By Kirby Vickery from the June 2016 Edition
On the sixth of May at oh dark thirty, I placed my two-year-old puppy into her brand-new genuine PETCO airplane-quality traveling carrier, purchased the day before along with some attachments which I was told were required by the airline. The cost, including the required special flight food was over $125.00. I’m not going to complain about the costing as it was my decision to bring her with me to Mexico to begin with. Coupled with about $300.00 to get her inspected, injected, and prodded in order to be able to get her into Mexico to begin with, this little project is starting to get just a little expensive. In any case, Daisy has shown herself to be a good companion and with me going back into the palliative (actually, “palliative” is the wrong word here. I should say ‘Home Bed Care’ if there is such a phrase) care business, I know I would enjoy her presence.
Earlier, she had shown herself game to try this contraption so I pulled her back out and invited her to jump into the back seat of my little six-speed-automatic-transmission-with-two-clutches-and-no-dip-stick-Canadan-Test-bedv-Ford Fiesta, otherwise known as my little Tomato Can. My daughter grabbed the keys while walking around the car heading for the driver’s door asked, “Do you want me to drive, Dad?” She had already told me that she really didn’t like the car but there is something that happens to all women when their own children reach majority: They have to drive and nothing else matters. Even though she was sounding nice, polite, and caring; I knew under that calm exterior was a woman with an attitude from hell and if I wanted to escape the car with some sort of equilibrium, either mentally and physically, she would have to drive. So I shut up and got in the rider’s side of the car. Actually I wasn’t worried as she is a good driver anyway.
About two and half hours later we drove into SEA TAC International Airport, otherwise known as: Alaska Airlines Departure Land. Now Daisy and I were allowed to get out of the car twice on the way in but I don’t remember if she did anything. That was when I started to become concerned with
Daisy’s bowel and bladder habits. There, on the door, was a large sign telling me that there are no loose dogs on premises and that they all had to be caged. It was at 2:30 AM that my puppy entered her captivity and Laurel was off leaving Daisy in her cage and me standing beside it.
Wandering inside, we discovered that nothing opened before 3:30 or so. This gave me plenty of time to use a ticketing kiosk to retrieve my advanced computer work with the mighty Alaska Airlines. I was after our tickets, some boarding passes and some baggage claim slips. It was even good enough to give me receipts for everything including the extra $100.00 for Daisy that I didn’t expect as I seemed to remember something that said I wouldn’t have to pay extra for her. It was because she was too big to ride in the cabin and I started to wonder just what kind of flying arrangements Daisy was really going to have. I mean they were offering me an upgrade in my seating at less than that.
The problem with the kiosk was that it wasn’t spitting out anything but receipts. I should have turned around right there, got my money back and process through that Canadian outfit, WestJet. I probably would have, except I couldn’t reach Laurel, and I was stuck. So I decided to stick it out in Alaska Airlines Passenger Land and wait until some of the Assistance Processing terminals would open up.
I think it was WestJet’s option of having an overnight stay in some town in the middle of Canada. There was another airline offering a lovely two-hour layover in Houston, only to be followed by a 15 hour hold in Mexico City. I could just see Daisy hanging curtains and having a telephone line installed due to the length of time she was to be in that carrier.
At three twenty-nine that morning, Alaska Airline Passenger Land was a barren place. At three thirty, the entire place filled up with people all hoping for their five minutes with one of the friendly ladies in Passenger Assistance Land. Daisy and I got in line really late at three thirty-two. After a sizeable wait, Daisy and I were motioned forward by a very tall but nice looking young lady whose smile disappeared as she gazed at Daisy’s brand-new-custom-PETCO-built-airline-approved-food-and-water-stocked-pet-carrier.
When we arrived at her station, she had turned to call an Alaska Airline Passenger Land Assistance Supervisor. I started to be worried. He frowned and shook his head while pointing at the brand-new-custom-PETCO-built-airline-approved-formally-water-and-food-stocked. They had lifted it up onto their conveyor belt, spilling most of the food and water from the custom built dish inside the pet carrier and told me that, because I didn’t have any metal in it, Daisy wasn’t going anywhere near any of their airplanes. I could tell Daisy was not pleased. Darn, I sure wish I could have reached Laurel.
Then the tall but nice looking young lady told me that all was not lost. She told me there was a vendor located down in Alaska-Airlines-Baggage-Land that sold pet carriers which were, in fact, certified-custom-made-authentic-flight-approved-pet-carriers-with-metal screws-to-hold-them-together. She also said that this merchant would open at 5:30 and that would give me ample time to get back up to Passenger Assistance Land to make the 7AM Alaska Airline Flight. She took my checked bag and told me that I would catch up to it in L.A. and then we could fly down to Manzanillo all together as a family unit. Such assistance, a great thing for an Airline to have.
I hurried down into Baggage Land and waited until Mr. Vendor opened. Well, not quite. I was able to talk him into opening fifteen minutes early. He sold me a $95.00 pet carrier which needed assembly, but he guaranteed the people in Assistance Land wouldn’t have any problem with it. I put it together while I was waiting in the Assistance Land’s line again. This time the tall lady didn’t ask any questions but started to rip all the tags from the old carrier and tape them onto the new one.
Thus armed with all the Assistance Land documentation, Daisy and I were sent over to TSA Station 2 Land. It was there I was asked to take Daisy out, hold onto her, while they inspected my new-brand-new-certified-airline-approved-with-more-food-and-water-pet-tagged-and-stamped-pet-carrier. I put Daisy back in only this time she wasn’t quite sure about it. They disappeared her down into the Airport’s Baggage
Handling Land and I headed to the TSA human processing land which was backed up so far they had assigned extra help in designating which line to get into. There was a certain amount of line cutting but I glanced at my watch and knew I had plenty of time.
About an hour later, I finally reached the front of my line and had stripped all the metal off my body and placed everything in these big grey plastic containers. They had so many people in uniform telling all the other people where to go it was difficult to follow anyone’s direction. I was put through one machine and something went wrong. I don’t know if it was because of me or the machine, but I was told by three people to do three different things all at the same time and they were agitated. Now I don’t go around armed with anything more sinister than a trim trio and these guys and gals were armed to the teeth with pistols that make tiny holes going in you but some really big caverns coming out. So I picked the closest uniform and asked what she wanted me to do.
I was directed to go through another machine and was allowed to dress and pick up my stuff. Leaving TSA Land, I quickly became enthralled in finding the Alaska Airline Gate Land. This included waiting for a train and following almost incomplete instructions. But I finally located it at the other end of the large Alaska Airline Terminal Land. I walked up to the gate and was told that it had closed and that I was too late. I had to go over to another desk where I was told that I had missed my flight (amazing how this flight became mine all of a sudden when I couldn’t get on it.) but they had pulled Daisy off and I could pick her up in Baggage Land. I saw a sign that said “Customer Service Land” and cornered one of two people standing under it.
“Could-I-have-your-name-please?” But he had a smile and I knew that I was down the tubes at this point so I didn’t make him repeat it. Besides that, he was under the ‘Customer Service Land’ sign and so far those guys had at least tried to help regardless of reality. It was at this point in time I didn’t much care what happened. I knew I wasn’t going to Mexico or even L.A. and that I could pick Daisy up at my leisure. I still couldn’t get Laurel to answer the phone. I let this guy book me on their Wednesday flight and then he said something that made my ears pick up. He suggested that I call the number he gave me because they have more options to choose from and could possibly help me get out of town.
I remember I was thanking him as he rifled off, “Could-I-have-your-name-please?” to the next sucker in line. The reason I say that is because, when I called that number he gave me and explained my situation to a lady at the other end, her reply ended our conversation when she asked, “What do you think I can do for you that he can’t in that we’re both working for the same airline and have the same computer?” It was time to go and get Daisy. I wonder if different airlines have different methodologies they proscribe for customer care and abuse.
So I reversed my path to find my way back to Baggage Land. Again, as before, there wasn’t a single person anywhere to be found. Looking around, I finally found a bench style desk with a young lady behind it. Before I even opened my mouth, she asked my name and told me that she would send someone to get Daisy. I asked where my checked bag was and her whole attitude and demeanor changed. She informed me that my bag was
on its way to L.A. but she would get it back for me. The way she said it was like she thought I put it on the wrong airplane all by myself.
If I thought admitting to this dastardly deed could help I would have admitted it right, then, and there. I did make a mistake in asking when she thought it would be possible for me to collect my bag and instead of giving me a date and time, she launched into a dissertation about aircraft landing, taking off and flight schedules. I tried to stop her a few times but she had to get out what she had to get out and that’s all there was to it. I also noticed that as she was trying to tell me all about west coast scheduling, she kept getting angrier and angrier.
I saw fit to stand elsewhere while I waited for Daisy to show up. When Daisy was delivered I noticed that her carrier was still free from doggy stuff and, as her leashes were in the checked bag currently on its way to L.A., I started asking around for a leash. This is how and when I met Paul. His name tag told me he was the supervisor in Baggage Land and he eventually came up with a leash for me.
After Daisy had finished her thing in a gravel area they probably couldn’t find any other use for, I went looking for Paul to give him back his leash and to find out when my bag was going to be returned to Seattle. As luck would have it I ran into his snippy assistant and asked her again when she thought my bag might be returned to me. She had launched into her diatribe about scheduling again when Paul showed up. I asked him the same question and he interjected with the same thing she was saying which was the aircraft the bag was on hadn’t landed yet. I told him that I knew that but did he have a best guess when they might be able to load and deliver the bag back into Seattle’s Baggage Land. He told me that it would probably be tomorrow and how did I want that handled. When I told him that I would like to the Airline company to deliver it because of the time and distance, the girl started to come out with her line of complaints again and, by that time, I had had it up to my neck and told her that I was through talking with her. She put her hands up and told the world how angry she was and that she would never deal with me again.
Now, seeing as I was on a one-way ticket and passengers don’t normally go into Baggage Land from where they are departing from, I think her chances are pretty good of that happening. Since then I discovered that she went ahead and ordered the bag routed through to Manzanillo where it waited for me until the 11th. I finally got hold of Dan, my son-in-law and he agreed to meet me in Coupeville because taking the Airporter Shuttle seemed to be the most expeditious thing. And it was because it took me out of Alaska Airline Land and didn’t belong to them.
Dan met me in Coupeville and we had a good meal before he took me home. I fell asleep exhausted and dreading the morning on the 11th. It was the last sleep I was to have before I was on the Manzanillo flight out of L.A. on that day.
It was on the morning of the 9th that I rechecked everything for the upcoming flight. Things like Daisy’s health certificate which had to be less than ten days old. I thought it was neat that the ‘lot’ they used for her rabies was to have expired in June of this year and the young man who inspected Daisy in Manzanillo tried to tell me that she would need another vaccination before then. Anyway, I did make a call to Alaska Airlines Land to check on how things were. It was at this point that I discovered that miss Snippy authorized my bag to continue its lonely down to Manzanillo all by itself instead of having it returned to me as she said she would. I didn’t know that “getting even” was a subject they taught in the Alaska Airline’s Land of Instruction in Customer Care and Abuse.
That ending up costing me a small lock as Mexican Custom’s had to peek inside when it got there. I did get the lock back, by the way.
At oh dark thirty on the tenth (Dan wanted to leave early) we loaded Daisy, her stuff, and my book bag into the car. And with Dan driving this time, off we went again into the Land of Alaska Airlines. I didn’t know it at the time but I had forgotten all my insulin and a WIFI amplifier. I’m still dickering to find the time and energy to replace that which I need.
When I got to the airport, I again went straight to the Customer Service Kiosk to get all the stuff I needed to get to make this a smooth day and Daisy decided that she didn’t like being towed and set up a yowl every time I moved her with the tow rope I installed on her carrier. Well once again the kiosk never heard of me or Daisy so I decided to call their Customer Service Land off one of the brochures someone had made a mistake in giving me.
What had happened was the nice young man on the phone had moved my flight to an earlier one as I had requested. But, true to Alaska, Airlines Customer Service and Abuse, had neglected to move Daisy’s flight. He also neglected to have the kiosk acknowledge this deception which was lucky for me. The automated processing section of Customer Service Land caught the discrepancy and blocked me out forcing another phone call. This time I got through to someone that probably flunked that portion of training and she stepped through all the procedures to make sure everything was just right. My hat is off to her and to the other too few sincere folks working for that Airline. I just hope that they don’t ever get caught!
Kirby was born in a little burg just south of El Paso, Texas called Fabens. As he understand it, they we were passing through. His history reads like a road atlas. By the time he started school, he had lived in five places in two states. By the time he started high school, that list went to five states, four countries on three continents. Then he joined the Air Force after high school and one year of college and spent 23 years stationed in eleven or twelve places and traveled all over the place doing administrative, security, and electronic things. His final stay was being in charge of Air Force Recruiting in San Diego, Imperial, and Yuma counties. Upon retirement he went back to New England as a Quality Assurance Manager in electronics manufacturing before he was moved to Production Manager for the company’s Mexico operations. He moved to the Phoenix area and finally got his education and ended up teaching. He parted with the university and moved to Whidbey Island, Washington where he was introduced to Manzanillo, Mexico. It was there that he started to publish his monthly article for the Manzanillo Sun. He currently reside in Coupeville, WA, Edmonton, AB, and Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico, depending on whose having what medical problems and the time of year. His time is spent dieting, writing his second book, various articles and short stories, and sightseeing Canada, although that seems to be limited in the winter up there.