Stephanie Burgis
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Crises, stress, food and castles
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Oof. Well, just to bring me down to earth with a smack, I had a mini-Crisis last night. Patrick asked when exactly I was due to fly back at the end of my American visit (the day before the job interview) so that he could plan to pick me up from Manchester at the right time. I dug out my printed itinerary from Expedia, which gave the date and time...and they didn't match up. The date I was going to arrive back in England was the same as the date I would leave the US, just as I'd remembered...but that meant leaving Michigan at 2 pm and arriving in Manchester at 7:30 am on the same day (i.e., at 2:30 am Michigan-time) the same day, in a fabulous time-warp that just sounded extremely unlikely. So I got online, opened up my account...and yes, indeed, the itinerary had been wrong. The on-line version added the phrase "+1 day". In other words, I wouldn't be arriving until the morning of my big job interview (and wouldn't even get into Leeds, after about 21 hours of being awake and traveling, until just a few hours before the interview itself). Which is just not do-able. Blecchhhh. (And I'd had to reschedule the interview once already--everyone else is interviewing this coming week, while I'm in Michigan. They agreed to make an exception, shuffle around their own schedules and interview just me on the following Friday, to which I'd very gratefully agreed. So rescheduling the interview again, just after settling all the details at last, wasn't an option.)

This is where this journal entry shifts from frustrating-mix-up-story to my I-Hate-Expedia story. Or rather: Why I Will Never Fly Using Expedia Ever Again. So:

I phoned Expedia and asked whether it was possible to change the date of my return ticket (back by one day) and, if so, how much it would cost. The nice man on the other side of the phone looked up the rules and said yes, it was possible, but it would cost £50 for each change, and since I was taking two flights (Detroit to Newark, Newark to Manchester), it would cost £100 altogether. Did I want to make the change now? I said, "Mmmm...."

"Look," he said, "Why don't you take some time to think about it and then call us back? I can see lots of availabilities here, so there's no rush."

I hung up, talked to Patrick, agonized for a while...and decided, yes, it was definitely worth it. This is the job I really want, with the organization I've been fantasizing about working in for well over a year, and this is my Big Chance. (At least this year. They may well advertise again in a year or two...but right now, in my job search, This Is The One.) So we got back online, worried over which flights to switch to, figured it all out, I called Expedia back, sat on hold for a few minutes, then spoke to Nice Man #2. I told him I wanted to change my flight, and he said, "Just give me a moment to look up the rules." I sat on hold for a few more minutes. Then Nice Man #2 got back on the phone and said, "I'm sorry. That's a non-changeable ticket. There's nothing we can do."

Huh? "What?" I said. "I just phoned Expedia half an hour ago and was told that it could be changed, for a cost of £50 per change."

"Uh...let me look into that. Just a moment." And the Hold Music went back on, for a few more minutes. (Repeating. Over and over and...) Finally, Nice Man #2 got back on, sounding a little flustered but apologetic. "I'm sorry. I've talked to the person who helped you, and he thinks maybe he wasn't clear about it."

"He was very clear," I said. "And the only reason I didn't make the change then was because he said there were lots of availabilities left and I could take the time to think about it and call back."

Back on Hold. This time for longer. Finally, Nice Man #2 got back on, sounding unhappy. "I've talked to the operator who helped you," he said. "And he says he never told you any of that. And he never gave you any prices, because this ticket can't be changed."

There was a horrible pause. Then Nice Man #2 said, "Now, I'm not calling you a liar..."

It was a really bad phone call. The end result was that no changes could be made and, moreover, the person I'd talked to originally (Formerly-Nice Man#1) claimed I was making up our entire earlier conversation. Which, I suppose, at least convinces me that the ticket really is non-changeable, and he was trying to cover up for the fact he'd gotten that wrong earlier. But that didn't make me feel any better. I was frustrated at losing about 40 minutes of my evening due to being given wrong information at the start of it, but worse than that, I felt absolutely horrible about the way it was then handled. At the end of my conversation with Apologetic-but-helpless Nice Man#2, I thought of asking to speak to a manager, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I was shaking with stress and frustration and hurt, and I just wanted to get as far away from them as possible.

And I will never, ever use Expedia again.

We ended up finding a super-cheap one-way ticket from Toronto to Manchester that cost about what I would have paid Expedia for the change, according to the first phone call. But there's no choice, with the budget airline I'm using, about dates or time--one flight leaves per week, on late Tuesday nights, so I'm actually going to have to leave Michigan a day and a half earlier than scheduled, not just one day earlier, and it's going to involve either a 6-hour car trip each way for my parents, if they can drop me off, or a long and grueling Greyhound bus trip for me, and either way is not good. And I just feel horrible about the whole thing. I hate that I'm losing time from my family visit, and I hate how grimy I feel after the experience of dealing with Expedia. I know the only way to deal is to forget about all this, enjoy the trip and the visit, and concentrate on preparing to do the best-possible interview when I get back, but I just feel yucky right now. Last night I was so upset that, after buying the replacement ticket, I literally started shivering, teeth chattering, from reaction to the stress. And sleep...yeah, well, that didn't happen.

Gaahhh. This was really not the way I wanted things to go.


There is lots of good stuff coming up, which I'd been really excited about before the whole mess blew up last night, and which I'm trying to focus on now. Since I'll be in America for my birthday, I'm getting extra celebrations for it--tonight, we're going out with three couples for luscious Indian dinner at my favorite restaurant, Omar Khan's. Then, tomorrow, Patrick and I are celebrating my birthday in style--or in other words (it being my birthday) we're going to a castle! (I LOVE castles. I live for visiting castles. It's like an addiction. I go into withdrawal when it's been too long since I've seen one, now that I live in England.) Early last night, as a reward for writing another four pages of thesis, I used my new-favorite website, Castle Xplorer, to look up castles within driving distance. And there were so many! But I picked Skipton Castle, and I can't wait. Mmmmm, castles...

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