I had expected to spend the week touring castles in the United Kingdom rather than writing columns in California. The manner in which those plans devolved from castles to casuals, however, perfectly illustrates how our society is descending from relative order to dystopian chaos.
Our original plan was not complicated. After spending two years banished from domestic bliss in the Philippines due, first, to a pitiless pandemic and then to a tyrannical typhoon, we had finally arranged for a rollicking return. But with my wife’s 40th birthday approaching, she also wanted to do something special. So we followed a friend’s advice and bought discounted “promo” tickets from an outfit called Wind Travel Pattaya.
Working with Filipino agents in London and Thailand, we booked the perfect diversion: a flight from Los Angeles to the UK, followed two weeks later by another one from London to Manila. I began sensing something was amiss, however, several weeks later when no confirmation or itinerary had arrived.
Not to worry, our friend explained, Virgin Atlantic would issue us tickets ten days prior to departure. When that didn’t happen, the agent alleged that the airline was super busy and would certify us twenty-four hours before takeoff. That soon became fifteen, then eight. And that’s when I called the airline directly to learn that the flight we thought we were on no longer existed and we had not been booked on another.
“We’ve never had a customer unable to fly,” the agent confidently assured us. Though our boarding may be delayed, he said, we should go to the airport nonetheless and wait for release of our tickets. One guy, he said, had done just that and “managed to get on a flight.” My own thought: even if that unlikely story is true, I suspect the exemplary passenger wasn’t accompanied by a wife and two young children with more than ten heavy parcels in tow.
It was disturbing news from Great Britain, though, that finally tipped the scales. London’s Heathrow Airport, the BBC reported, was overwhelmed and in chaos with dozens of flights canceled and airport personnel threatening to strike. The situation was “awful,” one passenger lamented. “There were hundreds of people there. Some sleeping on the floor.” Not to be outdone, American media immediately chimed in with stories of local airports deluged with passengers and flight cancelations in anticipation of the July 4th holiday weekend.
So here we sit in Joshua Tree, California, literally living out of suitcases in our own home. “Wow,” a friend sighed when I told him of our plight, “this is not the country we grew up in—it’s becoming an underdeveloped nation.”
Because our tickets are “open,” we’re told, they can be transferred to another airline. And so, given the lapse of time and the chaotic situation in Great Britain, we have asked our agent to get us on a direct flight to Manila or Cebu.
“Sorry, not today,” he told us this morning.
Ah, but there’s always tomorrow.
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(David Haldane’s award-winning memoir, “Nazis & Nudists,” is available on Amazon. A former Los Angeles Times staff writer, he is a journalist, author, and radio broadcaster currently dividing his time between homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Northern Mindanao, Philippines, where this column appears weekly in the Mindanao Gold Star Daily.)