Jaime Graves: Beyond The Hellish Horizon – June 17, 2011
My grandmother suffered from a hemorrhagic stroke. The clerk that read her MRI said that there was four times the blood on her brain as anyone she had ever seen still alive. My family made the difficult decision to remove life support. For those not in the know, that means nothing is hooked up to the patient. No heart monitors, breathing aides, nothing. Not even an IV. The only water offered is in the form of ice chips, which are rubbed on the lips to keep them moist.
When my family made this decision, they called me. I wanted to immediately bolt to their sides. My mother told me that it takes up to two weeks or more for someone’s body to completely shut down. She knew that time off from work can be difficult, so she told me to stay put for a week. I obliged. I felt like a zombie at work for that terrible week.
Oh, Horizon, why did you have to leave me in my time of need?
I allowed my boss to schedule me through Friday. My family and I went on the scramble to figure out the best way to get me to Southern California. I told them outright that I wanted to either fly the entire distance or drive it. I did not want to drive to either SFO or SMF to catch a plane. After looking up the fares for the United flights from ACV to LAX, it was determined that a flight the whole way was financially unacceptable. United Airlines does offer a bereavement fare; it is a 10 percent discount. Since you can only book bereavement tickets on the phone, there is also a $25 fee for not booking online. Basically, your savings are close to nothing.
My mom was worried sick that I would drive recklessly, in order to maybe see my grandmother alive, if I were to drive the entire distance. The solution? To drive to Sacramento to catch a flight to LAX.
My father is a retired airline pilot. He pulled some strings to get me a free bereavement ticket from SMF to LAX, guaranteed passage on his former airline.
My grandmother’s stubborn will finally lost its battle to live late Friday evening.
Saturday morning, I left my apartment at 9 a.m. to drive to Sacramento. I got there at around 3 p.m. I checked in at a kiosk and went my merry way to my gate. I was scheduled to board my 5:35 p.m. flight at 5:05 p.m. At 4:50 p.m., we were told that there was a 10-minute delay. Ten minutes later, we were told it would be another 15 minutes. Then, we were told the flight would be delayed to 8 p.m. At the next update, we were informed that our flight wouldn’t leave until 11 p.m. At 10 o’clock, another passenger found me, only to tell me that our flight wasn’t happening until 8 a.m. the next morning!
Knowing that I was on a free pass, I started to feel panicky. The ticket agent started to issue hotel passes for the very few that hadn’t been rerouted on other flights. Would I be eligible? The kind agent saw my desperation and issued me a voucher, even though getting hotel reservations was tough. Sacramento was hosting a jazz festival, so most accommodations had been filled.
Our little rag-tag group took a shuttle to our hotel. By this point, we only numbered eight passengers. At the hotel check-in, we were all feeling quite weary. I received my room number and key card and went on my way. Finding the room was tricky. I had to go outside, walk around the building, use the elevator, and then navigate my way through the outdoor pathways past half opened doors. I felt relief when I found my room.
When I opened the door, my relief quickly turned to disgust. Where do I put my bags? The room was filthy. The first thing I noticed was the smell. It smelled like a wet ashtray. There was a cigarette burn in the comforter. Another one was in the chair, along with other various stains. The bathroom sink was decorated with a lovely blood stain.
While looking for an outlet to charge my phone, I found a mecca of used Kleenex behind the nightstand. There was a chunk of the wall missing on one corner of the room. One of the lampshades was cracked. I called my sister. She advised reporting all this to TripAdvisor.com. Using my phone, I looked up the hotel. The site was rife with complaints of bedbugs. I was both terrified and disgusted.
After taking some pics with my phone, I decided to try to rest. I stripped the bed down to the fitted sheet, opting not to touch the pillows. After hooking up all of my electronics to the one visible outlet to recharge, I reclined crosswise on the bed. I rolled up a towel to use as a pillow, since I didn’t trust the actual pillows on the bed. I figured that the towels get washed more frequently. I didn’t turn the light off or even take off my shoes.
I read a book until 5 a.m. That’s when I went back to the “lobby.” The guy there let me in reluctantly. He chatted with me while I was trying to read my book. It was distracting enough to have an evangelical priest on the TV.
An hour and a half later, we were shuttled back to SMF. After lots of waiting and redirecting, I boarded my flight at 10:30 a.m. with my three other passengers. Three other passengers? That’s right. My flight was a ghost town. I was ecstatic to land in LA. Seeing my parents felt like reaching Nirvana.
Under ideal circumstances, this was going to be a difficult trip. Not having a direct flight from Arcata to LA made it far worse. Screw you, Horizon, for pulling your direct ACV to LAX flight! You couldn’t have done this at a worse time.
Jaime Graves sees the world from Sunny Brae.