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Published: June 16th 2006
The whole point of this trip was to write a book. We thought we might give it the title given to this blog entry. At this point, we must be really really funny. First, I'd like to start with a vocab lesson from the ever helpful if not mildly dumbed down dictionary.com:
Debacle n. A total, often ludicrous failure; a sudden disastrous collapse; a rout
Fiasco n. A complete failure.
Snafu n. A chaotic or confused situation.
Quagmire n. A difficult or precarious situation.
Other words that come to mind: calamity, catastrophe, predicament, fuck.
Day one began rather well. I went for a good long run beside the Charles. It was sunny and the esplanade was free of any charity walks/runs/earthfests. It went so well I even had the energy to hum the Rocky theme and make punching gestures at my door upon returning home. Heck, why wouldn’t I be excited? I was flying to Ireland in T-minus six hours; I’d be in Germany in less than two days.
Two hours later, packed and on schedule, Sara and I emerged from 23 Elm quite jubilant. The sun that had been shining upon Cambridge all day had disappeared, a giant rain cloud had parked over the People’s Republic, but we did not mind. No mere thundershower could stop two intrepid backpackers like us. We made it to the T only slightly rained upon, and got to the bank on time.
The bank was either going to have Sara’s ATM card or it was not. We were prepared to accept either eventuality. The DHL delivery man passed us on the way in and we took this as a good omen. Had he delivered the card? A friendly little man behind the shiny front desk confirmed that the DHL man had indeed delivered the card and if Sara could just sign right there we could be on our way. Sara signed right there and we were on our way. We stopped in the foyer to use the new ATM card. I didn’t NEED to, but I cashed a small check since I was there and I had the check on me. You know, every bit helps.
We emerged from Bank of America even more jubilant and discussed in-flight activity options such as a game of cards, finishing off the M&Ms, and ordering copious amounts of free drinks.
During this conversation, I began my obsessive “re-check the bag to make sure everything is really totally definitely where I put it” ritual. Lo and behold, everything was not where I put it. MOST everything was there. Except my super cool “keep everything together clip on totally safe and smart wallet” thing. The thing with all my cash...credit cards...my passport...license...student ID. You know those sorts of things. That wasn’t there.
So began a frantic middle-of-the-T bag search in which I removed everything from my bags at least five times. Slowly, the realization that my wallet had been swiped at the Bank of America ATM kiosk begins to surface. It is an uncomfortable sensation. Sara is on the phone with an automated voice that tells her calling a bank branch is impossible. They have no direct line. Of course.
We tell a cab driver that we need to get back to Harvard Square “as fast as is humanly possible.” Humans can get to Harvard Square from Park Street in fifteen minutes, if you are wondering.
Back to Bank of America. The same woman is standing with the same clipboard in the same spot. She wants to know if she can help us. I ask, “Did anybody turn in a wallet?” This begins a course of action throughout the Bank of America lobby. Clipboard woman approaches the shiny desk and asks blonde vapid bitch woman if anyone has turned in a wallet. Blonde vapid bitch woman smiles at me in a way that she might have called sympathetic but was really the same sort of compassionate little bitch ass smirk one sees on the president’s face during press conferences. She slooooowly turns her little bitch chair around and checks a drawer where such things apparently go.
“Nope. Nothing. Sorry.”
She returns to her work. I put down my backpack. Sara is already retracing steps, searching the T. The man who told Sara to sign right there a half hour ago comes over. He checks a different drawer that blonde vapid bitch woman didn’t think to check. Clipboard woman sends sweet intimidated by vapid bitch pink sweater girl down to see if anyone has tried to exchange currency downstairs, and to check their special drawer. She comes back up looking defeated, but not because of this situation, but because she always looks that way. Still, it is slightly comforting.
Other bankers get involved. They find the number for the police. The police tell me I can file a police report. I am picturing what I would do, could I get my hands on the person who stole the wallet. It is rather twisted. The security guard comes in from outside and hears the story. He has the reaction I was waiting for.
“Oh man. Oh that is terrible. Oh man.”
I am liking the security guard. He helpfully suggests going to Government Center and trying to apply for an emergency passport. Blonde vapid bitch woman has her head cocked like the sort of small dog that wears sweaters.
I am surrounded by bankers, still rifling through my bag, feeling about ready to FLIP OUT. Enter teenie tiny hurried man who interrupts the whole scene with a frantic, “I think someone took my umbrella! Did you see an umbrella on that table right there a minute ago?!”
Blonde vapid bitch woman says, “Jeez, things are just disappearing around here today.”
We get back on the T, headed to Government Center. We accost a New England Cable News van because they must know what goes on. The NECN guy directs us to the John F. Kennedy Federal building located past the Boston Sports Club on the corner over there. I mentally put him on the list of helpful people.
We enter the John F. Kennedy Federal building and walk through six miles of roped off line organizing things that are organizing nothing but air. The men at the desk give us the same look we had been enjoying all morning when this whole adventure was fun rather than fucking ridiculous. That, “oh look at these two with their giant matching backpacks, they must be up to something fun” look.
I explain that my passport, among other things, has been stolen. They are slightly less sympathetic than the Bank security guy but way more satisfyingly dismayed than blonde vapid bitch woman. They explain that we must go to the post office.
The post office has only four miles of roped off line organizers, and we are waiting behind old ladies with unstamped cards in giant pink envelopes. We check the time. Our flight leaves in two hours. The old ladies mail their cards and we approach the less shiny, more cluttered Post Office desk. Carlos hears our story and feels absolutely terrible. He shakes his head and tells us how absolutely terrible that is and how absolutely clueless he is as to what we should do. We have to go to his superior, Charlie. We move three inches to the right where Charlie is putting a stamp on a giant pink envelope.
Charlie looks like he is fun on a pub crawl. He listens to our story and lets out a low, “Those fucking bastards.” He then proceeds to win the most helpful person of the day award and produces all sorts of options, information, and light humor. He leans in real close and says, “I don’t know but I’ve heard that if you go in between eight and nine a.m. they are much more likely to be helpful than any other time of day.”
Where should we go?
To the Kennedy building.
We’ve been there.
He gives us his number and tells us to tell them that, “Charlie says to call him if there’s a problem.”
Charlie is definitely fun on a pub crawl.
He gives us his own number and tells us to call him tomorrow if we need anything. We extend all sorts of thank yous and head to the nearest pay phone to reschedule our flight.
For the second time that day we call information and realize that you can’t actually talk to a person at Logan International Airport. We call information again. We call our airline, Aer Lingus.
Aer Lingus really wants everyone to book online. They would really appreciate that. They would really advise booking online. But, if you must, you can wait on hold for thirty seven minutes and speak to a customer service representative. Sara sits down to eat some more M&Ms while I wait on hold for approximately eighty seven minutes. Charlie leaves for the night. The sky darkens. The phone is playing Gaelic Muzak. Every other minute a woman with a thick brogue says:
“Summertime in Ireland is like nothing else on Earth. Book a flight today and experience the trip of a lifetime.”
Then another person tells us how important our call is.
Then more Muzak. Our flight leaves in just over an hour when Susan asks if she can help me. Susan, believe it or not, can help. She puts our flight on hold for only a minor monetary raping and tells us she’s very sorry and to call tomorrow when we know what day and time we will be able to fly to the beautiful and exquisite Ireland.
Since we are in Government Center and the police station is somewhere nearby, we figure we might as well go ahead and file a police report. We ask a competent looking citizen where the police station is.
“Gee…around here? I don’t think there is one around here.”
We walk two feet and see the Police Station.
The foyer smells only slightly better than the most horrific porta-potty I’ve ever used. A hunched ancient woman who has been smoking for three hundred years asks if she can help us.
She looks up any reported wallet-returnings which of course yields nothing. She asks, in an offhand way as if she might have not asked had she not felt like it, “Where was it stolen from?”
I tell her the Bank of America in Harvard Square.
“Oh boy are YOU in the WRONG place. We can’t report that. That’s a whole other town.”
Sara and I exchange a look because the right place, at this point, is Aer Lingus Flight 132. And we are certainly not there.
She offers totally different advice regarding the passport situation than any other person who has yet to offer advice on the passport situation. We have no idea what building to go to but can only be certain that we will have to walk through several miles of line organizers when we do find it.
Just as we would have been ordering our first free-over-the-Atlantic drink we sit down at the Kinsale. You know, the “We’re an Irish bar” chain that serves things like green margaritas and Sullivan’s Steak Skewers. The irony is not lost on us. We eat our Caesar salads in silence.
Sara pays with her shiny new ATM card. I sign the bill while she is in the bathroom. I say, “I hear Central Square is lovely this time of year.”
We get back on the fucking god damned T for the fortieth time. We must now begin searching for my last remaining picture ID that has not been stolen, the Emerson College Lion Card. Go Lions.
Summertime in Government Center is more beautiful than any other place on earth. We shall venture there tomorrow…and then maybe get the heck out of this wretched wretched country.
Debacle: Day Two
This is Kelly live from Continental Flight 24 from Newark to Shannon. Do you know where Shannon is? We don’t. We know that it meets our minimal requirements in a destination:
1. It is not in the United States
2. …That was really the only requirement.
After my extensive discussion of our first day I thought I might do a recap this time and spare you all the details of Debacle Day Two. Actually, I had hoped to bang out another angry rant about the incompetent pricks that comprise the Government Center bureaucracy…but, um, everyone was really nice, helpful, accommodating…
It all started in Cambridge last night when we asked a police officer where the Cambridge Police Department was located and he said, “No idea.”
And then smiled. He had made a lighthearted joke. Then he proceeded to give very good directions to the conveniently located police department. We didn’t want to like him. But he was really quite sweet.
He was cute.
So then we figure the Tip O’Neil building from where passports are issued would give us plenty of fodder for an irritated if not irate Debacle Day Two blog entry. But no. Another nice police officer gave us directions and smiled and pointed out that we should try to not get hit by cars. Even the Metro passer-outer guy saw us with backpacks and asked if we needed directions to any place.
So we get to the O’Neil building where the security guards asked us if we minded taking out the laptop and corkscrew we had packed in our bags. When we did he said, “Oh thank you very much ladies.”
So we get to the top of the stairs and the nicest human being on the planet, Mr. D. Johnson, explains how we will be able to get a passport in time for a flight later that day. I told him I could kiss him. He gave me an, “Oh pashaw” wave.
THIS is when it gets a little fucking irritating. I do not have the vocabulary or the stomach to perfectly express my feelings toward Aer Lingus at this time. Plus my grandma’s going to read this. But let me just say that whoever is in charge of that ramshackle outfit should be chained to the guy who stole my wallet and dropped from this cozy continental flight into the freaking Atlantic.
In order to get a passport on that day we had to get a new flight itinerary, passport photos, and an appointment at the passport office manned by that god among men D. Johnson. Two of these three things happen at Empire Photo across the street from the O’Neil building. Empire Photo is an oasis of helpfulness, it turns out.
As she should be. We spent a little over an hour in Empire Photo, mostly using the man’s internet and phone and leaving our stuff all over creation. We spent most of the time on hold waiting for a useless Aer Lingus representative to explain very sweetly how he or she was going to deliver a monetary gang rape including whips, chains, and vicious rabid squirrels right there on the phone. I left for a minute to use the bathroom next door at a bar called “The Penalty Box.” It was nine fifty seven a.m. Three men were at the bar drinking beers and watching Fight Club. ???
Back at Empire Photo Sara is still on hold. I get my passport photos and print out an itinerary, which should have cost about 25 dollars but the guy only accepted twenty and wished us good luck.
According to Aer Lingus the flight they had said was “on hold for thirty five dollars” actually meant “you can fly to Dublin on Saturday for an additional seven hundred dollars.” Hence, the newly purchased tickets to Shannon leaving at four thirty pm on Thursday.
But, could we get the passport by four thirty without an appointment?
Luckily, when we arrived back at the O’Neil building D. Johnson waved us in, slipped us a piece of paper with an appointment confirmation number on it, and whispered, “I made you an appointment, now get in line!”
We got in line. Another security guard offered to take our bags because they looked heavy.
We waited for quite a while. The man at window five called our ticket number like at the bakery but way more exciting.
“Can we make a four thirty flight?”
Better than no, worse than yes. We went downstairs to wait for the thing to process and to spend some more time on hold trying to argue Aer Lingus into refunding some of the original fare. Forty minutes later, still on hold, another security guard waved us down.
He motioned for us to come upstairs. Sara took the phone, still playing that damned Gaelic Muzak, and I ran upstairs. It felt like a game show. People were waving me into this hallway, down this corridor, into this room, that room. In five minutes I was face to face with the passport angel. She said, “You’re not gonna miss your trip on my watch, honey. Be careful.”
And we were sent off by five extremely helpful, accommodating, speedy government employees, contradicting everything I know to be true about the world.
The good news is that we are now about half hour from (somewhere in) Ireland. This debacle behind us, we are ready to do us some serious Bloomsday celebrating.
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From Miss Minna: What can I say, but: whew! Your posts grabbed by heart by its shirtsleeves. Boy oh boy am I happy that you two got on a plane! Isn't it crazy how your luck can change like that? It is both magical and mind-numblingly tragic. I told you about my first trip across from Colorado in Eliot's newly purchased, oil-leaking car, didn't I? A tune from the same songbook. I myself am planning a trip of my own, with Smelliot, across the United States, as far as Fort Collins Co. I need to find nice fancy things to stop at such as the world's biggest ball of twine or the state (name the fruit/vegetable) fair, anything cute and strange nd possibly worthy of photographs. I'll send pictures, whatever they be. I look forward to spying on you both some more. Please to continue writing.
American Express, Capitol One, Visa, and MasterCard combined couldn't come up with a story like that. "Hi ho!" Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Stop the presses: This may be the first time I have ever heard (or read) Kelly say that she lacked the words to describe something. That her grandmother may be reading the blog just does not cut it, that never stopped her before.
kelly and sara (who I met on the street once) While I am sure this sucked to have lived through, it was very fun to read. This may top your "british accent spring break adventure". Here is an equation for ya....you = funny. keep um comin' LAAAAAAAAAAAAdy.
reh. or why i loooove adelphia...
dear sisters henderson, that is: dear sara, for i have not met any other hendersons of the clan to date; please forgive me for being so damn-ed-ly uncommunicative (unusual for me, i know) as I have been in the process of moving while also decompressing from summer heat in the South and grad school woes. My cable modem is now once again set up. I look forward to reading more of your blog, and hope to post something relevant to something appearing therein before the trip has come to a close. please note: i could not watch the game, but i was rooting for l'italia bellissima. greencard