Exploring Oregon 2009

Exploring Oregon 2009

Monday, October 4, 2010


Holes in your passport
= travel denied
 Most anyone who is a friend of mine on facebook has probably already heard bits of this story, but I'm still kicking myself over this and am wondering what exactly I did to deserve this very cruel prank.  I'm convinced that the someone 'up there' has a sick sense of humor, and somehow I became the butt end of a mean joke.

Months ago I received an email from my father-in-law stating that they wanted to send all us kids to go visit Grandma Kath in England this year.  He asked about times and dates that would work for us and the next thing I know, Jason and I have tickets booked for September 14-21.  A wave of excitement washed over me as I immediately put the dates on my work calendar and informed my project manager of my trip.

Come to find out that London was hosting its 'Open House' the weekend we would be there, which means that buildings all over the city that are never open to the public, open their doors......wait for it......for free!  Can there be anything more exciting for someone who studied and works in architecture and interior design?! 

Now, Jason and I have been trying to get some money saved up as we are looking to buy a new house (expect posts on this soon), so we were a little worried about the cost of this trip.  Overall, it would be a fairly inexpensive vacation being that our plane tickets were paid for, we were staying with his Grandma and that she would provide us with breakfast every morning, and dinner on the nights we were there.  We did consider the fact that we would be out and about most afternoons, which means purchasing lunch and transportation costs, plus whatever shopping and shows we decided to do, so the fact that the Open House was going on and that it was free was very exciting for us.

We have also both been totally swamped with work this summer, and of course my team had multiple deadlines that ended up falling right around the dates of our trip.  This led to numerous hours of overtime in the weeks leading up to our trip, making it difficult to even get excited for the vacation as I was only focused on the work I needed to get finished before I went.

I literally worked until 10pm the night before we were to leave.  By the time I got all packed and crawled into bed, I think it was somewhere around 2am.  Our flight was scheduled to leave out of Portland at 2:50pm on Tuesday the 21st, so we woke up at 7am, got everything packed into the car, went and got coffee and gassed up the car, then headed to the dog kennel where we had reservations for Cameo to stay for the next week (I like to call it Doggie Summer Camp, because kennels and/or boarding doesn't sound nearly as fun).  At 8:15am, we left for Portland.  We arrived at Jason's Aunt's house a little after 12pm.  We walked down to a cute, little cafe (in what used to be the library) that we make a point to visit every time we are there, for lunch with his Aunt Mary.  After a mouth watering pulled pork sandwich, we headed back to transfer our bags into Mary's car so that she could drop us off at the airport.

We arrived at the Portland airport around 1:30pm.  Now, a brief warning as I'm about to go on a mini rant.  Typically I have never bothered to print off my boarding passes ahead of time, unless I am only traveling with a carry on, as it always seemed pointless to me otherwise since you still had to check you luggage.  Jason and I debated this the night before and read that by printing our boarding pass ahead of time, we could skip the check-in lines and simply check our bags at the bag drop.  Okay, we decided we would give it a go.  Much to our dismay, we arrived at the 'bag drop' whose line was longer than the check-in stations.  We thought, 'Okay, maybe it goes quickly.'  Wrong.  Lucky us, we managed to get in line directly behind a family with four kids, one of which was a baby, which means that they had a million bags and baby paraphernalia to check (think strollers, car seat, etc.).

We finally make it up to bag check, and Jason quickly gets his checked, on we are on to mine.  I hand the man at the counter my boarding pass and my passport.  A moment later he is asking me if I got a new passport.  It seems that the passport that Jason grabbed out of our safe was my old passport in my maiden name...which was no longer valid and there were holes punched in it.  Uh...panic.  What?!  So I explain to him that I got a new passport after we got married and my husband must have grabbed my old one.  He asks where my new passport is, and I tell him that it must still be in our safe at home.  So he asks me where home is, and I tell him, Bend...3 hours away, to which he replies 'Oh.  You're not gonna make this flight.'  Yeah, thanks genius.  So he tells us to talk with another agent to see about changing our tickets to a later flight. 

After many long painful moments we are told there is nothing available later in the day, but that there were seats available on the same flight leaving the next day. Momentary relief.  We could get my passport by then and be on our way having only missed a day.  Then the most helpful agent tells us that he has to check on the rebooking costs.  We had already begun to brace ourselves knowing that it would be a miracle beyond all miracles if we managed to get off scott free.  This stupid mistake would cost us a couple hundred, we were sure of it.  Imagine our surprise when he told us that it would be nearly two grand...each.  I'm pretty sure my jaw hit the counter and remained there the entire time that the agent explained the cost.  Apparently, there are something like 8 different price categories...in coach.  It really didn't make much sense to me.  Coach is coach right?  He explained that our tickets were bought at the cheapest price category, and all that was left were tickets at the third highest category.  Are you kidding me?  Third highest?  Meaning people pay even more than that for a flight?  Who?  And why?  Did you get an extra bag of peanuts or something that make the tickets worth more than three times what we paid for?  Blown.  Away.  So the guy told us that there wasn't anything in our price range any time soon, so Jason asked him what would happen if we just walked away since spending an additional four grand wasn't in our cards.  We knew the tickets weren't refundable, so did we just loose the money all together?  He told us that we would need to rebook for a later date when they had tickets in our price category and that there would be a $250 rebooking fee per ticket.  Okay.  Still not great, but $500 is better than $4k, and it beats loosing the price of the tickets all together.

Defeated, we gathered our things, hopped on the MAX and headed back to Jason's Aunt's.  We figured that we would just have to postpone the trip a bit, and decided to make the most out of our drive to Portland.  I finally got to visit Powell's books, then we had a really nice dinner at a pub and finally I gorged myself on some delicious gelato.  Mmmm.  By the time we got back into Bend around 10pm, I had pretty much come to terms with our bad luck.  I was bummed because I had worked so hard the week previous in order to take this vacation, and I was looking forward to getting to spend time in London while Sarah was there too.  The worst part however was knowing that now I was going to miss the Open House.  I was really looking forward to it, and was excited that it wasn't going to cost us anything.  Oh well.  C'est la vie .

As I was brushing my teeth and preparing to call it a night, the thought ran through my head that I should pull out my valid passport, as Jason had mentioned that he didn't see it in the safe when he grabbed them.  I should also mention that I got a little reprimanding for even keeping my old passport, and that even if I did want to keep it, that I shouldn't put it in the safe with the new one, as that was just asking for something like this to happen.  I agreed that it was stupid and I didn't think it through very well, but I was concerned when he said he didn't see another passport in there.  Surely he just missed it.  So I started to look and began to panic when I wasn't finding it.  I emptied every envelope in there and came up empty handed.  Great.  Where else would it be?  This is the only place I keep it.  As soon as I get back from a trip, into the safe it goes.  I started to think back to the last time I needed it.  Jeez.  It was over a year ago, June 2009 when we took an Alaskan cruise that had a stop in Canada.  I took a quick trip down memory lane in an effort to recall what luggage I had taken on that trip.  Well, I was pretty sure it was the same bags I had for this trip.  Gasp!  No.  It couldn't be.  I unzipped the front pocket of my carry-on bag, and lo-and-behold, there was my passport...practically laughing at me.

I HAD IT THE ENTIRE TIME!!!  At first I laughed at this.  It was just too ridiculous to even fully comprehend.  Then I got really, really angry.  Why?!?  Why couldn't there have been a reason for me to check that pocket.  Seriously.  That's all it would have taken.  This is a sick, cruel joke.  Again, I got even angrier thinking about how hard I worked for this vacation, and how I didn't deserve this.  After much slamming of drawers and doors, and crying myself to exhaustion, I collapsed into bed.

I woke up the next morning to find the bitter taste in my mouth had not dissolved.  I rolled over and went back to sleep, not yet ready to face reality.  I finally forced myself out of bed and joined Jason downstairs sometime around 10:30am.  I had some breakfast and then we began the search for dates/tickets for our rescheduled trip.  We must have found 3 different itineraries that we thought would work, but then when we would confirm with his folks, would find out that they wouldn't work and had to go back to the drawing board.  Finally, we found some dates that worked for everyone and we headed to Jason's office to book the tickets (we don't have secure internet at home...in fact, I 'borrow' my neighbors.  Their fault for not securing it really...that's how I look at it).

Once at his office, we logged in with our confirmation information to access our account.  At the top of the page read 'You missed your flight.'  Thanks again, Captain Obvious.  Underneath that was a link that said 'Find alternate flights.'  We clicked it, and it only lists that day (Wednesday) and the following day to find flights with.  Uh, okay.  So then we see at the top of this page that it says 'There will be no fees for accepting an alternate flight.'  You've got to be kidding me.  So apparently if you know you will miss your flight and try to rebook, it will cost you thousands, but if you miss it and then rebook, it won't cost you a dime.  Hmmph.  Awesome.  We just came to terms with the fact that we were going to go in October.  Now what?  The alternate flight that they showed was the same flight we were supposed to take on Tuesday but on Thursday.  Then it hit me.  Had we known that it wouldn't cost us to rebook after we missed the flight, we could have gotten on and rebooked for the Wednesday flight instead of the Thursday, but noooooo, most helpful agent man failed to mention that little tidbit to us.  I'm trying to believe that he was a good person and simply didn't even know that you could rebook online for free after missing a flight, but I struggle with that from time to time.

So now we had a new decision to make; rebook our flight to leave the next day and shorten our trip by two days (this after calling and talking with an agent to see if it was possibly to change our return flight by a couple days, only to find that would cost us $350 each...not an option), or rebook for an entire week in October and pay the $500 in rebooking fees.  It became pretty obvious that we should just go now, as it wouldn't cost us anything additionally, we already had the time off work, and we would still be there to see the Open House.

Luckily we hadn't unpacked, so it was very much de ja vu on Thursday morning...packing up the car, getting coffee and gas, dropping the doggie off at 'Summer Camp' and heading to Portland.  This time, no problems getting on the plane and we were on our way.

On another little side note/rant, the tickets that we were rebooked to were supposedly in that same $4k price category.  I was hoping that this meant we got seats in one of those rows in the front or the emergency exit rows with more leg room.  WROOOOOOONG!!  Oh so wrong.  We got put in the very last row for both of our flights.  Not only did this mean little-to-no reclining, it also had slightly less leg room than the average row.  Not so zesty when you are on a 14+ hour flight.  Pretty much the worst flight ever, but it did teach us to appreciate the space in the normal cabin rows on our way home.

In the end, we had a great trip.  Got to spend time with Grandma Kath, got to tour some great buildings and spaces (for free), got to see our friends, the Kings and do some shopping (got an awesome Halloween costume), and I got to see Phantom of the Opera in the theatre that housed the world premiere in back in 1986 and continued to play ever since.  All of it was amazing, and we packed it all into the short 3.5 days we were there.  We gave some serious thought to just 'accidentally' missing our flight home and rebooking, but thought that there could be a chance that they wouldn't give us two free rebookings in one trip.  We hadn't been very lucky lately, so decided not to push it.

Lesson learned, even if you are sure you have your passport, check and check again.  Physically pull it out, open it and look at it.  Also, if you get a new passport, never keep your old one in the same place, take it from me.  Finally, always unpack and put important documents away as soon as you get home!  One little mistake can lead to a serious crick in your neck and mild headache due to lack of/very bad sleep due to horrible seat reassignments.  I have to wonder if we would have been stuck in those same awful excuses for seats had we actually paid the four thousand for them.  Now THAT would have been infuriating!!

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