This week has not been a good one.
We suffered through several days of cold rain. My feet got so cold at night they ached like crazy, despite putting two blankets on the bed and wearing socks to sleep.
And then I had problems with the guest house. I won’t go into details here — I’ve embarrassed the poor owner enough for one week — but there were a few problems that quickly escalated out of control. They put me up in another place Friday night and then I suffered greatly there.
And while work has gone very well, I’ve been putting in way too many hours. So I’m exhausted and ready for a break. Lucky for me that today was the day I was to leave for a three-week Christmas break.
Or, rather I was supposed to leave.
My plane was scheduled for an 8:15 p.m. departure. My plan was to come here to O.R. Tambo Airport around lunchtime, check my bags, pick up a boarding pass and then spend the rest of the afternoon straining as much beer as I can through my liver and kidneys.
I was scheduled to fly British Airways from here to London’s Heathrow airport. From there I was to fly American Airlines to Dallas. And from there, I was to fly home to Norfolk:
Yeah, well. Ain’t gonna happen.
You’re aware, of course, of what’s going on in England this weekend. If not, check out the headlines on the front of today’s papers:
Remember that scene from the very beginning of the stop-motion holiday special Santa Claus is Coming to Town? The one with all the spinning newspapers?
Yeah. This is that story.
UPDATE: And it wasn’t just Saturday. The weather there was pretty tough, today, too.
From the Telegraph:
There were claims of â€œchaosâ€ inside terminals as travellers whose flights were canceled were told to go home and file lost baggage reports rather than wait for their luggage to be returned from planes.
The bulk of the delays occurred at Terminal 5, which is used predominantly by British Airways.
That’s the terminal through which I traveled in November.
From DNA India:
Indian private carrier Jet Airways today said closure of London’s Heathrow Airport due to heavy snow has resulted in the diversion of two flights to Brussels.
And from CNN’s online international edition:
Lisa Suarez’s voice breaks as she stands in the snow outside London’s Heathrow airport, unable to get a flight home to Dallas, Texas.
“It’s very hard,” she says. “All I want for Christmas is to hug my daughter.”
Right. I know the damn feeling.
So many flights were canceled Saturday — and so many travelers were put up for the night by British Airways — that the airline decided to cancel our flight tonight and devote it entirely to ferrying people who missed their flights yesterday. Or, at least, that’s what I was told at the British Airways customer service booth this afternoon.
Where I stood in line for nearly two hours. When it became my turn, they gave me that news and they asked me to get out of line.
But, wait. Won’t you help me get rebooked onto a later flight?
Nope. There are no other flights today. They can try to book me onto Monday’s flight. But I’ll have to call the customer service line for help with that.
So they can’t book me a flight at a window marked “Ticket counter.” Right.
Oh, but the woman tells me, they will put me up for the night. At a local hotel. Well, that’s good news. How does that work?
Sorry. Can’t help you. You’ll have to call the phone number.
It wasn’t until I walked off that it occurred to me that I hadn’t asked: What phone number?
So if you’ve ever wondered how a “top-notch” airline like British Airways treats its business class passengers: Now you know.
Luckily, I have a hugely supportive team here in South Africa. Which consists of Richard Phillips, project manager extraordinaire and a man who apparently never sleeps or takes a day off.
I got a little worried when he texted me (edited for spelling and clarity):
British Airways can only fly you to London on Tuesday, their first guaranteed flight to London. American Airlines can only fly you home on Friday. Which means you’ll only get home on the 25th, Christmas Day. I am searching for flights on other airlines. Will keep you posted. Richard.
So I parked myself at Wimpy (promotional slogan: World’s Most Disgusting Hamburgers) here in the airport food court, ordered lunch and bought a couple of hours of internet access.
Deciding I had subjected my Facebook followers to too much misery this week, I decided to vent instead to my Twitter followers:
And then I got that message from Richard. My self-pity deepened:
And then I began to get emotional. Again:
And then I got sarcastic:
Which is when fate then stepped in to bitch-slap me back into reality:
OK, lesson learned.
So, what’s next? I have no idea. Richard now tells me he found a flight that leaves tomorrow (Monday). He’s setting me up with a hotel room and another rental car.
He did happen to mention that the editor who hired me had to sign off on the airline ticket. Which tells me there is probably additional expense involved for my clients.
Sigh. Man, these guys are going way out of their way for me. It makes me all misty-eyed. I sure hope the work I do for them justifies the trouble I’ve caused them.
I don’t see how it possibly could. I’ve been a lot of trouble. Especially this week.
So here I sit at Wimpy — an appropriately-named joint if there ever was one. I’m trading e-mails with Sharon, but I can’t iChat with her here — the damned music is too loud. At the moment, they’re blasting Miley Cyrus at us.
Can you imagine? Miley goddamned Cyrus. Geez. It’s like being at home or something.
I used up my two hours of internet usage and then bought a third one. Which will expire any minute now.
And, with any luck, I’ll have a new plan in the next few minutes.
More as I know it…
UPDATE: 5:36 P.M. SOUTH AFRICA TIME
Haven’t heard back yet on my new travel timetable. The owner of the guest house, however, just now texted me to welcome me back to Twickenham.
So apparently I’ll be back there tonight. Which means I can count on a good night’s sleep, at the very least.
UPDATE: 5:42 P.M. SOUTH AFRICA TIME
As I was hitting the button to post that last update, I mentioned to the waitress that I wasn’t sure how much longer I’d be here. But it wouldn’t be much longer — after all, I’m nearly out of battery power.
So, what does she do? She immediately moves me to a table with a plug nearby.
Here I am, bitching and moaning about the crappy customer service and communications from British Airways and then, out of the blue — Bam! – an act of kindness from a stranger, above and beyond the call of duty.
And this was after I made fun of her employer. Twice.
New marketing slogan for Wimpy: Nicest waiters you’ll ever meet.
UPDATE: 6:20 P.M. SOUTH AFRICAN TIME
Added a few winter storm story links and tossed in an extra insult to British Airways. This blog’s performance in the ol’ search engines is pretty decent. I’m hoping there’s a British Airways executive out there somewhere who has a Google Alert set up for his company.
Oh, and the DNA India article I referenced? Here’s an excerpt from lower in the story:
Additionally, Jet Airways is planning to operate additional flights from London to India for those stranded and normal operations are expected to resume by tomorrow afternoon, it said.
An additional Airbus 330 service will be operated from Mumbai to London Heathrow on December 21, it added.
Memo to British Airways: That’s how you do it.
UPDATE: 6:47 P.M. SOUTH AFRICAN TIME
OK, a change of plans.
No return to Twickenham Guest House. Primarily because there are no rental cars to be had here at the airport. Not surprising, given the number of flights that have been canceled.
The indefatigable Richard Phillips has booked me overnight in a hotel here at the airport. Must be a nice one, too, because he tells me it has two restaurants.
You know what that means: A night of wifi and beer. And not necessarily in that order. After the week I’ve had, that sounds really, really swell right about now.
I’m on a Delta flight departing here tomorrow night and then changing planes in Paris. Meaning I’ll be the little pig who goes oui, oui, oui all the way home.
I’ll touch down in Norfolk at 5:22 p.m. Tuesday night, EST. Less than 24 hours after originally planned.
I get the feeling I have a heck of a guardian angel looking over me. Lucky for me that angel is named Richard.
UPDATE: 7:06 P.M. SOUTH AFRICAN TIME
Like I said, I bought two hours of internet time, then a third hour. Then I bought a fourth. I’m currently nearing the end of my fifth time purchase today.
I’ve been laughing at this log-in screen all day. It just now occurs to me that I should blog it:
Can’t see it? Of course you can’t. Let me zoom in for you:
Yeah. That’s the kind of people to whom I want to give my credit card info.
I guess they could use a copy editor, huh?
FOLLOW ALONG ON MY LATEST TRIP TO SOUTH AFRICA
- Thursday, Nov. 4: Leaving home
- Thursday, Nov. 4: Greetings from Miami Beach
- Friday, Nov. 5: A Friday in Londonâ€™s Heathrow airport
- Monday, Nov. 8: My home for the next six weeks
- Thursday, Nov. 11: Teaching news artists in Johannesburg
- Thursday, Nov. 11: I found my pants! I found my pants!
- Friday, Nov. 12: How would you like to work in this gorgeous sports department?
- Sunday, Nov. 14: A lazy Sunday morning in Johannesburg
- Monday, Nov. 15: A gorgeous Sunday at an African craft market
- Wednesday, Nov. 17: An interesting op-ed page illustration
- Thursday, Nov. 18: Evangelizing about infographics in Bloemfontein
- Sunday, Nov. 21: A gorgeous room atop Cape Town, South Africa
- Monday, Nov. 22: A daylight view of Table Mountain
- Tuesday, Nov. 23: Who needs TV in Cape Town?
- Thursday, Nov. 25: An amazing American-style Thanksgiving dinner
- Friday, Nov. 26: A stroll down St. George’s Mall
- Saturday, Nov. 27: Mountain watching on a blustery day in Cape Town
- Saturday, Dec. 4: A fun, first-person graphic for the business page
- Sunday, Dec. 5: The difference 8,000 miles can make
- Monday, Dec. 6: Following up on that big business graphic
- Thursday, Dec. 9: More photos from my week in Cape Town
- Friday, Dec. 10: Attack of the giant damn bug
- Sunday, Dec. 12: A little Sunday Christmas shopping at Sandton City mall
- Tuesday, Dec. 14: The ugliest building you’ll ever see
- Friday, Dec. 17: I told you it’s been raining here in Johannesburg