CHRISTINA & JOHN – “Excuse me, can you please tell me what airport we are landing at…?”

My husband travels for work constantly. He is on planes 2-5 times a week, not unlike the character George Clooney played in “Up in the Air”. He is, in fact, what United calls a “global services” member, which allows you the ultimate perks in traveling: special check-ins, pre-boarding, no baggage fees/limits, free upgrades when available etc.

It has become second nature to him but for me, an upgrade to first class still makes me giddy and I anxiously await the free, warmed mixed nuts and pre-fight choice of orange juice or champagne much like an elementary student on her first field trip outside of school. On longer flights having the in-seat private entertainment system is pure heaven for a stay-at -home mom who rarely gets to watch movies that are rated anything but G or PG. The reclining leather seats with blanket and pillow and a fully loaded Kindle with hours of no kids interrupting page after page, sheer bliss.

So once, a few winters ago, when the husband and I decided to take a “grown ups long weekend” to Cabo San Lucas Mexico, I was in full excitement mode cruising through O’Hare International airport on a winters’ morning wearing my exquisite wedge flip flops. I was already daydreaming about the beach that awaited and the book I was about to start when I glanced at the departures board and noticed our flight was listed San Jose, CA was boarding on time at gate C19. Here is where I might mention that a year before this, when flying to Cabo San Lucas for the first time with friends I noted that we flew into the airport listed as San Jose de Cabo, or SJD if you want to use the abbreviations airlines use. In hindsight, as we approached the gate agent for our pre-boarding and handed her our passports with tickets, I might have noticed no one else was using a passport for their ID. Or that the other passengers were not in jolly vacation dress at all… Most were in jeans and sweaters (although no winter coats in my defense).

Still, we quickly settled into our seats in 2C and D, the husband immediately lowered the window shade and announced his intention to get about the business of sleeping immediately and I plugged in my headphones and buried my head in my Kindle for an enjoyable reading jaunt. Takeoff went smoothly, breakfast was served, movies began, time passed… In fact, a LOT of time passed as I noted to myself that this flight seemed longer than the previous flight we’d had from Chicago to Cabo but oh well, another chapter to be read. Around 4 hours into it I excused myself to the lavatory and noticed we were FINALLY descending but wait! Had the flight attendant already passed out customs’ forms and had I been so engrossed in my Kindle that I’d missed it?

As I clicked back into my seat belt and asked my husband about the forms, the Captain came on the to PA announcing we were beginning our final descent into San Jose where the current temperature was 53 degrees. “53 degrees??! ” my husband exclaimed. Not to worry I said, it’s still morning. I’m sure the 80’s we were expecting will occur towards the noon hour. The husband was now completely awake and opened the window shade JUST in time to get a wonderful glimpse of a collegiate football stadium. “Huh, ” I started to say, “I didn’t know they played American football in Mexico?” “They DON’T!” the husband said calmly but firmly as the fog was lifting from his drowsy head. “We’re not IN Mexico–we’re in F#%ing AMERICA!” 

Now I cannot properly describe what this realization does to a normally Type A, highly organized, almost O.C.D personality like mine. It is first denial for sure but then it is the scrambling of the mind to figure out WHAT THE HELL is actually transpiring here. How are we on a plane to SOMEWHERE ELSE in the US and how did both of us NOT notice this before???!!! Me being the hyper organized one and him the frequent frequent million mile flyer one??!! Where was our safety net of joint intelligence here???

“Excuse me” I stopped a passing flight attendant, “Can you please tell me what airport we are landing at?” The look on her face…the LOOK of quizzical bemusement at this woman in first class who OBVIOUSLY must be the biggest airhead on the planet was priceless. “San Jose California” she replied as I sank deep down into my seat utterly lifeless, while the husband was grumbling new and exotic combinations of swear words under his breath, punctuated with sentences like, “I’ve flown a lot of places before but I’ve always ended up in the intended city” and “How the hell does someone as righteous as you book us onto the wrong flight, to the wrong airport at the wrong ocean, in the wrong country?!”

Being a man with a secretary who fixes minor travel irritations for you on a regular basis, things like, missed and cancelled flights, car rentals and hotels when bad weather hit, he went into full-on survival mode immediately when the wheels hit the runway: “Kari, my wife has landed us in San Jose California. We need to rebook and get out of here to Cabo San Lucas as soon as possible. See what you can do and what the damages are”

Meanwhile, I am still in a stunned stupor muttering things while I pull my carry-on down like, “I don’t understand. The board at OHare said, San Jose, CA …CA for Cabo right??” Oh! GROAN! the horror of realizing all the cues you should have seen and missed “CA for California you idiot,” I think to myself. ” And no wonder no one else used a passport for boarding ID.” The husband is back on his cell as we are now walking with the throngs of jeans and sweater wearing people, NONE of whom had on exquisite flip flops, through the Silicon Valley airport towards the a United customer service desk. “There’s NOTHING today Kari?? Are you sure??? Did you try another airline?” 

I felt sure now that our romantic weekend would be lost. Our prepaid 4 day resort reservation would be wasted, the mood utterly ruined, our return flight also now useless as it obviously was booked returning from SJC not SJD…..(which IS, for the record, only one letter off indicating San Jose de Cabo). The husband talked with the United agent who tried not to laugh directly in my face and said something like, “You know, I’m sure this isn’t the first time someone has done this” My husband, no longer swearing but calmly in “fix-it” mode, being the ‘President of the Company’ that he is…”fixing” the mess I’d gotten us into, is back on his cell with yet ANOTHER assistant in his office who was scrambling to find us a hotel for the evening. (By this time I am thinking that I will NEVER be able to hold my head up at next year’s company Christmas party).

In the end, we were newly booked onto a flight leaving early the next morning . United even allowed us to credit some of our ticket towards our new return flight. The luxury hotel graciously moved our reservation one day forward without penalty. The woman keeping our children back home in IL agreed to keep them the extra day with no hassle, The only thing my husband did after I had 100% screwed this whole thing up was to laugh gently and sing softly all the way to the hotel in the taxi, in his best Dionne Warwick voice “Do you know the way to San Jose?” 



NB: By doing this I have given him a grand story for every dinner party and cocktail party we have ever attended! By last summer when I booked our entire extended family on a private Backroads Canadian Rockies trip, he had recovered enough to not ONCE double check any of my details. But every time I was in charge of the “route sheets” given to the cyclists by the leaders, I managed to make us miss at least ONE turn… #extramilesarewhatkeepsafamilylaughing

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