July 2008

July 13th  (from the venomous pen of Matt)

Thank you American Airlines for the trip from hell.

Perhaps we should have sacrificed a chicken or some such appeasement to the gods when the car taking us to the airport was 45 minutes late. Not late because he overslept but late because he got lost. Still, he made up for it with a breakneck trip to the airport so we arrived in plenty of time...to find that the flight was delayed. So, before we even got to put our luggage onto the scale we were facing the problem of Abby and AJ making their connection. Well, they didn't. American got us to Miami with an hour and a half to spare but then took forever to open up the airline door because their "automated parking system" hadn't automatically parked them very well. Guess pilots can't park their own planes any more. Then we hustled to the immigration line (not too bad here) and beyond to baggage claim. The carrousel filled with bags to the brim then had to be stopped so one old man could empty the machine in order to turn the machine back on. After 15 minutes ( - clock still ticking on A1 and A2's flight) their bags came off and I left Lisa and the little ones to run with the older two to their plane. HOWEVER, because we all flew together the baggage people wouldn't let us leave that area separately. We had to be together. Another delay in finding Lisa and getting everyone to the line together brought us to the American Airlines desk and another problem. Someone told us that the kids missed their flights so they wouldn't take the bags anymore. Lisa told me to run with the oldest two while she stayed behind to fix that problem.

Abby, AJ and I ran upstairs and to the "D" concourse but once I saw the line to go through security I knew that we were screwed. I turned and told the kids to forget it while I ran to an American Airlines counter for customer service (silly me). They directed me to another area where there was a "re-booking" desk. I went and saw a woman guiding people into the "economy" line. When asked where I could find "re-booking" she pointed to the line marked "economy". I pointed out to her that besides a difference in concept there were many letters unique to the word "re-booking" that weren't to be found in the word "economy", an "r", a "b", a "k" and the whole "ing" ending. Since there were about a hundred people in the "economy" line I knew I'd not only fail to get the kids on the next flight but the scheduled Orlando flight would be missed as well. The AA representative told me that "Economy" and "Re-Booking" were the same things. I asked if she had ever heard of the word "customer service" and suggested that since American Airlines had recently laid off many hundreds of employees "intelligence level" wasn't one of the considerations for staying employed.

As I worked my way through the line I become more and more agitated. I saw a nice old lady standing in AA uniform at the head of the line and realized that this matronly, grandmotherly (think greeter at WalMart) person would have a heart. I told her my problem and begged for help so effectively that she motioned me under the rope and took me to the next available person; a lady called "Mary". Well, there was something about Mary, alright, but I would not be able to place it conclusively. She seemed nice and knew her job but before re-booking the kids on their flight (choices pondered included Dallas/Ft Worth, Kansas City, Chicago and probably F*&^king BAGHDAD) and sending us on her way she'd be part of the most nerve-wracking incident of the day...of MANY days. I think she was of Spanish decent so let's just call her a "puta" and get it over with.

MARY booked the kids of a 5pm to Chicago and told me that the Orlando flight was delayed, until it turned out, 5:45pm. She then told me that Lisa and the little ones were downstairs and spoke to some guy on the phone there. When the flight was settled and the bags checked in (without the kids being present, thank you Alvaro..you are a ray of sunlight up the ass that is American Airlines) Mary told me that I should wait right "there" (pointing to a spot just in front of the AA desk on Concourse D) for Lisa to come up with the boarding passes. She repeated this and I considered myself pretty well informed as I stood, with Abby and AJ, right "there". Over the next HOUR of waiting right "there", to include mounting panic, airport pages from the courtesy phone (which I tell you know nobody ever listens to) and us running from Concourse D (where I stood) to Concourse E (where the flights were meant to depart from) I was calling for security and screaming at people on the phone that I really didn't care about the flights but wanted someone to find my missing wife and children. Now, I don't want to say that I used vulgarities and insulted the intelligence of people, but I did indeed insult many people and dropped more "f-bombs" than Dick Cheney at an ACL Convention. Now, while I was running around trying to find half of my family I should point out that gate "E-6" was paging Abby and AJ Taylor to come there but, without boarding passes, they couldn't get through security. If you read the riveting narrative above you'll note that Lisa had those precious passes and therefore I could not bring my children to the plane. I asked the courtesy people to call the gate and tell them this as well as to page for Lisa, which they did without results. FINALLY, after honestly thinking that I'd somehow managed to misplace my wife and youngest children, I got on the phone with someone who told me that Lisa and the littlest ones had gone through security and were at the gate.

For those of you with a scorecard let's re-cap. I have been speaking to American Airlines representatives in Santo Domingo, at the baggage carrousel (more than one here), at the head of the "re-booking/economy" line, at the end of said line and Mary. Mary, it turns out, didn't pay to much attention to the man at the other end of the phone because HE told Lisa she should meet me at the restaurant right in front of the Concourse E security check-in station and NOT at Concourse D. When she'd waited long enough (and on a good day Lisa's patience level is lower that the belly of a garden snake) she decided that we must have gone through security already and so she went through too...only to find herself alone at gate E-6....with the boarding passes. The supervisor on the phone told me that I should go back to American Airlines and ask for a "favor" in getting a new set of boarding passes. I went to American Airlines and told them that if they gave me the boarding passes immediately I would do them a "favor" and not rip their heads off and do something biological down their necks. They gave me the passes, we went through security and we reunited with the rest of our family. Abby and AJ boarded their plane, I chugged down a Samuel Adams beer and after an hour or so, boarded a plane for Orlando. No more surprises on our side of the trip, no thanks to American Airlines. (Note to the management of American Airlines- If you are going to continue operating an airline in this fashion I would suggest changing your name from "American Airlines" to "Colonoscopy Airlines" so as to better represent the level of service provided. Just a thought.)

Abby and AJ didn't get away from the bad luck of this trip, I'm afraid. They arrived on Chicago along with a very bad storm that forced them to stay aloft until about 40 minutes before their connecting flight to Madison. If they missed that flight the only choices left to them would be sleeping on the floor of a Chicago terminal or their Aunt Sandy driving the three hours from Evansville to get them. So, I called American Airlines and initially spoke to a moron. I explained to this person that my children being stranded in Chicago on their very first trip on their own, was not acceptable. I explained to her that my children didn't arrive in Chicago on time because of delays in Santo Domingo and, despite the placement of blame, American Airlines had a contract with us to care for its passengers until they reached it's destination. I told her in no uncertain terms that I'd declare war on her and American Airlines if my children were left stranded in that airport. These strong terms didn't seem to affect this woman so I demanded to speak to her supervisor. This led me to the last, and if you've been counting along with the rest of us the THIRD, helpful person out of the many more American Airlines and general airport employees, we'd met that day. Her name was Kristine Covington and she had a heart; enough so that she called the airport gates in Chicago and found out that the connecting flight to Madison hadn't even arrived yet so the kids were in no danger of missing their flight. It was greatly delayed and resulted in the kids not arriving in Madison until 1am local time (2am by Abby and AJ's biological clocks, poor souls) but at least I knew they were safe and going to make it to their destination. Ms. Covington didn't really have to do anything special but she tried, something her employee could have done but chose not to. I explained to her that it wouldn't have killed the other person to do something to help a customer who was afraid for his children's welfare  and that as someone who's job it was to help people I tried to emphasize with my clients. I try to imagine how I would want my children cared for and act accordingly. So, if there is justice in this world the first person I spoke to was taken out and shot on the tarmac, or at least fired.

In closing, do I want the readers of this to never use American Airlines again? You bet I do, at least until I receive a formal apology and a check for at least four figures. I suggest using Northwest Airlines as they've always been nice about their problems. Of course, it really isn't realistic to expect no delays or problems. These are the realities of airline travel nowadays. What IS reasonable to expect is that when these problems occur people are treated with respect and dignity. American Airlines failed in this. Oh yeah, they also lost one of Abby and AJ's suitcases. Bastards.




July 8th

The new news Aiden lost another tooth, well Matt pulled it out. When he fell a couple of weeks ago he must have damaged it as it was turning grey and finally barely hanging there and Aiden wanted it out "RIGHT NOW". Then of course came all the tooth fairy questions. I think he ask more questions than Abby and AJ combined and for every questioned answered he has 3 more about the answer. At least I understand his questions (most of the time) and I am happy that he thinks about everything.

We are the proud new owners of a basketball hoop, it has been passed around a bit but is in great shape and being used quite a bit so far. If we lower all the way Aiden has a chance to make it in, though AJ needs it all the way up for really playing he is great with Aiden so doesn't mind the lowering.

We just got a recent evaluation on Aiden, I am not surprised by it but it still is a bit sad to read how far behind he is, even though at the same time I am thankful of all the improvements he has made in the last year. His receptive was just on the low end of normal great news. His expressive  has 2 scores of sorts, one is articulation there he was  at the 1st percentile with an age equivalent of less than 2yrs. The other expressive included word structure(5%), recalling sentences(2%0 and formulating labels(63%) in which he did not lose points for intelligibility he ranked in the 13th percentile. It didn't surprise me as he has lots of errors when talking, his sentences are not full correct sentences but basic words put together, like "Me go Noah house",  even when repeating he would often omit words he doesn't normally use. It is good to no where he stands and he did at least have vocabulary worth testing, unlike the last evaluation he went through. He has a long road ahead but he is making progress and he continues to try, try, try and try again.

July 6th

I hope everyone enjoyed Independence Day....ours was OK. Matt went to the Embassy work party on the 4th, it was western themed and they had a few fireworks I hear. Then Saturday their was a pool party for families at Malecon, it is an apartment complex and mall. It was a bit disappointing as the pool was to deep for either of my little boys to touch in, which is OK for Aiden he has gotten good at jumping and swimming but Atticus who loves the shallow water to play had none and it was in the afternoon so no fireworks either but the food was good and the kids did have fun. They had a clown and Aiden got to do some magic with him, once pulling the bird out of the pouch. I think we will be happy to have the 4th in the states next year hopefully with fireworks, parades, cheese curds and shakes.

Aiden is learning more about his dynavox but uses mostly for play, hopefully he will get to try it out with family who won't understand him as much as I do. I find it hard to ask him to use it when I know what he is asking, and the bit that I don't know wouldn't be on it. Though some words he has issues just saying he can repeat if the dynavox says it, which is so awesome. One game he ask for I never understand what he is talking about the sounds are so mixed up and or not there, but if he has the dynavox say it, he says it close enough for me to know. One phrase he has found, he found the words and makes the phrase, "I want to go to McDonald's and Heaven." Atticus is still stuck on "My butt hurts", what a little boy he is.