Outward bound – 2011

At the weekend, I logged in to my credit card account, to discover that I’d forgotten to pay it off. There was a message that usefully (!) said ‘You are overdrawn on your limit. This message might be wrong, and we are working on it.’ This was just as helpful as the good old British Airways standby of ‘our systems aren’t responding, please try later’. There was a whacking big penalty on the credit card, so I transferred some money.

This morning, about (what seems like) 3 years ago, I phoned up the card company – Lloyds – to let them know I was going to the US, as I’ve had problems with them before. Good job I did, as they told me
that the card had been suspended because I hadn’t paid the bill. Bloody hell, here was me leaving for the airport in half an hour, and no credit card.

It seems they use an Indian call centre, where the people are very eager to try to help, but I was struggling to understand what the options were. The first person I spoke to told me that the card would be cleared after 24 hours as I’d sent the money already. When I pointed out that it normally took at least 3 working days, he agreed, and suggested that I pay the minimum by debit card – £27 – and after further questioning he agreed that he could take the payment.

At this point I was cut off.

I dialled back, hopping from foot to foot with an eye on the time. I went through all the security rigmarole again with the next person, and patiently confirmed that the phone numbers I had given the previous person were correct. This lady also agreed to take the payment. There was a very long pause, and then she told me that she couldn’t take the payment, as their debit card processing server was down, and could I please phone back about 4pm? I pointed out I would be mid-Atlantic at the time, and the call would
probably cost more than my annual expenditure on the card.

I explained that I was going to the US, and needed the card, and given the fact that I had an excellent record of paying it off, had forgotten, had sent money etc etc, couldn’t they just re-enable the card? Apparently, this isn’t possible. After another lengthy pause, I was told that not even the
supervisor could do it. Money had to go into the account, and the batch process (if it worked) would take place overnight. So much for customer service flexibility. She suggested that a family member go into a Lloyds bank and pay the £27. I thanked the lady for her help, and my son said he would go to the bank after dropping me at the airport. He does have his uses.

We set off for the aiprort, and after half a mile I realised I had forgotten my razor, toothbrush, and door key. We went back to get them.

Terminal 5 at Heathrow was ok, although they were closing the north security gate just as I
approached it, and I couldn’t get my prescription airside. Sitting in the bus to go to the plane, my son texted to say he had paid the money, although the bank teller couldn’t confirm the necessary amount that I had to pay to clear the card. So just to be on the safe side, I called Lloyds to confirm that it was still £27, and was told that it was in fact £45. Stunning. My son wasn’t answering, so I had to call my wife to give her the good news, and she then also went to the bank to pay the difference.

So I was pleased to be able to slump into my First seat with a relaxing bucks fizz.

That’s when they announced that part of the plane was broken. The engineers were looking for a latch. This was going to cut into my allowable transfer time at Chicago airport for my Delta flight to Detroit. So I had some more bucks fizz. Then the pilot announced that the engineers had found a latch, but it was the wrong one, so they’d gone away again to get the right one, which they eventually did. I didn’t notice exactly how late we were leaving, as I was trying to find something to bang my head against.

As we approached Chicago, it became apparent that I was unlikely to make the connection. I wondered what Delta would be able to do for me, and how I’d pay for another ticket without my credit card if things went south. On disembarking from the plane, at the end of the jetty was a notice board of flights where people had missed connections, or were short for time. Those people were given fasttrack passes through immigration. I explained my situation, as the Delta flight was due to leave in an hour, but the young lady was utterly flummoxed by this unexpected situation, and suggested I ask the staff in the immigration hall. I did so. These people said that unless the airline gave me a fast pass I’d have to queue with the rest. Hmmmm.

So queue I did. It turned out that the lady in front of me didn’t speak English well, and her details were not all in order, and it took a considerable amount of time for her to be processed. Once through (although I’d obviously missed my connection), I thought I might as well go to terminal 2 (we landed in T5), and talk
to Delta. I took a leisurely transfer train, and walked in the door at the time my flight was due to depart, to be faced with a complete scrum going through security.

So I looked round for a Delta employee to talk to, and found the check in desks. I queued. Then I explained to a queue comber what the issue was, and he told me to queue in another queue. Eventually I spoke to a lady who said that the flight hadn’t left yet as it was delayed, and I could try for it. Bloody hell. So I dashed off, relieved to find that some of the heaving masses at security had somewhat abated. Gate E9 though was a significantly long fast trot. I arrived at the gate just as they put my name on the board to say they were offloading me, and the Delta lady there was very cross with me. They have a somewhat different appreciation there of ‘service style’.

Because the Americans don’t enforce their cabin baggage policies, there was no bag space left, so they took my bag off me to put in the hold. With all the rushing, I still had no US money, and no drink, and a lot of sweat. As I boarded the aircraft I asked the stewardess for a drink, and she gave me a small bottle of water, that probably saved my life. I must have communicated some element of desperation, as she asked me a couple of times during the flight, and when I got off, whether I was feeling OK.

At Detroit airport I retrieved my bag, and eventually tracked down an ATM that gave me cash off my debit card. The taxi ride to the hotel was uneventful.

The hotel’s quite nice and modern, and has wifi. So when I was settled, I got the laptop out to check the emails, only to find that the screen was smashed, and unreadable. Aaaaaaggghhhh. In the fluster of getting on the Delta flight, I hadn’t thought to check that the laptop was well padded in the cabin bag, or to take it out. I started to get the shakes at the prospect of iPhone-only email and web access. I had a brainwave then, and called down to reception to see if they had a monitor cable, to plug the laptop into the tv. The girl on the desk obviously didn’t entirely understand what I was talking about, but to her credit checked with someone who brought the cable up.

I went into the company IT fault reporting portal to report the breakage, only to find that the form wasn’t working, so I phoned up. It seems that the problem with the form happens from time to time, and they know how to fix it, although, obviously, not a permanent fix.

I’m now starting to hallucinate as I haven’t slept for about 2 years, so I couldn’t be bothered reading this through to see if it’s coherent or not.