Thursday, October 01, 2009

How to Enjoy Flying Over the Brazilian Jungle in Flames

It’s Theme Thursday and the theme is FLIGHT. You’re in for a treat too because I’m going to give you the story of my little flight over the Brazilian jungle while the plane is in flames…it’s a long story, but it’s a good one, so enjoy!

I’m in the business class on a flight from Sao Paulo, Brazil to Atlanta, GA and I’m half asleep in a dream-like state. You know, I’ve got hot actresses doing…well, never mind, this isn’t a dream theme. Anyway, in the dream, suddenly I have this feeling like that of ascending a peak on a roller coaster to where you experience that very brief change between ascending and descending (don’t even start with me on the metaphor analysis for that one) The experience feels like something is in neutral; lagging if you will. A churning feeling in my gut tells me something doesn’t feel right...and it’s not that airline dinner I had earlier.

I wake up to find that the electronic TV screen and all my control buttons are blinking on and off. Sure, it is an American airline and so that isn’t necessarily unexpected on their upkeep and personal attention to my entertainment needs but I turn to look outside and the right engine is on fire. Repeat; the right engine is on fire! I don’t think this is part of the new “come fly with me” feature that the airline sells me on TV. Of course, “Come die with me” isn’t a very big sales booster.

As I turn around to see the look of terror on the faces of the other passengers, all of a sudden every flight attendant on the plane comes rushing up to the front of the plane and disappears. WTF? Have they grabbed their emergency parachutes, said “Good Luck” and then parachuted out to safety leaving me to have to navigate the plane? Hey, I’ve seen those disaster movies...

Luckily the attendants return. But with their red flight manuals! I’ve never seen flight manuals in a plane before. Am I still dreaming and we’re in airline simulation school? Did they have a quick staff meeting and brainstorm on the best way to scare the shit out of the passengers in the most subtle way? If so, they’re good at it because uniform red flight manuals scare the crap out of me! Could you please look up “Game Over” or “We’re Screwed” in the index?

Now the real terror exists outside. Sure, they could just land at the quickest available landing strip. Of course, WE’RE FLYING OVER THE BRAZILIAN JUNGLE!!!! Not a lot of jumbo jet runways or wide open Salt flats around. Oh, and just my luck…I’d survive the plane crash, be stuck up in the trees and have to find my way out of an endless leech and snake infested jungle eating bugs to survive. Death is sounding better all the time.

Did I mention this is a two engine plane in which one of them is on fire? Sure, they’ve got one other engine on the other wing. How hard can it be to fly with one engine? Apparently (as I found out later) it’s not that big a deal; the military does it all the time. Guess that speaks volumes for their defense contract quality measures, doesn’t it?

So…anyhow…we’re all sitting on the plane waiting to die. There’s no damn cell phone service and I’m wondering if I can leave my kids a message on that black box they always find when they search the wreckage. I’m also wondering why they can't make the whole damn plane with that indestructible material. Oh, and screw the cell phone rule; I’m calling home before the end. What? My phone service doesn’t work over the Brazilian jungle? What a crappy phone network. There are many indigenous tribes I could be talking to right now if they’d ever get their act together. When I come back as a ghost, I’m haunting them forever!

As it turns out, we need to make an emergency landing in Guyana. Guyana! “Excuse me, Miss manual-carrying stewardess, isn’t that the country that Jim Jones served Kool-ade to his followers and killed them all?” Not only is that the very same place but no airline flies there commercially and so the airstrip is very small. Very small! We did have a smooth landing but we were in the grass way passed the tarmac. They used their brakes so hard that we had to wait twenty minutes before we could taxi over to the tarmac because the brakes were too hot to operate the plane. Joy!

After finding another pair of undies to replace my soiled ones from that experience, I got to enjoy all the pleasures that my $6,450 business class ticket price would bring. First of all, they wouldn’t let us out of the plane and after about four hours they finally open up the doors because we’re all sweltering inside and the plane isn’t designed to be a human crockpot. Once outside, we’re allowed over to the gates and such. I snapped a great photo of me behind the sign that says, “Welcome to Guyana…We Hope you Enjoy our Malaria Infested Jungles” (ok, I might have embellished the sign a bit).

We had the benefit of waiting in the gate area or staying on the plane. For a few hours they let us walk around between the two. I did get to visit the gift shop and go out for a bit. How dangerous can it be? I did some walking around and that was about it. Nobody converted me into a sect. I didn’t see any mosquito infestations in town and nobody sold me drugs. But as I get back, they suddenly want me to decide: on the plane on in the gate area only. No more tarmac walking or going anywhere else. Riding home over land on a donkey wasn’t an option any longer. Building a raft out of coconuts and sailing up to Florida was out too. I’m going to have to fly again.

I chose to stay on the plane. The look of hard plastic chairs and no food service didn’t seem all that appealing. Our wait on the plane was an incredible 9 hours. No, that’s not a typo! Apparently they had to get another plane from Caracas, Venezuela because ours was too big to fly out and replacing an engine there was out of the question. The airline was going to have to take apart the plane in pieces and fly it all back to the states. Fun!

So there we were, reading the in-flight magazine for 27th time and bitching about whatever mundane thing we were going to miss as a result of our being inconvenienced enough to survive but still be delayed. When our new plane did arrive, they found out that they couldn’t just switch the luggage. Apparently the giant loader cubes are different sizes on these two planes. Lovely…that meant we had to wait another two hours while they unloaded and reloaded all of our checked luggage by hand! Oh, and Guyana doesn't have a credit system so the airport was demanding local currency in cash for fuel so we could take off again. Nice that we get to wait longer for all their little international gotchas.

Given that our new plane was much smaller; hard decisions had to be made. There wasn’t enough business class seating on this plane for all of the business class passengers. Guess who got bumped down to coach? Yep, lucky me!

So we make it over to Miami and its Sunday night at about midnight Miami time. The captain informs us we’ll just be stopping for gas and then flying directly out again for Atlanta. Weird, I wonder if he has to pump his own gas? Of course that didn’t happen that way at all. As soon as customs found out that they manually loaded the checked luggage they forced everybody in the entire plane to exit the plane and reticket for the same plane right after they get their luggage and recheck it through customs. You wouldn’t want somebody to have smuggled Kool-ade into the USA, now!

So 325 passengers are lined up at a single ticket agent counter awaiting another ticket for a flight they already have one with. As it is Sunday evening, the ticketing computers are off line and we have to wait longer while they boot them up. It finally takes them so long and there are so many passengers carrying torches and ready to burn any airline personnel they can get a hold of that they end up going with our old tickets. Duh! I have no idea what the big deal is; the entire flippin’ airline terminal is EMPTY! You could film a sequel to The Shining right here in the terminal and it would be just as creepy empty. Maybe have twins of Jim Jones walking up some abandoned hallway as they carry flaming black boxes. Hell, I’d run screaming…

So our plane is there, we have our luggage that we got the benefit of picking up from the plane only to take through a security screener and then put right back on the same plane. We’re all ready to board but they aren’t letting us. Apparently we don’t have a flight crew! “What’s wrong with the flight crew we just had?” I ask. “Oh, they’ve exceeded their maximum allowable shift time,” claims one of the airport flunkies. Errr…how about my maximum allowable tolerance of your airline fiasco? We’re is my comfy bed so I can sleep?

A new flight crew finally arrives a couple hours later from Ft. Lauderdale. Great…we get a bunch of hung over beach party employees to assist us to Atlanta. Joy. We did make it to Atlanta without incident. Of course, I had to spend the night and get another flight the next day before getting home. I missed important things at home and work having lost a couple of days during my 36 hour saga. Afterwards, I pushed the airlines for compensation in the form of tickets or something! I deserved it. My pushing went all the way up to the President of Delta airlines (I still have the letter somewhere) where I’m basically told, “tough luck”; they were treating this with the same seriousness as that of somebody that had a movie-screen that didn’t work in their seat: a $200 voucher. Now there’s customer service!

After that, I took a different tact. The business class ticket cost $6,450 while an equivalent economy class ticket cost $680 dollars. You’d think that for the additional $5,770 I should be getting a sponge bath with naked stewardesses! Of course, I demanded that since they were the ones that bumped me down to coach and squished me into that tiny seat for all those hours and fed me coach food, they owed me the difference in cash. And guess what? I got the money and got to keep it myself even though this was a company ticket. Finally…some justice for my suffering…

61 comments:

Baino said...

That my friend is why I'd rather sit for 20 hours on a bus with a load of Portuguese speaking chicken farmers! I have a terrible fear of flying but it's a necessary means to an end. Great story tho.Cannot believe the price!

Prefers Her Fantasy Life said...

A sponge bath with a naked stewardess? Yuck. Have you seen those guys lately?

moooooog35 said...

Brazilians have jungles?

Seriously..I thought they waxed those things.

nonamedufus said...

$6k vs $600? Aye carumba. What the heck do they do for you in business class? Hmmm... That was quite the tale VE.

Betsy said...

If we ever have a Theme Thursday 'hell' you can just repost this! ha! What a story!

ReformingGeek said...

YIKES! That's one crazy flight.

I liked your comment about being "unlucky to have survived". ;-)

lime said...

that is just insane. glad you managed to get some money out of them anyway. that's a minor miracle.

Roy Scribner said...

Great story! Things haven't changed much - 14 hours to go from Atlanta to San Jose, last week (hour #2 on the tarmac: "folks, the mechanics say they just can't figure this one out...").

VE said...

baino - Perhaps I should follow this one up with my 32 hour bus trip from Oklahoma City, OK to Dover, DE sometime. Almost as fearful and suffering...

VE said...

prefers her fantasy life - Guys? Guys? That's not what I envisioned...

VE said...

moooooog35 - Ha! Only you! Now the beaches of Brazil...that's an entirely different kind of story.

VE said...

nonmaedufus - I know, I can't believe the price difference. But they know that US companies have business class flying policies when the flights are longer than 10 or 20 hours so they must be taking advantage. On the last trip down to South America I took (back when I still bothered to work) I cashed out my "business" return ticket and it paid for me to stop in Machu Picchu, Peru, Ecuador and go rafting in Costa Rica and with all that (even paying $800 for a night in Peru at the ruins) I still had spent less than the cost of the business class return ticket. Go figure.

VE said...

betsy - But Betsy, just imagine how many other "hell" stories I can provide...

VE said...

reforming geek - That's my super power. I get caught in all this mayhem but I always survive. I suffer, but I always survive.

VE said...

lime - I felt like that was a miracle and I expected my big money greedy company to take it back but they never did and so I spent it! Wohoo...

VE said...

roy - That's a hell of a long time to cross the USA! I'm not a big fan flying to/from Atlanta anymore. First off, there always seem to be thunderstorms and it makes for ridiculously scary turbulance and second of all, it's one of the busiest airports in the world so it's crowded. Also, the air conditioning runs too cold. I froze once trying to sleep on the floor while waiting for a flight to Dubai...

Brian Miller said...

wow. what a tale VE...craziness. i am with betsy on this one...glad you got somethign out of it. think i would trade in my superpower...lol.

The Incredible Woody said...

"So...anyhow...we're all sitting on the plane waiting to die."

That has to be the best line ever.

Quirkyloon said...

So what is the difference between coach food and business class?

Let me guess. In business class you got your own bag of peanuts. In coach, there was one super-sized bag and all the stewardesses' hands were grabbing handfuls and dropping them onto a napkin for those lucky coach suckers.

Ha!

subtorp77 said...

VE, simply a riot! Oh, sorry but at least you got 'em to cough up the dough! And I may have you beat on the bus trip but do tell!

VE said...

brian - I'm scared to turn in my superpower...what if I still go into disasters but don't live? Oh, right, I wouldn't suffer then...

VE said...

incredible woody - Yes, not one I'd wish on anybody...

VE said...

quirkyloon - Ha! You're giving the airlines pointers there. Actually, when you go on long international flights, the business class folks are treated like royalty. That doesn't happen on short domestic flights or flights to Canada or Mexico. Some airlines don't even have first class; only business and coach. On business you have nearly fully reclinable seats and you have to stand up to reach the inflight magazine in front of you on some airlines. They serve you food on real dishes with real silverware and they refill you drinks at your request. You have multiple meal choices on business and you have snacks on demand. You're given hot towlettes to wash up with. Oh yes, there is a difference and sometimes I'm willing to suffer in the back with the economy folks if I'm paying for it but if I have to go for somebody else (ie work) then they better not make me suffer!

VE said...

subtorp77 - I'll have to work on that story. You might have me beat...

Wings said...

I would rather have walked.

And what the heck is different to justify such a price hike??? I am hoping whatever the difference is, it turns out to be of orgasmic-proportions, cause that is the only way to justify it!!!

:)

Nessa said...

You are the man! I'm calling you when I need a loan.

PS. Please check your reader if you are not seeing new posts for me. It seems my feed address changed while I was gone. I am posting daily. And most importantly, Rabbit, Rabbit!

Perpetual Chocoholic said...

You needed to write a song to post on You tube to get what you wanted.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo

e said...

Craziness all the way round...You're lucky you got anything from them...Customer service is about dead in America.

Roy said...

Yikes! I don't know what freaks me out the most - the burning engine or the price you paid for all that reverse entertainment!

California Girl said...

so this is a true story and not a dream? I re-read the first paragraph twice but became confused by the dream reference so I'm reading it thinking it's an incredibly detailed dream you must have jotted down after waking. after finishing it I'd rather it be a dream so I could actually get back ON a plane.

VE said...

wings - There is a difference; I only demanded business when flying a long way (like over 14 hours) when I had to do it for work. Read my reply to quirkyloon if you want to know some of the differences.

VE said...

nessa - The gnomes charge a high interest rate...gotta warn ya!

CatLadyLarew said...

You win! Your flight story for Theme Thursday is much more dramatic than mine! That's certainly a flight to remember!

VE said...

perpetual chocoholic - Ha! That was great! I can definitely relate...

VE said...

e - This was back in 2001 so there was still an inkling of care then. Now, I'd probably be arrested for stalking them...

VE said...

roy - Reverse entertainment...good summary!

VE said...

california girl - Sorry to say it is a true story and I discovered that we were on fire after having fallen asleep...

VE said...

catladylarew - I was happy to have it over; now, many years later it makes for a good camp fire story, for sure.

Ronda Laveen said...

As I read this, it occurs to me that it was a good sign that the stewardesses came back with the red flight manuals...the still had hope of survival.

Now, if they'd come back with The Bible...well, that would have been a really bad signal.

Tom said...

ok... i am never flying into South America...ever!

VE said...

ronda - I suppose you could look at it that way...I saw it as "they don't know what to do in this situation...

VE said...

tom - It's wonderful place to visit if you can make it there and back alive...

Uncivil said...

And I thought flying from Miami FL to Raleigh NC with a screaming 4 year old in the seat in front of me was bad?????
Great story!!!Loved it.

Elizabeth said...

This story is why I never fly without travelor's insurence.

Gladys said...

Wow I thought I had bad luck on the virtual vessels of viruses.

Serena said...

I'm not sure any amount of money would have been sufficient compensation for all that! I think I would have just wet my pants and passed out.

VE said...

uncivil - I believe the airlines hire kids to scream...part of their "screw you" campaign...

elizabeth - Of course for it to work...you'll be dead...bummer of a deal

gladys - Very vivid with the V's

serena - That would have been a good plan...and a lot of money afterward would have been nice!

Janna said...

The difference between you and Richard Simmons is that he would have been tempted to turn this into a Broadway musical.

Possible names for the songs/dances:

"Flames Over Malaria-Ville"
"I'm Alive!"
"It's My Luggage And I'll Cry If I Want To"
"Guess Where You Can Stick Your 'Maximum Allowable Shift Time'?"

VE said...

janna - That's a BIG difference, thank goodness. And excellent choices for the song...I'm leaning to Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire"...

Elizabeth said...

No, it pays if you lose you luggage or even if it's late. It also pays if you miss your connection.

VE said...

elizabeth - Really? I miss a lot of connections these days. I used to be quite lucky; I flew my first million miles without ever missing a single connection. Not any more...

Dreamhaven said...

That would surely make one funky movie. I hope the money made up for it at least a little.

Sweet dreams

VE said...

dreamhaven - Just like one of those made-for-TV disaster movies. Maybe they could turn it into a reality TV theme...send innocent people up in a plane...set it on fire and then vote the person off that has the biggest panic every minute...

Maureen said...

Um yeah, I thought it was a dream too; until there was way too much detail that went on and on and on... you couldn't possibily remember all that from a dream!

And then I realized, no it wasn't a dream, but a nightmare. Gad!

Jaime said...

your travel stories are unbelievable. you either have the world's most vivid imagination or the worst luck with traveling. either way...i hope we're never on the same flight together! no offense :)

VE said...

maureen - Yep, no dream here...just cold reality!

jaime - No, I didn't make anything up for that one...sad to say.

Mrsupole said...

I got to fly over the jungle of Panama in a little six seater airplane once. It was very scarey cause we could see the leaves on the trees. But I think your experience is worse than mine was.

But I also flew over it in those big jets like you did, but those times we could not see the leaves on the trees. When flying down to there we landed in Guatamala and they let us get off the plane and walk around the tarmac. It sure is a lot of fun, but that was back in the 70's when they weren't keeping everyone as a prisoner in the planes. I am not sure why we landed there, but hopefully it was to just let people on and off. We were there for a long time and then they let us back on and then we took off on our way to Panama.

Yup, traveling by plane is so much fun. Although I think it was scarier traveling across Panama and our country by train.

I think I will just stay home.

God bless.

VE said...

mrsupole - Sounds like you've had some adventure flying too. I was in a four seater and the guy had a hand held altimeter that he set on the dash of the plane for when he flew into rain clouds while scraping the jungle trees. Then, he'd dive off the top of Angel Falls (this was in Venezuela) so I could get good pictures. The whole thing was so impossibly ridiculous that I was cured from turbulance fright in a plane from that point on.

mama-face said...

Ok, is this fantastical nonsense or a real actual true story? How can you be old enough to remember Jim Jones? You must be a great blog researcher.

What line of work are you in anyway?

VE said...

mama-face - This one is completely true. Of course, I didn't actually meet Jim Jones...that was before my time (I'm 48 by the way). No...I've read, seen, or remember a lot about some things and then again can't find a note I just put in my pocket this morning.

Mrs. R said...

You have just persuaded me never to get back on an airplane again. I can't believe that...*still shaking head*