Saturday, August 1, 2009

Just Let Me Go Home!

It was a night of sleeping on and off between a combination of being very tired and the excitement of traveling home. But I finally got off my friends couch at 5:30 am to quickly shower, brush, and put in my contacts. We ate breakfast and then played the waiting game. My friend Amy, who was kind enough to let me stay with her for three nights while I was in Quito, just happened to be going to the beach early in the morning as well, and her boyfriend offered to drive me to the airport. This would be more convenient and save me a couple of bucks along the way too. The only catch is that he’s Ecuadorian, and so sometimes you have to adjust to their schedules.

Last night he said he would pick us up at 6 am, and my flight was at 8:20. This should have been more than enough time, but 6 am came and he called to say he would be 10 minutes late, which really meant around 20 minutes late. So we sat around still, and he finally came to the apartment around 6: 45 am. I was a bit nervous, but Amy had reassured me that she got there an hour and a half before her flight once and was fine. Driving early on a Saturday morning, there was no traffic, and we cruised along to the airport. It was mostly quiet in the car, and I was thinking about a lot of things.

At the airport Amy helped me take my luggage out of the car, we hugged goodbye, and then they drove off as I tried to figure out where to go. I got in the LAN line and twice was asked if I was going to Miami, as the departure time was nearing. Finally they allowed me to cut everyone else and I checked in. Or so I thought. My luggage was taken away but the clerk sat there at the desk with a phone in his hand for a few minutes until I asked if there was a problem. “The flight’s full,” he told me. Well that can’t matter much to me, because I bought this ticket over three months ago, so I’m definitely going on it.

Time was slipping away and I was wondering how this would be resolved. Next to me a girls from Raleigh, North Carolina was having the same problem, but without 11 months of experience in Ecuador. She was getting impatient and seemed on the verge of tears, and another clerk soon took her away to another window. Mine and another clerk tried to convince me to give up my seat, saying tomorrow I could have Business class, I’d stay in a hotel today with all of my food and transportation paid for, and I’d get $170. It was a nice deal, but I told them I didn’t care if it was Business or Economy, I just wanted to get home. I’d been here for 11 months and just wanted to see my family that was waiting for me.

Being here has taught me new levels of patience, and that you can’t just get upset because it’s not what you had planned for. I talked kindly with the clerk and he asked me questions about what I’d been doing. I told him, and where else I’d traveled, and we joked around for a couple of minutes. No sense in getting angry, but if you can get them on your side, you might just stand a chance. And he really did try. We took me to another LAN window and tried to get me onto a flight to Guayaquil, then to New York, then to Boston. But that was also full. Then he tried to get me to Lima to New York to Boston. The problem with that flight was that I’d leave Quito very quickly but have to stay in the airport in Lima until 11:30 pm, then get into New York around 4 am. Not a good choice. The next option, Quito to Bogota to New York, also wasn’t working out. So nothing was looking good.

As frustrating as it was, I wasn’t incredibly surprised, nervous, or down. But in my mindset, I was already out of Ecuador, and I’d already said my goodbyes and made peace in a sort of way. And now I was going to have to stay another day, and I just wasn’t ready for that. I told the clerk that, and he assured me that I could relax in the hotel all day. So with no other options, I had to agree to take their package deal. He helped me carry my luggage to the curb, waited until the hotel bus showed up, and shaking hands as I got in, he told the driver to take care of me. A real trooper, that guy was. Meanwhile, the girl from Raleigh was still at a counter stressing and trying to figure out what to do while behind a line of several other people who’d also been bumped. It was clear they were not from these parts and had no idea how to deal with the people. Outside I could see my flight taking off while I stood on the ground.

So off to the Swissotel, one of the nicest hotels in Quito, we went. Along the way I chatted it up with the driver in my own personal transport. As we checked in I was taken aback by the class and price of this place. I felt like they could tell I didn’t belong here as I insisted on carrying my own luggage, yet they would hear nothing of it. Someone handed me a hot towel and a glass of watermelon juice. I was informed that LAN would pay for my breakfast today and tomorrow, lunch, and dinner tonight. And they would also take me to the airport in the morning, making sure I was there with more than enough time.

Once in the room I could see that I had a regular room, but to me it’s a suite. A king size bed with 6 pillows, satellite TV, a huge bathroom, and a comfy chair. All I wanted today was a crowded airplane and a layover in Miami to get me home to my house just south of Boston. But now I need to kick around town today. But it could be worse I suppose. LAN even took care of my connecting flight for tomorrow in Miami. All I have to do is make use of the hotel pool and gym and maybe take a walk outside for a bit. And I was so close to home! Ecuador just doesn’t want to let me go. Tomorrow I will have to go through the same process again, but hopefully with better results this time through.


Amy Lyon said...

Just for the record, he arrived at 6:45... not 7:45.

Jon said...

woops, my bad. good catch lyon.