Saturday, November 7, 2009

Will This Never End?

Later Friday

The wheelie arrived just as MA started to get nervous. Boarding was to commence at 11:45 and the wheelie didn’t show up until after that. As a result, we sailed through security and onto the plane. Singapore’s airport is unusual in that each gate has its own security scanners. There is no security check point per se when one enters the departure area, just a passport/boarding pass verification.

We were unprepared for what we saw when we entered the airplane. First and foremost, there was an ethereal air to the cabin because there were misters in operation which made it look foggy. Then there was seat configuration – the entire plane is Business Class. On EVA, the seats in Business Class had been set in a 2-2-2 format with quite spacious seats which became almost-flat beds [that we slide out of]. On SQ022, the seats were 1-2-1, seriously wide seats which are supposed to convert to flat beds for sleep. Service was excellent and attentive. We were given printed menus which listed all of our dining options as well as all of the never-ending drink choices. Naturally, we chose sodas again.

Soon we had slippers, eyeshades and earphones. We navigated the 50-page booklet of entertainment selections from first-run movies to books-on-CD to television programs to music CDs in every possible genre and language. D selected a Dave Brubeck CD for background listening while he updated and MA chose the movie Cheri. Unfortunately, her movie would not play properly despite her best efforts and those of two crew members. Shortly after the last attempt, the entire system was shut down while someone tried to fix it. It could be a long flight for some people if there is no entertainment system. Ninety minutes down; fourteen-and-a-half hours to go.

About two hours into the flight, we were served lunch: lobster and mesclun salad; beef fillet with parsnip puree and roasted vegetables; ice cream; and candy. Because we had the two center seats, we were served by different attendants and D was finished his entrée before MA was even served. The entertainment system never did work properly for MA and one of the lead stewards [how decadent a word now], offered her S$100 toward any item[s] in the in-flight sales brochure, certainly less than the round-trip ticket we asked for but generous nonetheless. A little more than four hours into the flight, with almost thirteen-and-a-half to go, the lights were lowered so people could sleep.

We each slept for about an hour but discovered that the flat beds on Singapore Air were actually less comfortable than the multi-position seats on EVA. True, we tend to slide off the end of the EVA seats if we extend them fully, but they are otherwise more ergonomic. At 8:45 p.m. Singapore time a flight attendant saw that we were awake and [1] closed MA’s bed before D had a chance to break it and [2] brought her a voucher for $100 US to use in their on-board catalog. We had assumed that their penance was in Singapore dollars since all of the prices were listed in that currency. MA had decided on her choices but now had to force herself to spend another S$50 or so. [She actually overspent, we discovered, and we will have to pay SIA about $10, a small price for all of the stuff we got.]

We are now approximately nine-and-a-half hours out of Newark and switching to EST for time references; thus, it is 7:55 a.m. on the east coast and we expect to land around 5:30 p.m. The Longest Day continues with more food being served within the hour. By 10:30, we had finished what little we were going to eat and the trays had been cleared. We had an appetizer of chicken and lamb satay; a duck liver mouse with salmon; and our entrees – rosemary infused chicken with mushroom timbale [mousse], coarse mustard basted potatoes and peas. The chicken was tough but MA liked the mushroom timbale. D was not hungry and ate very little of any course, even skipping dessert! MA had a peach crumble which she said was wonderful. As we have noted before, on a trip like this, we really eat our way around the world. To top it off, there will be "breakfast" before we land in Newark in seven hours [even though it will be 5:30 in the afternoon]. We’re hoping Continental does not offer any food s we can attempt to sleep on the way to PBI.

D used some of the time today when he could not sleep to draft a letter to EVA praising Daniel Fau for his efforts. Once we find a mailing address, we will send that off to EVA. Daniel deserves recognition for all he did for us [and probably many other passengers] yesterday. We may also send a letter to the management at Changi about the SATS lounge staff who were so kind to us. We spent so much time in the lounge that we felt like family.

Things continued in that twilight that is an airplane with all of the shades drawn. We tried unsuccessfully to sleep and were bleary-eyed when the lights went on as we approached Newark. For some reason, we decided to double-check our boarding passes for the next flight which we was to depart about two hours after we landed. We had plenty of time because the Singapore Air clerk had routed our bags to PBI and printed out the boarding passes.

Wrong! The boarding passes were for flight 745, not flight 345. CO745 was supposed to take off at 4:45 and we discovered this while airborne at 5 o’clock. We could not find our luggage claim checks to see if at least the bags were right, but that didn’t matter. We immediately told one of the cabin attendants about our problem; she couldn’t do anything, of course, but we felt better sharing our angst. Apparently, the flight attendant told somebody because when we deplaned just around 6:45, we were met by our wheelie, Mrs. Patel, as well as a member of SIA’s ground support team who was aware of our situation and assured us that things would be fine. She told Mrs. Patel to do what D had told MA we would do – clear Immigration; collect the luggage; clear Customs and go to the Continental counter which re-directs in-transit baggage. The race was on! Mrs. Patel, who soon became our new best friend, dashed through the Newark terminal as fast as her 63-year-old legs would carry her. She took every shortcut she knew, pushed ahead in lines and created her own lines. As soon as we exited the baggage and bureaucracy area, the SIA rep was there to guide us through the re-tagging of the bags and the reassigning of seats on the correct flight. Luckily, we still had Daniel’s handwritten order showing the re-assignment to this itinerary, so Continental couldn’t even charge us for checking the bags.

Mrs. Patel must have thought we were in a hurry because she rushed us through security and to the gate. At the security check point, she tried to tell the screeners that MA could not stand or walk, but that ploy did not work. MA was almost finished with her wanding by the time D got through the metal detector the fifth time [Cell phone? In the carry on. Belt? Take it off and hold your pants up. Cell phone case? Yep, it has metal and a magnet. Watch? Can’t be too sure.] Mrs. Patel left us at the gate and we tipped her royally – we might have made it in plenty of time, but she took us as her personal mission tonight and she was sure she recognized us from October because she sometimes does security at EVA.

The Continental flight left on time, arrived early and was cramped. There was no snack this time other than pretzels and sodas, but we had done nothing but eat for the past 18+ hours anyway and had, in fact, skipped the "breakfast" snack before landing in Newark.

Almost home now. D had called Tony, our driver, from Singapore to explain the change of plans. With the time difference, we are sure D woke him up, but he remembered us and was waiting in the cell phone lot for our call. Our bags were among the first on the carousel, so off we went, out the door, into the car and home to our own beds.

Medical Update: D’s intestinal difficulties had not improved even by Saturday morning; in some ways, they were worse because he is tired of them. At MA’s urging, he called the family doctor and got the answering service who had the on-call doctor call back. He was pleasant and seemed to know what he was doing [but so did Dr. Isabela]. He had doubts about a fungal infections but could not rule out salmonella or a parasite. Since pro-biotics and Cipro had not helped, he prescribed something else, suggested D stay close to home and call the regular physician on Monday. Let’s hope this is the last entry about this subject!

No comments:

Post a Comment