Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Country that Stole Christmas

The Country that Stole Christmas
By Quentin Smeltzer

First I want to apologize for my previous post which appeared and then mysteriously disappeared in the blink of an eye.  It appeared because I wanted to share some of my more controversial thoughts on the battle of the sexes in marriage.  It disappeared because my wife told me to take it down.  So it was a pretty short war as it turned out.

Today I write from England where I’ve been on a business trip since December 6.  Actually my business trip ended last Saturday the 18th.  Today is Wed the 22nd.  For the past four days I’ve been trying to get home. 

You may have heard about the terrible snow storm that blanketed England last weekend.  What you may not realize is that we received only about four inches of snow and the snow stopped mid-Saturday.  That didn't prevent Heathrow airport from cancelling my 5 PM flight home, which showed, by the way, that it was ON TIME until thirty minutes before boarding, when it changed to CANCELLED.

The minute my flight was cancelled, Delta Airlines sprang into action.  First, they provided no information whatsoever.  Second, I saw a bunch of passengers heading down a corridor so I followed them.  I waited in a very long line until I finally reached a Delta representative who handed me a copied "letter of apology" and then shooed me out of the terminal into the night.

But Delta didn't stop there.  The airline raced to rebook me on an Air France flight to Paris scheduled to leave just four days later, today.  From Paris I would fly to JFK.  At this moment, if you look on Delta’s website, they still show my flight to Paris as ON TIME.  However, if you look on the Air France site you will see that my flight to Paris is CANCELLED.  

When I called Delta to point this out, I waited on hold for ten minutes at about $5 per minute before I was rebooked on an American Airlines flight for tomorrow, Thursday the 23rd.  Only, just now, my travel agent double checked and says I am not booked on the AA flight at all.  Nice work Delta!

Delta is clearer when it comes to compensating me for my trouble.  They say they have no interest in paying my $150 per night in hotel, plus meals, taxis, etc., because they cancelled my flight due to “weather.”  The fact there hasn’t been any “weather” here since last Saturday morning doesn’t seem to register. 

It is very hard to understand why Heathrow still hasn’t cleared the snow.  Evidently, they use a highly specialized technique for snow removal here which they refer to as “melting.”  Unfortunately, it turns out that “melting” doesn’t work if the temperature doesn’t rise above freezing—who knew?  And who might expect cold temperatures in December?  So they’ve switched to a new technique of snow removal they have very high hopes for.  In fact, they call this new approach “staring and hoping.”

The delays here at Heathrow have caused similar delays and massive crowds in airport terminals throughout Europe.  In Germany at one airport they’ve hired clowns to entertain stranded passengers.  If I see a clown when I return to Heathrow tomorrow I will kill him.

I don’t know if I’ll get home tomorrow or not.  I may not get home until the Spring thaw.  All I can say is that it was easier to fly to Colombia than it has been to fly to England.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that they’d do a better job of clearing the runways if it did snow in Colombia.  A band of Arhuacos waving coca leaves could not possibly do worse.