Our adventure began on Thursday August 10th. The airlines were making the headlines that day because police in England had just arrested 21 people in connection with a terrorist plot to detonate explosives on board several aircraft bound for the United States. The plot apparently involved mixing otherwise innocuous liquids and gels to form an explosive compound that could then be detonated with a small electronic device such as a cell phone, iPod, or keyless entry key fob. The U.S. authorities responded by banning all liquids and gels from being carried on-board. However, passengers departing the United Kingdom were required to check all of their hand luggage and take only a small Ziploc bag of valuables with them on-board. This also happened to be the same day my family were departing England for their vacation to Oregon. In fact, I got a phone call from my sister at about 1:15am on Thursday saying that they had seen the news just as they were leaving their house, and that although they were currently on the way to the airport they didn’t know if they would be delayed or even if they would be able to fly. Ugh!
My parents flight was scheduled to arrive at 7:15pm while my sister and brother in law were expected to touch down at 8:05pm. We rented a minivan for the duration of their stay to make travelling as a group more comfortable. I wanted to take care of the paperwork and park it in the short-term lot before they arrived, so I planned on being at the airport by 6:30pm. Fortunately, Tiffany was kind enough to give me a ride, which saved me the cost of a taxi. However, the first complication of the night arose shortly after arriving when I tried to collect said rental car. “Stuart Thompson” were the only words I’d issued to the grunting clerk before receiving the eloquently crafted “deposit’s $1,100, you got your credit card?” (unnecessary apostrophe added to reflect unparsable grammar). Apparently it is now “standard” to charge a deposit of 120% of the rental cost on all rentals over 5 days, thus explaining the rather large “deposit” being requested. After swallowing hard, I presented my US Bank VISA card to the Enterprise representative only to have it thrust right back at me. “Won’t work.”, the representative grunted, apparently annoyed at himself for once again failing to create an actual sentence. Predicting my reaction based upon the puzzled look on my face, he added “see we don’t take credit cards that are linked to a checking account.” “Errr, well that’s all I have with me.” I replied, my mind now racing with the realization that I was stuck at the airport without a car. It turns out that if I was paying over the phone then the card would be accepted without a problem. The same would be true if I was paying via their web site or if I was simply reading the number to the representative while standing on a cell phone just out of view of the counter. However, if they actually see the card and determine that it’s linked to a checking account, then they won’t even run it. Can you spell D..U..M..B? The extremely helpful representative certainly could after I’d provided my “customer feedback” a couple of times using appropriately agitated gesticulations. They wouldn’t even let me pay for the rental up front. Thoroughly pissed off I walked over to the next company in the line of rental booths, which turned out to be Dollar Rent A Car. Lo and behold, they take my debit card without issue and hand me the keys.
Note to self: NEVER, EVER, EVER use Enterprise Rental Cars again. Make your time more productive and enjoyable by filing off your eyebrows with venom-coated sandpaper.
(Friends don’t let friends use stupid, uncooperative companies.)
Having now parked the Ford Freestar rented from the much more helpful Dollar Rent A Car in short-term parking, I made it into the terminal at 7:00pm, just in time to see that the 7:15pm flight had been delayed by two hours. Sigh. I hadn’t heard from my parents all day, so I didn’t know if they had managed to make their flight with all of the disruptions from the heightened security. I did the only thing that I could. I found a nice looking restaurant, ordered a basket of Buffalo Wings, a pint of Hefeweizen, and turned on the SlingBox player on my phone to watch some MTV. Fortunately I heard from my sister that while they had missed their original flight, they were about to board a flight arriving at 11:37pm. At least I knew one set of relatives was arriving that night. A few hours later, I was standing at the arrival gate hoping that my parents had managed to make their original flight. A few minutes later I spotted them looking bedraggled and a little worn at the edges, but at least they were here. Check – one set here, one more confirmed on the way. We headed down to baggage claim to find out that while they had made the flight, there luggage had not. Sigh. Well, we had reason to be in the airport for a while yet anyway, so I took my folks to my little restaurant. I introduced them to the wait staff there who had come to know me pretty well and ordered another bucket o’ chicken. After one more delay to 12:15am, Ellie and Peter finally walked through the same arrival gate my folks had trodden only a few hours earlier. Finally we were all together. By the time we loaded their luggage into the minivan, I’d been in the airport for seven hours. Don’t get me wrong, PDX is a really great airport, but I wasn’t sorry to finally get out of there and drop my parents off at their hotel.