Batman’s Beginning

Until now, I’ve always made my closest friends in my workplace.  This goes back as far as I can remember.  Even to my senior year in high school when I worked at the grocery store that was in Scornful Mother‘s back yard.

I met Batman while working as a cashier at Price Mart (since bought out.)  He was a bagger.  He was handsome.  A few inches shorter than I, with sandy blond hair and a tan complexion.  He worked out and it showed.  He always wore the long sleeves of his white button down, oxford shirts rolled up to above his large, hard biceps.  He wore a perpetual, goofy grin on his face and he was completely endearing to everyone who ever met him.   I was instantly enthralled with his good looks and great attitude.

In addition to Batman, my friend who I have referred to on this blog as RNJ also worked at the Price Mart.  At the time, I believed I had feelings for RNJ but she had no interest in me.  The two of us were in choir together in school and had grown a friendship there.  She was, by far your traditional cowgirl with a rebellion just waiting to come out.  For a brief time, we were like the Three Musketeers.

RNJ and Batman flirted back and forth relentlessly while I looked on with despair and desperation.  I wanted to be loved.  I wanted to have a relationship with someone like these two had.  Batman was RNJ‘s prom date.  I went to dinner with the two of them and a platonic date, but because I was under 18 and Scornful Mother wouldn’t give her permission for me to go to Prom I didn’t attend.  (A story for another time)   I spent the entire evening lying on my platonic date’s parents’ bed watching Homefront and waiting for Batman and RNJ to come back and pick us up again.

Not long after graduation, RNJ entered a rebellious phase and she dumped Batman.  He and I had become friends though, or at least I thought so.  Looking back I realized that, at that time at least, Batman was the kind of guy who thought of nothing but you…  while you were in front of him.  But as soon as you left his sight, he promptly forgot about you.  Anyway, we were friends for a time over the summer.  I was out of school and probably held some appeal in that regard.  He was popular, funny, good looking and had no shortage of self confidence.  I really enjoyed being his friend.

One Summer, afternoon while at work, Batman invited me to come over to his house after we both go off work and spend the night.  His parents had this big, beautiful house with a kidney shaped pool in the back yard.  We stayed up half the night talking about all kinds of things, chief among them, RNJ, of course.  Batman deduced that I had feelings for her, and even though I flatly denied it, it seemed clear that there was something to what he was saying.  Certainly I had some affection for her, but there seemed more to the story.

We spent the next morning lying out next to the pool while he told me of all of his sexual escapades, of which there were many.  The part of my brain that was under Scornful Mother‘s programming was, well, scornful, of his behavior.  The larger part of my brain though, was enthralled.  I was impressed with his apparent prowess.  I was jealous of his nerve and adventurousness.  I was envious of his experience.  And I was glad that we were sprawled out on our stomach’s and he couldn’t see what was happening in my swimming trunks thinking about him in the various sexual endeavors he described.  Even then I couldn’t really accept what that might mean.

I decided a the last minute to go off to college in the fall and we didn’t have any interaction for several months and when I returned at the end of the semester, I had a wrecked car to pay for, a job to work full-time and before long a fiance to connect with (another story for another time.)  Batman had his senior year in high school, an untold number of girlfriends and a very emotionally – if not physically – abusive home life to contend with.  (Something I didn’t know about until years later.)  We grew apart during that time.

That October, I took Dead Beat Dad up on an offer to come live with him for a time while I earned money to buy a car and have more freedom and independence for when I got married the following year.  Batman joined the military, almost as soon as he graduated from high school and that seemed to be the end of our relationship.

I stayed at Dead Beat Dad‘s house for nine months, during which time, my fiance took up with my so-called best friend, started going partying at clubs on a regular basis, cheated on me with an unspecified number of men, broke up with me and got engaged to another man.  All this, while I was out of town on a mission we agreed was important to undertake for the betterment of our future together.  Not two weeks after I returned to Oklahoma, she married another man who she left six months later, just to take up with her boss and get pregnant with his child.

I lived in Oklahoma for six months that time before I got promoted to Store Manager and moved away again.  I was gone from The Town Named for Damaged Native American Weaponry for about nine months before I decided I couldn’t continue in my career path and I gave up my position to move back in with Scornful Mother and give school another try.  School never did work out but I’d been thinking about Batman a lot at that point, wondering what ever happened to him and missing our friendship.  So when I returned to TTNFDNAW I looked him up.  I was anxious about calling him.  What if he didn’t want to reconnect with me?  What if he was still cooler than I and didn’t want to have anything to do with me?  What if this person in the phone book, with his name, wasn’t even the same guy?

I sent him a letter saying if he was the same guy and he wanted to reconnect that he should give me a call at Scornful Mother‘s house.  A week later, he called and my heart danced in my chest!  He wanted to get together for lunch the following week.  He was working for an earlier incarnation of The Soul Crushing Telecom Company and invited me to come out for a tour of the site and lunch at a local eatery.  Naturally, I agreed.

I was sitting in the main lobby of the company campus waiting for him to come and greet me when I saw something I couldn’t believe.  Off in the distance I saw something that vaguely represented my friend known as Batman but was more reminiscent of The Penguin.  It turned out that, when Mrs. Batman got pregnant with Bat Baby they decided they were ready to exit Military Service.  Apparently, that was relatively easy for Mrs. Batman to accomplish, but Batman would have to be a bit creative.  Batman immediately stopped exercising and started over eating.  When it came time for his PT (Physical Tests) he was no longer able to pass them, and he was given an honorable discharge.

After filling me in on the years I had missed in his life; his marriage and recent birth of his six week old Bat-daughter, he told me about The Company and how they were always hiring.  He told me about their benefits.  I’ll never forget the moment he pushed his glasses up his nose and told me, “They offer really good Obstetrics coverage.”

I couldn’t help but laugh.  “I’m sure that came in handy for you, but I’d settle for some decent optometry coverage.”

Batman explained to me how they hire through a temp agency and how I should go there and register.  He’d put in a word for me with the hiring manager and get me in for an interview.  The rest of the story is fairly obvious.  I interviewed for a trainee position through the temp agency and was offered the slot.  I wouldn’t be hired permanently by the company till I finished the training program and proved I could handled the job.  I wasn’t concerned.

When I got the call that they were going to bring me in I called Batman to share the good news.  He was excited for me, and very encouraging.  And then he dropped the bomb.  “Unfortunately, I won’t still be there,” he said.  “Mrs. Batman and I are moving to California.”

Batman‘s entire family had moved away, and in fact he’d been renting and living in his parents house that he lived in during high School, the last of his multi-syllabic named clan in town.  Mrs. Batman’s mother lived in Turlock, California and she operated a day care center out of her home.  She’d made an offer to have them move in with her.  Bat-baby would stay in the day care while Batman would go work and Mrs. Batman would go to Dental Hygienist school while they concentrated on paying off their debt so they could buy a house.  I was, of course really disappointed that he was leaving after we’d reconnected, but what could I do.  I offered my support and encouragement and offered any help I could provide.  The week before I started the training program I helped him load a 26′ Penske truck with everything they owned in preparation for their cross half the country trip to Turlock, California. The night before they left town, after I’d helped load the last of their belongings in the truck and left them for the last time, I sobbed in my bed as I thought about what I’d gained and immediately lost again.

By the time I finished training, Batman had gotten hired and was fully established in a position with the same company, but in the San Jose, California office and he e-mailed me to keep in touch.  To keep a long story short, he helped me get my foot in the door with The Soul Crushing Telecom Company in the Bay Area.  That October, I flew to California for a week where I interviewed with Batman‘s boss and looked at a few apartments in the area.  It was at this time that the offer was extended for me to come to California and stay with Batman et. al., even if it wasn’t for the the position with TSCTC.

I chose not to accept the full time position that I was offered in Oklahoma because company policy would have prohibited me from being hired in California, even if I had quit the job in Oklahoma to move and accept the new position.  Little did I know it would take four more months for anything to happen.  Finally, in March of the following year, I was giving a verbal offer of employment and I quit my temp job and moved to California to stay with my “new family” and get started with the rest of my life.

While I was on my own half-cross-country drive from The Town Named for Damaged Native American Weaponry, The Soul Crushing Telecom Company announced that they had just bought out another local telecommunications company and that they were instituting a hiring freeze until all that companies employees had been assimilated into the population.  I was concerned, but mostly just happy to be moving to California (a dream I didn’t know I had, coming true) and to be living with my good friend.

It is a little known fact that there are three factors in life that tend to trigger depression in just about anyone.  1) Marriage, Divorce or A Death in the Family, 2) Career Change or 3) Major Relocation.  I had two of the three working against me, plus being already predisposed to depression, plus, as it turned out the Bat-Mother-in-Law was determined to come between Batman and his wife and was happy to use me to make that happen.

I lived with the Bat Brood for four long, hard months.  It was horrible for me, feeling like an outsider and seeing that my relationship with Batman was quickly slipping away.  When all was said and done I can only congratulate Batman for standing up to the Bat-Mother-in-Law and not letting her come between him and the Bat-wife, but it was at my expense.

By the time it was over, there was nothing left of my friendship with Batman.  He did make a few attempts here and there to remain friends but I couldn’t get beyond the fact that he had put his wife and her mother ahead of me, when they were doing such evil things to run me out.  (The Bat-wife got snookered, at least for a time, by the Bat-Mother-in-Law.)  Soon, his attempts to continue our friendship gave out and we stopped communicating.

In the summer of 2001, I was contemplating the idea of joining the California National Guard.  I was sick of my life (not unlike I am now) and I desperately needed to do something to make a change and to take control.  I was sick of my body, sick of my mind and sick of having my life.  I thought joining the CNG would 1) whip me into shape, 2) Help me find myself and 3) change my entire existence for the better.  I had no interest in going oversees or going into battle, but I was interested in getting the training and willing to take the risk of being involved in some disaster relief efforts, or God forbid, some police actions.  At one point I had a meeting with a recruiter and was seriously giving it some consideration but thought I should get some information from someone who knew stuff.  I sent an e-mail to Batman asking him to meet me for lunch so I could get some information from him.  He agreed to meet me and I drove to Stockton, California where he was working to meet up for lunch.  I sat in the parking lot waiting for him.  About ten minutes after I arrived, he came down the sidewalk in my direction.  He was just a sliver of who he had been the last time I saw him….  and he looked awesome!

He told me everything I wanted to know about being in Boot Camp/Basic Training and what he thought I’d be getting myself into.  I told him that I apologized for my part in all the hurt that happened when I lived with him and his family.  That I was struggling emotionally and the turmoil was just too much for me, but that it’s no excuse.  We said we’d keep in touch, and continue to work on our friendship and neither of us has made an effort to contact the other since.  And a few weeks later, some psychopaths flew two commercial airplanes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.  I knew we would be going to war, and while I was as enraged as the next American at the events of that day, I knew I could not go to Afghanistan, or Iraq, or any of the other countries and fight a war that I felt had no purpose.  And I knew if I signed any enlistment papers, I would be doing just that.

My life has gone on since then, without Batman and without the military but not without it’s price.  I still think about him and about the friendship I lost.  I still think about how great he looked that day lying by the pool, and about how confident he was, everyday, even as a fat man, and how sexy that made him.  And I still miss that friendship.

About a year ago, I had a dream about Batman and the Mrs…

Part two of this story will follow in the next day or two.

Holy Daze

OK.  Don’t anybody panic but we seem to have a problem.  The sun seems to be broken.  It’s out of cycle, or in rebellion or something.  It doesn’t seem to realize that it’s mid-November and that we should be cold.  The temperature today, here in Northern California was in the mid 80s!  This is not right.  It’s Autumn for crying out loud!  I have very mixed feelings about this time of year.  Always have had.

When I was a young boy living in Ohio, it was at this time of year that the temperature began to fall.  The nights were longer, the weather colder and we would pull out our sweaters and heavier coats while the children waited and prayed for the snow to fall and the promise of a snow day from school.  As a teenager in Oklahoma, it was around this time of year that the morning ground was sparkly and crunchy with frost and your breath would form clouds of vapor before your eyes. The sun would shine clear and by mid-day it’s back to carrying your coat because it is too warm to wear it, but by late afternoon as the sun is setting it becomes winter once again.  Coats, scarves and sweaters are all must have items even if you don’t want to be wearing them at the moment.  And the children will wait and pray for the snow to fall and the hope of a snow day that will probably never come.

Here in the Bay Area, at this time of year, it’s no surprise if the temperature reaches or exceeds 60 degrees after the sun comes up.  But even with the warmer temperatures, there’s a chill in the air.  It’s called, “the holidays” (and dammit, make sure you call them that, for we may offend someone if we use the Almighty’s name).

In a lot of ways the season started in October.  There’s something truly amusing and simultaneously disturbing about walking through you’re local “Discount Store” and seeing an entire section of Halloween costumes and decorations, only to turn a corner and find rows upon endless rows of Christmas paraphernalia.  But in my mind the frenzy starts this Tuesday.

Tuesday night, I’ll arrive at my humble abode, in the dark and the “cold” all alone.  I’ll slide my truck into my narrow garage and gather my belongings to take inside, and I’ll walk up to the mail box.  Inside, I will find all the sale ads for the coming week, for the local grocery and drug stores. The sale ads will be chock full of holiday specific offerings like turkeys on steroids, cranberries of all varieties (fresh, canned, jellied or juice), green beans and fried onions, sweet potatoes and marshmallows, pumpkin pie and Cool Whip, wine and booze out the ass and cornucopias of all varieties.  And it will be all down hill from there.  This week-end when I go to do my regular bachelor shopping, I’ll fight crowds with their carts flowing over with pastry crusts and assorted greenery of the vegetable kind.  There will be Christmas music assaulting my senses from overhead, and though I’ll be listening to my iPhone whilst I shop, It’ll be virtually impossible to block it out entirely.

The following week is the short week.  For me, that week represents pure bliss!  It’s the week Eve spends in California and even though she’ll be here for days before I get to see her, I revel in the idea that she’s near.  I do love her in a very real way!  This time of year is filled with the conflicting emotions of loneliness, having no family around and no one to share my holidays with; joy, knowing I won’t be enmeshed in any turmoil of family drama which can not be avoided on such occasions; and excitement, getting to spend this time with the love of my life…  Even if she insists on bringing the love of her life with her.  I’m a happier person with her in my life and I only wish she was a constant part of my world.

Soon, “holiday” lights will be strung around the border of Lake Merritt near my office and lit up for the duration of the season.  The lighted Christmas Tree will be put up, appearing to hover above the lake as it occupies that space which normally functions as a fountain.

They finally finished construction on The Cathedral of Christ the Light this Summer.  It’s the ugliest Catholic “Cathedral” you’ll ever see and I have to use the quotes because it doesn’t even resemble a cathedral.  There’s no stained glass anywhere, no steeple or bell tower, and only at the very end as a final touch did they put a cross at the entrance.  Barely an accent, it doesn’t measure up to the original cross designed to tower above the diocese offices to be seen for miles around.  This cross would almost go unnoticed as you walk past to enter the hall.  No, this building resembles a sinking ship, or half a foot ball, or a really odd looking punch bowl turned upside down, perhaps a rotary club fez cap, but not a church.  I can only assume that it will be decorated for the holiday’s as well, adding to the general “festiveness” of the Downtown Oakland District.

As the season progresses, things will quiet down in my office.  More and more, I’ll arrive mornings at the parking garage and find more open spaces to park.  People with families (and money) taking days off to get a head start on their shopping.  Taking weeks off to spend with family as they visit from out of state, or going out of state to visit with family.  The calls for services or to complain will slow until they cease entirely.  There will be office parties and other gatherings where people will pretend to be friends and care about the plans and goings on of others, all the while wishing the pedantic ramblings of the office jabber mouth would come to an end.

In general, things will be in full swing after this week.  Wherever I look there will be decorations and lights and carols and smiling and offerings of good tidings and great cheer, or some horse shit like that. People rushing about with nary a care for their fellow man.  Only the mad dash for the finish line that is December 25th. There will be pressure to find just the right gift for everyone you know and two for your mom.  There will be deadlines to get the job done while still trying to make all the parties and pick the perfect bottles of wine to bring to the hosts.  And there will be no stopping it until late January when the final post holiday sale has ended, and the last straggling black and dying Christmas Tree has been put out to the curb.  And to be honest, that can’t happen soon enough.

Yes the holiday season is upon us.  There’s no stopping it now.  So sit down, shut up, grab something and hold on tight!  It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.   I’ve entertained the idea of putting an end to my drinking career this week-end, but now I’m feeling, as they say in the movies, “I’ve picked a bad (month) to quit drinking!

Shaking Things Up

I’ve never really claimed to be clairvoyant or to otherwise have ESPN, but from time to time things happen where I feel like I could predict the future.

Actually, I should take a step back.  When I was a child of roughly 11 years old we had an event at our family church.  There was a traveling minister that the pastor had brought in, and on the last night of his little conference, he asked for the parents to let him pray over their children before we were sent off to the children’s services for the evening.  I choose not to make a statement one way or the other about my beliefs of what this man had to offer.  It would be an entirely separate post unto itself.  But suffice it to say that I do not imagine that he was a complete quack, though perhaps took some things over board.

“I’d like for the children to line up here, in the front of the auditorium,” he said, “and I’ll hold my hand over them and pray for them.  If the Lord gives me a special message for or about any of them I’ll share that.”

We all went to the front of the church as asked and lined up for him to pray for us.  As I recall it, and we’ve already established that my memory is less than exact, he held his hand above our heads, one by one and praying for us alternately in tongues and in English.  There were six or eight children before me, two of whom were the pastors children, but nothing happened with any of them.  And then he came to me.  And he froze.  And he said, “The gift of prophesy.  God has given the gift of prophesy to this young man.”

Boy, was I excited at the prospect of being able to predict the future.  What a wonderful gift, i thought.  Naturally, Vengeful Mother was right there to shit on it.

“It’ll only happen if you stay in the church and honor God’s will.”  She might as well have said the rest of what she was thinking, “in the way that I see fit.

For years after that I lived with the simultaneous thrill of possibly being able to “predict” the future, and the fear of not measuring up to God’s (Vengeful Mother‘s) expectations.  Eventually, I reached a point of not wanting the gift if I had to “be good enough” for it.  I wanted to be “good enough” just the way I was.  I found myself being unwilling, or afraid to experience this “gift of the spirit”.  And yet, in the back of my mind, I repeatedly heard this minister, “God has given the gift of prophesy to this young man.”  The minister didn’t mention any conditions.  Just “God has given….”

I’ve experienced a lot of instances where I felt like “I’ve been here before.” or “I’ve seen this before.”  Lot’s of people would tell you , “Oh that’s just deja vu.  It happens to everybody.  Here’s the biochemical explanation for that….”  But to me, it doesn’t just feel like “Oh it’s just deja vu.”  It feels like more than that.  It feels like more than just an after-image, or a synapse misfire.  It feels real.  It feels like something I already knew about. And, it’s happened a few times.

Nearly ten years ago, Vengeful Mother, told me about a car accident that the parents (married for over 50 years) of D-Lite‘s (Vengeful Mother‘s best friend’s) husband had been in.  They were both left in comas immediately following the accident.  The husband of the couple died of internal injuries a few hours after they’d been admitted to the hospital and the wife was still in a coma but had broken both of her legs and was really banged up, but was expected to live.

I asked Vengeful Mother, “What do you think will happen when she wakes up?”

“What do you mean?” VM asked me.

“Well,” I said, “I know that this is kind of mellow-dramatic, but I know it’s been known to happen where people in a situation like this are heartbroken over their loss and end up dying for no reason other than that.”

VM expressed that she couldn’t answer to that and we’d just have to wait and see.  Two days later, when I got to work, I got an e-mail from VM that said something along the lines of, “You have always been very spiritually attuned, even if we don’t really realize it until later on…  D-Lite‘s Mother-in-law woke up from her coma yesterday afternoon.  After they confirmed that she was relatively stable, they informed her of her husband’s death.  Shortly before midnight she went to sleep.  She never woke up.”  There was some mention of her not wanting to go on without her husband.

In that instance, I didn’t even realize I’d had that certain sensation, but I did, in fact, know that this would happen.  Over the years I have had hit and miss experiences to help me learn to trust that feeling.

Most recently was the morning I woke up having dreamed that my Grandfather had died and about the result of his death.  I hoped I’d be wrong and as the time wore on, I began to feel like maybe I was wrong, and then I got the call.  Fifteen hours after I woke up from my dream, I was informed that Papa had just died.  I had known it would happen.  I wanted to be wrong, but I knew it would happen and I wasn’t surprised when I was informed.

I woke up yesterday morning, with one of those feelings.  It’s been nearly 48 hours since I had the dream and things are looking up…

But, the night, before last, I dreamt, that at some point, during the day whilst I was away from my home, the Bay Area was rocked by a six point something earthquake.  In my dream the shaking lasted more than 30 seconds, which, for those who aren’t familiar, usually guarantees considerable damage.  For instance the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989 was a magnitude 6.9 and lasted only 15-20 seconds but did billions of dollars worth of damage.

Now I don’t say there WILL BE an earthquake of such significance anytime soon.  I certainly had no indication in the dream of what the date and time was.  I just know that I woke up from the dream feeling apprehensive and relieved, because while the earthquake was serious and real in my dream, here was a minimal amount of damage done…  At least in my own world.  I can’t actually speak for the Bay Area as a whole.

At any rate, I didn’t write this to be alarmist, I don’t expect anyone to believe it.  I’m not sure I believe it myself.  I said that over the years I’d learned to trust that feeling.  That may be an overstatement.  Over the years I’ve learned not to discount that feeling.  So. I hope I’m wrong, and I probably am, but in the meantime, every time I feel a shake, every time I hear an odd rumble, I’m looking up.  I’m checking fluid levels in bottles and glasses for vibration.  I’m checking my hanging Philodendron, “Phil,” for sway.  And I’m watching the surest barometer of all, Scared Kitty who will freeze in place, and then coming running for comfort and safety.  I check all these things to make sure I’m imagining it all.

Eventually, the feeling will subside.  I’ll lower my defenses…  And that ultimately, will be the point of no return, the point when the next big earthquake will hit.  Until then, I just wait for my premonition, to be proved.  It has to happen eventually, right?

Devil’s Airline; the Extended Version

The other day when I wrote my previous post I realized that trying to write everything I had to say, on my iPhone would take forever, and run my battery down and I hadn’t even boarded my first flight of what would turn out to be a very long day.

So here it is, the extended version of my horrific experience with what turned out to be The Devil’s Travel Agency.  When I finally got word of the date of my grandfather’s funeral, I immediately set about the business of coordinating travel arrangements with CPA Sister who would be flying into Denver from the right coast (I, from the left).

It seems my grandfather had the unmitigated gall to go and die the night before Vengeful Mother was scheduled to fly into Albany, New York to visit CPA Sis and family for a week.  Vengeful Mother was informed of the situation and given the opportunity to reschedule the trip, but she opted to go ahead and visit and roll with the punches from there.  Apparently, Vengeful Mother has a rather loose definition of “roll with the punches” but if I follow that thread right now, I’ll go terribly off topic.  Needless to say that when Vengeful Mother found out the timing of the funeral she was upset that it was interfering with her visit with her grandyounguns.  (Ended up that Grandyounguns and Vengeful Mother stayed in New York together while CPA Sis and Jack O’ All Trades came to the funeral. 

In order to attempt to appease Vengeful Mother, CPA Sis and JOAT decided to wait until Sunday to fly out for the funeral.  There was to be a viewing and visitation on Sunday afternoon, but I was perfectly happy to miss that.  While it would have been nice to visit with some of the family members, I had no desire to see my grandfather’s empty shell.  I planned to coordinate my travel arrangements with CPA Sis and JOAT so that we could spend some one on two time together and I could benefit from her better financial independence and ride in the rental car that they were getting.

Once informed of their itinerary, I set about finding airline tickets that would closely match with them.  After doing a Google search for cheap airline tickets, I happened across a website called The Devil’s Travel Agency.  After putting in my requirements I found a listing for a $384.00 ticket listed on Virgin America.  I’ve looked at their website before and I’ve seen the luxurious appointments and opulence with which these planes are decked out.  I’ve wanted to travel on Virgin America for a long time.  Naturally, I pursued this option.  Once I clicked on the link I discovered that what The Devil’s Travel Agency was really showing me was an itinerary from US Airways (The Devil’s Airline) with only the final leg of my return trip being on Virgin America. 

I made my travel arrangements on Wednesday with a Sunday departure.  A) Everything was pricey because of the short notice, but this itinerary was not and 2) It may have been mostly US Airways but Virgin America doesn’t actually fly to Denver, and at least this ticket would give me the one leg on their airline.  So I booked it.  When I got to the final page of the booking I found out my $384.00 airline ticket was $500.50 after taxes and fees.  Oh, but Satan himself gave me a discount…  Ten whole dollars.  So the price was $490.50.  And that included the $14.00 they said they were charging to  2-day express ship the tickets via Fed-Ex because they said it was not an e-ticket.  I never received paper tickets and I have yet to see what amount will be billed to the credit card.

Travel day arrived and I reported to the San Francisco International Airport an hour and forty minutes prior to my 12:02 departure time.  I walked up to the curbside check-in because I learned a few years ago that far fewer people use Curbside and therefore it’s much faster.

Numb-nuts curbside guy:  Where are you traveling to?

Me:  Denver

There is a long pause while he punches computer keys.

Numb-nuts curbside guy:  Did you buy your ticket after July 9th?

Me:  [leery] Yeeeesssss.

Numb-nuts curbside guy:  That’s the problem.  As of July 9th, there is a $15.00 fee for your first checked bag and you can only check-in inside.

Ok.  Kinda pissed, what with this being the first I’ve heard about this $15.00 fee, but whatever.  I’m trying to avoid stress and the usual anxiety that I feel on travel day that lasts up until I get to the gate and see that they’re not yet boarding.  I go inside.  US Airways ticketing area at SFO is a fucking chaotic free for all.  No clearly delineated lanes or turnstiles just posts and straps here and there that mostly just get in the way.  I walk up to the counter where there is one agent and two kiosks.  I tell the guy, I’ve never flown this airline before and I’m not sure what I’m doing.

Bum-fuck Ticket Agent:  It’s easy.  Just follow the instructions on the screen.  (All along he is punching away on a computer and never actually looks up at me.)

I look at the screen and it says to touch anywhere to start.  Then it asks me if I’m checking in…  Um, isn’t that why I’d be at the ticketing counter?  I hit “yes”.  Then it asks me for the credit card I used for the transaction.  OK…  I don’t have that card.  M&M was gracious enough to lend me the money using her card.

Me:  OK.  It’s asking me for the credit card but I don’t have it.

Bum-fuck Ticket Agent:  (Still punching keys) You can also use your flight number or your last name. 

Ok.  I don’t know my flight number either but I know my last name.  I stand there, patiently, thinking (silly me) that he is going to help me now.  After 15 or 20 seconds I realize he’s not paying any attention to me and that he’s expecting me to handle this on my own.  I look down at the screen and realize that there is an icon to touch for other options.  I enter my last name and hit continue.  There is no perceptible change in the screen except that the continue button and my last name have disappeared.  I’m very annoyed at this point and I’m about to ask BFTA what to do next when I notice that where it did say to enter my last name, it now says to enter my first name.  I do so and it asks me for the state I’m traveling to.  I enter Colorado.  It then asks me for the first three letters of the city.

I’m moving from annoyed to irritated.  A ticket agent would have had all this information just by pulling up my name.  This pieceofshit computer should have been able to do the same thing.

I type D E N.  The screen changes. “Please select the city of your final destination.  Are you traveling to:”  Three buttons underneath that say:

Aspen, CO                                                       Colorado Springs, CO

Denver, CO

Garsh, let me think you numb-nuts pieceofshit computer?  You said, “enter the first three letters and I typed DEN, given the three choices you gave me WHERE DO YOU THINK I’M GOING!?!?!  (Have I mentioned that I have really hated the on-going trend to replace human customer service with computerized versions.  I have always resented the do it yourself credit card machine at the grocery – and just about every other kind of store.)

I hit the Denver, CO button a little harder than they’d probably like but I feel that they should consider themselves lucky that I haven’t toppled the damn machine and jumped up and down on it’s dead carcass.

Finally, it pulls up my flight information for the day.  First flight from SFO to Phoenix, AZ and connecting on to Denver, CO.  Yes, this is correct.  There is a button I can hit to view and change my seating assignment.  I don’t think this will be necessary because when I made my reservation I specified that I want an aisle seat first and foremost and an exit/bulkhead row if they can swing it, but I figure I’ll go ahead and verify my seat anyway.  Well, what do you know, they have me in seat 27E, A MIDDLE SEAT.  Oh but look, I can select my seating assignment.  After reading the color code I see that there are a couple of aisle, exit row seats open so I select one of those.  Then I push the button to check my seating assignment on the connecting flight.  The computer thinks on this for a second and then tells me that that information isn’t available.

No big deal, I think, I’ll check out my boarding pass and if I don’t like the seat I’ll check with the gate agent in Phoenix.  I indicate that my check-in is complete, but not before I have to put a credit card in the machine to pay my $15.00 for checking my suitcase.  Finally this pieceofshit machine starts spitting out my paperwork.  One sheet of ATM receipt paper, two sheets of ATM receipt paper, three sheets of ATM receipt paper.  I begin to examine the papers.  One is a receipt for my $15.00 fee.  One is my itinerary of my trip, because really at this moment, there’s nothing I want more from this fucked up airline than yet another copy of my itinerary that I already printed off the website the day I booked the flight, AND received in an e-mail AND forwarded to myself to a different e-mail address so I’d have it on my iPhone.  For those of you at home that are keeping count, that leaves me with only one more sheet of ATM receipt paper.  This is my boarding pass for my first flight.

I’m confused.  My irritation has turned to down right pissed offedness.  I look up at Bum-fuck Ticket Agent and say, “It only gave me one boarding pass.  How do I get my second boarding pass?”

Bum-fuck Ticket Agent looks up from his keyboard where he’s been punching keys this entire time and looks right past me at the person behind me and asks if he can help them.  Woops, blew right past pissed offedness and right on to angry.

Bum-fuck Ticket Agent finishes with what he was helping the guy behind me with and looks down at the luggage tag printer, picks something off of it and calls my name out (Because I guess I might have wondered off?)

Me: I’M RIGHT HERE AND I ASKED YOU A QUESTION.”

Bum-fuck Ticket Agent:  What’s up?

Me:  HOW do I get my second boarding pass, it only gave me my first one.

Bum-fuck Ticket Agent:  It didn’t give you your second boarding pass?

(WHAT DID I JUST SAY!) and then he actually came around to my side of the counter and starts shoving his hand up the shoot, you know, because I just might really be THAT dumb!

Bum-fuck Ticket Agent:  Huh!  That’s weird.

Me:  It’s a little bit more than weird and I’m growing quite dissatisfied now.  This system sucks.  Your Customer Service sucks and I’m really beginning to regret having bought my ticket from you guys.

Bum-fuck Ticket Agent:  (As if I’d just told him a happy little bedtime story) Oh, here’s the problem.  Your next flight is on a different Airline.  We can check your bag through but we can’t issue your boarding pass.

Me:  What?!?  My itinerary (which I now have NINE copies of) says it’s US Airways.

Bum-fuck Ticket Agent:  Yeah, we just sold you the ticket but you’re flying on United.

Me:  You also sold me a ticket on Virgin America and it says Virgin America right here on my NINE copies of my itinerary.

Bum-fuck Ticket Agent:  Yeah, sorry about that.  So you want to go right down that way and too your left.  (And he grabs my suit case and walks away.)

Right about now, I’m hoping, steaming mad.  Possibly a little surprised not to be pulled out of the security check point and cavity searched for manure based explosives.  So I go off to the gate because once Bum-fuck Ticket Agent has walked away from me, what more can I do.

I get to the gate, gate 27, and approach the gate agent.

Not totally worthless gate agent:  Hi there, can I help you?

Me:  I hope so.  Bum-fuck Ticket Agent up front couldn’t do jack shit for me and I’m hoping you’ll be willing to try a little harder.  My connecting flight out of Phoenix is on United Airlines and BFTA told me you guys couldn’t give me my boarding pass.  Is that really true?  And if so, how do I get it because BFTA couldn’t tell me that either.

Not totally worthless gate agent:  May I see you boarding pass (Punches a few keys, rips my boarding pass in half and hands me two, count them TWO, traditional card stock boarding passes)

Me:  (my connecting flight is another middle seat) I hate to be too picky, but is there any chance you can change this to an aisle seat?

Not totally worthless gate agent:  Unfortunately, I can’t do that but the gate agent in Phoenix should be able to help you.

Fair enough.  It’s more than I got out of Bum-fuck Ticket Agent.  Not totally worthless gate agent also informed me that United flies out of a totally different terminal in Phoenix than US Airways does and that I’ll be required to exit the airport and reenter.  Great.

So I board the plane, only to realize that what was listed as an exit row on the kiosk computer screen wasn’t really (why am I surprised) but it’s one row behind the exit row.  Fortunately, the aisle seat directly ahead and across is not only an exit row but a bulkhead row and it is unoccupied so I moved to that seat.  The entire time that the airplane was taxiing, the exit door was rattling, eliciting visions of sudden vacuum decompression as the door gets sucked out mid-flight.  The engines, during take off and most of our ascent, sounded as if a bird were stuck inside and clinging to a hopeless battle for life.

Somehow we made it to Phoenix in one piece.  I exit the plane and start walking.  I’ve never been in Phoenix before and I have no idea where I’m going.  As I’m walking toward the exit I get a call from CPA Sis.  There are thunderstorms in Albany and Continental Air lines has determined that they need to lighten their load in order to ensure a safe departure, so they’ve evicted CPA Sis and Jack O’ All Trades from the plane along with their luggage.  Apparently the 600 lbs max, that they added to the load would be enough to plummet the ship into certain doom in a corn field in Nebraska.  The fact that they were winging their way to a funeral was of no consequence.

As reparation, Continental gave them each a $500.00 voucher for air travel, and put them in a cab to JFK, in New York City, where they would board a flight that would arrive in Denver at 9:55.  (Originally they were to arrive in Denver at 7:19, five minutes before my arrival.)  They cab ride would take about three hours and their flight was in 3 hours and 45 minutes.  That there is a whole ‘nother story for a whole ‘nother post, and since I wasn’t there, the story may never be told, but suffice it to say there was shoulder driving, torrential downpours, thousands of returning New Yorkers (On a Sunday night)…  Oh, and a taxi to taxi car accident half a mile away from the air port.

So here I am in the Phoenix Airport, with no idea where to go, being told that I’ll have two and a half hours to kill when I get to Denver.  I get off the phone and walk up to a security guard this side of the security check point and explain my plight, fully expecting to be rebuffed by the very important man in uniform, sitting high aloft a platform and who, when I saw him, was checking out the cleavage of a big busted woman wandering aimlessly nearby.  He was actually quite nice, explained to me that United does fly out of a different terminal a mile down the road.  Fortunately, there was a shuttle.

I got to the new terminal and went through security yet again.  I found my way to the gate and plopped myself down next to an outlet to eat my lunch and charge my iPhone.  Neither that outlet or any of the other six I located in that waiting area actually worked.  The whole building was in disrepair, almost as if it’d been built in the 1960s and then promptly forgotten about (which is probably just what happened.)  It was 110 degrees that day in Phoenix and even an iceberg cooled blast of frozen air through the AC could not have combated the oppressiveness that filled the area, let alone the built in Air Conditioning System.  All in all, Phoenix (as a whole, as I see it) and the Phoenix airport in particular is a shithole to be avoided at all costs from this point forward.

The airplane from the second flight was in worse condition with thread bare upholstery and scratched up windows.  (The gate agent there was able to get me into a window seat, but all the aisle seats were taken)

**By way of a quick detour, I called CPA Sis again when I got to Denver and they had not yet boarded their flight.  It seems that their pilots were stuck in Cincinnati, and even though the plane was in New York they couldn’t board it until they had pilots and they couldn’t find any closer than Cincinnati.  The pilots finally arrived and they boarded the plane and pushed back from the gate, only to be advised that their flight plan had expired and that they had to file a new one and couldn’t be cleared for take off until the flight plan had been filed and approved.  This flight didn’t take off until after it was supposed to have arrived in Denver.  The arrival time was to have been 9:55 p.m. and I actually picked up CPA Sis and Jack at the Denver Circus Tent— er airport at 3:20.  We spent the night in a hotel in Denver and drove the two hour drive to the funeral the next morning.

Satan’s underlings’ busy work did not end there.

On Tuesday evening when I was heading back to the Bay Area, I arrived at the airport at the US Airways counter (’cause you know, that’s who I bought my damn tickets through) only to discover that I was supposed to check-in at the United Airlines counter ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE BUILDING (fortunately, it was not as far as it sounded.)  Once again, they could only give me my first boarding pass.  They could see that my connecting flight was on Virgin America, but they were not able to give me my Virgin America Boarding Pass, nor could the check my bag through to SFO.  This is where The Devil’s Travel Agency is at fault.  Perhaps I should have known better, but having never experienced such a thing before, I had no idea to look for this.  The Devil’s Travel Agency compiled the flights for me, and rather than selling me a round-trip ticket from an airline, they sold me three one way tickets for a round trip price, two through US Airways and one through Virgin America.

The very kind and lovely ticket agent for United Airlines in Denver informed me that they don’t have an agreement with Virgin America and therefor they were unable to check my bag through, or give me my boarding pass.  “That figures,”  I told her, “Everything else about my itinerary has been fucked up, why should this be any different?”

Very kind and lovely ticket agent:  I’m very sorry to hear that, I wish I could do more.

Me:  Well, thanks, but it’s not your fault, you’re not US Airways.

VKALTA:  Well, we were for five years.

Me:  Well, I’m glad you’re not anymore.  I’ll never fly that airline again.

So hears the rub.  I have flown to Las Vegas five times now, always to go to LasVegas.  I greatly dislike flying Southwest Airlines, but you can get really good package deals with airfare and hotels.  Check out Southwest Vacations.com for excellent rates at hotels on the strip.  I fly to Las Vegas on Southwest, because that’s how you get the package deals.  Southwest flies into the main terminal at the Las Vegas Airport and I never even knew there was more.

I stepped off the jet way when my United Airlines plane landed in Las Vegas into a beautiful, modern, opulent terminal, I never knew was there.  I was impressed, dare I say it, maybe just a little bit in love…  And then it hit me.  The feeling of certain doom.  The realization that what was already a stupid arrangement in my mind was going to be even worse than I had suspected.  My United Airlines flight parked at gate D40.  I made the long trek to the opposite end of the terminal and onto the tram to the main terminal where the baggage claim area is.

(Sidebar), why does everyone have to crowd right up to the baggage carousel, as closely as possible to where the bags will come out?  I was one of the first people there, so I walked up and staked out my claim, but if I’d been one of the last, I’d have gone around to the other end of the carousel where no one wanted to be.  I hit an old man with my suitcase, as I hoisted it off the carousel with my gimp (recently operated on) wrist and oh darn it, he was standing on my shoes and talking on the phone and just didn’t move fast enough.  “Sorry old man, maybe next time you’ll think twice about climbing inside my pants with me uninvited and when I’m already pissed offed.”

So I grabbed my suit case off the carousel, layed out the old guy and made my way back the direction I came.  Only to realize that when I came down the escalators to the baggage claim I was exiting the security area and I had to find another way.  It took a few minutes and several wrong turns but I found my way back to ticketing (which was not clearly marked in anyway, from baggage claim.)

I walked up to the Virgin America ticketing area and there was NO line!  I walked right up to the counter where I was greeted by a lovely African American woman, yes woman, named Willis.  Willis informed me that the flight was very full, but that there were a couple seats open in First Class if I’d like to upgrade for only $50.00.  At first I declined but on further discussion, I decided it was well worth it.  This experience from the moment I walked up to the counter till the moment I picked up my bag at baggage claim in San Francisco was a delight!  An awesome resolution to an other wise ass sucky, FUBARed, screw over of a trip. 

An experience so worthy of further description, in fact, that I’m not going to do so now.  At this moment the counter in the corner says I’m at 3904 words.  It’s ten minutes till 7 p.m. and I’m still at my desk at work.  This has taken about an hour longer than I expected and I have a pork chop and  bottle of White Zinfandel at home with my name on them.  So I will fill you all in on the wonder that is Virgin America, in a very near future post.

But before I conclude this tirade, I almost bet you can guess what the final frustration was?  You got it, My United Airlines plane parked at gate D40 and my Virgin America plane departed from Gate D34.  I had to make my way, all the way to bagage claim so that I could get to ticketing, check-in and check my suit case again, and then go back through Security, back to the tram to get back to Terminal D three gates down from where I was in the first place.  So, I give “rave” reviews to the Devil’s Travel Agency AND his airline. (Insert rolling eyes here.)