I believe in karma. Send positive energy out into the world and feel it returned. If negative energy comes your way, do everything you can to absorb it rather than choosing to radiate it outward. But sometimes, I now know, life doesn't work this smoothly. It becomes necessary to hogtie karma, kick it in the gut, and then stare it in the eye and remind it that you are owed and "no" is not an acceptable answer.
On Wednesday, when we left for Key West, Connor and Ed departed a couple of hours before Helen and I. These screw-ball flights were necessary because the price of the tickets was steep, and we wanted to use at least one frequent flier ticket to help offset costs. And our available frequent flier ticket was on US Air, which was substantially more expensive than whatever airline Ed and Connor took. Ed and I were clearly feeling lucky about our recent travel experiences with Helen and Connor that had gone quite well - so lucky, in fact, that we decided to take connecting flights, rather than flying direct to Fort Lauderdale or Miami and driving 4+ hours. Connor and Helen both like airplanes and airports a lot more than they like cars, and there are no direct flights into Key West. It seemed like the better option at the time.
When we arrived at Dulles - at the ridiculous hour of 5:00 AM - Connor and Ed trotted off to their plane, while Helen and I dawdled along, knowing we had lots of time. When Helen and I got to the final security checkpoint, there was a young man (mid-twenties?) asking everyone walking by (which is not a lot of people, given the time of day) if they were heading to Continental. He clearly was looking for an escort for his parents who did not speak English. No one seemed near, and the older couple was looking a little nervous, so I told the son that Helen and I would be happy to walk his parents directly to the gate and make sure the gate agent knew they would need assistance. He thanked me profusely, bid his parents farewell, and presumably told them to tail Helen and me.
Helen and I are not the fastest companions, but we are reliable - and at least Helen is quite cute. We managed to guide our companions to the correct gate with lots of smiles, pointing, and some bowing at the end. It was a LOOOONG walk, and of course, we had to backtrack to get to our gate. I was lugging a fair amount of luggage since I had decided not to check a bag--thrifty! On our walk back, several airport workers asked me if I forgot something since they'd already seen Helen and I and our entourage walk past them. "No, no I did not forget something. TSA needs to figure out what to do when people need an escort, instead of counting on people like me to escort non-English speaking passengers through this maze of an airport." At which point, they would uniformly look embarrassed because that man pointing to the train? He could've offered to help me out. And that woman who appeared to just be walking around making sure everything was OK? She could've asked if we needed help...when we actually needed help!
But, whatever, we made it. They made it. Good deed performed, a seemingly excellent way to start a vacation.
Fast forward to Sunday morning. I received a call from USAir telling me my flight had been delayed by 1.5 hours. Some quick math on my part proved that this would cause Helen and me to miss our connection. So I called USAir. And do you know what they offered me? They told me I could get out of Key West the following day at 4:40. Or, I could take my chances and get to Charlotte and hope that something was delayed there, and if not, they could get me out the following day.
In my most composed voice, I started in by saying "Sandy" (the person with whom I was speaking) "this is a USAir problem, and you are making it my problem, and that is not fair. Are you seriously suggesting that I should risk spending the night in an airport with my two year old daughter? You have got to be kidding me."
And this is when Ed announced to Connor and Helen that it was time to go get juice and have breakfast by the pool, because he has seen this conversation before, and it never goes well. Never.
Why yes, indeed, that is exactly what Sandy was suggesting. She would neither guarantee me a hotel room, or even reasonable transportation out Monday morning. She kept repeating that there was nothing available.
"Oh yes, Sandy, yes there is. You can solve this problem for me. Please help me. I cannot miss work tomorrow and I cannot spend an extra day in Key West with only one of my children while the other one flies home with his dad. Put me on another airline."
After being put on hold, Sandy told me that there appeared to be no other flights available, at which point, I decided to remind karma that I was owed, and the bill was due right now. The best thing Sandy could do was get me to Richmond. Unfortunately, I am not geographically inclined, so I had no idea how far that was from Arlington. I pulled out my laptop, and decided to see if I could get a car from Richmond to Arlington. But before I did that, I checked kayak one last time and lo and behold, USAir was selling flights later in the day, and Delta had a flight that was a bit more than half of what I paid for my current flight. I informed Sandy exactly what flights were acceptable, giving her many alternate itineraries. And voila, Helen and I were booked on a perfectly reasonable Delta itinerary.
To get from point A to point B was far from pretty. I cried, I begged, I pleaded. Ed would've given up long before me had he been in an identical situation. But I knew karma would come through, even if I did have to punch her in the gut and remind her I was owed!