Christmas Peeve

After all my organising, taking a day off work and flying at a reasonable time my flight to Auckland has been cancelled and I am going to Christchrch. Joy to the world - I've ended up missing Christmas Eve with my family *again*. It's a talent, obviously.

Plus I got 'wanded' again and padded down and searched. Obviously they don't recognise my saintliness.

Sent from my iPhone

*later - on the plane parked on the tarmac at Christchurch airport*

So today has been a litany of small discomforts and annoyances. Which is a worry, as Malcolm Gladwell says in one of his books (they all blur into one in my head) that air disasters aren't often due to one catastrophic event, but a series of little events - and that's what's happening to me today - so if I don't make it - this is why.

After I got to the airport at noon today, being as early as I often am to the airport, I was about tenth in line for check-in - but it still took _45 minutes_ to get to the counter. The three counters that were operating (not counting the Business Class counter which only checks in those dudes) were all coping with family groups with passport problems. After a little while, the sheep-run had almost the entire plane's worth of passengers waiting to check-in.

When I finally got to the counter, the woman said "So I assume you know your flight has been cancelled?" and I wondered to her how I was supposed to know that information? She apologised and said, "Due to a mechanical problem with your aircraft, we are now flying you to Auckland on an alternate plane, via Christchurch. You are due to land in Auckland at 9.45pm."

"Okay," I say, "okay. I mean, what am I going to do, it's not like it's the MOST IMPORTANT DAY OF THE YEAR FOR MY FAMILY or anything, not as if they'll MISS ME AT CHRISTMAS EVE DINNER and it doesn't matter that I took a WHOLE DAY OFF WORK to FLY EARLY to GET THERE ON TIME or anything!" She looked at me, obviously, this wasn't the first time she'd heard this kind of bleating from a passenger and what could she do? I knew she was just doing her job so I smiled and wished her a Merry Christmas and made my way to my gate.

I found my seat on the plane - not, of course, my 'usual' seat - but an aisle seat in the middle block - almost my least favourite seat in the aircraft. But I settled in, pushed my bag under the seat in front of me, loaded up Bill Bryson's Shakespeare audio book on my iPhone and began listening to his soothing voice when, a very less soothing voice broke my peace and quiet.

"You're in my seat!" she said. I looked up (she's lucky I heard her, my Bose in-ear headphones are bloody good) and she said "You've got the wrong seat." I was pretty sure I wasn't in the wrong seat but I pulled out my boarding pass and held it up to her. The seat numbers matched, we had both been assigned 44D. "This is MY seat," she insisted "I booked it for my whole family!" her husband was standing there, sheepishly holding their young baby. I looked for a crew member to help - they're hard to find when you need one, and the one I found I had to ask if she was part of Air New Zealand's crew - although she appeared to have clothes that might be part of a uniform, she didn't have any badging or logos on her jacket. I let her know the problem and she asked the other woman to accompany her to find a new seat. I suggested, as I was a 'single' maybe it was easier to move me than half the child's support team. The crew member shrugged like she didn't really care who moved, and I followed her to the back of the section of seats.

She took my boarding pass, told me to "Stay here." and went up to the front of the aircraft to sort things out. She came back after a few minutes and said they were sorting it out. She asked me if I'd been waiting long at the airport. I said I hadn't been, the usual time, but added that I was disappointed to be flying via Christchurch, meaning I would miss Christmas Eve with my family, and how I'd missed it entirely the year before due to a flight mix-up (while these things are true, they were said in a way which didn't let her know that a) there was no dinner or anything special planned and b) I was the reason for the flight mix-up last year that ruined Christmas) in an attempt to be upgraded to Business Class.

The crew member, instead of suggesting Business Class seats might help comfort my broken heart, then proceeded to tell me about HER day. How AirNZ had called her at 6am for the 10am flight from Auckland to Melbourne when they could just have easily have called at 8am and then she could have had two extra hours of sleep and wouldn't be bad right now because SHE WAS TIRED! And how she was so annoyed and upset that she was going to phone them and give them a piece of her mind. How it wasn't fair, and how everyone on board felt the same way she did and none of the crew were happy. NONE OF THEM. All the time she's talking I'm wondering why I paid AU$780 for no seat, a longer flight and the experience of hearing AirNZ Crew Member's sob story about how bad her day was. I was wondering why she wasn't just saying "I'm very sorry Madam, I hope upgrading you to Business Class will go some way to making your day better."

All devices must be turned off now, we're about to leave Christchurch for Auckland.

So, where was I - oh yes: standing by the toilets waiting to be allocated a seat.

Eventually, about 15 minutes later, and five minutes after our flight was supposed to leave Melbourne, Ms Crew Member comes down the aisle with a torn boarding pass with my name on it and a new seat number 55A. God dammit, no Business Class. She walks me to my seat to find, surprise! someone sitting in it. She asks the woman in the window seat for her boarding pass and yes, again, it matches my one - and they've booked me into a double booked seat *again*.

Ms Crew Member drops me off by the toilets again, and goes back to sort out a seat. Unfortunately, after another five minutes or so, they sit me in the aisle, middle section, economy. God dammit. How badly do I have to be mucked around to get upgraded? People I know show up late for flights, mucking up the flight schedule and still get upgraded.


photo from on board my flight home - man watching his screen


I'm grumpy. I'm sitting behind a screaming baby - the woman who is sitting next to the screaming baby is asking to be moved. I don't even have the energy to ask to be moved. I stare at the emergency exit remembering Gladwell's idea that plane crashes are the result of lots of little mistakes. Then the Captain's voice intercoms information about how all the computers are down and their "passenger head count" and computer print-out for people on the flight doesn't tally so they're gonna have to phone Auckland and get that sorted out.

I'm beginning to wonder if I'll ever see another Christmas, let alone this one.

Another couple of confusing intercommunications and we're finally underway, about 30 minutes late and many apologies later.

This is where my luck changes - slightly - and a lesson in how it's the little things that can make all the difference.

[it's at this time that I could tangent into another, equally as long post about how I bought my Bose in-ear headphones at JB HiFi by accident and how, up to this point I'd been dead annoyed at doing so but I won't because I'm sure we've all got better things to do than write/read that stuff - so onwards, we're nearly done]

When I bought my Bose headphones at JB HiFi by accident, they came with adapters, one of which appeared to be one that plugs into the airphone jack on an aeroplane.

I really hate airplane headphones - they don't fit properly, I have to have the volume up really loud to hear anything, and then I also hear everything else - the plane engine, the trolleys, the people next to me etc etc. So when I plugged the Bose adapter into the socket and pushed the buds into my ears, I couldn't believe how AWESOME Anthony Bourdain sounded and how crap the sound on the inFight entertainment system really is. Like, it's really crap. Like an old stretched cassette tape. But awesome earbuds, I couldn't hear the baby, the people, the plane or the crew member was trying to offer me water.

I was happy again, because the Bose and because the feature movie was District 9 and it had great sound. In fact it was so great, it made all my annoyances go away - well, almost. The intercom interrupts the movie everytime the they have a message - important messages such as making sure that tray table is stowed, making sure we know that there is a light snack (and that's all you're getting too missy, don't thing $780 gets you an actual MEAL we are landing in Auckland, and you need to fend for your starving self and no, the bar is closed and we're not opening it again FOR ANYTHING - dry run to Auckland!)

Wait, where was I? oh yeh.. the intecom interrupting the movie to talk about trivia, to wonder which word has 5 'e's and no other vowels or, for those how prefer maths trivia, how many years of combined experience does the crew have, and where Santa is and please make sure that tray table is stowed cos, you know, they're fecking dangerous.

It got so bad, the woman next to me started throwing her hands at the screen everytime her drama stalled due to constant inane messages from the pilot and crew.

Me? I just rolled with the punches by that stage - happy with a great movie and awesome headphones and knowing that I would, in the end, make it all the way home for Christmas Day and that safe in the knowledge that flying 4 hours earlier than I usually do, I saved myself one whole hour in the end - but really - what price is an hour with family?


2:57am bedtime.