Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Prima donnas at the queue.

I enter the Continental terminal at George Bush International Airport in Houston, struggling with my four pieces of luggage weighting over ninety pounds. Words cannot describe the horror. People everywhere! I cannot get past the crowds and I can hardly see the ticket counters. Where the fuck do I go? I calm myself down thinking there is no way I have to stand in line, since it is the airline's fault I missed my connection to San Diego last night. No way I am standing in line. Making my way through a crowd of Mexican travelers with boxes masquerading for luggage, I approach a ticket agent. "Where do I go and do I have to stand in line?" She points to the other side, where I came from, and nods. "Really, but let me explain--" She nods and points, interrupting me. She doesn't know shit. I am sure I don't have to stand in line. It is Continental's fault I am stuck in Dubya's Daddy's Airport of all places! I tell my story to another agent who is trying to direct human traffic and she tells me to go to the side where I came from. The International counter? I just came from Amsterdam, not going back, although I really want to. She indicates she is sure that is where I am supposed to stand in line. Stand in line?

I take my place in line wondering why I am standing in line. After twenty minutes I spot the Domestic E-ticket counter across the cluster of Texan travelers. Let's see...I am going to San Diego, which means it is a domestic flight, and I don't have a paper ticket, which means I must be an E-ticket. Feeling glad that I took a logics class in college, I rush to get out of line. I knock down the queue dividers as I trip over a Mexican lady's cardboard box makeshift luggage. I don't look back and I push my way through the crowd. This is no time for good manners. I find the end of the line at the urging of another Continental employee. I ask her if I really have to stand in line, especially since I just stood in line for twenty minutes in the wrong line because of another Continental's employee's fault and am I going to miss my flight?!!! She looks at me dismissively and I can read her mind: HONEY, JUST BE GLAD WE PUT YOU UP AT THE SHERATON AND GAVE YOU A TEN DOLLAR MEAL VOUCHER. NOW GET IN THE GODDAMN LINE. Oh, yes, thanks ma'am and the Sheraton has real hair dryers, unlike those contraptions in European hotels. Fine, I'll get in line.

The wait wasn't that bad and I get to the front within fifteen minutes. I am five minutes from a clean getaway back to Southern California, when I spot a Mexican family of four standing to my right. Great, they cut in and there is nothing I can do about it since I am not the belligerent type. Really, I am not. The ticket agent, MY ticket agent, starts to help them first. I stand there patiently, smiling, waiting my turn. I notice the father is holding a stack of papers and I sneak a peak. At the top of the front page it reads: "Make a Wish Foundation." I continue snooping and read: "Miguel's Wish Participants." I immediately search for Miguel. He is standing next to his mother, holding his little sister's hand. He is about ten, thin, big eyes, wearing glasses and a beanie. He looks at me shyly. I can tell there is no hair below the beanie. The ticket agent is having trouble finding the little girl's reservation and I translate, since the father can hardly speak English. They must have it, it is in the paperwork he handed to her, he indicates. While the ticket agent looks for the reservation, the father asks me if I am also going to Orlando. No, I'm just stuck in Houston, poor me. The ticket agent finally finds the reservation. What a relief! They misspelled Emily's name. Since this is going to take a while, another ticket agent helps me and I finally get my boarding pass. Before I leave, I wish them a fun trip. Say hi to Mickey for me!

I head for the security line. This line, I am sure I have to stand in. I am about to break down. I make every effort not to. I am ashamed of myself. Of having felt so distraught and unfortunate over nothing. Swallowing my emotion, I put all my crap on the X-ray machine. I take off my boots and watch them roll away as I walk through the metal detector. No beep and I am almost home free.

When I arrive at the gate, I am informed there are no more seats on this flight, but that they will ask for volunteers to give up their seats. Well, at least I don't have to stand in line to board the plane. I find a seat at the gate and make myself comfortable. I know I will get home. I think about the hamburger I ate last night at the hotel, compliments of Continental Airlines. And about the bed at the Sheraton, which was the most comfortable bed I slept in the whole trip. I am lucky.


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