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United Airlines Story Continues

If you haven’t read the first part it’s here.

The paramedic called for an ambulance and managed to get one that was already coming for someone else – they called it “doubling up” – hope that means that when I get the bill it is “cut in half”. She called United to ask them to send a rep so I could figure out the flight – clearly I was going to miss any flights back that night.

They wheeled me to this loading area right off the tarmac. At that point I realized the United rep wouldn’t know where to find us – a really nice Denver cop handled that (I saw him the next day as they wheeled me through the airport to go home – he waved and asked how I was doing – very sweet!) and soon a man named Guy Baron was there and he told me not to worry – I should call this number and let them know the situation and they will get me on a flight. He gave me his card (which proved to be a bit helpful later on, but not as powerful as I thought a card from a supervisor of operations for the airline at that airport would be).

They wheeled me onto the tarmac and it was FREEZING. They had a stretcher in the ambulance, so I had to climb up with some help from the paramedics and be strapped into a side seat. All this occurs right on the tarmac, planes right there. It was surreal to say the least.

Then a police escort leads us off the tarmac to the highway. The medic in the back was named Gallegos – ooh la la. If you are going to end up in an ambulance it helps if the guy taking care of you is adorable. But I digress.

Blood pressure was high – in fact it hovered around 180 over 100 all evening – gather from the stress and the pain. This medic was such a sweetheart. I was concerned about how I would get from the hospital to a hotel (I figured I would just stay in the hotel where I had a reservation until tomorrow when I could get an early flight out), and he said they would call me a cab – but if I got stuck to call them and they would come and get me. Not just handsome. A doll. Later that evening before he left the ER he made the offer again – I thanked him and said, “No, no. You go save lives. I’ll be fine.”

I ended up in a Kaiser hospital – Good Samaritan north of Denver. It is less than a year old. This has to be the nicest emergency room I’ve ever been in. And the people working there were just wonderful. They were friendly, genuinely concerned, and professional.

X-rays proved to be painful to get and not helpful in the end – nothing broken or out of place. The ER doc thought the issue could be a torn meniscus or injured ACL (a ligament you don’t really want to injure – let’s hope it doesn’t turn out to be that). She gave me a thigh-to-ankle brace to wear and, more importantly, a prescription for Vicodan. I was able to fill it right there – so I knew I would at least get some pain relief soon.

They gave me the phone to arrange for a cab – there is one number for cabs there, all 7s. I worried – don’t let this be like the shitty Culver City united yellow cab scammed system where the cities have conspired with the cab companies to keep out competition and force consumers to have crappy cab service, I thought. Not sure if that is how it works there, but it took a damn long time for that cab to arrive, and when he did, he said, “Yeah, when I saw the call I thought, no one is going to go out there to pick someone up, oh, I guess I’ll do it.” Huh? Sheesh – you mean if no one at the cab company felt like giving me a ride I would be stuck? Yup, sounds like same set up like Culver City (later I will post on this – I have decided to find out how to change this – it seems positively un-American to force me to use one cab company even if they suck when there are dozens of cab companies in LA and Santa Monica).
The cab driver must have just been released from a year of silence in a monastery. He was catching up for lost time and spoke non-stop for the 40-minute ride. (Coincidentally, the next day the driver for the shuttle from the Radisson to the airport turned also felt compelled to speak non-stop without breathing for that 40-minute ride.)
It was midnight and no food was available. I needed food to take my vicodan, so candy bar it was. Then I called United to figure out my flight back. I always feel bad in these situations – you call and you realize you are talking to someone in India. They are so darn polite, but everything is by script. It can be very frustrating when you are trying to explain something outside the norm: I need another flight, I need a seat where my leg can fit straight…and then they start with the “we will have to charge you $100 to change the flight” – sheesh, go ahead, last time I fly you, you cheap jerks. My ticket was already outrangeous for a 2 hour LA-Denver route ($440). She finally finds a flight at 2:35 but won’t give me a seat assignment – it has to be done at the airport she says. Great.
The rest of my stay at the Radisson was pretty uneventful – although the fact that my first meal after about 20 hours, breakfast, was a buffet. Not fun when you are physically handicapped with a giant brace on your leg.
Now…back to the airport…when United started to slip when it comes to customer service. The Radisson driver asked the curbside folks to bring out a wheelchair. This arrived pretty soon – and I tried to explain that I needed to talk to a United Customer rep – they weren’t sure what to do. The Guy Baron director of airport operations card did nothing for them – had no idea who he was. Ugh. They wheeled me up to a counter and I explained how I had hurt myself on the plane the day before, and that I needed a seat where my leg wouldn’t be sticking into the aisle or hit, and I don’t want to walk back 25 aisles as this will be very difficult for me.
You’d think I’d asked for her to recite the laws of physics, explain Taoist principles, and then recite prime numbers to 10,000 off the top of her head. How hard is this? Now remember, I am a very cautious person. I am at the airport 2 1/2 hours early just to make sure I can get a decent seat and make it through security without pressure. The lady finally settles on a seat and says it is the bulkhead window seat, which will give me extra leg room.
They wheel me up to the gate and that’s that. They drop me in a chair and leave. I said, “What if I need to go to the bathroom” – Oh, call us. Yuh. The phone is over there. Sheesh. I guess the fact I have had nothing to eat or drink now for 3 hours is a good thing as I am stuck at the gate to wait for loading. I have been told they know I will need a wheelchair to get on the plane.
But well I see preparations going on to get on early boarders – a couple of children walked on. No one is even noticing me with my big old brace sticking out next to the gate. I flag down a woman – they said someone would help me get on the plane with a wheelchair. She looks baffled but says she will take care of it. Then they start loading the plane! I’m like – well now what. You are supposed to pre-board people in wheelchairs.
The woman comes back to inform me I can’t sit in that seat they assigned me – it’s an exit row. I said, well she said it was a bulkhead row. On this plane they are the same. The only seat left is a middle seat row 26 or something or other.
Right, I am going to wriggle my way down 26 rows on, then off, this plane. I said, well get the special wheelchair to take me on and that will work. Which of course they don’t want to do that – they want you to walk once you get to the plane door.
She went back and tried some more – and came up with a middle seat toward the front. I swear to god you know it was there before. She was being cheap because those are the “plus” seats with extra leg room – which is what I needed. The night before they were totally accomodating, now it was like, “Fuck you, so you hurt your leg on our plane, not our problem – why don’t you just take your damn seat and shut up.”
I was pretty emotional at this point. I’m in pain. I slept maybe 4 hours the night before. I just want to be home. I am totally dependent on others to get around. I said, just put me on the plane before I find out there isn’t room for me at all.
Fortunately the man on my right was very kind and was careful about my leg. The woman on my left was, well, let me describe her. You have met this type before.
She is about 50 but thinks she is 22. She is overweight but thinks she is svelte. She believes she is a flexible, cute, thin little chickadee. And she acts like it. However, her body has not been informed.
She curls her little leggie up under the other leggie so her socked footie is pressing against my leg AND I SWEAR TO GOD HER FOOT IS SWEATY – no kidding. I feel it wet against my leg through my pants.
Ugh. I took my book and slid it down between me and her foot. She kinds of wriggled like this bothered her. I thought – she might be wearing my brace around her neck if she keeps it up.
She sat at an angle with her shoulder in my space and keep elbowing me.
She read a magazine like she was a special robot designed to snappily turn pages and specific timed seconds in a very snappy, loud, annoying way. You know – snap. read a sec. snap. Look a sec. Snap.
She elbowed me again. So I elbowed her back. That seemed to slow down the number of times she elbowed me after that.
I was not someone to mess with at this moment.
Now I just want to know if they did charge me the extra $100 and if they did they better have given me some damn extra miles for it.
Not that I will likely choose them again – I had just joined their mileage plus program as I plan to travel more next year – guess I’ll focus my miles on another airline.
So I arrive in LA and the happiest moment is when I’m wheeled into the baggage claim area and I see a handsome gentleman holding up a sign with my name on it – my driver (my roommate arranged a towncar pickup so I wouldn’t have to worry about transportation).
There is nothing like pulling up to your own home when you have been through something like this.

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