Monday, September 28, 2009

Paranoid? Me?

My friends consistently pooh-pooh my claim that the world is out to get me. ("Oh, Roger, these things happen to everyone!")

They do, do they? Well, let me tell you about today....

I decided for the first time in six years to take a bus to my annual checkup at Mayo. I looked on it as an adventure (which will give you an idea of the state of my life). All went smoothly, except that what is normally an hour and a half, straight-shot drive between Chicago and Madison took four hours...the bus deciding for reasons of it's own to go by way of Milwaukee. I was to change busses in Tomah, WI, for the trip to Rochester via Jefferson Bus Lines, a feeder line server for Greyhound. The connection was for 2:45. We arrived in Tomah at 3:15. I should have taken it as an omen. Luckily, they held the bus.

So, arrived in Rochester safe and sound if late. Thursday had bloodwork, an x-ray, and conferences with my otolaryngologist and oncologist, and got a clean bill of health. Fine so far.

My return bus was scheduled to leave at 10:25 Friday morning. I arrived at the Sinclair gas station which serves as Rochester's Jefferson Lines bus station at 10:15. It was raining. Heavily. At 10:55 I asked the clerk what time the bus was due in. "3:00" he said, though he's seen me standing there obviously waiting for something for 40 minutes. I pointed to my ticket and the clearly printed "Rochester-Tomah Depart 10:25 a.m."

"Oh," said casually, "they cancelled that bus two months ago."

So there I am, in a Sinclair gas station in Rochester Minnesota in the pouring rain. What now? I got the number for Jefferson Bus Lines, called them and talked to someone who had no idea what I was talking about, obviously didn't care, had no idea what to tell me, and told me there was no supervisor available for a good tail-chewing. He gave me a number for customer service which I called and, of course got a recording saying they would get back to me.

So I trekked back 6 blocks through the deluge to Mayo, trying to figure out what to do. Looked in the yellow pages and found a shuttle service between Rochester and the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport, 90 miles north (ticket: $27.00). A shuttle was leaving at 12:15, arriving at the airport at 1:30. Called my long-suffering friend Gary, who volunteered to look up flights from Minneapolis to Chicago. He called back within minutes to give me a choice of flights leaving around 3:00. Asked if I'd like him to make reservations for me. I said no, the shuttle was about to leave. I'd do it when I got there. Thank God!

Got a call from Jefferson bus lines, wondering just what my problem might possibly be. They assured me there was a bus to Tomah at 3:00. I thanked them profusely, but pointed out I would then be stranded in Tomah, Wisconsin rather than Rochester, Minnesota. They told me to send them the receipt for the shuttle to Minneapolis. I am also going to send them the bill for the airline ticket. It will do me no good, but I'm going to do it. (If they do give me any sort of refund, I'm sure it will be only for the cost between Rochester and Tomah. We shall see.)

So 12:15 comes, a shuttle bus pulls up, man gets off and says "Rochester Airport." I get on the bus. (Yes, I know. What he said was "Rochester Airport"....what I heard was "Rochester-Airport, as in 'Minneapolis-Chicago.") Got on the bus, was 10 minutes into the ride when the shuttle service called to tell me I was on the wrong bus. What fun! So I continued on to the Rochester airport and rode the shuttle back to Rochester, of course neatly missing my shuttle to Minneapolis. Plus I had the privilege of paying $23.00 ($11.50 each way) for the round trip to the Rochester airport.

Made it back to Rochester, was all but led by the hand by a very solicitous shuttle bus clerk to the next Minneapolis shuttle, which left at 2:30. No chance in hell of my making any of the "around 3:00" flights. Still raining buckets. Arrived at Minneapolis/St. Paul International airport around 3:45. Gary had told me there was a Southwest flight at 4:35, which I figured I could just make with luck (for I am ever the optimist).

Minneapolis/St. Paul International has two main terminals, about a mile apart. Naturally, I got off the bus at the wrong terminal. I learned there was a subway system joining the two terminals. Didn't find it until 3:56. Arrived at the right terminal at 4:05. Finally reached the ticket counter after standing in line another 15 minutes. With no chance in hell of getting a 4:45 flight, I was willing to take anything that would get me back to Chicago before New Years Eve.

But the gods, apparently deciding they'd had enough fun at my expense, weather-delayed the 4:35 flight until 5:55. Thank you, gods. One way ticket to Chicago, $165.00 (to add to the $72 Chicago-Rochester round trip, plus $23.00 fun round trip to Rochester Airport, plus $27.00 shuttle trip to Minneapolis airport).

So here I sit, writing this at Southwest Airlines Gate H7 awaiting the arrival of Flight 1323 to Chicago after one of the most frustrating and costly days in memory. If you are reading this, I made it.

And tomorrow is a brand new day.

New entries are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back...and bring a friend. Your comments are always welcome. And you're invited to stop by my website at, or drop me a note at

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