17 August 2007

Inferno, paradiso

To solve the problem with our tickets I spent TEN hours on the phone (this number is NO exaggeration, although the following might possibly be). I heard Pachelbel's canon approximately six thousand, four hundred and seventy-nine times, talked to approximately fifty-seven different Cheaptickets agents and "supervisors" (in quotes due to my suspicion that these were just "agents" who were more skilled in customer evasion), and repeated our "record locator" and our situation the same number of times. Every time I called I was greeted with a cheerful description of our old "confirmed" cancelled flight, which seemed to be deliberately conceived to get my goat.

I lost my cool just a couple of times, M. once shouted threats at the Pachelbel's canon hold music when I couldn't take it any more, and we were told we had new, confirmed tickets three times. I finally thought we had a new ticket at the end of seven hours on the phone on Tuesday, but woke up on Wednesday to find no e-mail confirmation, and BA only had a record of the last leg of our return trip, from London to Brussels. Three more hours on the phone resulted in, at long last, an actual new itinerary, a confirmation number, and what appeared to be a charge of over three thousand euros. Yet another call was required to make sure that we wouldn't be charged for the new flight.

The ten hours I spent on the phone were just about evenly matched to the ten hours we spent in the air yesterday, and British Airways in the heavens at least somewhat made up for the hell of Cheaptickets and the purgatory of Heathrow: we flew first class on our transatlantic flight! (The ticket we were given by cheaptickets was the slightly better "World Traveler Plus," probably because it was the only thing available, and then BA bumped us up to first class.)

Flying first class on a long-haul flight has long been a dream of mine, so I was giddy with excitement when we got on the plane and discovered that our seats were better described as seat/bed/entertainment compartments. Like little kids, we pushed all the buttons, zooming in and out in our fully reclinable seats, and ordered champagne and newspapers (OK, like grown-up little kids). The food was actually delicious, the china was real, the service was impeccable, and the movies were pausable. (We watched Waitress: SO good! Watch it!) It was the best flight I've ever had.

My spirits weren't even dampened by a lost bag in Boston, and after a late-night drive to Vermont with my brother and sister-in-law, all it took was one whiff of the good Vermont air to feel entirely at peace. When we got out of the car, the sky was brilliantly clear, displaying a magnificently populated starscape. I had forgotten how electrifying of a sight it is, this infinity of stars, the way the night sky was meant to be seen. The milky way meandered across the heaven, the big dipper scooped low at the horizon, and as we stood there, both M. and my sister-in-law, who had never seen a shooting star, saw a large one greet us with its light.

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