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Location: Minneapolis, MN

Dempsey is a Golden Retriever puppy who is in training to become a Helping Paws service dog for an individual with a physical disability. He lives with his parents Doreen and Paul, and Bailey the cat. None has ever trained a puppy before. These are their adventures. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the blog author. The contents of this blog have not been reviewed or approved by Helping Paws, Inc.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Striking out in Paris

Some days you hit nothing but home runs, and other days you just strike out. Today was one of those striking out days.

Strike 1
The first strike came last night, when Doreen found out her father has pneumonia, and had just had a heart attack. He’s in the hospital now, with an angioplasty scheduled for later today. Doreen’s dad was a Marine, kicking Nazi butt in France. He looks twenty years younger than his age, and he acts like it, too: During the bad snowstorms in Ohio last month, he stayed up all night pitching in at my brother-in-law Kenn’s business, plowing snow at Cleveland airport. He’s a tough guy, and I know he’s going to be ok (though we appreciate your thoughts and prayers!).

But Doreen, being the sweetie pie that she is, was worried sick. I knew Dad wouldn’t want to interrupt Doreen’s Paris sojourn by having her fly to Phoenix, but this trip is really more for Doreen and her mom than for him, since they're both so worried. I told her she should really go.

The other “strikes” are nowhere near as serious, but since they’re amusing, I’ll tell you about them in gory detail.

Strike 2
Getting a last-minute international flight is insanely expensive, so we decided to use our frequent flyer miles. Doreen was looking for a ticket on Delta, until I came up with a “bright” idea: How about using my US Air miles, since they’re on the verge of bankruptcy? That way, she can still go for free, and we don’t have to worry about losing my miles. Plus, since they partner with United, we can book the ticket on United and not worry about getting stuck in Phoenix.

Brilliant, huh? I tell Doreen to start packing while I get the ticket.

I call United. They answer on the second ring and tell me that to redeem US Air miles for a United flight, I need to call US Air. Ok.

I call the Paris office of US Air. I get a message in French saying that the office is only open until 6pm. Ok.

I call the toll-free American number for US Air. A voice mail system tells me I need to call another number to redeem miles. Ok.

I call the other number. I am told I need to call another number to redeem US Air miles on another carrier. Ok.

I call the other number. I hear beautiful Muzak®, and a recorded voice saying “Your wait time will be approximately: Twenty. Eight. Minutes.” Ok.

After five minutes, I put the phone on speaker.

After thirty minutes, I’m pretty annoyed.

After forty minutes, I’m diligently searching the Website for another way to book the ticket.

After fifty minutes, I find a link for “Ask Us a Question.”

After fifty-one minutes, I discover this link only takes you to another Web page with a FAQ.

After sixty minutes, I find an e-mail address.

After sixty-five minutes, I get a message saying they will respond to my e-mail within twenty-four hours.

After sixty-six minutes, I send them another e-mail telling them what I think of their service.

After seventy-five minutes, the Muzak® stops. I have been disconnected.

Grrrrrrrrr. I just book the #%$#!* ticket on US Air, and cross my fingers they’ll still be in business when Doreen flies back.

Strike 3
Getting to the airport is normally pretty easy: Take the Metro two stops to Denfert-Rochereau. Transfer to the RER train and take it to the end. Voila!

Today, however, was different. None of the trains was headed to the airport; they all stopped at Gare du Nord. Strange. Doreen asked a French-looking couple, in French, if they know what’s going on. They replied, in English, that they don’t. And, since we seem to speak French and know the city, could they follow us? Uh, ok. If George Bush can lead the free world, surely we can lead two tourists from Louisiana.

So we hopped on the first train to Gare du Nord and looked for signs for a train to the airport. After a few minutes, we found it. It was like a scene from the Tokyo subway, where the trains are so crowded there are “pushers” to jam more people into cars. Everybody was rushing towards the train as if Godzilla were already halfway up the escalator.

Luckily, I followed the Godzilla script and looked over my shoulder, like every character does in a Godzilla movie, and saw another train scheduled to depart for the airport in two minutes! Woo-hoo! Doreen and I ditched the Cajun couple and made a mad dash. Twenty minutes later, the train left the station. We finally got to the airport after two hours, where we said goodbye.