Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ireland Revisited: On Our Way

Day 0 of 35: Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Leaving San Francisco: checking luggage and getting United Airlines Departure Management Cards

This trip had an odd pair of bookends: close encounters with famous old rock guitarists. While trudging through security in San Francisco we were in line next to Carlos Santana; the night before departure from Dublin at the end of the journey we stayed in a hotel room next to one occupied by Ronnie Wood. I don't know what to make of that.

I do know what to make of United Airlines' "Departure Management Cards," though. I hate them.

When we checked in at the United counter at SFO for our flight to Chicago (where we were to connect to an Aer Lingus flight to Dublin,) we were given what we thought were boarding passes. Looking at them more closely, though, they were labeled Departure Management Cards. My thought that the term was just pretentious preciousness of corporate language disappeared when we arrived at the gate. It turns out that they mean that your flight is overbooked, and actual boarding passes will be issued at the gate -- for those who are selected by an undisclosed process.

We had a tense hour at the crowded gate as passenger after passenger was called to the counter to be given an actual boarding pass. Our questions and protestations that we had bought the tickets eight months in advance and that we had an international connection to make were met with frigid politeness but nothing else.

We got the last two boarding passes, and were the last passengers to board.

We didn't really need that exercise of our adrenal glands, but it did prepare us psychologically for the return trip five weeks later when the same thing happened in Chicago on the last leg of our return journey.

Aloft between San Francisco and Chicago

After that, the trip was smooth. The connection in Chicago was trouble-free. It was a delight, actually. When we checked in at the airy, uncrowded Aer Lingus counter we were greeted by a young employee who was as warm and helpful as the United folks in San Francisco were the opposite. When she spoke, and Diane and I heard her Midlands accent, I think we both grinned about as widely as was physically possible.

Aer Lingus's St. Aoife in Chicago, ready to board

Soon after lifting off from Chicago in the late afternoon, headed eastward into the night, we settled into our diversions, Diane with her iPod and movies, me with the active flight map on the screen in front of me and with Campbell Black's autobiographical All That Really Matters, written under his pseudonym "Campbell Armstrong." (We were to meet Campbell and his wife Rebecca in a couple of weeks, and I wanted to be prepared.) The book -- published in the U.S. with a title Campbell hates, I Hope You Have A Good Life -- was a riveting diversion.

We didn't expect to sleep on the flight, and we didn't. Someplace in darkness over the Atlantic, Tuesday turned into Wednesday.


Next: August 4, 2010 -- Dazed in Dublin, and the slide shows begin on
Previous: August 2, 2010 -- Prologue

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