Sunday, April 18, 2010

The FOMO Low-Mo of the Year, or: You've Got to Be Eyjafjallajok-ing

A week ago this afternoon, as I started typing out LONDON PACKING LIST.doc on my computer, gleefully adding check boxes next to "Lucky Charms, chocolate wine, mascara, bikini, eyeliner, potato vodka" and sending follow-up emails to the 28 people I was supposed to meet at the London Book Fair, if someone had walked up to me and said "oh hai, an Icelandic volcano is going to ruin everything," I would have laughed them out of the room.

We're talking about Iceland here. Land of this:

And this:

Needless to say, I have learned my lesson.

I spent last Thursday in blissful denial. Concerned coworkers kept coming by to ask whether my flight was cancelled. Oh, no, I said. I'm sure it'll run, and if not, hey, I'll be there by Sunday, Monday at the latest, champagne in hand, cake icing smeared across my face, laughing it up with my friends in the suite they had rented in the picturesque Wiltshire countryside to help celebrate my birthday OH GOD I AM STILL SO NOT OVER THIS. But I digress!

I went to an Owen Pallett concert after work, and 3/4 of the way through, right after this song, I got an email from my friend Richard. I could only read the first line: "Shit." It was time to get on the phone with Virgin Atlantic customer service.

I called. I waited. And waited. Two hours passed, and then at last, "Vicky" answered. Vicky was in control. Vicky knew the score. I was still optimistic: Sunday, Monday at the latest. "Oh, hello, my flight seems to have been cancelled, and I'd like to reschedule," I said, smiling into the phone.

"Okay, great," said Vicky. She sounded like Mary Poppins. This was going well. "Don't worry, Anna, we'll get you rescheduled."

"Oh, I'm not worrying!" I said, full of smug. Oh, Vicky, I was thinking. I once worked in retail just like you. I know how crazy some people get. You are in luck. You are going to end this call wishing all your customers were as delightful as this Anna Spr--

"Here we go," she said, still upbeat. "We can get you scheduled for Sunday, April 25."

"WHAT???!" Pop went the denial balloon.

"Yes, we've got you for Sunday, April 25."

"No. No. That's not acceptable. I can't. No. Oh Jesus no. I have to be in God, can you please look for something earlier?"

"Okay, right, we have an upper class ticket for Sunday, April 18, but you will have to pay the difference."

Bye bye, Wiltshire. "Oh...oh Lord...okay...what is it?"

Vicky shuffled off for a minute. I heard hundreds more people in the background talking to people in very cheerful, very loud Mary Poppins voices. She came back. "Right, Anna, that's going to be five thousand, five hundred dollars," she said.


A pause. "See, we're moving you from the very bottom of economy to the very upper upper class, and, well, there's just a difference in the..."


"Right, Anna," she said. Less Mary Poppins now. More: Vicky Mad. Vicky Smash. "I am a supervisor."

"PLEASE. I KNOW MY EU TRAVEL RIGHTS. [I had seen some news piece earlier that day called "Know Your EU Travel Rights," although of course I hadn't read it.] THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT OH GOD CAN YOU GET ME ON ANOTHER CARRIER OH GOD PLEASE..." I was thinking, how much does the QE2 cost? What about a kayak? Can I kayak? Flippers. Water wings. Snorkel tube. Four thousand miles isn't that far. Right? Right?

"You see, Anna," she said, forcing herself back into Mary Poppins, "all of the planes are on the ground right now."

So I gave up. I got my refund, hung up, curled up in the fetal position, and spent twenty minutes sobbing so heartily I ended up looking like this the whole next day:

Neil and Caitlin and Matt were spending the night. They fed me cake and gave me there-there pats. I eventually got it together. I realized this was nine days in the UK, not a freaking death. Trips can be rescheduled. England is not going anywhere. I can tide myself over with Cadbury bars from Classic Cigars and British Goodies in Clarendon. (Caitlin and I went there on Friday morning.)

And, perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when a FOMO disaster occurs: you can always find an adventure if you want one. My birthday ended up being different than I imagined, but wonderful. I slept until a slothful hour. Had three different birthday cakes. Giggled with my grandma, who turned 82 on Sunday. Took a long walk and looked for wildflowers with my mother. Met someone who'd been wrongfully imprisoned for an IRA bombing for fifteen years. Ate lasagna at his house. Blew out the candles on someone else's birthday cake because his birthday wasn't until Monday and he was nice enough to share. Met Janet and Cecilia and Akili for PBR's with beautiful arty types at a house party in Bethesda, then capped the whole night off with a big fat plate of cheese fries. Way leads onto way. I am a lucky woman.

And I rescheduled my London trip for July. In your face, Iceland volcano.

(P.S., can you BELIEVE that's what Val Kilmer looks like now?)

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