“It says here she didn’t take the flight to San Francisco, so we had to cancel her return ticket.”
The Delta Airlines desk attendant was genuinely pleasant as she spoke, her warm smile incongruous with her statement which, in so many words, told me I was lying. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, steeling myself as I prepared to talk through my entire explanation for the fourth time.
Why on earth couldn’t a company of this size add a note to our customer profiles so we didn’t have to re-explain ourselves over and over again?
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
9 a.m., Sunday
We woke up slowly that morning — as one does the day after a wedding. Eager to find an excuse to stay in bed, we grabbed our phones to check into the flight home which was still several hours away.
We had bought two sets of round trip tickets from New York to San Francisco to attend a college friend’s wedding and take in the sights. We went through JFK’s long security line together, presented our boarding passes together, boarded the plane together, and sat next to each other on the flight out.
We were thus surprised to find that, while I could check into our flight online without issue, Christina could find no trace of her return flight anywhere — it appeared as though her ticket never existed.
We cycled through the normal, feeble steps people take when the Internet isn’t working the way they expect; we cleared our cookies, tried a different browser, turned our phones off and back on. Finally convinced, though still in bed, we found a customer service number and called.
“I don’t see a ticket under her name,” said the Delta customer service representative on the other end of the line. She seemed confused.
I told her that this was exactly the problem. We both bought round trip tickets, but now could only see one flight back.
The faint sound of typing replaced that of her voice as she continued to dig. The typing stopped.
“I see here that we canceled Christina’s ticket because she didn’t fly the first part of her trip.”
Shocked, I turned my head to tell Christina whose angry expression let me know she had heard exactly what I had. I returned to the call to let the rep know she was mistaken; Christina had definitely flown from New York and was now sitting here with me in San Francisco.
The rep excused herself again for a moment. Upon returning, she told me:
“Yes, I’m looking at the manifest for that flight right now and she’s not on it.”
I didn’t know what else to say except that she definitely had flown with me and that my primary concern was getting her ticket reinstated. The rep excused herself once more.
In the silence, I looked over at Christina whose expression now bordered on looking physically ill. And who could blame her — nightmarish scenario that she was in where she was forced to prove that she existed in time and space. She crawled into my embrace. I looked down and chuckled to myself; if I was hallucinating — as Delta seemed all but convinced of at that moment — then I certainly could have done worse than to imagine the beautiful young woman currently nuzzling her face into my chest. I laughed again — this time loud enough to be heard by Christina who shot me an upset glare.
The rep thankfully interrupted at that moment, this time sounding more hesitant:
“Hi, yes, I spoke to my manager. Because we do not show her on that flight, we would need you to come to the airport to sign an affidavit saying she…”
I must admit that I sort of tuned out the rest of the conversation as we ended the call.
Christina lifted her head, looking defeated as tears began to well under her eyes. I pulled her close as I checked my watch, surprised at how long the phone call had taken.
We had planned our last day to be a slow one, first meeting a friend for brunch, driving through the Berkeley Hills to tour the UC Berkeley campus, and popping into a famed tea house. In practice, our last day would instead be hectic, limited to quickly grabbing fast food en route to arriving at the airport extra early to deal with this issue. Moreover, even if this were all worked out, we wouldn’t even be rewarded with sitting next to each other on the flight.
So to recap, other than ruining our last day of vacation, Delta had so far:
- Lost track of who they had allowed onto their flight
- Stolen a return ticket we had already paid for
- Absent written confirmation, told us we were lying when we asked to reinstate the stolen ticket
After arriving at the airport and being passed around from employee to employee and having to re-explain our situation each time, we found ourselves in front of the Delta Special Services desk.
“It says here she didn’t take the flight to San Francisco, so we had to cancel her return ticket,” the Delta agent explained politely.
“Well, she obviously took the flight,” I said with only the slightest bit of a smirk.
Unnerved, she responded: “I understand, so if we could just have her come in, I could get my manager and have her sign an affidavit.”
And this was the moment I lost it.
“She’s right HERE!”
The desk agent narrowed her eyes: “I don’t understand sir?”
Annoyed, I stepped aside so Christina could come forward.
Instead I only saw Katie, the reception at my psychiatrist’s office.
“I need to see Evan Miller right now!” I screamed.
A crowd formed around us as she tried to calm me down. Offices emptied out before finally, Dr. Miller emerged from one. I moved toward him as the crowd apprehensively followed.
“Doc, I don’t know what the fuck is in those pills, but I’m done. I’m done!”
“Pills?” He stammered.
“Yes you know what God damn pills! It’s like someone intimately familiar with my deepest fears designed a house of horrors that doesn’t stop, and there’s only one person that could be.”
“Mario, listen to yourself! Look, I’m definitely not supposed to tell you this, but the pills we gave you — they were just placebos! You were in the control group!”
To this I had no response. I did not protest as they took me away, content in the knowledge that I would be vindicated once Christina managed to cut through the incompetence and bureaucracy, and take the flight home.
Of course I’m kidding about that last part. In the end, we were able to get onto our flight, though the number of lines we had to wait in, employees we had to talk to, and times we had to repeat the story made us nearly miss that flight as well.
Our best guess is that the Delta gate agent in New York didn’t scan Christina’s boarding pass properly. Accidents happen, I suppose, but why they would then steal her ticket without so much as a notification email is pretty worrisome.