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2008-08-25 - 7:24 a.m.

Summer has been fun.

The little girls enjoyed having their older siblings here for one month between July and Aug. My parents came for a visit for five days during that time as well. It was lovely. They found a Priceline hotel so they could come visit a while and get back to peace when it was enough time with our busy family.

Travel plans are not exactly my forte... so it was an adventure getting the kids here and back to Buffalo.

I was thrilled to find tickets on travelocity that I had booked for $150 each round trip! I had been concerned about HOW I could afford to get the kids! Unfortunatly I tend to be a little slower than most in that area of retention.... so I make the same mistakes over and over until the learning sinks in. Nothing new for me to have to deal with. In this case, it was when the kids DAD called the airport to see what extra bag fees might be incurred, that my repeated error was discovered: The airline checked the reservation and indicated the kids couldn't take the flight as Katerina is not yet 15 years old and kids have to be 15 to fly US AIR on a connecting flight unaccompanied. Now what was just frustrating about that is that I KNEW THAT WAS THE POLICY A YEAR AGO when I made the SAME mistake! On that occassion I purchased tickets on Southwest via credit card, and got a refund to be used AFTER she turned 15. Now here is the kicker: After last DEC when Katerina had a birthday, I USED those tickets! I called and indicated she had her birthday and was 15 and the kids flew to visit me for Easter uneventfully. ON THAT trip it was only ON THE WAY TO THE AIRPORT that I commented to Katerina and Soren that I was so pleased to have had the refund and used it since her birthday, when Katerina informed me : "But MOM, I am STILL NOT 15. I turned 14 in December."

To which I laughed and said "Are you kidding?"

"No, But my school ID was printed wrong. They got the year wrong so it says I was born in 1983."

I said, "We aren't going to lie. Just hope no one ASKS how old you are."

We continued to the airport, the kids checked in -I even asked for an accompanying boarding pass and the agent gave me one and we went to the gate and they flew without a hitch.


ON this occassion we were not so lucky. The kid's Dad was wonderful in deciding to drive them ALL THE WAY HERE as I had the little ones with me the weekend of intended travel. That was very sweet of him. So they made it. Then I called the airline to see if I could re-book the travel to be a DIRECT FLIGHT. I called a few weeks after they had arrived to find out that YOU HAVE TO CALL AN AIRLINE WITHING 24 HOURS OF NOT USING A RESERVATION TO RE-BOOK- OR THEY CANCEL THE WHOLE THING.

Then the agent said "Wait the return flight is still in the system, but it says 'No Value" "

I was encouraged that it was still there though. She gave me a number to call Customer Service and explain my error to see if a refund and reschedule could be arranged. They kept me on hold then hung up on me.

I decided we would just go to the airport and hope for the best. (As I really didn't have time to make those calls from work when I am suppossed to be working!)

Let the adventure begin...

It was a scheduled 6:30pm flight on a Friday night out of Baltimore. I was happy the little girls Dad was kind enough to keep them one extra night. WHEW... I had envisioned camping out with the whole family in the airport waiting for a direct flight. I also envisioned getting a ticket agent who wasn't kind enough to waive both the re-book and accompanying minor fees (Which YES I have had waived on two prior occassions.)

With maxed credit lines and $20 cash left in my bank account on that Friday after arriving in Baltimore, I knew getting the kids off to Buffalo was going to happen but I wasn't quite sure HOW that act of grace would occur.

But like many moments in recent years- I just KNEW it would inexplicable SOMEHOW WORK OUT.

Well... just a couple days before the intended departure, my boyfriend called and said "I have an idea. How about I get a hotel in Baltimore for Friday night, and I go with you."

I responded "That would be very thoughtful!"

Here I was thinking that I might as well not be stubborn and accept the help. Here I was thinking that he was offering to help in a gracious low key manner... and I said "That would certainly be teriffic should we have any problem getting the kids off."

And I gave a brief overview of the travel plans mess up.

So on that Friday I brought the kids with me to work. I tried to crank out a contact I was working on and sent if off to my boss near 3pm and headed to the airport.

The contract turned out to be the worst work product I have produced yet.... I missed alot of details.. But that is another story. I should NEVER have sent it to her and just waited until MON! Sales ALWAYS NEED IT YESTERDAY and by now I SHOULD KNOW TO IGNORE THEIR NUROTIC END OF MONTH PANIC. I worked on that one for two days previous and on that Fri my retention was just not there of some things I have been doing well but hadn't done in the previous month. Same old problem for me: I get something, but then I NEVER REMEMBER IT if I am not continuing to practice without a lapse AT ALL.

I had SAID to my boyfriend we would leave work at 2pm. I just felt like I HAD to finish that project and felt panicky myself about cutting out of work early with something undone... Residual of perfectionism and criticism I have to yet overcome.

So we started out the travels with the kids and I meeting him late, and him nervous and angry about me being late and sure we wouldn't make it on time to the airport.

But he is SO sweet as he said he should KNOW me by now and not be angry at ME. HE also was sweet when he discussed it with me-- reminding me that other people are reliant on me and that I do have a responsibility to them...etc... But delivered very lovingly.

Amazing as at that time we were stuck in the Beltway rush hour traffic. Which of course he mentioned to me when saying we should leave at 2pm.

After the hour of the tense ride, he waited while I went to check in the kids.

And the lady said "This reservation is no good. The tickets have 'NO VALUE' "

Then she asked the FATAL QUESTION. "How old are they?"

To which I replied honestly of course.

I told her that I was told they can't be EXCHANGED but was told that the returning leg was still in the system. I asked "Even if they have no value for refund, can't they fly the leg back but rather than go all the way to Buffalo just take it to Philly?"

See they are old enough for the DIRECT FLIGHT, and I had already called their PHilly grandparents who were willing to meet them there if necessary. If nothing else worked, then they were going to be met there by their Dad when he could get there. (HE however is in the same financial boat as me: Working living paycheck to paycheck but no buffer and no credit to draw on... so he would have had to hit up family for gas money! HE had a small buffer and used it to bring them to me!)

Now had it been the dude who helped me LAST time, chances are they would have been on that plane. But this attendent was more particular and likely better at her job... darn... NO give. She follows policy, unlike those who bend thinking THIS IS A GUIDELINE.. NOT A LAW... who I apprechiate. So she said:

"IF you don't follow the policy when booking we don't provide a refund."

To which my thought was "Right, we'll see."

She was clearly done with us.

So we went to ANOTHER Customer Service Rep and as I explined to my kids "So you recall our last experince here? It went differently... so they obviously have some discretion."

Well, I STILL didn't get them on that flight to Philly. BUT I DID get information on how to get a REFUND of the tickets. WHOO HOO.. YES If I mail in their birth certificates with a letter explaining my error and that they were not old enough for the scheduled flight, US AIR will refund the price. Thank goodness this Dec. Katerina REALLY WILL TURN 15! We can use that for a Christmas visit.

So there we were with a refund but no flight to Buffalo or even Philly. Back out to the curb where my boyfriend was waiting- remember him? The one who when I mentioned the flight mishap on the phone had said "Oh I hadn't been thinking about that, I was just thinkning you were going to be sad after sending the kids off, so it might cheer you up if I take you out in Baltimore and we have some nice time away."

Back to the curb to the boyfriend who just braved the Beltway without any road rage.

He was patiently waiting when all three of us returned. He then got the MORE DETAILED story of the travel plan mishap... as I guess it wasn't THAT CLEAR to him before: Either I left some things out or he wasn't listening when I had told them him weeks before. (Typcial of men and women's communication right?)

HE came to the rescue and offered to assist with a loan extension (I had borrowed from him to make my rent on time and wrote the check to pay him back which he said he would hold onto for another week before cashing! See I had $20 cash left AFTER ACCOUNTING for that still uncashed check!)

OFF to the SOUTHWEST AIRLINES COUNTER where I was pleased to discover you have to be AGE 5 to fly alone.

(I can't keep all the airline policys straight and these kids have been flying alone since they were ages 4 and 6! The policys have become more stringent in recent years.)

There were two flights on the last one out on Southwest. There was ONE spot on a flight scheduled to leave at 7:30 pm, so the attendent said "I will send the bags on that plane. Go to the gate and get on the standby list and perhaps you will get on it too."

Thank God there is a BAR in every airport. That's where we left the amazingly tolerent but irate fuming boyfriend. (YOU KNOW I HAVE COMMENTED A NUMBER OF TIMES THAT IF MY 2nd EX HUSBAND HAD LEARNED TO TAKE A DRINK AND CALM HIMSELF DOWN WE LIKELY WOULD HAVE REMAINED MARRIED! )

THe kids and I waited for the standby flight. We noted when the US Air flight they hoped to be on was THE ONLY ONE that left on time that night... there was poor weather in NY which delayed all else.

We waited... and waited... while the flight they were on standby for was pushed back .

Then at 8:55 pm after the flight was boarded the attendent called "Katerina and Soren COOK" The kids started doing a little cheer until they heard the last name was different. IT was funny though that the first names were THE SAME as theirs! After calling the couple a few times... then the attendent did call the kids names. They got the spot of that couple who was NO SHOW that happened to have their same first names.

Now the most miraculaous part of all of this to me is this: After, the kids got off safely, their Dad called to report he picked them up without a hitch; and my boyfriend who was happily chatting with a fellow barside, got up after hours of this unexpected adventure, and brought me to check into the hotel and loved me. Just continued to love me in the most marvelous way! We went out that evening to hear a wonderful Kentucky bluegrass band playing in an Irish Pub. I ate marvelous warm cheese with a rasperry sauce and fresh fruit. I of course can't recall the name of that French town this unique type of bree specially comes from,
however I have had it before and this was the best I ever tasted. Chambord comes to mind-- ah that is the raspberry liquor which was reduced to make the sauce for the bree.

It was just an absolutely wonderful evening in Baltimore. I awoke early the next moring to go to the 7:30 mass around the corner at the Cathedral. That was a beautiful building and the Cardinal who celebrated mass was of a warm wonderful welcoming demeanor which made if feel lovely to be there among the other half dozen up that early for a Sat morn mass. (There really were that few people in the church which surprised me.)

I did miss the kids as we strolled through Baltimore and I saw some of the same sites I had enjoyed with them last October. It was a lovely day with my marvelous forgiving boyfriend. I indeed felt very blessed as I left mass and stolled to find a good local deli where I found breakfast to go of steak and eggs for the man, western omlet for me and more hash browns than either of us needed for both of us for less than $10.

The highlight of the day had to be meeting a man named Pompeii at the famous oyster bar (I here hate my terrible memory! I can't recall the name of the place in the Lexington Market.)

This sweet man was there with his grandson who had to stand on a crate in order to reach the counter. IT was so very cute I asked to take a photo and we struck up a conversation. Pompeii said that place is like Cheers for he and a half dozen locals. My man and I had already had an order of oysters each, but after our chat, Pompeii insisted on ordering another for us to share so we could try them THE RIGHT WAY: The way the locals enjoy them- with sliced egg on top and a dab of horseradish.

You should have seen that little boy eat that horseradish!

We loved visiting Baltimore which is a friendly city I look forward to returning to in our travels. We will definately stop to see Pompeii again when we do so along with the man who can shuck oysters so cleanly and so quicky that it looks easy.

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