…for me to tell the story of our travels here. Although, seeing as how we are still deeply and legally embroiled in the visa disaster of 2006/2007, I will not be discussing that aspect. After all, this is a publicly viewed site and there are some things better left unsaid until they get “dealt with”.

Our original flight back to Sofia was scheduled for December 6th. Of course, we were notified that our visas were denied after I had cancelled the flight home, leaving us an open ticket. So, on December 7th, I called that famed airline (you know who it is….) and attempted to schedule a flight home. I asked for the following week which would allow us time to drive up to L.A. and collect the all-important passports. The ticketing agent comes back on the line:

“Good news! I can get you on the Friday flight”, she tells me.

“Perfect”, I respond.

Ummmmm…..might have been helpful if when she said “the Friday flight”, she alluded to the fact that she meant Friday, as in TOMORROW. Then we could have clearly explained that would not work since we had no passports and unless the laws had changed and we could travel the world free as birds with no documents, we would never be able to make that flight. But she never mentioned the word TOMORROW, and I carried on as if it were the following Friday.

The following Monday, I called in to get my eTicket confirmation. And this is where it got nasty. N.A.S.T.Y. I learned I had missed the flight I never knew I had. When I politely explained this to the lady, she assured me that was my own fault. “Mmmmm, I think I will be needing to talk to your supervisor”, I told her.

Well, that was a mistake. Apparently, the supervisors are simply robots trained to repeat the party line. And while I usually change the names here on this blog to protect the innocent, this lady is not innocent, though I will change her name to prevent any lawsuits. Francis, you know who you are! You work out of the Chicago Uni.ted Ticketing Office and you are EVIL! Here’s how the conversation went:

Me: There has been some mistake with my flights. I understood the ticketing agent had booked me on Friday the 15th flight and now I have just learned that it was Friday the 8th, which I have clearly missed and never would have agreed to given that I didn’t have my passport in my possession.

EvilFrancis: Well, that is odd. Our ticketing agents never make such a mistake. Let me see if there is another flight we can book you on. (Meanwhile I’m thinking…never is a strong word, isn’t it? I mean, you’re basically implying that your peeps are perfect, and I won’t go into the blasphemous nature of such a thought. As a matter of fact, I will keep all thoughts to myself as long as we are resolving this issue.)

EvilFrancis: Well there is no way I can get you back to Sofia for the same fare before January 16th, unless you want to pay the difference in fares, which is upwards of $1000.

Me: Francis, this is a mistake that your company has made, whether you believe it or not. It is your obligation to right this wrong. It makes no sense that I would purposefully miss my flight and then not call for a refund or exchange for 3 days. You need to find me a flight home before a month from now.

EvilFrancis: That is just not possible.

Me: Francis, look for a flight here. I spend a lot of money flying with your company and you need to find me a flight back.

Tip tap tip tap on her computer.

EvilFrancis: There is one that blah blah blah has a million connections blah blah blah and will get you there on December 18th.

Me: Okay, book my husband and I on that one.

EvilFrancis: Your husband? You should have told me long before now that there were two of you. You have just wasted all my time. There is only room for one seat on that flight.

Me: Francis, I was transferred to you and you were given all my information. It is not my fault that either you cannot look at the information or your people cannot properly inform you that the reservation is for two of us. And I couldn’t resist adding: So I guess your agents make mistakes after all.

EvilFrancis: Well, it is your responsibility to make sure I know there are two of you.

Me: I am not going to argue anymore with you. The information was in front of you and stop blaming me for your mistakes.

EvilFrancis: Well, if there are two of you, there is no way I can find you a flight until January. You shouldn’t have missed your original flight.

Me: (steam coming out from my ears, a virtual coronary waiting to happen) What is your name? Which office do you work in? I just want to make sure I have all your information for when I file a formal complaint with your company. Bye.

I then proceeded to call back approximately 6 more times, all talking to different agents, all who refused to help. Mark even started to call in, too. He got “Jake” from India. Jake had a hard time admitting he was from India. “Jake” had an even harder time admitting his company is not even Uni.ted Air.lines, that it was a call center that was outsourced by them. Ahhhhhhh. Now we understand. We can’t get any help because these people just.don’t.care. They referred us to Customer Relations, which, by the way, was currently closed. We could try them in the morning.

And so I did. I called “Dave” in India. It took me 45 minutes to get through to him, he took all the information several times, put me on hold, then said he can’t help me because they only deal with flights and problems that are over, not ongoing. But he was kind enough to give me a ridiculously long confirmation number to reference the conversation. Still unclear how that WILL GET ME HOME!!!!

Then we headed up to L.A. to get said passports. While Mark was inside dealing with the Mullet, I decided to call the airlines again. This time, someone finally helped me. They found us a flight on Saturday the 16th for no extra charge. I thought everything was solved….

Until we got to the airport on Saturday morning, bright and early, only to find out that I could not fly because Uni.ted, in all their genius glory, had changed my name on the reservation to my married name. My passport is in my maiden name. I always put my reservation and ticket in my maiden name. But they changed it.

Which made me a terrorist.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the reason behind the rule. Clearly, you don’t want people traveling when you are unsure even of what their name is. But…what do we do when it is the airline messing up? You know, their infallible agents who would “never” make such a mistake??

The guy behind the counter, Alex, first started yelling at me that I should have my passport amended to prevent this from happening, blah blah blah. About the last thing I need at 5am after weeks of drama is to hear another Uni.ted agent lecturing me. And so this is what I told Alex.

“Dude. I understand what you are saying. But once again this is not my mistake and you yelling at me right now about something I cannot currently fix is not helping this situation. Right now I hate your whole entire company”. And I stuck out my tongue and put my fingers in my ears. Ok, not really. But I did produce all the paperwork that happened to prove my innocence, because this is what dealing with this company had denigrated into—my need to prove my innocence, as if I were on trial. I showed him how all the reservations I made were in my maiden name and that the only way it could have gotten changed was by one of their people. He agreed. HA! SO THERE!

Then he began the process of calling his own company to get it changed back. And believe me, if we hadn’t had a flight to catch, I truly would have enjoyed the sweet, sweet justice of watching a Uni.ted employee deal with the bloody mess that is their own company. Because good old Alex spent 2 hours (2 whole hours) getting passed around from person to person trying to resolve their mistake. Oh, did I mention that there was a yapping dog in the back the whole, entire time? Don’t those dog owners know to give their hound Benadryl before a flight to calm them…that’s what we do! Yeah, so Alex was about to have a hissy fit, especially when we were down to T minus 30 minutes until the flight left. I will admit to “having a tear next to my eyeball”, as my English pupil here says.

And then it finally got resolved. With less than 15 minutes to spare, and Alex yelling at us to run, RUN! to Security in hopes that we would make it. Which we barely did. We were the last ones on the plane.

The rest of the journey was pretty hum-drum until we got to Frankfurt, where I realized (thanks to my friend Dr. Google), that we really could be deported. Apparently, the laws had changed during our stay here. And so I panicked. Sweat, high heart rate, chills, fidgeting, etc. But what could we do? Stay in Frankfurt until we begged enough money a la Amazing Race style to get home?

No. So, I took a deep breath, boarded the plane and said a lot of Hail Marys until we got into the airport, where I said even more Hail Marys and threw in a few Our Fathers for good measure, until we passed Passport Control. And there I sat, waiting for our bags. Time ticked. And ticked. And ticked. And still they did not come. Two hours later, two out of four of them showed up. One of the missing bags had a computer in it. Dejected and exhausted, I headed back to the flat with Mark’s partner and left Mark in the airport to deal with the lost bags. He waited in a looooooong line of other passengers who had lost their bags—seems to be a common occurence here—and filed a report. Then he came home.

And that’s when the worms invaded the tub.

But…all’s well that ends well, as they say. We got the bags delivered to us the next day. And Hallelujah!!! The computer was there. Phew!!! And so ends yet another, near disastrous journey with the Gershwin-playing, unfriendly, accusatory Uni.ted Air.lines. No wonder they are near bankruptcy.

**I know many of you are wondering why I put the period in Uni.ted. It’s because it prevents some of the Google searches that bring freak shows to my site.**