Saturday, December 28, 2013

And Then They Went To Panama City

First of all, let me state that this is all due to Molly.  Sometime earlier this fall she figured out that she could become "A" List on Southwest if she took X number of flights by the end of this year.  What's the big deal about being an "A"?  Because you don't have to worry about checking in at the exact allowed second so you can be an "A" boarder.  So that you can wear the special "I Am An A With Southwest" t-shirt (okay, so maybe you don't get a t-shirt).  So that Molly can say she is an A-Lister.  Anyhow, she figured out with just a little work, she could achieve this status.

So the crowning flight in this A-List journey was going to be a flight to Panama City, Florida.  Why?  Because it was on sale when she booked it, it was a quick flight, and there was a half-marathon that weekend that had a 5 hour time limit.  So we booked the flight (yes, "we" because I am her mommy and thought it was a great idea). Anyhoo, we booked the flight to fly down on Saturday morning and back on Sunday evening.  I know, quick flight but it would fulfill its purpose.

So we booked the flight, registered for the half-marathon, and then booked a hotel.  The supposed host hotel did not get great reviews, so I booked a Holiday Inn.  Mainly because it seemed close to the host hotel.  Lastly we booked a rental car to take us to and fro.

So we headed to the airport, with what we thought would be oodles of time.  We failed to take into account that it was the first Saturday after Christmas and perhaps the airport might be busy.  We chose the "B" side of security because we thought it would be less busy.  We were not correct.  We stood in separate lines.  As usual, I did not choose wisely.  My TSA agent was recently awarded "The Slowest Person Ever" award.  Because security was a bit backed up, she had to hold the line up now and then.  Which wouldn't be so bad except that she was manning two lines and she frequently forgot which side she last checked.  Anyhow, Molly was long gone and in the xray line by the time it was my turn.  Which was after the mom who was putting her child on the plane by himself and the family with three kids.  As you can imagine, I was not particularly thrilled.  At least until I started into the xray line and the next TSA lady said, "How many are in your party?" and when I said, "One," she escorted me into the TSA precheck line.  Where you don't have to take out your computer or take off your shoes and take out your clear bag of toiletries.  As it ended up, I was through the line before Molly!  She eventually caught up with me before we passed the food court.

So we made it to our gate just before we had to line up.  We made it on to the plane, where Molly was saving me a seat (even though we checked in at the same time, she ended up an A54 and I was a B18 - hence the reason she wants to be on the A List).  Once we were on the plane, we waited.  And waited.  First for luggage from another flight which needed to be loaded.  Then they decided there was some frost on the plane and we needed to be de-iced, which was fine with me.  I'm all for de-icing, changing the oil, washing the plane - whatever it takes to have a safe flight.  All the waiting was made even more fun by the lady sitting behind us who was obsessing about a rental car - or rather the lack of one.  She apparently had called every rental company in Panama City and they were out.  This let to quite a lively discussion between her and her husband sitting across the aisle.  And led me to checking and re-checking my already-made car rental confirmation.

Anyhow, 45 minutes later (or late) we left Nashville and headed toward Panama City.  About an hour later we landed and headed for the rental car counter.  Of course the lady who was behind us was scurrying ahead of us, stopping at every counter along the way.  We got to our counter, Thrifty, before crazy lady (whose name we soon learned was Barbie) and waited for the man customer at the counter to finish.  Which he soon did, just after he told the Thrifty people, "Thanks for nothing!!"

Now it was our turn.  Immediately Frick and Frack started talking.  First of all, their computers were down so we would need to wait maybe 5 or 10 minutes until they started working again.  I asked them if my printed confirmation would help, to which they replied again that their computers were down so they couldn't pull my reservation up.  I guess they don't/can't read the printed-on-paper word.

Anyhow, next came the excuses of why I eventually was not going to get a rental car:

Excuse #1:  The computers are down.  Even though they came back up to see that my reservation had become a "no show."  Why was my reservation a "no show?"  Because ...

Excuse #2:  Even though I had put in my flight information (although it was not coming up on their computers, if/when their computers came up, and it might have been only a problem on the big national Thrifty computer or just on their Panama City computer), they were only holding my car for 30-45 minutes because of the rate that I got (which was not on hotwire or priceline but on the Thrifty website) even though I was in the one-hour guarantee time period.  However, none of that really mattered because ...

Excuse #3:  (a) They has 10 cars rented out to the military that were supposed to be returned yesterday, but as of today, they had no idea where the cars were, and (b) They had 3 cars that were supposed to be returned today but hadn't, and (c) two of their cars had been in a wreck.  So even if they had the car that I was supposed to have (which they didn't), I couldn't have gotten it because of the 30-45 minute wait rate rule.

Then Frick and Frack started giving me advice, such as:

Advice #1:  Take the Thingamabob Shuttle down the hall because yesterday they gave some lady a really great rate of $30.

Advice #2:  Take a cab to our hotel but take the cabs in the "back" (and I have no idea what or where the back was) because they might give you a better deal if you tell them you will need them to get back to the airport

Advice #3:  There is an Enterprise rental place right across from the hotel that we could walk to.  We should go online and rent a car from there.

In other words, go away.  Which we did.  We went outside to find a cab (not going to the "back" wherever that was) and ended up in Bubba's mini van.  Whose DVD player was hanging down from the ceiling.  Bubba talked THE ENTIRE TRIP to the hotel, except that he talked barely above a whisper which was hard to hear over the rumble of his old mini-van motor.  Molly was no help as she was on her phone attempting to rent an Enterprise car.  Bubba's mini-van had no rate-ticker-machine like most cabs, but it did have a sticker listing the cost of the ride - a charge for every mile, every person, every bag, when your birthday was, what type of shoes you had on, and so on.  Eventually we made it to the hotel, where upon our exit from his vehicle, Bubba said, "$50 okay?"

Anyhow, we check into our hotel and started our conversation with Enterprise.  Basically, they had no cars and we couldn't have rented one today to return tomorrow because that branch is closed on Sundays.  On the website, it said that we could return the car to the airport - for an additional $999 (yes, nine hundred and ninety-nine dollars).  Molly called the office across the street that we could talk to and chatted with Ermaline who said that yes, we could return it to the airport for only $50, but they didn't have any cars.  But they would put us on a list if one was returned and would put us on the list at the other branch.  This branch closed at noon, and it was 11am, so our chances for a car evaporated before our eyes.  The other branch would closed at 4pm, so clearly we were going to have a fun afternoon.

Once we gave up on having a car, we started looking for our lunch options.  Since we would be on foot, we hoped for something close.  Thanks to Molly and Yelp, we set out for Dee's Diner which should have been down the street.  Eventually it was.  Because this is "off season," everything else was closed.  We had a nice lunch at Dee's, which was basically a gallon bucket full of fried shrimp.  Another two-tenths of a mile found us a Wal-Mart and then we began our trek back to the hotel.

We ended up with no car and dinner at the hotel, but Molly did get her "A List."  And they all lived happily ever after.  We're hoping Barbie got her car ...
Today was a great day because:  Molly and I had so many fun adventures; meeting the people from Nashville while on our trek to lunch

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