So, my cousin Pey was only here overnight. I picked her up at the airport at 2PM on Wednesday and she was gone on Thursday. But, we had a nice night, considering that we hadn't seen each other in about 20 years and Cathy's Chinese is non-existent.
After picking her up, I had to go back to the office and finish the work day. Pey got on the Internet and Skyped her friends and IM'ed her sister. At 5PM, we headed out.
Pey had a difficult time understanding English, unless I was the one speaking to her. Perhaps it is a matter of accent? I am not sure, but I thought that was interesting. So, for the most part, I translated for Cathy and Pey as we went about town.
It was strange being reminded of what California looks like to new eyes. "The pace of live is so slow here," she said at one point. Cathy and I thought she would find South Carolina absolutely glacial if California was slow for her!
We had dinner together at Outback. Pey wanted to experience something new, so she had a 8-oz prime rib, medium rare, and she loved it. Out waitress was great, and when I complimented her to the owner of Outback Steakhouse (his name is Joe) he gave us a giant dessert as a "thank you!" That was awesome.
We dropped off the cake and ice cream at home and got Pey a pre-paid mobile phone. Just about everybody has by-the-minute and $1-per-day phones, so we got her a new SIM card and she went happily on her way with a new U.S. phone number.
The flight was really early so we went to bed early, just after dessert. :-)
We got up at 4:40 AM and got there one hour before the flight. There was no traffic to speak of and we found parking right away. It seems every elevator and escalator save one was broken at terminal 6, so we had to carry Pey's bags down to ground level (I wasn't climbing with it!) and tried three elevators and escalators before finding a functional one to go to ticketing.
It was a crowded terminal. Some United flights got canceled and were re-routed to Continental, overflowing the queue to the ticket counter for Pey's flight. By the time we were halfway through the line a Continental agent told us we'd have to be re-routed, too.
Pey had to fly standby from LAX, but her Houston flight was confirmed. She would have four chances to get on the plane to make her connection. The ticketing agent (Chris, I believe) was very nice; she gave me a security pass to accompany Pey to the gate so I could help translate. It turns out that was an excellent thing.
After 20 minutes getting to the front of the security checkpoint (where they took my Leatherman Micra -- darn), Pey was randomly selected for a pat-down and carry-on check. Hm... large Asian male with folding knife or little Asian girl with a cell phone... let's screen the girl!
Anyway, we were at security for about another 20 minutes as they patted Pey down, swabbed her sandals, her purse, computer bag, and checked every little thing she had on her. The guy took Pey's water bottle (?) and wouldn't let her drink from it (?!?), saying it was TSA property once it entered the checkpoint. There's a guy that takes the "power" his job gives him way too seriously. I told him, "Your job must suck," and he asked why. "Because," I said, "I know you don't make the policies, but everybody you check must think you're an idiot for insist on taking people's water and not letting them drink from it." Oddly, he refused to speak to me after that.
Pey had a chance at four flights and she was #12 on standby according to the ticketing agent. She could take the 8:00, 09:00, 11:40, or 12:40 and still make her connection. We got in line as I did not see Pey's name on the standby list, and we stood there for about 40 minutes. The terminal was swarming with people, and apparently every flight was overbooked and there was a need to accommodate re-routed passengers.
The agent at the counter was named Doug. For 40 minutes, Pey and I chatted and I watched Doug slog through the wave of humanity pressing up to his gate counter. I watched as he turned away standby passengers, including a woman was kept cutting the line and complaining to Doug (and whomever would listen) that she had been on standby for five hours already. My hope dwindled, but I maintained a cheery attitude for Pey.
We got to the front of the line about 10 minutes after boarding had begun -- I knew Pey would be trying for the 09:00 flight next, and she suggested that we get in line now, but I figured I would confirm her standby status, and maybe even get her name bumped up a little with some diplomatic pleading. Doug asked us to hold on as he hustled peopled onto the awaiting plane, so we did so, patiently.
Surprisingly, four or five (I'm not sure) people did not show up even though they were checked in, and the first three standbys were whisked onto the plane in a hurry. Doug asked what I needed and I explained I am Pey's translator and need to confirm her name on the list. He told me to hang on and shoved someone else through the gate.
Pey was confused, so I explained that each standby who got on the plane increased her chances, and the more people that missed this flight, the better it was for her chances to get on the next flight. Finally, Doug got an old Indian couple on the plane and came back to the desk. He looked around, then said to use, "Follow me." I grabbed Pey and we headed to the gate, and just like that, she was suddenly on the flight! Doug grabbed one more person and dragged him through the gate, shouting over his shoulder, "Stay here in case she doesn't make it onto the plane!" and I hurriedly responded in the affirmative.
As I waited, I watched the plane detach and taxi down the runway and Doug confirmed Pey got on the flight. I thanked him heartily; both ticketing agents had the patience of saints. I made my merry way back to the car, not even caring about my Leatherman. I had to climb some stairs back to the car and got to help an old lady with her bag down the stairs. It turns out it didn't just seem like the elevators were broken -- everybody I passed complained about it. I was just glad to be leaving.
Pey called me about noon and told me she was in Houston, and she called again tonight to tell me she was in SC safely. Thank God. :-)
In October, when she comes back this way, we're going to take a few days to hit Disneyland and other attractions. That will be fun!