First I had to get there. My mother has not been in New York in several years, and doesn't feel up to traveling. I can see why. Flying has become a zoo. There are lines, crowds, and large amounts of walking. I was leaving from Newark via Continental at 4:30 pm Thursday before the holiday weekend. I took the airport bus from Port Authority (which has moved from a regular platform to a stop across 42nd Street). The airport machine would not process my E-ticket, saying I had to see an actual agent.
This was annoying, as the line was HUGE. Although it was an hour before the flight, I wondered if I could get through that and security in time. I didn't have checked baggage, just the duffel bag, but settled in the long line of families with multiple bags. After a few minutes, they announced the curbside checkers weren't busy if anyone wanted to go there, so even though I had no bags, I decided to try (after getting assurance from the people near me that I could get back in line if necessary).
Outside, the curbside line only had 2 people ahead of me. I told them I had no bags, and didn't know why I had to check in in person. The guy said, "So you could see me!" I smiled, and he was able to print my boarding pass without offering a reason why the machine failed. I then went to the security line, which snaked around itself. It moved fairly quickly, though. When I got to the front, they motioned me to the machines used for First Class and Elite Access which weren't as busy. I set off the alarm. It wasn't my bra (as in Sundance) but my belt buckle.
The gate seemed miles away. I had magazines and a book ("The Right Address," about nasty megarich New Yorkers), so kept busy. Looking at my boarding pass, I suddenly noticed I had been upgraded to Elite Access, in appreciation of my "full fare" (well, $452) purchase. This could be why I couldn't check in, though no one thought to tell me. The main advantage was... bypassing the lines!
So I could have missed my flight waiting on a massive line because I needed to see an agent to get my pass that exempted me from waiting on line. Uh-HUH. The upgrade also allowed priority baggage handling (I had no bags), space-available First-Class upgrade (but there were only 3 rows in first class so I didn't get it), and Elite Access boarding. So I got to go through the special gate while the First Class passengers and families with small children boarded. Whee.
Waiting to take off, there was rain which caused us to sit on the runway a good hour. My sister planned to ride around the terminal until she found me, so I hoped she had called and knew of the delay. I exited through area G. I probably should have called her cell phone from the terminal to say this, since it turned out she was waiting by Continental's normal area H. Luckily they decided to swing around and finally found me. They told me about the extremely unhelpful Continental phone line, demonstrating the voice recognition's inability to understand anything. Even though we were just testing it at that point, the complete misinterpretation of what we said made us want to throw the phone out the window.
We finally got to their house and I had real food (the anemic turkey sandwich on the flight didn't count). We watched "So You Think You Can Dance" where I appreciated the talents of Dmitry.
The next day we had lunch at Deli Lane (leaving a "Wordplay" card and autographed napkin on the table - which were probably trashed after we left), where I had French onion soup. Joel was at a magic convention (heaven for him!) and we picked him up on the way to the theater. Although my sister and all her upscale professional friends live in the South Miami area (which has a large AMC complex), the nearest theater showing "Wordplay" was in South Beach. This too was a large, nice multiplex.
We stood at the top of the escalator and gave people their tickets. I knew most of her friends (including my high school classmate Jeff). My mother and great uncle came down from North Miami Beach. I met Judie's husband for the first time. The people sitting in back of us were random outsiders (one was a retired radiologist who knew people in common with my sister), but most of the theater were our people. The movie started and people cheered and clapped every time I appeared. Definitely a partisan crowd.
I did a Q&A afterward, and then the theater manager asked if I'd do another one tomorrow night. Oops, too late; I was leaving the house around 5:15 pm. We then went down the street for dinner. The chosen place was a noisy bar (it used to have a restaurant that closed last week). Pretty no-frills, but the food (cheese quesadilla appetizer and grilled chicken) was surprisingly good. People liked the movie, including teenage kids who weren't puzzlers. Joel went around doing magic tricks, impressing the manager and everyone else.
I slept late the next day. The kids played TiVos of "Family Guy"; pretty funny. They were leaving for a vacation so needed to pack. Although we ordered a large cab, the driver put all the luggage on the back seat so we had to squash in, with the boys perched on top of the bags. Not very safe. Luckily, it wasn't a long ride to th airport. I waited with them while they checked in, since I had a lot of time. Strangely, the airport was almost empty that Saturday of the long weekend.
I had tried to get my boarding pass by computer from their house, and it wouldn't let me. I called Continental and they offered no reason, other than that on holiday weekends they like to make sure everyone is really there. It wasn't that important, though, as the physical line was tiny. This time, the boarding pass didn't have an Elite Access upgrade, so I have no idea why the E-ticket processing didn't like me. I went to the gate, only to find the flight was delayed an hour. The incoming flight was the same one I had arrived on previously. Boarding, I discovered someone else also had seat 10D (maybe THAT was the cause of the problems?). I was almost crying, but they reassigned me to 8D and the flight went uneventfully. We reached Newark around 1 a.m.
The transportation hub was in a different place than the last time I'd landed in Newark, but I finally found it. I called Super Shuttle and they said it would be at least 2 hours, so forget that. So I took the Port Authority bus. Then a cab from Port Authority. Home again, home again, jiggety jig.
My upgraded boarding pass allows me a confirmed First Class upgrade on my next flight before 9/15. As luck would have it, my con reservations are with Continental (which does not bode well for being on time or lack of hassles). When I tried to enter the E-ticket number, though, the computer did not take it. I found out the upgrade only applies to certain fare classes, and my con fare is too discounted. Oh well. I'll save the form just in case.