Last night, the outrageous abuse by Virgin Australia airlines forced me out of their LAX terminal into the hardest, coldest rain that had pummeled Los Angeles in decades.
By then it was dark. The wind blowing across the unsheltered elevated pedestrian ramp between buildings was fierce. I was in shirt-sleeves, having not expected to be exposed to these elements. I mean, for god’s sake, I was just changing planes. I later learned that the storm has closed down highways in the area.
Just to make sure that you understand the full measure of this abuse, let’s make sure it is on the record that I am now 77 years old. While I am in much better health and condition than some people half my age, no one would mistake me for anything but a fat old guy. But my pleas for help in getting a taxi or a hotel or to make a phone call were ignored. The counter staff simply turned away.
Need I make a special plea that this is not how you treat someone old enough to be your grandfather?
So, I dragged myself and my luggage through the storm, the half mile to the next open building. No thanks to VAustralia, and only by a stroke of badly needed good luck, it was the Tom Bradley Terminal. That building is somewhat “old-fashioned” in that the lobby and all its public areas such as restaurants, bars, toilets and so on, are completely open to the public. The joke that passes for “security” is deep in the back, closer to the gates.
The restaurant on the balcony level, immediately at the top of the escalator, has free Open Wifi. I was able get on my laptop and with the advice of a helpful waitress, identify a nearby low-rent hotel and book a room for the night. When she heard me say that the site’s booking did not offer any method of arranging a shuttle ride, she kindly lent me her cellphone so I could call the hotel and get that squared away.
HINT TO SIR BRANSON: that caring waitress would do a lot more for your public image than all the automatons who hide behind the slammed door of your check-in desk. I was really pleased to give her a tip that was many times her hourly income, so large that she tried to refuse it until I seriously insisted.
The hotel confirmed on the phone that my booking included a free pickup and return in their airport shuttle. They said it would be out in front of the building in 15 minutes. I was outside in fewer than 5 minutes.
30 minutes passed. Still raining; still blowing. By now it was even colder. I’m still wet, still in short sleeves and still too old to take much of this.
At 45 minutes, I borrowed a cell phone from someone else huddled against the building and called the hotel.
“Sir, the last shuttle of the night was an hour ago. You’ll have to take a taxi. we are only 7 minutes. ”
“Well, I expect you to pay for that. I booked on the basis of the free airport pickup and then you confirmed it. ”
After some grumbling between him and someone else near him, he came back and agreed to pay for it.
The ride was actually only five minutes, and perhaps less than a mile. But the fare was $19.50. Local rule says that a $15 dollar surcharge is added to the meter on all taxi fares from the airport to local hotels. Pretty cute scam, huh?
I got a receipt (did not leave a tip – enough is enough) and stepped into the Blade-Runner lobby of Motel 6. Glaring flourescent overhead lights. Pimps sitting on plastic couches watching a Kung-Fu movie. The elevator is lined with diamond-pattern, chrome-plated steel, like the bumpers of a trans-continental 18-wheeler. Must make it easy to wipe off various stray body-fluids. $57.44 a night, including tax.
The hallway was a long sterile corridor, equally bright and glaring. Plastic tile floor-covering. Metal doors.
I scuttled into the room, secured all the chains and locks, and then dragged a plastic chair to prop under the door knob. The bed appeared to be clean and the bathroom likewise. (post-visit report – no evidence of bedbugs but damn, I was nervous all the time). A long hot shower stopped my shivering and left me relaxed enough to get to sleep. (to the hotel’s credit, despite the glitzy tackiness of it, they too had free open WiFi.)
The next morning was Sunday. The storm had passed. My flight out would not leave until early evening. The hotel did not have a restaurant. I walked along the sometimes sidewalk, sometimes muddy path for about 15 minutes, until I came to a pancake house.
From the street boxes outside I loaded up with local newspapers. I ordered the Big Boy-Hungry-Overweight-Greedy Man Special. It was at least two hours and 6 coffee refills later that I staggered back to the hotel and negotiated a n0-extra-charge late checkout. My nap was interrupted by the frequent demands of the coffee to be left behind.
Maybe because it was Sunday, the same scum who had given me so much grief the night before were not at the Virgin desk when I checked in three fucking hours early. I could have checked in hours earlier but Virgin does not open its checkin until that time – and even then, they were 15 minutes late in doing that.