.

“Make the next legal U-turn ahead,” said the even-toned female voice on the GPS system. I laughed to myself.

“This is what happens when you give directions to women,” said my other friend Jon. He loves a good stereotype joke.

The directions my wife had obtained from the Net were wrong. In the mean time, they called AAA and were also given wrong directions, which is where the “legal U-turn” came in. We finally got to AAA, about 30 minutes after we turned off the 90, got our discounted tickets, and were on our way.

That was minor compared to the next one.

Colleen, her brother and I went to New York City in February 2007 for his 40th birthday. The trip was a nightmare.

It was right after a nasty ice storm in New York, and we landed at JFK without any trouble, but our luggage was nowhere to be found. The airline representative told us some of the luggage couldn’t be reached because there was ice on the tarmac on the other side of the plane. “Bull,” I thought.

The luggage arrived 90 minutes later. I’m guessing the workers went on their lunch break, or the luggage missed the flight and arrived on the next flight from Buffalo.

We hopped on the air tram, a train that connects the airport to the Long Island Railroad. The tram broke down. My friend Jon was waiting for us at Penn Station. We finally arrived about two hours late.

That was Friday. On Sunday, we were in midtown Manhattan when my cell phone rang. A recorded message cheerfully told us our flight was canceled and we would be placed on a flight Monday morning. We had to report to the airline’s ticket counter for details.

No word on when the flight would take place. No word on why the flight was canceled. Worse yet, no word about how we would spend the night in New York, and we had already checked out of our room.

At the airline counter, we were told that our plane to Buffalo had not arrived. It was still in a southern city that I cannot remember. We were further told that because our flight was considered a connection from the southern city, the airline was not required to put us up in a hotel.

Lots of stuff hit the fan then, I can tell you.

In the end, the squeaky wheel got the grease, because we not only were put up in a hotel, but were given free meal vouchers at the hotel to boot. We went to the hotel and got to sleep around 1 a.m., but had to be up at 4 to make our 7 a.m. flight.

We missed the first shuttle to the airport by two minutes. When we arrived at the airline’s ticket counters, the self check-in feature wasn’t working. We went to curbside check-in, and got in line. There were six people ahead of us. When it was our turn, all of the computers went down.

By this point, the line for the regular ticket counters was easily 50 people deep, and we had an hour to make our flight.

We politely asked an airline representative what we could do to make sure we don’t miss our flight.

“You can get up at 4 a.m. like most of the people did,” the man said.

My response?

“We did get up at 4 a.m. but your computers went down, and we wouldn’t be here in the first place if your airline didn’t &@$%# us yesterday.”

Apparently this New York City native had never heard “&@$%# “ before, because he advised me if my attitude didn’t change, I wouldn’t get on any flight. In other words, he could be a jerk, but I could not.

We made it on our flight, but back in Buffalo there was no luggage. The woman at baggage claim said the workers in New York probably didn’t bother loading the bags. She could call them but most times, she said, when the airline’s baggage area at JFK hears that Buffalo is on on the phone, “they hang up.”

The luggage arrived two days later.

I can guarantee you this: we will NEVER fly Delta again.