13 March 2010
Today I really was up early, at 4:45am, so that I could catch the hotel shuttle at 5:20am in time to clear US Customs and security for my scheduled departure at 7:40am. At 5:15am I called Dad to confirm that his flight was on time, and indeed it was. However, at 6:09am he called me, when his flight should have departed, to say they were de-boarding due to a faulty engine fire extinguisher switch.
In all truth this was actually the second flight problem for the trip. The first occurred about four weeks ago when Continental Airlines decided to change their flight schedule. Initially I had about 1.5 hours to spend in Houston (Dad had 3.5 hours) waiting for my connection. This seemed reasonable when considering that any number of problems could cause a delay, but when the change reduced my layover to 32 minutes, this seemed preposterous. I called Continental immediately, asking for a variety of solutions, such as different flights, different connections, even different days, but there was absolutely no way they were going to change, even after I offered to pay a change of flight fee. From a legal perspective the connection was in fact acceptable - I suspected that 30 minutes was the cutoff, so 32 probably seemed entirely reasonable to them; at least it wasn't 31! So, for a few hours, both my Dad and I were at the mercy of the airlines.
Now back to today. I was on-board and on my way to Houston, and after a somewhat uncomfortable flight, we landed 5 minutes early. By the time I got off the plane I had 20 minutes to get to the next gate, and in my mad rush to get there I could I hear my cell phone buzzing, probably Dad telling me where he was. I checked the message and it was worse, much worse. Dad's flight didn't end up leaving until 10:35am, meaning that he wouldn't arrive in Houston until 3:30pm, one hour after the scheduled departure. So, one way or another, Continental managed to hose us.
I boarded my flight on-time, and we departed about 20 minutes late. Three hours later and I was in Panama, where after having a fairly rough day I was greeted by a one hour Customs line up, and after that a 20 minute baggage screening line up. Renting the car was easy, but I missed my first turn out of the airport and ended up taking the slow route to the hotel. Also, as I approached Panama City, I made another wrong turn that ended up costing me three toll road fees totaling $2.00! Eventually I arrived at the hotel at 9:30pm, 12 hours and 45 minutes after waking up in Vancouver.
I checked e-mail as soon as I got in. Dad was staying at the Houston airport hotel and was confirmed for the 9:00am departure. Joanna had also sent me an e-mail confirming her safe and timely arrival in England - little Amelia apparently did well on the trip, and even went to sleep in the bassinette (or body bag as Joanna described it) provided by the Air Canada. To save time for when dad arrives tomorrow I went to the local grocery and bought various supplies: breakfast cereal, milk, water, Gatorade, etc...).
I finally crashed at 11:00pm, with alarm set for 6:00am to go birding at Metropolitan Park, although it won't be the same without dad.