Thank heavens for Delta airlines

Thumbs up DeltaThis weekend I am full of gratitude for Delta Airlines and for a particular symphony administrator. You’ll see why if you read on.

Since I didn’t fly enough on American last year and therefore lost my Gold status — a blow after five years of being special — Delta is my new favorite airline. Their credit card lets me check a bag for free, they often fly to the places I’m going at convenient times, and so far I’ve always had good experiences with staff and limited travel snafus (one mechanical delay several years ago led to a free night in a nice hotel at the Mall of America, which was fun).

I’m also a big fan of multi-leg flight itineraries. When I have gigs back to back, a three-way ticket is usually much less expensive than two separate round trips, and a more efficient use of my time away from home. So when I began shopping for this week’s Raleigh to New York to Grand Rapids to Raleigh ticket, I was excited to find a complete trip on Delta at a very good price. There was even a direct flight from New York to Grand Rapids that landed just before noon — the perfect time to allow some rest before my evening rehearsal with the symphony there.

Now, I buy a lot of plane tickets. For most of my travels I buy my own flights and am reimbursed by the ensembles who hire me. I travel for fun too. I spend an inordinate amount of time on travel and airline websites, trying to find the perfect flight at the perfect price. I search repeatedly over several days. I stew. And I am fastidious about double-checking times and dates. Except this time, somehow I wasn’t…

…and I bought my flight for the wrong time! I didn’t even realize it for months, not until the week before the gig when I got my itinerary from the Grand Rapids Symphony. At first I thought it was an error. Why didn’t they have me scheduled to attend the evening rehearsal the day I arrived? And then I realized with utter terror that I’d bought my ticket for the perfect time PM, not AM.

I panicked. I shed some tears. I emailed the Symphony’s Operations Manager, Julie Nystedt, to apologize and ask what I should do. The same flight the previous day was now prohibitively expensive. Before I could spend too much time researching flights to Chicago or Detroit plus one-way car rentals, she emailed that she had a solution.

The Symphony has some vouchers from Delta, and Julie was willing to use one to book me a new one-way the previous day. She was completely gracious and progressional about the whole thing; she even tried to get me an extra night in the symphony’s hotel and although it was booked she gave me the name of another hotel that has a special rate for orchestra guests. Saved! Now I just had to deal with Delta.

I called Delta. The employee I spoke to, Scott, confirmed my suspicion that I’d have to officially cancel my original New York-Grand Rapids leg and pay $223 (the change fee plus difference in fare), because if I just didn’t show up for that flight my final homeward-bound leg would be cancelled. I asked if I really had to pay the change fee since I was not taking the flight and already had another version of the same flight (which he could see in my record). He asked if it was for a medical or other emergency. I replied no, it was my own foolish error and that I’d bought a ticket for PM instead of AM.

There was no reason for Scott to entertain my request, but he put me on hold and came back very quickly to say that he could waive the change fee but I still had to pay the fare difference. I think he expected me to argue with him over the fare difference, but I have never in my life been so happy to pay 23 dollars. I quickly offered up my Delta AmEx number, thanked Scott profusely for his help, and heaved a sigh of relief.

Embarrassment remains, but total disaster averted. This misadventure has only cost me a small fare difference, a discount hotel stay, and some sweat and tears. And I will never make this particular mistake again.

So, thank you to Julie (who will get a bar of chocolate when I meet her), thank you to Scott (who would get chocolate if I knew where to send it), and thank you to Delta for supporting the Grand Rapids Symphony with vouchers and for being flexible with errant customers. Now I can concentrate on the music.

The happy resolution got even better when I checked in for my Raleigh to New York flight today and found that I somehow had a new seat in first class, and better still when the flight attendant brought me my G&T with this note:
Delta note
Ahhhhh.
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From BART to Bluegrass

Yesterday I had to make space in my wallet for my shiny new ECU ID card (so excited to be able to check out books and scores from a music library for the first time since I finished my masters at the U of A),

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and I stumbled upon a pocket containing fare cards from the public transit systems of a few cities I’ve sung in lately. It made me feel well-traveled and cosmopolitan to lay them on the table.

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They’re nice reminders of great music and fun times I’ve had in New York,

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San Francisco,

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and Boston.

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As I scanned through my photo collection to choose the city photos above, I got tired just looking at all the places I’ve been in the past year. I adore travel and it’s one of my favorite parts of my job. Sometimes though, it’s the best thing in the world to have a beautiful fall weekend at home and a free evening tomorrow to go hear some bluegrass music downtown.

Smoothie Tragedy at LGA

I had planned for my first blog posting to be a general account of my great weekend in New York singing for the OSNY competition semifinals. But then, on the way home, the smoothie incident happened. Its story seemed more indicative of what it’s really like to be me, and I decided that short snapshots might be a better way to capture my singing, traveling, eating life. So here I go…

In great spirits after advancing to the finals of the OSNY competition and spending a lovely night and sunny Brooklyn morning with my sibs, I was proud to be through security at LaGuardia early, and happily humming as I wandered the terminal in search of a healthy snack. To my delight I stumbled upon a food court that included a salad bar and a coffee shop that sold smoothies made of actual fruit. I thought, “a salad bar in an airport! What a nutritionally advanced and wonderful idea!” I was feeling a fruit deficiency though, so I opted for a coffee shop smoothie that featured strawberries, blueberries, apples, lime juice and ginger. It was quite tasty, and I felt virtuous as I sipped, wheeling my luggage around the food court and spontaneously taking a photo of the salad bar for my first blog posting.LGA salad bar

Now, here is one thing you must learn about me: I break things. Often. It comes from a combination of poor spatial relations abilities and a tendency to get rushed and stop paying attention to what I’m doing. Recently I’ve broken a rental car, a tea kettle and stovetop burner, and our newly painted kitchen accent wall at home. After that last incident (suitcase-related), I promised my husband I would reform. I’ve been doing a lot better. Until yesterday when I took an iPhone photo while holding a smoothie, a suitcase, and a purse.smoothie splat

 

As you might imagine, splat!!! went the smoothie just as I snapped my quite excellent salad bar photo (see above). Oh, the wasted nutrition! I try as much as possible not to buy food in plastic containers, so it’s an extra travesty when your plastic smoothie cup ends up in the landfill and you didn’t even get to enjoy more than two sips of the smoothie it contained.

Two separate travelers stopped to bring me napkins and even briefly helped me wipe up fruity goo whose trajectory was six or seven feet in diameter. They were so calm and nice about it! In an airport, in New York! I started to laugh at myself as I furiously swept at the spreading pool of pink, and by the time I’d used most of the paper napkins in the food court to control the damage, an employee came by with a Wet Floor sign and told me someone with better equipment would be along to finish. I apologized; she smiled and said, “everyone drops things.” I told her that I do it more than the average person and she laughed.

And that was the end of the LaGuardia smoothie incident. Not such a tragedy, except for the loss of a tasty, healthy beverage. The debacle certainly filled up my wait time (I also had to make a dash into the ladies room to wipe off my luggage), and kept me from getting bored. I was, of course, still hungry and woefully behind on my 5 A Day of fruits and veggies. But I decided that maybe the smoothie experience was not meant to be. I went to the salad bar instead. Yum.salad of consolation