San Fran-Florida & Patty McDublin...
It’s is a blustery March 7th eve at 11:47pm in the top floor of my 3 story rented house. I sit on hold with an airline credit voucher that expires at midnight with one of the two worst Airlines I have dealt with in my life.
I have ended up with this particular voucher from an earlier booked vacation that included THREE stops on the way to Central America from Canada & FOUR including one unscheduled one in some field in Mexico for fuel on the way back. No food & no liquids as it was not considered a direct flight and one carry on with one checked bag only. Any more cost more, BRUTAL!
Anyways some of that trip had been changed and I ended up with a voucher for $280 and needed to use it before midnight, I was actually given a year to use it. So I rang up there customer service and requested 2 tickets to the farthest place I could get from Calgary with nice weather for under $300 a person. This lady thought I was joking and said I had to “…have an actual destination and departure date…”. Well if you know me at all, these two things don’t usually fit in my travel plans. I prefer to search out a rock bottom special to anywhere and sort out the details once my feet hit the ground or shortly before.
Well twelve minutes, a lot of frantic searching on my laptop and a lot of frantic searching on the desktop of Mary-Lou from Dallas and for under $600
I had two return tickets departing May 4th to Jacksonville Florida, the largest city in America based on land mass. Hell of a deal & it seemed like a nice place to spend Cinco De Mayo, even Mary-Lou was impressed!
If I thought that no food, no water, no more then one checked and one carry one was bad last time, at least I was allowed on the plane last time.
Pulling up to the check in area @ 5am, 70 minutes to departure, to the likes of six self check in kiosks and ONE counter attendant we spent about seven attempts to “self check”, wasn’t happening.
I requested some assistance from the attendee Alfred, a shorter dark haired
man with lightly browned skin that he seemed obviously uncomfortable to be
Alfred: “Please sir use the self check in”.
Me: “I’ve been trying and it’s not working”.
Alfred: “Yes, yes, please sir use the self check in”.
Me: “Yes I tried & it’s not working”. Alfred: “Yes, try it one more time”.
So I try it one more time, by now there is a small line forming of people who also can’t self check. In Alfred’s defence, his Airline only employed one person to check in a plane of 150ppl.
45 minutes till gates close.
Finally our turn arrives and he explains there’s a problem with our CONFIRMATION ticket. Though there are some lovely people in the executive line who are having problems also, so we will need to wait.
35 minutes till gates close.
At last Alfred to the rescue, he makes a call to get us some assistance, now Alfred is placed on hold and my patience is not holding quite as well as the line. Twenty minutes later and some strange arguing on the phone while Alfred bounces from us to the phone to the bags to the executive line and back to the phone. It is explained to him that the reason he’s been having trouble with his call is he called baggage and not ticketing. I’ve now bitten my tongue so much I think it’s bleeding.
15 minutes till gates close.
Finally Alfred gets in touch with the right department and informs us that one of the two tickets that I am holding that read “confirmed” are actually not confirmed and we should have received and email about it. Not a call or a follow up, but and email at some point. So I politely grit my teeth, swear quietly under my breath and show him the receipt I have as well and the two tickets that clearly read “CONFIRMED”.
6 minutes till gates close.
The lady on the phone explains to Mr. Useless that as the one ticket was not confirmed we are welcome to purchase one of the empty seats for $1000. At this point I am arguing like I’m at and Asian market with three other shoppers and there’s only one duck left to purchase on the eve Chinese New Year. I clearly have two confirmed tickets, there is clearly a number of seats left and this shifty airline (initials A & A) is not trying to accommodate there mix up or get me to my destination, but to try and sell me another seat for three times what I had originally paid for the first one.
2 minutes till gates close.
Against every ounce of customer service I have ever learned in my life, we
willingly decide that we will purchase the $1000 ticket and get on the
road. Alfred begins to fill out our information with the lady over the
phone. Name, address, date of return credit card details. When out of the
corner of this little mans eyes and through thick dark glasses where he
hides himself from the world he notices it is 6:10am. When he promptly
hangs up the phone closes his book and explains there is nothing he can do,
the gate is now closing.
Me: “You joking me right”.
Alfred: “I don’t joke, now I must go, there is nothing I can do for you”.
Now I’m about as patient as a priest in a confession booth and I’m sure I can count on my fingers the number of times if come unglued with customer service staff, though I could feel the number increasing by one.
I lost it and proceeded to explain to Alfred with a number of explicates how incredibly unhelpful he was and how many times I have been on a plane and I have never met anyone so unhelpful and an Airline so terribly run in my life. At which point a voice from the next counter over chimes in like a trumpet at boot camp explaining that nothing more can be done so I best leave. Here sat a women in an the same uniform as Alfred who I had not noticed had been there the entire time watching the events of the morning. Not coming over to help check people in our assist with our tickets, but only to watch as customer service got worse and worse. Only noticing her assistance would become useful once a paying guest needed to be asked to leave without being allowed on the plane with a ticket!?!?. I think the look of amassment / frustration on my face just increased to that of an over exaggerated cartoon
character. I thought I would implode!
At this point I decide to take a seat at the closest food shop in the Airport to collect my thoughts and look for a solution to the problem.
My soon to be G-Friend had I only met me a couple months prior and had never been outside of town with me, let alone outside the country. This would also be a first she’d see me lose my marbles.
Not to be beaten by an American super company I rang up Canada’s
favourite Airline West Jet. A company that promotes itself as being owned by everyone that works for it. My call was answered by a bubbly West Jet owner whom I relayed this entire tale to. She bust out laughing and exclaimed that was the craziest thing she’d ever heard and explained she’d be happy to help. I laid out my usual criteria. Warmer then where I am now, and inexpensive. Five minutes later we were booked on a flight to San Francisco for $89 each way that departed in one hour. Holy macaroni the heavens split and we’d been saved! I borrowed a computer at the Airport to do a quick scan for rooms and events then several hours later we were Eating a bucket of crab at Joes crab
shack and drinking $1.50 beers to the dancing and clapping of Joes staff on the San Fran wharf a full hour before we were even meant to land in Jacksonville, crabs never tasted so good!
Thnx to the good people at Expedia we had landed a 3 star boutique hotel for a one star price and thanks to the bartender at Joes were getting directions to the Oakland A`s stadium for $2 Wednesday games, with $2 heroine beers for the Cinco De Mayo baseball game. If ever I have been slapped with two extreme emotions in one day this was it.
Sitting in the cheap seats in nothing more then shorts and a smile we sat sipping beers and bantering with the crowd over the fact idea this was the best weather they had in ages. The only score I remember from that game was that the green M&M won the series of events that the three M&M`s competed against between innings.
Later that day we ended up with tickets to what was one of the most interesting live art experiences I’ve been part of. Being dropped off via cab on the street in front of what appeared to be an abandoned building just far enough from anything to make it feel eerie. We are directed to the 3rd floor and a small room of about 30 seats. Greeted with herbal Indian tea, squares and the pungent odour of incense burning, we pass by a sitar player seated yoga style on the way to our seats. This was to be an hour and a half monologue of a hilarious and well versed females trip to India, solo. Where she contemplated, life, relationships, her sexuality, and her propose for being here. It was the kind of event where one looks at there watch and
notices an hour and a half has passed and until some discussion realised that there was only one actor and no more then a chair for props. Amazing!
Back in a cab and I requested we be dropped in the `Spanish neighbourhood of the city`. We were again ushered out onto vacant streets and feeling a touch uncomfortable Sarah casually clung to my arm like handcuffs casually cling onto wrists. We passed lightless building after boarded up window. Then like a St Bernard with brandy in a snow storm we spot a Mexican café full of picnic table like seating and booming with burritos and beer. We slip in where I’m in heaven with the sight of pico de gallo, and empanadas being made to order.
Sarah secures a seat with three other people in a place that’s filling fast. I order enough food and beer for five and meet her along with our new Irish friends in this bumping Mexican café at the picnic table. Two of our new friends had flown in that day from Ireland to meet our next friend for some San Fran fun. They were obviously jet lagged and once noticed we were all getting on like old school pals they skipped out on the nights festivities and left us to a guided neighbourhood tour by this Irish resident. I can hold my own pretty good in the unbelievable stories department over a few beers, however on this May the 5th on a trip to Florida where we ended up in the Spanish neighbourhood of San Francisco sitting in a Mexican café with a very Irish Irishmen who was very much a resident of this neighbourhood I met my match in stories to good to be true.
Lets call him Patty McDublin (named changed), Patty was also a traveler of sorts and wanted to see the world. So he flew from Ireland to Alaska & bought himself a motorbike. Though had never rode one before decided to travel across the Americas on one, excellent plan. Making it through the North West Territories and the prairies of Canada then on through the U.S., solo. He needed to make some money to fix his bike and eat and all those basic needs we tend to forget about when planning a trip, or for that manner, not planning at all. Pattys my kind of traveler.
So he took a job in the U.S. for cash, illegally obviously. Then continued on his trip down into Mexico. Well he found it easiest to fly back to the U.S. and a work for a bit then back on the road each time rather then trying to work in
Mexico for frijoles y arroz.
Well after about the 3rd time he did this, his time in the U.S. got a touch lengthy and he overstayed his welcome while also working illegally. On one fatal night he was going to leave the country and the good old boys at the department of immigration noticed he’d over stayed his welcome one to many times and asked him how he was even paying for all this? Well he explained that he was a writer in Ireland and he was selling his stories to a newspaper there for income. This was mildly true in that he’d written before and once had a job at a newspaper. If you’ve ever been under interrogation at a U.S. airport you’ll probably remember that the hospitality there isn’t five star.
Pattys mismatched story along with his excessive expired entry and
exit stamps into the U.S. landed him two nights in the local prison while they
booked him and all expenses paid one way ticket back to Ireland. Well it so happens the closest prison was not a holding cell, but a MAXIMUM SECURITY
prison facility with murders, rapists and some other upstanding citizens. He never did mention if the food was good??? Three days later and Patty is out of his orange jump suit and back in Ireland. Being the resourceful and undeterred lad that he was, the only lesson Patty learned here was that the U.S. will pay for flights if you overstay a welcome and to be cleverer about deceiving the law. Not a Dr. Seuss lesson, yet a lesson all the same.
Now we are a few blocks over in Pattys neighbourhood `biker` bar. Literally filled with all kinds of pedal bikes and people getting trashed. This was actually the day Patty was to get married and he was drowning his sorrows with us misplaced Canadians, in his local `biker` bar on Mexico’s Cinco De Mayo, scheming up a new plan, my how the days can end differently then one expects when they wake up. You see the one that was currently coming unravelled was that he had actually sold some stories to a local paper in Ireland and argued to the Irish and American embassy that he had been mistreated and wrongfully sent home by the U.S. If Patty had only gone to skool to be a lawyer & not a schemer I think he would have been very successful as this landed him an all expenses paid ticket back to America. on
behalf of the U.S. government where he would ride first class and return to his
illegal job traveling about.
By now Patty had made some friends and was living quite comfortably in San Fran, so he decided to marry a friend of his in order to become a U.S. citizen and continue living, working and traveling in the U.S. So for several months, a wedding date was planned along with photos, marriage certificates, legal documents, the whole nine yards. It seemed Pattys dreaming and scheming were all coming together. Having left Ireland several years earlier to buy a
motorcycle and travel across the Americas on it, even though he’d never been on a bike before. To land an illegal job to fix his bike that broke down in Mexico to be held in a maximum security prison and flown by the U.S. government back to Ireland. To then argue that he had been treated wrongly and convince the U.S. government to then fly his ass back into the U.S. to organise the wedding of his friend with legal documents and photos including friends of his from Ireland whom he had flown in for the event (ambitious). So as to secure his citizenship to the U.S. to spilling his story to misplaced Canadians who were meant to be in Jacksonville Florida that day. Only to find out the day before the wedding that his friend could not go through with it and was now drowning his sorrows in the 6th pint of Guinness in his neighbourhood `biker` bar. This my friends is a life experience Patty McDublin will be telling his great grandchildren over blood pudding and Guinness in the yard next to a broken down motorbike somewhere in the world!
Next stop wine tour.
Up by 7am on the bus by 8am and by 9am with the sparkleiest glass of
Domaine Chandon in the Napa Valley one has ever seen. Followed by several stops at this grape
masters castle and that wine cellar we were enjoying a bottle of Zinfandel over local cheese and
imported prosciutto. Honestly I tried to moderate, though we met
some like minded travelers of a similar age group and well 2 or 3 bottles later and I couldn’t tell you if I was drinking wine or whiskey. We made good use of the bar on the ferry ride back and shared dinner, then more drinks with our new found friends. Getting lost on the way to some important city monument I spotted a huge sign that read $2 beers. I'd found the monument I was looking for.
The bartender took a fast likening to Sarah and I told him she was my sister. This got us several free drinks and landed the girls dancing on the bar. This
usually wouldn’t be such a big deal aside from the fact the bar was about 5ft long, it was four in the afternoon and this was mostly and internet café that sold beer and sandwiches! Ohh man those poor people trying to have some quite time and a quick drink!
Between bush man and cheep eats at the wharf, coupled with Cinco De Baseball along with and Indian Monologue followed by Patty McDublin and an exotic bus ride in and out of Napa Valley (I left that story out). I can’t help but side with fate on this one. I tried everything to "plan" a nice trip to Florida and passed out in San Francisco. All the organising in the world can’t arrive you at anyone’s plan but the universe, that and maybe the guide of some nicely fermented grapes...
Life by Kix Marshall !!!