We arrived at the airport, bright and early that Friday morning. We were booked on Air Tran, with one stop in Milwaukee. That’s when the trip from hell began. To make a long story short, I am 6’4.5” inches tall and my height is mostly in my legs. So I always ask for, and usually receive either an exit row or an aisle seat. The flight was full, so in order to do this, Karen and I had to be separated. After 30 minutes and $40 to check two bags, we received our tickets. Even though I had an aisle seat, the problem was, it was the last seat in the plane against the back bulkhead, meaning the leg room was cut in half. Plus the armrest did not lift, so I couldn’t swing my leg out in the aisle. This was painful. Luckily, Karen switched seats and was able to sit next to me on the first leg of our trip.
On the second leg, I was able to get an exit row, but Karen was unable to switch seats and sit next to me. Instead, I sat next to a rude man who upon landing began smoking an electronic cigarette. It looked real, so I said something. Well, I guess I left my diplomatic voice in Washington D.C. and he was already rude, so let’s just say the exchange was brief, but not polite.
Then upon arriving at LAX, I found my suitcase drenched. The few books, I carried with me for display during the ceremony and festival, were wet. I tried to lodge a complaint, but the baggage attendant kept calling it water condensation and claimed there was no damage. We had four hours to get our rental car, check into the hotel, get dressed and leave for the ceremony, so I dropped the complaint and left.
Yet, when we arrived at our hotel room, we pulled our clothes out of the bag, and they were soaked. I know it was raining in Milwaukee, but our bags looked like someone dumped them in a swimming pool and left them there for two hours. Rain should not have soaked all the way through the bag. Needless to say, my blood pressure must have jumped 20 points. I called the airlines and received no satisfaction. They wanted me to go back to the baggage attendant at LAX and lodge a complaint. Been there…done that…and got jack-squat!
Luckily the hotel was able to dry and press our clothes in two hours and I took the blow dryer from the bathroom and attempted to dry the books -- page by page. I also tried to salvage our promotional flyers. After two hours, I had two raggedy, but dry books and a handful, out of 500, flyers. We chose the best looking book to display at the awards ceremony, slipped the handful of flyers in my pocket, and left -- no longer feeling like teenagers going to the prom. When I put my book out for display, alongside the other winners, I almost felt like screaming. But I held my head up high and proceeded to mingle with the other authors.
When it was my turn to accept my award, I ended my acceptance speech with the quick story on how the airlines ruined our books and almost ruined our evening. I compared what our bags went through to the classic T.V. luggage commercial of a gorilla in a cage throwing suitcases around.
Well the rest of the evening was flawless, exciting and we met award winning authors from around the nation. The feeling of two teenagers at the prom soon returned. The next day at the festival was also good. The trip was well worth the agony. I also learned a lesson…carry-on…carry-on…carry-on.
But the feeling did not last long. On the way home, the ticket agent stuffed me in the window seat during both legs of the flight. Even after four days, my knees are still in pain. Maybe next time I win an award, I will shoot for First Class. I certainly won’t fly Air Train.
Malcolm D. Petteway
Author, Osguards: Guardians of the Universe
Owner, Rage Books LLC