Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Well, we just got back from Disneyland. What an experience! But that’s not the part of the trip I’m going to tell you about. Be honest, you weren’t really looking forward to me telling you about which of the girls pretending to be Disney Princesses were the best looking anyway, were you? The most bloggable portion of the trip was the time we spent on the airplanes.

What I should say first and foremost is I’m cheap. I hate spending money I don’t have to. I’m famous for it in some circles. That said, my wife thinks I’m a frivolous spender which tells you something about her frugality. Having established all that you won’t be surprised to learn that we planned everything for our vacation on the cheap. How cheap? Well, I booked the flights on Spirit Airlines. What’s Spirit Airlines? It’s the airline that has absurdly low fares but then charges a fee for anything and everything you can think of. Oh…and which travel website did I use to book the flight? Cheap-o-air.com. Seriously.

This was our first experience with Spirit so we didn’t really know what to expect. We knew that we would have to pay for any checked baggage…and any carry-ons. Fortunately we were actually allowed one “personal item” for free. After much thought and debate I decided my personal item should be a change of underwear (in case the plane were to go down I didn’t want the news cameras to arrive to find me in soiled undies). Kidding. I was able to bring my laptop bag and Taela was able to bring a backpack that she referred to as her “purse”.

Next I had to call the airline to determine what it was going to cost to bring car seats and a stroller. I found the 800 number and dialed it. I got through to a lady with some kind of indeterminate accent. She asked for my “confirmation number”. Uh-oh. I was looking at the email from Cheap-O-Air and I gave her the “booking number”. Nope, wrong number. Ok…how about this one, the “reference number”. Nope. Crap. Then…silence… “Hello? Hello? Hello?” Nothing. Well, let’s hope the planes at Spirit are more reliable than the phone system.

I called back and got through to a man with a similarly mysterious accent. For no reason other than to make myself feel irrationally better I let him know that I had been cut off when I had called moments before. He either didn’t understand or didn’t care about that as he asked how he could help me. I said I had seen on the website there is a “nominal fee” for requesting particular seats on the plane. What would it cost to get all 4 of us sitting together? “Oh, sir, it is only $10 per ticket per flight.” Understand that we’re making a connection in Las Vegas on the way down and the way back. That’s 4 legs on this trip times 4 tickets times $10. That’s $160. We’ll pass on this one and assume that common sense will prevail when we board the flight. I mean they can’t possibly seat a 5 year old girl by herself, right? I rolled the dice and it worked out just fine.

Then I asked him if there was a fee for the stroller. “No there isn’t, you will have to leave it at the gate and it will fly for free.” How about the baby car seat that fits into the stroller? “If there is a baby for it then it too flies free.” Great! What about the booster seats for the other two kids? “Pardon me, sir?” You know, the booster seats. “Sir? I don’t understand.” You don’t know what a booster seat is? “No sir.” You know, the plastic seat a kid sits on in a car. If we rent one from the car rental place it’s $10/day and they only cost $18 brand new. Can we bring them as the kids’ personal item? “I don’t understand sir, please hold while I check on this information for you.” For the next 6 minutes I sat there and tried to think of a way to describe a booster seat to someone who has never seen or heard of a one. “I’m sorry sir, I cannot answer your question but here is the phone number for TSA.” TSA? “Yes, TSA, sir. The number is…” Well, at least the guy tried to help. I didn’t bother calling TSA since that would have been useless, but it turned out they checked the booster seats at the gate just like the stroller for no charge. Couple that with Taela’s family’s willingness to check our bags on their Southwest flight and this plan is set to save us $300!

Three hundred bucks…sounds worth it, doesn’t it? Well, the first flight was pretty routine. We had 4 seats in a row. The kids were excited for their first flight. It was great. Then we caught our connection in Vegas. Our seats were close but not right next to one another. I was able to get a lady to trade her seat so we sat two and two. We were in the same row but had the window and middle seat on either side. It appeared that nobody would sit in either aisle seat so we would be next to each other again but at the last minute a guy that must have weighed 350 lbs. sat down next to Taela. That was the last time I saw she and Tenley until we landed in LA. I think you’re still sitting over there and I miss you.

Then we went to Disneyland for five days. Yay!

For the trip home I got us back to the airport a little rushed for time. We were at the front of the check in line. Then a greasy looking guy with a gold chain tangled in his chest hair came up and stood beside us as if he were ahead of us. I used my shoulder to step in front of him and he moved uncomfortably close behind me. I looked at him and said “What are you doing?” He answer: “I’m on the 4:00 to Vegas”. “Me too.” After that I never remember seeing the guy again, but that’s the kind of class you get on Spirit. We made it through the security checkpoint quickly. We made our way to the dumpiest terminal gate I’ve ever seen. It was under construction and there were exhausted looking people everywhere. I couldn’t find an airline employee to save my life. When I finally found one I couldn’t tell if it was a man dressed like a woman or just an overweight, over made-up, over-shaped-eyebrow woman. There was no intercom so they just started shouting for us to board.

We were able to get 4 seats together again on this flight. Fantastic. We made our way on and quickly realized that this flight was damn near empty. There were probably 30 people on board flying from LA to Vegas. Of the 30 there were definitely 3 strippers. The lady sitting directly in front of Tenley was on the phone during boarding: “Yeah, it was busy last night. I gave 5 dances, but I’m not complaining about the money.” There was a young black woman in leopard print 6 inch heels. I don’t know if it was because of her lack of leverage balanced atop those stilts or just her lack of upper body strength but she was literally incapable of lifting her designer bag up into the overhead bin. Someone had to help her.

Just before take-off a flight attendant got on the intercom to address the 30 of us. “Is there an Allie Whozane onboard? Allie Whozane?” It took me 5 seconds to realize she was looking for “Ali Hussein”. Oh great. Ali Hussein went to the front and spoke with the pilot for a moment. Now every single person on the plane is trying not to let their inner racist out. The lady sitting in front of Taela turned around and started laughing about the look on my face. That would have been awkward except that we had already established that she was the lady who talks incessantly about nothing.

Some examples:
- She loves grape licorice. She bought it at CVS Family Foods…no, Ralph’s Supermarkets.
- She suggested to the stripper in front of Tenley that she go to a specific talent agency she highly recommended
- Her son is in the entertainment industry. He was the 8 year old kid in “Don’t Be a Menace to South Central When You’re Drinking Your Juice in the Hood.” He’s now 23.
- Also to the stripper in front of Tenley: "If you believe in yourself and your dream you'll go far." It's nice to know that Disney's "dream" message is permeating society at all levels. No, I promise you're not a walking cliche. Most strippers in LA and Vegas make the big time.

Well, Allie Whozane didn’t forcibly overtake the pilot and we landed just fine in Vegas once more. We had a nearly 4 hour layover and then crammed into the flight to Portland. I’m not a particularly tall guy…we’ll say I’m 5’10” which is, for all intents and purposes, true. My knees were smashed against the seat in front of me. How they fit us into this tiny little space I will never know. During boarding a man said to his wife “why is that overhead bin closed, is it full?” She didn’t know any more than he did and she told him so. I said “there’s a fee if you ask them to open it.” “Ha ha ha ha ha ha,” he laughed.

I kept nearly mercifully falling asleep and then something would inevitably wake me up. Between the lady behind me hacking and hacking as hard and loud as humanly possible, the person behind Taela who raised and lowered the screeching arm to their seat over and over, the two young black women in the row in front of us loudly rehashing their drunken trip to Vegas and my attempts to keep from cutting a huge fart all over the nice lady from San Diego I was seated next to I just couldn’t nod off for more than 30 seconds.
Would I recommend Spirit? I suppose it depends how much you value the money. The 5 of us including our 10 month old were able to fly round-trip from Portland to Los Angeles for less than $600. However I will also say I heard all of the following on our various flights:
“If you want to move forward to the empty seat with more room there is a $25 fee.”
“Next time I’m going back to Southwest.”
When I asked what on the drink cart was free the answer was “I can give you a cup of ice.” I accepted.
“What’s that smell?” At some point I just couldn’t hold it any longer. Sorry, nice lady from San Diego.

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