Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Leaving Brussels

My last few days in Brussels were a little stressful as I had a lot to do and several unexpected things that came up making it difficult to fit everything in. My final check out went well (other than the microwave that wasn't ours that we inadvertently packed). We were able to sell all the major things that we wanted to sell. Our stuff and our car should now be on their way back to the States.

My last two days in the office were tricky. I had been working really hard at home getting everything packed and cleaned up. In addition, we had an unexpected high level visit at work that we needed to help support. As a result of all the work, the stress, and not getting enough sleep, I started to get sick. I wrapped up all the projects I had at work as well as possible, wishing I could have done more. I am so grateful that I was allowed to leave in time to make it home to my brother's wedding.

I made it to the airport with plenty of time and waited in line to check my bags. I answered all the security questions the best I could (though the Could you tell me all the electronics you have packed? one took a while). As I was checking my bags, there was a little confusion because the second leg of my trip was on a separate reservation. I explained that the people I worked for were paying to get me back to DC, but that I had to pay separately from there. I clearly stated my final destination and thought everything was fine. Though I was crammed into the middle of a five-seat row whose lack of leg room was criminal, the people I sat next to were very friendly, the on-board movies were decent, and I slept most of the way anyway.

My problems really began when I landed in Dulles. Take my advice and try to avoid Dulles Airport at all cost. I followed the signs for people who had connecting flights and stood in line for Customs for a good two hours. Once through I began looking for my bags. Surely my bags would have made it there by now. The thing is, there were bags everywhere and my two bags are about as generic-looking as you can imagine. After I noticed that the majority of people on my flight had eventually found their bags and mine were still nowhere to be found, I went and waited in line for another 45 minutes to try to figure out where mine were. Since my bags had the clothes in them that I needed for my brother's wedding, it was important that they made it in time. Turns out they had been sent to a different baggage claim for people who weren't making connecting flights. I spent the next hour trying to get to them or at least trying to make sure they were heading to the right place. I was completely unsuccessful and, as a result of wasting so much time looking for my bags and spending so much time in security lines, had missed my connecting flight by five minutes, even though I had run to get there and had arrived several minutes before it was scheduled to leave. Luckily there was another flight on a different carrier that would get me to my next leg on time, but I was going to have to run for it, too. I also had to cut in front of people at security (something that I hate when people do to me--Why don't they just get to the airport earlier or plan more time between connections? I always think to myself). Pardon me, but I just had all sorts of problems with my baggage and I'm trying to make a connecting flight so I can get back in time for my brother's wedding I said as I pushed my way through a good hour of waiting allowing me to arrive at the terminal just before the plane was scheduled to leave. Wouldn't you know it? This flight was a good 45 minutes late, which was going to make it really tough to catch my final connection. Don't worry they said, your connecting flight is running really late also.

I paid a few bucks to upgrade to Economy Plus so I could have an aisle seat with a little more leg room. I pulled out my brand new laptop to watch one of the new Blu-ray movies I had recently acquired. As it booted up, I was horrified at what I saw: hard disk failure. Apparently all the running around had done bad things to my hard drive. No movies for me. More waiting; but at least I wasn't standing in a line. I was really feeling sick and exhausted by now. Finally we were able to board the plane and I was very glad to have upgraded to the livable legroom section. Several other people followed suit after trying to fit themselves and their stuff in the "normal" seats. Finally I arrived in Phoenix only to discover that my connecting flight, which did leave quite late, had made up the time in flight and had already left. There were no other flights to Salt Lake that night, but there was one early in the morning that would still get me home in time. They were willing to put me on the other flight, but would not pay for a hotel. They said there was nothing more they could do. I contemplated driving from there, but figured it would take just as much time and I was certainly in no condition to make it safely. I agreed to the change and walked off very upset passing by another gal who was having a similar conversation with a different ticketing rep. That's the most I can do he said as he handed her something. I walked right up to him and said I am in the exact same situation as her and I would really appreciate it if you would give me whatever you just gave her. It was only a ten dollar credit for food, but at least it was something.

So I paid for a cheap hotel in hopes that I could get a few hours of sleep. The first thing I did after checking in was to get on the phone to see if I could figure out what was going on with my bags. After two hours of people paying lip service on the phone, I was pretty sure my bags were still somewhere in Dulles Airport and were not yet on their way to my final destination. How hard could it possibly be for someone to go find them, put correct tags on them, and put them on a conveyor belt that would allow my clothes to make it to me in time for the wedding? I settled in for a few hours of sleep.
The rest of the trip actually went quite smoothly. It was so good to see my wife and family. Since my bags didn't make it in time, we immediately went shopping for some replacement clothes and then went straight to the wedding. I was completely exhausted and sick as a dog, but the wedding was amazing and it was so good to be there with all of my family.

My bags finally made it a couple days later, though they tried to deliver them to an old address when we clearly told them that we would pick them up from the airport.

My laptop is kind of functioning again, though the hard drive is making bad noises and needs to be replaced.

When I finally made it to a doctor, the diagnosis were bronchitis and an infection in my lower abdomen. Two separate antibiotics and I'm finally starting to feel better.

It was very difficult to leave Brussels (in more ways than one), but it has already been worth all the trouble.


Whitney V said...

Wow! That sounds like quite the adventure! I'm glad that you made it back to the States and home for your brother's wedding . . . I can't believe how grown-up your girls all are!! Matt and I miss you all a bunch and hope that we'll be able to see you before you head off on your next adventure.

Shelly Wagstaff said...

Great picture! I'm glad to see it turned out. We are so glad you made it home in time. What a pain traveling can be. Lots of lessons learned I am sure. I hope you are feeling better.