Archive for May, 2010

Slovenia, the friendly skies and a ordeal at Dulles

May 11, 2010

Traveling is a adventure, to say the least.  I enjoy it, even through the headaches, jet-lag, inconsiderate airport personnel and being lost in translation.  So, here it is, the good, the bad, the ugly and the Ukranian vodka. 

The good.  My friends and fellow competitors.  It is always fun to see them and renew fantastic fun.  Most all are very nice people and i hold all of them in high regard and respect.  Marco is always my good friend from Italy and we played a very good match on Friday.  Robbie, my young British friend who is going to be the best in the world in the next five years, is a fun guy to be around.  I made some very interesting new friends over there, too.  Including Spela, the organizer and several others, including some crazy Serbians. 

Lasko was nice, but it rained all but one day.  It was still a unforgettable experience.  The hotel was a four star experience and a fantastic staff.  My roommate, Barry Butler, from Ottawa, was very cool and fellow Canadaians Ian and John were there too.  The Aussies were there and they were always a good group to hang out with.  There were 296 players from 37 countries.  Probably more than will be in Korea for world championships this fall.  Lots of fun, all the way around.

All in all, I played well, considering the time and travel and the format.  Since there were so many players, they switched the format from best-of-five to best-of-three for the Open and the Team events.  Team event is a Davis cup-style event where you play two singles matches, one doubles match and then two singles matches.  I think the tournament format needs to be changed.  Too many teams are done after the first day, as is with the Open.  We had 110 wheelchair players at this event, so by noon on the first day, half of the field was done for the day.  And with a two-out-of-three to 11, the games were over right quick for most.  My point is that if you are going to do a shorter match play, go back to the old 21-point game.  It compensates for the money and time invested in the tournament, both by the organizers and the players.  A petition was circulated at the tournament calling for the elimination of the Open event and leaving every tournament a three day event, with just group and team events.  The Open isn’t contested at regionals, world’s or the Paralympics, so why continue with it at the tournament level. 

The hotel was first class all the way, they switched our room so it was more accessable, the food was good and the bar was excellent.  Drank a lot of beer and Ukranian vodka. 

There wasn’t much bad, but the weather could have been better.  Rained every day but one.  And the airport at Ljubljana reminded me of the old Smith Terminal at Metro Airport.  Small, crowded and dirty.  And sitting in that little lobby waiting on a transport for three hours after arriving sucked.

Now, for the ulgy.  I am sure those of you who fly have your horror stories, but this one might top them all.  First of all, why does it always have to be on your way home?  And on a short flight, too, usually.  So, after taking the Santa route home to avoid the ash cloud, I get to Dulles and get treated like a third class citizen by the gate agent at the connecting flight.  I was called up to the desk and handed her my boarding pass and was told it would be 10 minutes. 

At this point, I had been up for going on two days straight.  And so I waited for the asile chair people to come and they came but were told the flight wasn’t ready yet.  So I was still at the desk waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting.  So, everyone else was getting on their flights and going home or whereever they had to go to, and I was still waiting.  And being put off by a well-meaning but obviously not-aware-of-the-situation gate agent who must have gotten her training at a EST seminar. 

Now comes the fun part.  After a insufferable amount of time, the head of the asile chair crew comes in and these people are all out in the walking lobby and pointing fingers at each other.  About me.  Which is a sick joke, but i digress.  I went in there and started saying “hey, you guys gotta stop pointing fingers at each other and get me on the plane.”  And the dullard gate agent said, “Mr. Anderson, you’re not supposed to be here.”  That’s when I went off.  I started yelling and telling them that they were all disrespecting me and treating me like a third-class citizen.  And there was about 75 people there with their jaws dropping.  I was Al Pacino in “Scent of a Woman.”  hoo-haw.

Well, the supervisor came over and apologized to me and they had me on the plane in short order.  The upshot was is that the flight I was booked on, my orginal flight, hadn’t been delayed, it had been cancelled altogether and the flight never exsisted.  So, the flight I eventually was on was the last flight out and I left DC almost 5 hours after I arrived.  Amazing.

But it does have a somewhat happy ending.  United apologized profusely and credited my Mileage Plus account 7,000 miles after I called and told them what happened.  So, maybe getting upset and losing my voice isn’t such a bad thing after all.