my last UK trip all over again.
I ask the customer service agent what he suggests. He says he could book us on the first flight the next day. I hang up on him.
19:36: We get up and follow the signs to the nearest baggage claim area.
19:43: We arrive at the United Airlines baggage service office. There’s a sign-in sheet in the waiting room. I sign in, sit down, and try to keep my cool.
Just before 20:00 a staffer who reminds me of Ira Glass calls my name. He takes our baggage tracking receipts and starts looking them up, agreeing that based on my recording that we dropped the bags off after 19:00, and the fact that it’s only 20:00, there’s almost no chance that they’ve been loaded onto either the 19:05 or the 20:58 flights.
Sure enough, by 20:02 he has located our suitcases and dispatched someone to fetch them. We thank him, and head out to the luggage slide between the carousels.
20:10: Our suitcases are returned. I give the baggage handler a thumbs up and tell him he’s a hero. He looks a little confused. We head to the rental car building, which is a shuttle bus trip away.
20:26: I pick Budget rental cars, on the fairly spurious grounds that they were the cheapest familiar brand in Costa Rica. Arriving at the desk, I explain that we need a car to go one-way from Houston to Austin Bergstrom, because the airline has stranded us.
The only vehicle they have available for a one-way trip is a luxury SUV. I’m not wild about it, and briefly ponder trying one of the other half dozen car rental firms in the immediate vicinity. I see people waiting at the Dollar counter, and realize I’ve reached my limit as far as lines and waiting. One credit card transaction later, we head to the car lot to see what we just rented.
It turns out to be a Buick Enclave. In the dark, the dashboard lights up like an aircraft cockpit. There are buttons everywhere. I eventually locate the important controls, and we leave the rental lot at around 21:00.
I haven’t yet memorized the route from IAH to Austin, though it seems like my life is leading that way. I pull out my phone and ask Google to navigate us. We head west, making a brief stop to pick up a bottle of Gatorade and two cans of Red Bull — one for me, and one for rothko. Experience suggests that Red Bull will keep me functional for about 4 hours, which should be enough to get us home safely.
I’ve never driven a luxury car before. I have to admit that the Buick is very comfortable. It seems to want to go at least 30 mph unless you apply the brakes, and it whooshes along at 80 with an effortlessness that really shows the Prius’s weak points. It also turns out to have Sirius XM satellite radio, so rothko finds the 80s new wave channel to help keep us awake.
23:20: We finally arrive at Austin Bergstrom, almost 5 hours later than expected, not to mention $200 poorer. The rest of the journey is tedious but uneventful, and we get home around midnight.
I still have no idea what the hell happened in the immigration area. I doubt I ever will. I guess I have to assume that any international trip could involve a random Kafkaesque 2 hour delay at immigration. From now on, I’ll have to do my best to avoid any journey that involves international travel with connecting flights.
© mathew 2017