Friday, August 6, 2010

2 flights, 2 kids, 3 cats and 5 Hour Wait = One Raw Nerve

We’re here and the cats are here and everyone is settling into our temporary home at one of Kent’s colleague’s house.  No small feat, believe me.

The trip seemed to be going fine until we got to JFK, when someone from “Cargo” called Kent’s cell and said they couldn’t ship the cats b/c there was no AC in the cargo area and the animals would die. Well, Kent relayed this at the table where we were eating dinner, and the kids freaked out, as you can imagine. Kent went over to the gate to see what was going on, and I stayed with the kids.  After I paid the check, we went over to the gate and found out that the maintenance crew from JFK knew nothing about this problem, and in fact there WAS no problem, and we could bring the cats. But, when this started, the gate agent wanted to take the cats the next day instead. We wanted to travel together with the cats, and so we had asked about traveling the next day on the same flight as the cats. They would keep the animals at the “vet port” and we would stay at a hotel, so they had released our seats. Now the cats were set to fly, but we had no tickets, so Keith, the gate agent rebooked us and bumped us to business class. Looks like it’s all working out….

But the flight attendants who had been talking to Kent, told him not to trust the gate agent, Keith. The flight attendants were all “mature”- had been flying for 35 plus years each, originally on Pan Am. One in particular didn’t like our buddy Keith, who had rebooked us in business class. We LIKED Keith- we thought he was a problem solver.  She didn’t trust him as far as she could hurl him.

Three times she said to me, in a Hungarian accent- “Don’t believe him- he doesn’t know shit from shinola.” She said he didn’t care of our cats died, and that I needed to go RIGHT NOW to talk to the captain. “Never mind (Keith)- he doesn’t know anything- GO! Go to the captain right now and find out where your cats are. They are not loaded yet- where are they? Does anyone know? This man- (Keith)- he does not care about your cats!!  Go to the captain, and talk to him. And do not say I sent you. I will deny it!! But you must ask him. He is the one who will help you.“ 

It was all very dramatic and stressful. She had me convinced that Keith, whom we liked because now we were sitting in the comfy seats, was a cat killer.  Or at least aiding and abetting someone who had it in for our cats. In reality, Keith just wanted us to pull away from the gate so he had an on time departure.  He kept asking if we would fly without the cats, so they could offload our luggage and get this plane going.

Then the maintenance guy showed up to talk to us and the captain and he said everything was FINE in the AC in cargo hold and why was someone from Atlanta making a decision about the safety of these animals? The captain asked the maintenance guy if he would fly HIS pets, and Maintenance Guy said yes.  On his way out, Maintenance Guy said, “Just so we’re clear—this is NOT a maintenance delay- right?” Keith says “Right- not a maintenance problem.” So, Maintenance Guy walks away happy because he won’t be blamed for late departure. 

The captain got on the phone to say that they wanted the cats to be loaded. He had to call Atlanta, the hub, where the first phone call had originated. Finally they got everything set and we were off, Mature Flight Attendant kept walking by me, hissing that I should never fly with the animals this way again. They should come in the plane, no matter what.  They will die in there and no one will care. I decided that she was a crazy cat lady and thanked her for all her help and mentally wrote her off.

Then we arrived in Budapest, cruised through passport control and customs, and met the driver from the school. He had a big van to transport all our many suitcases, including one containing only cat food, a litter box and cat litter.  We then went to “cargo” in Budapest, on the far edge of the airport, where no one really should ever go. It looked like a movie set from some 60’s era movie about Eastern Bloc countries.   Peter (the driver) and Kent went it to find out about the cats.

Where we spent almost 6 hours waiting for the cats.

“One hour”, they were told by a woman from Central Casting under the header of “Eastern Bloc Woman at Desk Behind Window”- stocky, bad haircut, strict, a woman of few words- few English words anyway.  Kent asked where the cats were and was told “One Hour”. Every hour or so, Kent and Nate would go back and were told the same thing: "One hour!" She said, holding up her thumb. (Hungarians count starting with the thumb)

Three hours later I went it to ask about a bathroom.  I asked Peter the driver to ask her where the toilet was, because there was clearly nothing in the waiting area.  Peter’s English is pretty poor, so he said something to her in Hungarian, and she looked at me and held up her thumb. “One hour.”

“I have to wait an hour to use the toilet?”  I asked, incredulously. I had lost any sense of humor I had by this point and I really had to go.  She smiled (a first) and said, ”Oh, toilet! No- you do not have to wait. ” And directed me outside the building to another door.

We FINALLY got the cats and now we're in the apartment of Kent's colleague from schol. We have to keep the windows closed because none of them have screens on them, and Squeak has already escaped once, and is determined to be an outdoor Hungarian cat.  Now-- on to apartment hunting!


moelladeville said...

Jane, you are doing a great job of chronicling your journey. It's so cool to see the pictures to go with the stories!

Life In A Pink Fibro said...

Wow - what a start to your adventure! Nightmare. At least it all ended well.

Visiting from the Rewind.

MultipleMum said...

That was quite a trip. Why are you in Hungary? Thanks for Rewinding x

Life In A Pink Fibro said...

What a start to your adventure! Nightmare. Glad to hear that you managed to rescue the cats.

Visiting from the Rewind.