Greetings from Columbia!
You know, I consider myself a reasonably savvy traveler. Back in the day I would be flying somewhere for work three weeks out of every month. I guess in the intervening years I’ve gotten stupid or something. Or at least I was yesterday.
Things started out pleasantly enough I suppose. We exited our apartment in Gireum-dong, crossed the street to the bus stop for the airport limo, and set about waiting for it to arrive. A cab driver approached and asked me in near perfect English (including an English accent) if he “might interest me in transport to the airport”. I asked him how much and he told me the usual fare is around W75,000 plus toll. I sensed a negotiation was about to ensue so I called over the pro Jee Yeun. They went back in forth for a while (in Korean of course), and in short order I saw the driver grimace and nod in agreement. Jee Yeun had gotten a W30,000 fare including the toll, the same price as the bus! I think we both felt a little guilty about it and Jee Yeun told me to give him a big tip. I told the driver during the drive that I was going to give him something extra for his troubles. He told me that wasn’t necessary, he had agreed to the price and that was satisfactory. At the airport I gave him extra anyway.
During the drive the cabbie asked my what I thought about Donald Trump. I said I thought he was pretty much a clown, but he has a message that resonates with many Americans (including me). I also told him I’d rather have a clown as president than a liar and a crook like Hillary. Anyway, that was the first time I’ve ever discussed American politics with a Korean cab driver. The driver then offered up the three best things that are uniquely Korean–Hanguel, Korean food, and Korean mothers. I agreed on the first two, said I’d never had a Korean mother, but opined that Korean women are the most beautiful in the world. He responded the women get even better when they become moms. It was a much more pleasant ride than I’ve every had on the airport limo.
We got to the airport four hours before our scheduled departure. The check-in counters weren’t open yet, so Jee Yeun had lunch and I went outside to vape. After dropping our luggage and getting our boarding passes, we cleared security and immigration in short order, then Jee Yeun hit the duty free stores and I found a place for a beer and a sandwich near our gate. Finally it was time to board and we ensconced ourselves in our exit row seats (for which I had paid a $350. premium) for the long flight to Dallas-Fort Worth.
A selfie for luck and we’re on our way!
Room to stretch out my legs and no one to recline the seat in front of me!
It’s been a long time since I’ve flown American Airlines, but I figured they couldn’t be much worse than United or Delta. I was wrong about that. The food was practically inedible, but that wasn’t really a surprise. I have grown accustomed though to passing the endless time on board by watching movies via the seat back entertainment system. Except for the first hour or so they crew couldn’t get it to work. After a couple of reboots, it finally came on line but it didn’t turn out to be worth waiting for. Unlike every other freaking airline I’ve flown, this was not an “on demand” system with dozens of movie choices you can watch when you want, for as long long as you want, or pause and resume later. American’s system had six movies on offer, none of which struck me as “must see”. Still, I had nothing but time to kill, so I clicked on one and saw that it had already started. Clicked on another, same thing. So, it was like being at the movies, you don’t get to choose when you watch at all. Thanks for that American!
Well, at least I had leg room which proved to afford enough comfort for me to actually sleep on the plane. Interrupted though it proved to be. Of course, the downside to the bulkhead row is that is where is they tend to put the travelers with infants. And the one in the row across from us had an impressive set of lungs. Once that kid managed to start napping, I was awakened by the most obnoxious snorer in history who was residing in the seat behind me. I put on my headphones, played some classical music, and more or less drowned out the distractions. I was on the aisle though, so with irritating regularity I’d be bumped and jostled by folks making their way to the lavatory. Ah well, the joy of flying and all that.
Arrived in Dallas with 2 hours to clear customs and then the real fun began. Being a U.S citizen myself and with Jee Yeun’s permanent residence status we were directed to an automated kiosk to handle the immigration process. It actually worked like a charm, except Jee Yeun got flagged. Which meant we were directed to the long ass immigration line we had previously avoided. Ah well, we got through that queue just about the time our bags were arriving on the carousel. Another line for customs where a friendly guy spent time chatting us up about Jee Yeun’s length of stay in Korea and my job there before sending us on our way.
Sadly, our way was blocked by the long line trying to get through security. Only two TSA agents were doing the screening and they struck me as incompetent, although the four other agents standing around watching them were perhaps merely lazy. It was more than a little infuriating. When we finally got through (and redressed) we had thirty minutes to make our connection in terminal B (we were in D) which was doable but would require some hustle. But as we left the security area one of those cart drivers asked what gate and when we said B-35 he said hop on. That was a first time experience and was much quicker than taking the “sky train” that circumnavigates the airport.
We arrived at B-35 at 6:10 just in time for the announcement that our 6:30 flight was being delayed until 7:45. And things went downhill from there. To briefly summarize, DFW is a crappy airport. It is outdated, poorly designed, and disorganized. Plus, they don’t offer any designated
smoking vaping areas inside the airport. Also, the WiFi sucks. I didn’t have a working phone to call my daughter and say we’d be arriving late. Two different pay phones wouldn’t accept my credit card. So, we got the best WiFi signal we could find, sent a message via Facebook and hoped it worked.
With time to kill I reconnoitered the B terminal security line and judged I’d have plenty of time to enjoy some vape and re-enter the airport long before my delayed flight would depart. Jee Yeun wanted to shop around some so we agreed to reconvene at our gate at 7:00. As I completed my security screening at 6:50 I heard my name and Jee’s being called over the airport PA system. Seems our plane was ready to depart with or without us. So, I ran through the airport like only a fat old man can (not a pretty sight, trust me) and made it to gate B-45. Only then realizing I was supposed to be at gate B-35. So I did some more running in the opposite direction and reached the gate after it was closed. The plane was still there however, so I found an agent willing to go down and see if they’d let me board. I assumed Jee was already on the plane wondering where in the hell I was. The agent came back and told me the pilot had said “no more passengers”. Which as it turns out was provident because Jee Yeun was not on the plane. She walked up just as our plane was backing away from the gate. If I had boarded and not found Jee Yeun there I would have had to fight my way back off the plane. No way I’d abandon her in Texas with no money and no clue.
Nothing to do now but find an alternative route to Columbia. I berated the agent who had made the 7:45 departure announcement, but truthfully I know these things can be fluid and I should have stayed within earshot of the updated announcements. The agent said the next flight with seats available was 6:30 p.m. the next day. She said there was one at 6:30 a.m. that was sold out but we could try standby. I didn’t like either of those options and told her I needed to fly tonight. What about Charlotte I asked? She said yes, there’s a flight out of B-41 at 8:10 and it has seats! It took her an inordinate amount of time for her to do the massive keystrokes involved in completing the re-booking. She finally called another agent over for help, and she told her she had forgot a step in the process. Her tone and body language added an unspoken “dumb ass”. Finally we had our new boarding passes in hand and we scurried off towards our new gate. Before we got there I actually looked at the boarding pass which said I was going to Charleston. The first word that came to mind was dumb ass.
So it was back to the agent who had first called the dumb ass dumb ass. It took her awhile and some assistance from a supervisor (who’s the dumb ass now?) but she got us booked on the 8:10 flight to Charlotte. Problem was, it was 7:45 by now and the plane was departing from D terminal. So I got to ride the dreaded Sky Train after all. Of course, like a dumb ass I got on going in the wrong direction which meant I had to visit every damn terminal stop before we came back around to D. It was 8:05 when we detrained but luck was finally with us–the gate was relatively close to the station and the flight was delayed by 15 minutes. Despite it being a full flight, I even managed to get me and Jee seated together. We connected with the daughter again via FB and she agreed to meet us in Charlotte. And we were off on our detour to North Carolina.
Wheels down landing and then off to the agreed upon rendezvous point at baggage claim. Not that we had any baggage to claim, ours had made the trip to Columbia as originally planned. No daughter in site, so Jee Yeun bummed a phone and we were finally able to hook up with our ride home.
Jee Yeun was a little distressed because all of her carefully purchased Korean food items (including her kimchi) were in the bags at the Columbia airport. It was 1:30 a.m. by now and that burg of an airport had long since shut down for the night. So we made a stop at a 24 hour Wal-Mart and stocked up with enough rice and noodles to get us through the night and morning.
Made it to bed at 3:30 a.m. and woke up just a little before 8. Drove the daughter’s car to the Columbia airport and retrieved our luggage without incident. Then it was off to Enterprise to rent a car for the next ten days. When it came to the part about proof of insurance, I gave them the name of my agent. The counter guy called and came back to say my policy had expired in 2012. I found that odd since I had renewed my policy in January. So I got on the phone with the insurance company and we argued back and forth for awhile before I exclaimed in exasperation “I’m done with Traveler’s insurance!” The agent lady said “what? we don’t handle Traveler’s insurance!” I felt like a dumb ass then. Anyway, the rental folks called Traveler’s and confirmed my coverage and I got the car. A very nice Hyundai Accent.
We drove it to Planet Vapor where I restocked on vaping oil and bought a new and more powerful e-cigarette. Jee Yeun was hungry and guess what she wanted–Korean food. Well, it’s understandable we had been out of Korea for almost 24 hours after all.
It was okay I guess, but not as good as the stuff back home.
Next stop was the Korean market where she stocked up on everything she could conceivably need for the next 10 days, and I’d wager a month after that. Well, you can’t be too careful I suppose.
I was dragging ass by now so was glad to get back to the house for a little afternoon siesta. Woke up and got ready for some Friday night darts with the old crew at Rack’s (formerly known as Kwagga).
Took home second place money which was secondary to the enjoyment of getting reacquainted with old friends.