DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH...
I’ve always known that I was unlucky when it came to flights. For years and years I would miss connections by minutes, have flights cancelled on me, or just straight up get terrible seating arrangements on the actual plane. Honestly though, it’s a little funny at HOW unfortunate it is... except that it’s not at all because in this life, missed flights and connections means you are missing hours or days of precious time off. Well, the other day officially trounced all those miserable flight memories. I was living the mega-nightmare of all flights. Here’s a little background information before I jump right into the festivities:
About four weeks ago now we finished with World Championships. I traveled with my parents for about 5 days and then went to Urbino, Italy to meet my new club team and practice with them for a teeny tiny two days. I found out Tuesday afternoon that I would be flying the following morning from Bologna (a 40 minute car ride and a 1h30min train ride away). That was the start to all the crazy. I got myself on the train the next morning at 7am and flew out of Bologna around noon back to Vancouver to collect my Italian visa so I would be allowed to stay in the country for the season - a pretty necessary piece of identification. I arrived at about 2am in Vancouver (luckily Bee was there to collect me) and I went out to the consulate some hours later after a short "nap". Surprise! I need a few more documents from my club. Cool. I'll try again tomorrow. I head to Rayel’s rehearsal dinner that night in Coquitlam and then the next afternoon I’m back at the consulate with all the necessary pages, papers, documents, and tidbits. Visa: processing. Dress shopping: commence. Bridesmaid dress: check. If only shopping was always that easy. Back out to Langley with mama to watch baby Stu play Trinity Western (smuggled Starbucks: done. The $12 ticket and $6 popcorn makes me feel like this is allowed and all but necessary). Wedding the next day back out in Coquitlam which was absolutely amazing / stunning / gorgeous unbelievable / perfect / I want to get married myself… yesterday. Stayed in Langley the next day to have Thanksgiving with mom, baby Stu, my uncle and aunt, cousins, grandma, and baby cousins – I hope you all saw the endless snapchat videos of those two cuties because holyyyyyyy they are the best! Before the dinner, Stu, mama, and I were out wandering the streets of Fort Langley (Wendel's Bookstore - you are a favourite) and then ended up going into the actual Fort for a little bit of a history lesson. Hence the gold panning pictures on various social medias in case you were wondering where we were! At the back there was even a place to feed the goats and shhhheeeepppsssss… That made me way too happy and just pushed my extreme obsession with those creatures into overdrive. Anyway, the next day I had to say bye to baby Stu which is never an easy thing to do. Ever. Especially knowing I won't be making it back for Christmas this year. Mom and I stayed another night in Langley because I was supposed to be flying out the next day back to Italy. Or so it said in my email. That morning when I woke up I realized that in fact that booking was a reservation… not an actual booking. Who knew that there was even a difference? But ohhhh baby there most certainly is. After a quick chat with my club manager and agent via whatsapp, I was informed that I had to hang out for the next few days because they had not booked a flight yet. Surprise again! So that was that – Mom had arrived from Italy the day after me and she hadn’t been home to the Coast yet either, so off we went for some R&R at home. Had to jump in on another UBC practice first to make sure I still knew how to play volleyball.
A not so fun fact to note: my poor father was still in Italy. He had booked his flight two weeks after my mom so he could hang out in Urbino and get me settled. He came to Istanbul last year for about a month and it was awesome to spend that quality time with him. SO with him being stuck overseas without his daughter or wife, I sent him to Rome and Florence in the meantime, thinking that I would still only be a few more days. [Rita... I owe you for taking in my father].
Days passed on the Coast without much word. A few people had referred to how nice the break / vacation must have been but let me assure you that it certainly did not feel like a vacation. If I had flown back to Canada knowing that I would be here for a couple of weeks then at least I could have prepared for that. Because of the time, however, I was able to get to a UBC alumni nighton the second evening the Birds played Mount Royal. It was super awesome to see all the girls again and tell the current Birdies a few tricks of the trade (i.e. how to interpret Doug Reimer). We even got to heckle Jesse Knight from the stands... Just like old times! [I’ll be writing a blog post about the alumni event in the near future so stay tuned for that!] Turns out, I was in Canada the whole next week as well; a little more time in Vancouver and a couple more practices with the Birdies. Flight was said to be on Friday so bags were (still) packed and ready to go. After practice on Thursday I found out that (just guess) – surprise! I am not flying today and it will probably be on Sunday. Meanwhile father had just arrived back in Canada and mom and I pick him up, grab a large Starbucks tea, and drive up to Kamloops to once again see baby Stu take on UBC (which actually worked out quite well for me). I even got to play assistant coach for the women's UBC team and then at the men's game, casually switch which team I was cheering for. Everyone was very confused. At some point on Saturday I had been emailed my flight details. Thank the heavens. IT’S HAPPENING! The only little glitch was that we were up in Kamloops and the flight was at 11am on Sunday morning from Vancouver. Not a real problem, as mother is a champion and an expert driver so we just woke up at the crack of dawn and started driving. Had to say bye to baby brother again… Heart. Broken. [I just keeping thinking about how I'm bringing him overseas next year so he can play pro also... near me)! The Coquihalla proved to be difficult as we were met with blinding couldn't-see-the-road flurries, snow storms, flooding, and all the fun things that go hand-in-hand with an urgent schedule. Like I said, she’s a champ and got us to Vancouver on time. This is when things start getting really fun. Like… reeeeaaaalllll fun. Here we go:
9:40am: pull up into the domestic terminal. Dad and I get out while mother goes to park the car. Proceed to self-serve check-in kiosk.
9:55am: Can’t find my reservation in that little technological bundle of joy.
10:05am: After a baby line up, I arrive at the counter. Señor has trouble finding my reservation and spends precious time trying to find it. Finally finds it but oops -too late. Mr. Bad News informs me that he can’t do anything because the cut off time is 1 hour before domestic flights and he cannot actually get into the reservation. I am now 10 minutes late and will not be able to get on this flight. Wait… what.
10:11am: Heart drops. A rush of dizziness from head to toe. Feeling a little panicked but there MUST be a way to fix it… obviously I’m not missing this flight.
10:15am: Ushered to another desk to see if Ms. Bad News can help me out. Calls the gate to see if my luggage can go straight there. “The problem here is that you have a bag to check in and that will just be impossible to get on the flight. We can’t access your reservation anyways… I’m sorry we wont be able to get you on this flight.”
10:15:45am: I feel sick.
Cue tears and pleading. To my utter dismay, this improved nothing, as they actually couldn’t do anything for me. Fun Fact is that my club booked me on Turkish Airlines (therefore I couldn’t check in to this Air Canada flight the night before) and because there was no Turkish Airline office in the Vancouver Airport, I would have to do this all over the phone. There weren't any other domestic flights to Toronto that would even get me in on time before my evening flight to Istanbul. Ms. Bad News hands me the toll free number to Turkish Airlines and we settle ourselves in behind the Air Canada kiosks to sort out this mess.
10:35am: I’m on the phone with a Turkish Airline representative, Lord knows where in the world. I’m in a complete panic trying to a) understand this man and b) plead my case to somehow get another flight ASAP. Mr. Bad News 2.0 lets me know there is just nothing that can be done and they can’t change any of the flights and he just can’t help me at all. What. How is this even possible and WHY is this happening?
Cue tears yet again. This time it helped a little bit as I was transferred to a different department to see if they could help me out. But he doubted that they would be able to… thanks buddy. You're neat-o.
10:40am: I’m thinking that I could have made this flight 8 times over by now. I’m a very fast runner.
10:41am: transferred to someone who has sympathy in his voice and manages to calm me down. Mr. Good News 1.0 says that we can change the flight no problem… just have to see when the next flight is heading out through Istanbul. Wait… Turkey? Oh right, I’m booked on Turkish Airlines. Because of that, I absolutely have to go through that city and then connect to Italy. Joyous occassion.
I am on the phone with Mr. Good News 1.0 for a solid hour and half. Lots of checking flights, elevator music, changing flights, elevator music, finding connections, elevator music, etc. The next plan is to get on a flight that is leaving Vancouver at 3pm with the same flight path: Vancouver – Toronto – Istanbul – Bologna. The only hiccup was that I had to pay a change fee of $500. No problem, great, fine… I just have to be on that plane. Mr. Good News 1.0 and I tried to pay a few times through the automated system. After many failed attempts and a switch of credit cards we weren’t getting any success so he said that he would call me back on a different line and see if that made any difference. All of a sudden it was less than hour until the next cut off time of 2:00 for the 3pm flight. I (again) had a reservation for this flight but not a booking – the 500$ had to be paid first before anything was solidified. I ended up somehow connecting to that same department again to see what the heck was happening. A new friend told me that he couldn’t connect me to Mr. Good News 1.0 even though he was pretty sure he knew who I was talking about. I basically ordered him off his chair to go find my guy and discuss what the heck was happening with the payment because I was on an extreme time crunch.
Uhm no… No no, I have 30 minutes until the second cutoff… you actually only have half an hour. That information didn’t particularly process because his response was just to tell the Air Canada check-in people to delay the flight a little bit. That was the problem 3 hours ago – THEY ARE NOT WAITING FOR ME! Ok, ok, they would call me back immediately once Toronto Airport has confirmed that I can pay there. Good. More waiting. It made me nervous every time I had to hang up the phone. Tick-tock-tick-tock I literally have 10 minutes left. I call back again in another panic, this time with another NEW friend answering, again refusing to let me talk to my other pals who know my situation inside and out. I remind Buddy 3.0 that he has literally 5 minutes to spare before I am again, refused on to this flight. He starts panicking a little and tells me to go talk to the Air Canada staff – “ask them to just hold it for you! You might not have a ticket yet but just go to counter and maybe do not say anything… give them the reservation. Just make sure you get on the flight and Toronto will call us back very, very soon and there will be no problems!" I had this suspicion that sneaking onto the plane wasn't particularly going to work but I go anyways, just in case my flushed face and puffy eyes were going to fool someone. Checking a second time, just to see if anything has indeed been processed and no... it has not. They tell me again that if they don’t get the confirmation in the next few minutes then I can’t get on this flight.
2:05pm: I have given up all hope that I will be flying out today. Or ever, for that matter.
2:25pm: I get a call back from my pals at Turkish Airlines telling me that Toronto Airport has confirmed they can collect the money from me there – can I still get on the flight at 3pm? Uhm no.
2:30pm: While I'm still chatting to my señors from Turkish Airlines, an incoming call from Toronto Airport Turkish Airlines asking if I can get on the 3pm flight. This is like a knife in my side… no I cannot, I have missed the deadline agaaaaain.Let's talk about it some more. This nice lady who speaks perfect English is now my main dude and will help me book an alternative flight. Love. She said she would call back once she figures out which flight can get me to Bologna the quickest (noooo please don't hang up on me!!!) - LA has a flight leaving tonight for Istanbul and there’s a possibility I could get on that.
2:35pm: I consume a Jugo Juice in about fifteen seconds. I am starving yet feeling extremely sick. All the while I am messaging my Italian teammates, assistant coach, club manager, head coach, and agent, trying to give them any sort of definitive answers… other than the obvious fact that I will not be in Bologna when I am suppose to be.
2:40pm: Mom makes the decision that we need to leave the airport. My uncle's place is in Steveston and we can head there for a little rest before the next move.
2:41pm: Find dad. Always a process. Start leaving the airport when my girl from Turkish Airlines in Toronto calls back and says I wont be able to get out early enough for the LA connection. Good thing I didn't hold my breath. However, I am booked on the flight leaving Vancouver tomorrow at 3pm, which goes through Istanbul. I’ll have to stay a night there, as the flight to Bologna also doesn’t leave until the next day in the afternoon. I still have to pay in Toronto and I’ll get put up in a hotel in Istanbul. Happy? Sad? Delirious? I'm not even sure.
2:55pm: Back at my uncles. Mom is going to drive my dad to the ferry to head back home as he had a dentist appointment the next day (my other nightmare). Had to say a quick goodbye to him before he drove away. Why am I the most emotional person on this planet?
3:00pm: Emotional breakdown of stress and sadness. Watch a TV episode to get my mind off off things and then pass out until 5:30 right before mom gets home.
6:30pm: Mom and I find ourselves out for a Pho dinner. Not particularly what I was expecting to eat as I thought I’d be munching down pizzas and pastas by now (or at least on my way to that).
8:00pm: I’m in my pajamas finishing off the next episode of Scandal. Do I even want to get on this plane tomorrow? What is the universe telling me.
8:30pm: Crawl out to the living room and watch whatever’s on TV with mom. I am very aware that this is (pretty sure) my last night in Canada until sometime mid April to May. That is daunting and a little bit scary. I'm sad there's no ice-cream in the freezer. Mom and I are both in bed at 10.
The next morning went a little more smoothly. I was pretty nervous all morning about how exactly I am getting on THIS flight without having paid anything, when I couldn’t get on the second flight yesterday afternoon. I keep telling myself that whatever’s suppose to happen WILL happen and it’s all going to work out eventually. That morning I got to go have a little visit with my grandma which was really, really fantastic as I wasn’t able to visit her the day before. Leaving my parents, Stuart, and my grandma Nam is definitely the hardest part about playing overseas. Nam doesn’t have imessage, whatsapp, instagram, twitter, facetime, blah blah blah so I’m not able to chat with her as much as everyone else – even though she is one of the most important and most special people in my life. Goodbyes to her are even more heart breaking than normal. But she was supportive and strong as always, and kicked me out way too soon just to make sure I was there HOURS before my flight. Good thinking. Got through check-in with no problems (I held my breath the whole time and then almost passed out), had a little cry-fest-goodbye with mama, got Starbucks, and started charging everything I own while I waited for the flight. Vancouver to Toronto I got an exit seat. Happy dance. Toronto to Istanbul I was at the window with nobody in the middle seat. Star jumps. Got to Istanbul (already knew where everything was as I played there last year) and had to wait at Starbucks for an hour or so before they took me to my hotel. I was okay with that. Next morning… free breakfast and did a little workout before my flight to Bologna. Got into italia no problem. The only mini glitch of arriving in Bologna was that my agent said “two guys are coming to pick you up” and it wasn’t my club manager so I literally had no idea who I was waiting for. I think I need to start watching less shows like Scandal and Homeland. A little bit of a scramble and wait before we found each other but I am pleased to say I was “picked up” by the correct two people and arrived safe and sound in Urbino.
Huge inhale. Huge exhale. That was insanity... but it's over. Throughout that whole process I knew that it would work out eventually… It was just insanely stressful trying to get everything organized, especially by phone and to people all over the world. I got to see my grandma again before leaving, and actually have space on the flights to get overseas sooo perhaps I was just supposed to be leaving when I did. The only thing that really had me upset was missing the original flight and thinking I was letting the club down. I had waited all this time to get over there and then when it was finally done, I wasn’t actually on the plane. Seems crazy. BUT it all worked out… as it always does. My luck with flights continue to be somewhat of a tricky and questionable affair. I’m still waiting for that to turn around… and now maybe it will – I certainly went out with a bang. But I won't hold my breath.