This month saw a reprise of the Travel Hell 2010, on a lightning-quick trip back to the U.S. due to family illness, which I combined with a slight detour to Oklahoma. Leaving Germany I was scheduled on two Lufthansa flights, which managed not one but two equipment failures, meaning I got to wait an extra four hours in Düsseldorf. Not an auspicious start, but a cakewalk compared to my return, where it turned out Lufthansa had managed a take-over (as in hostile) of my original ticket with United, apparently turning it into a one-way, meaning they canceled my return. Which of course I didn't discover until the night before I was due to fly back. I had to wait 8 extra hours in Denver after I finally got everything straightened out (which entailed some additional 3 hours on the phone plus an extra half-hour in the airport getting sent around to various partner airlines who refused me boarding). Do you suppose Lufthansa did anything? Like offer me business class? Or even a lousy meal? Why no.
These big airline partnerships such as Star Alliance or SkyTeam are a great way to evade all accountability toward clients -- it's always the other airline's fault. So what did I do during those 8 hours I spent waiting for my flight? I called my credit card to initiate a dispute of the original ticket charge, which cost me a cool $1400. They call it non-delivery of service. After setting out to the airport at 7 AM Denver time, I finally got home in Berlin at the equivalent of 8 AM the next day. This on a routing that should have taken only 14 hours (DEN to BER). Unadulterated travel hell.
Well now, then there's the matter of what I was doing in Oklahoma. A special someone asked me twice if I wanted to go; he later claimed it was a dare. But as a prelude to visiting my family in Colorado I decided to stop by to see him (and raise him one)... Oklahoma City was interesting in a one-of-the-worst-hell-holes-I've-ever-been sort of way. No stranger to the South, having studied in North Carolina, I have to wonder if anyone does racist redneck better than Okies. There seems to be a special added Wild-West component; one gets the impression lynchin' would be far too much effort when there's always a rifle within easy reach... Meeting the family, however, simply did not match up to meeting my ex's (picture methadone-nodding evangelical nudists, well, it defies description but his sister's blackened necrotic veins are something I'll never forget). The big pow-wow of the main part of the clan in a tiny town just short of the panhandle involved vehicles peeling into the parking lot of the local diner from all directions virtually simultaneously; word had gotten out right quick about who was back in town. If it hadn't been for the jet-lag dragging my eyelids down, with the clock ticking past 7 then 7:30 PM as I was regaled with the news that Billy Joe was playing down at the local fairgrounds and the Avon catalog had some great sales on lip gloss, well, I think I'd have given myself an A+. As it was I have to say it was at least an A-. I'd gone prepared to spread layers of nice like thick Crisco frosting, and it appears that I was said to be the most normal of all the women he'd taken "home". He and I both know that I'm probably the most abnormal, but of course I decided early on in life not to reveal outward signs to mere mortals.
In a stunning double-header, I picked up 2 new states to match my obsessive, travel-by-list mother (who maintains that Mallorca is a separate country she's visited in Europe). While at her house I crossed it off the post-it tally on her world map; she literally had a fit. The spike in her blood pressure practically did her in right then and there as I told her that I believe I'm qualified to say, as a RESIDENT OF THE VERY COUNTRY she's trying to divide in two, that MALLORCA simply does not count! Anyway, she had tallied 49 U.S. states for herself and counted 47 for me; Oklahoma was one and since I found myself 14 miles from the Kansas border, I convinced that special someone to drive me up to knock out another one. I think I'm only missing Arkansas now...and I certainly hope it stays that way.