They say that absent mindedness and brilliance often come together and in proportion to one another.
On February 10, I must have been particularly brilliant.
Not one to pack weeks, or days, or day in advance, I do nonetheless take an organized and thorough approach. I had started my packing list and to-do-before-departure list days before. I had to make a few sacrifices on the to-do list, but the packing list was complete; by my departure date everything was packed, checked twice, and so reflected on the list.
I had heard a wise travel trip is to photocopy all your important documents: passport, visa, driver's license, etc. The idea is to make two copies: one to take with you, in case you somehow are separated from the originals, and another to leave at home in the security of a loved one, perhaps to provide to the consulate in the event of disaster or decree of war. I followed this advice to the letter. Better safe than sorry!
After a relatively productive day at the office, Sarah and I drove to the airport, with a brief stop for supper at the South Side Burger Company. I arrived at the airport 2.5 hours before my departure time, and kissed my sticky-bun adieu.
I stopped briefly on the way to the Turkish Airlines ticket counter to ready my documents for inspection and receipt of my boarding pass.
My passport was curiously absent from my backpack. Immediately, I knew exactly where it was.
I approached the friendly ticket clerk. "I have a problem," I began, explaining my situation. After a brief exchange of words, we had a plan. I would simply connect with Sarah, who would be delighted to retrieve my passport from whence I left it (the platen of the photocopier of course), rushing it back to me at the airport with plenty of time to meet the plane at my gate. "I will explain the situation to my supervisor," the clerk explained. I would get my passport 30-45 minutes before the flight, head through security, to my gate with time left to peruse the magazines at the gift shop. "You are checked in, and we only need to see your passport."
Moments later I received an SMS confirming that I was checked in, along with a confirmation code.
Getting in touch with Sarah was tricky, but she nonetheless came through for me. Some 90 minutes later, my passport in hand, I rushed to the ticket counter to collect my boarding pass.
It was unstaffed. All the ticket agents had disappeared, and with 45 minutes remaining before my flight, not even the supervisor was in sight. I had already checked in, so maybe I didn't need a physical boarding pass. Most airlines got rid of those years ago.
SMS confirmation code in hand, I rushed to the security line to get to my gate. The guard at the entry to the security queue stopped me and demanded my boarding pass. I explained that I didn't have one, and that I couldn't get one because all the ticket agents were gone, and that I had an electronic confirmation do-jiggerer right here, and "I need boarding pass. I must scan barcode."
I spent 5 minutes trying to find anyone resembling a Turkish Airlines agent to no avail. I appealed to a helpful looking airport employee. She suggested I pick up the info help phone and ask the to page the Turkish Airlines supervisor. Brilliant!
I picked up the phone and waited while it auto-dialed my new best friend, perched to make my request. Sadly my new best friend had an automated call attendant, but that was OK. My call was important to him, I just needed to stay on the line. The call duration timer on the help phone incremented. 0:10... 0:30... 1:00... 5:00... 10:00... 16:00... and he granted my wish.
I sat by the ticket counter in anticipation of the page, and the apologetic supervisor rushing to print my pass. Some 10 minutes later, I heard the page at last.
No one came.
Desperate, I ran back to security to reason with the guard. Maybe I just didn't explain myself well enough. You see, I've checked in already. I'm good to go.
"I need barcode."
Back at the ticket counter I sat hopefully. A security guard noticed that I was in an empty queue to speak to a non-existant agent. He directed me toward a Turkish Airlines office where I found a person to hear my woes. She pointed out that the flight was leaving now ,and there was no way I could be aboard.
"What are my options?" I pleaded.
"There is another flight at the same time tomorrow. You will need to take that one."
With acceptance, I agreed, "OK, please put me on that one." This is the point where companies with exemplary customer service shine. They empower their front-line staff to solve problems quickly and with empathy for their travel-weary pax. A few keystrokes, and I'd be all set for Plan B. Unfortunately, I was flying Turkish Airlines, not Southwest or WestJet.
The sign read, "Turkish Hospitality". My sister and I, during a visit to her a few years earlier, were searching for a good cup of coffee from a mom and pop shop in Vancouver's west end. "What do you think that means?" we wondered aloud. Long story short, it meant that you got a warm cup of coffee half an hour after ordering it, with a side-order of contempt.
"Call your travel agent and ask them to rebook."
Unwilling to call Sarah for a third trip to the airport, I wandered toward Car Rentals. As always, the Enterprise agents greeted me with a friendly attitude, and empathy for my situation. After glancing at my driver's license, the booking agent wished me a happy birthday and was excited to see someone from his alma mater. He apologized profusely for charging me the discounted rate, still a bit high due to the last-minute booking.
Once home, I called Expedia. After 45 minutes on hold I got to speak with an agent. There would be rebooking fee, collected on behalf of the airline, but it could be done. He called Turkish Airlines on their travel agent line to complete the transaction.
They were closed.