Sunday, May 25, 2008

Delayed on first day of trip

The first day of my trip to Europe was eventful for the simple reason that I was late for my flight. by 12 minutes. Apparently American Airlines will not allow you to check in if you arrive less than 40 minutes before an international flight.

Why I arrived late is an interesting story in itself. I came to Chicago by the South Shore Railroad with plans to walk 3 blocks over to the Metra Blue Line. When I got to the station that I had just visited in the Spring, it was under construction. I asked someone how you got to the Blue Line now. He started to answer me but he didn’t know what he was talking about, and finally admitted it when I questioned him further.

Then I saw a woman who looked like she was comfortable in the area. She also didn’t know the location of the Blue Line, but she did offer me a ride to O’Hare Airport. She was headed that way anyway. I was surprised by this extraordinary kindness and trust from a stranger in Chicago. I thought through the risks and thought it would be worth it. She had one errand to run and then we would be on our way. It was a surprising encounter, I a Mennonite pastor and she turned out to be someone who worked in the adult toy industry. Her specialty is leather corsets but she also is expanding into other areas that I will not mention. We actually had a good conversation. She had to drop off a leather corset at a gay convention.

Unfortunately in our travels to O’Hare we took a wrong turn a time or two. Once at the airport the skycap told us to go to Iberia rather than American Airlines. I’m not sure why, but since my original ticket was for Iberia it made sense to me. At Iberia they told me to go back to American. Unfortunately we had just passed American on the one-way street. So we had to go around the airport again. But we accidentally took the arrivals rather than departures lane and then we had to go outside the airport area again and turn around. Finally we got to the right place and the kiosk refused to issue me a ticket because I was 12 minutes late.

Then I waited in a long line at American where she told me I would probably need to pay a penalty. She also said that no more flights were available until the next day. Then she said that since Iberia originally had issued the ticket, I had to go back to them. I went back and discovered that their desk was closed until 1 pm the next day. I was in despair, not knowing what would happen to me. I prayed, acknowledging that my fate was in God’s hands.

Eventually I heard a ticket agent in the back and I called to her. She came forward and she remembered that I was the pastor from Indiana, since she had called me the day before about whether I was willing to switch to American Airlines from Iberia. She had seemed very nice and that impression was affirmed by this experience. She went to the back and worked on my situation. She found a flight for me through London to Paris, going from American to British Airways.

So now I lugged my oversized (my bicycle) and heavy luggage (too many books) another time to American at the other end of the lobby. There the ticket agent said that the Iberia agent had not properly changed the ticket. But she worked for some time and called several people and finally validated my ticket. As she worked on this, she went from being kind of angry to confiding to me about how difficult it is to work at American Airlines right now. She doesn’t know if she will have a job in a few months. It sounds very difficult. She checked me in and did not charge me for the oversized or overweight luggage. I was very grateful.

So I will be arriving in Paris, God willing, Sunday afternoon rather than Sunday morning. Hopefully I can still get a train to Taize, or at least find a good place to spend the night if I cannot.

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