Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Flying the Thrill-a from Manila

I am reminded of a nightmare of a plane trip myself. It all started the day before I was to leave when I got an email saying that my flight itinerary had changed and to please call Expedia whom I had bought the tickets from. My direct flight from Chicago to Hong Kong had been cancelled and was replaced instead by two flights and a stop in Los Angles. Since it was too late to get new tickets, I was to report to the scheduling desk and they would make the changes there the next day. The next day arrives and they issue me the new tickets for the trip out but said that only in Manila, Philippines (my destination) could my new tickets be issued for the trip back. Okay, good to go and other than four more hours added to my trip time, I made it to Manila without incident.

Now flash forward a couple weeks when I am at the Manila airport heading home. I had a bundle of souvenirs that wouldn't fit in my suitcases so I had wrapped them with a couple rolls of packaging tape and took them with me. Their completely wrapped shape looked like three rifles bundled together but they didn't ask me to do anything other than write my address on them with magic marker since their identification tags couldn't be attached. I gave them to the attendant fully expecting to never see them again but two days later they would be there waiting for me. Besides the souvenirs, I also had a huge head cold that I had picked up during my stay in the Philippines and it was rapidly getting worse. I struggled to concentrate as the lady at the desk said that they couldn't issue all my return tickets as the lady in Moline, Illinois (where I had started my trip) had told me. But they would issue me the first ticket to Hong Kong. Once again, good to go.

I got on my plane and doped myself up with cold medicines and Dramamine. A typhoon was currently lashing Manila bay so I dozed in and out of consciousness as we sat on the tarmac waiting for a lull in the storm to take off. The winds tapered down to a relatively calm 80 mph and suddenly the plane started up and lurched off the runway in the space of about two minutes. That is the fastest I think I have ever gone from loading dock to air! The airplane lurched and bounced like a children's toy boat in an ocean in the turbulence as we flew over the typhoon. At least five people in the immediate vicinity of my threw up and I would have joined them if it hadn't been for the Dramamine. But that didn't stop me from getting really green in the gills.
Down in Hong Kong, I now raced to try and make my connection. The air pressure changes had packed my head full of snot and I couldn't breath or hear plus I was starting to get chills and my forehead was sweating. The ticket lady there wouldn't issue me a ticket and it was after an hour of wrangling that I was finally able to get through the language barrier and explain the situation. They gave me the same speech, we can only issue you the ticket to Los Angles and they will issue you the rest. Yeah, yeah, yeah, good to go again.

Now running through the airport, head feeling like it was going to explode, a fever setting in, I come to a checkpoint where they are taking everyone's temperatures. SARS was still a big issue at the time in Hong Kong and everyone was wearing surgical masks and I had been warned before my trip that anyone with a high fever would be quarantined until tests could be run to see if they had SARS. Just my luck, I was going to get this far and end up being quarantined with a bunch of people who probably did have SARS and I would never see the United States again. I wiped all the sweat off my forehead, dried my watering eyes and fanned my forehead with my boarding pass as I waited for my turn. They placed the thermometer on my forehead and he paused to frown at the thermometer as I held my breath. He finally nodded and turned his attention to the next person in line. I took the nod as an OK and ran off down the hall. I made the plane just as they were shutting the gate doors behind me and crashed into my seat. Nothing stopping me now!

The typhoon that had been lashing Manila bay on the way north was now approaching Hong Kong and our route to Los Angles went right over it for a second time and again I was tossed around like a ping pong ball in a bingo cage. I redosed myself with cold medicines and Dramamine though according to the directions I needed to wait another four hours. I immediately passed out only to waken some fourteen hours later on the decent into LAX. Finally I really did get tickets issued for the rest of the trip and a short wait and another flight later, I was now in Chicago and feeling like the walking dead. Unfortunately, when they rescheduled all my tickets the day before I had left, my short layover in Chicago turned into an overnighter before my last flight to Moline left first thing in the morning. I had eight hours to kill but because I would have to check out and then check back in, I figured that I would only get about four hours of sleep if I left the premises for a motel so I decided to camp out in the terminal.

I fastened all my luggage to my body and found a bench down a deserted concourse where I attempted to sleep. But the constant announcements to keep track of all my luggage every thirty minutes, floor waxes, sweepers, janitors, cleaners walking by made sleep impossible despite my zombie like state. After three hours of tossing and turning, I grabbed my bags and walked the interior perimeter of the airport killing two hours. So I did it again killing another two hours. Finally the food shops started opening up and I sat down for a quick meal all the while the waitress stared at me as if I was on drugs...... the illegal kind. I guess a sniffling man, sweating bullets in a cold restaurant and in desperate need of a shave and clean clothes automatically signifies drugs. My plane came, I made it home with my bundle of rifles looking package of souvenirs and fell into bed and remained there for the next two days. Never was I so glad to be home.

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