Gary & Mandy Senn in Greece

Finally, departure time - 5/16/07

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The alarm went off a bit earlier than is normal for the Senns but they struggled to roll out of bed and attempt a Greece trek once again.

This time, Darlene Smalley planned to take us to the airport. Keryn was enrolled in a Maymester class that met every day from 8:00 – 12:00 and we were concerned that she might be late for class. We left as soon as Darlene arrived at 5:23 a.m. She was a bit delayed because she had to follow a bus down the bypass. The trip to the airport was uneventful but we decided to stop to put gas in the Xtera so that Darlene could get back to Aiken. Because of the difficulty the night before, Darlene decided to wait near the airport until we were assured that the trip was going to work OK. We checked in with no problems and headed toward the security barrier. While we waited in line, we said our goodbyes to Darlene and then she departed for Aiken.

Before we knew it, we had arrived in Atlanta. I think that I might have fallen asleep for a short while. We had a three-hour layover so we decided to get some breakfast at TGI Fridays. I wondered if the restaurant was open since it was only Wednesday but Mandy assured me that it was. While we were eating, we discussed the noise cancellation devices that are available for travelers. I have always wanted to obtain a set because the loud, airplane noise is annoying to me, but it was a bit too expensive for me to pry open my wallet and let the cash flow. Mandy decided that she would purchase one for me, so after we consumed our meal, we strolled through Brookstone. We purchased a noise cancellation headset, a soft blanket and an audio splitter so that we could both listen as we watched a movie on the computer. The audio splitter came bundled with a converter that allows the user to enjoy audio on an airplane. I already had one of the converters and another one came with the headset. I asked if they sold the splitter by itself but the cashier said that they did not. So, we paid Brookstone pricing for a Radioshack item that would have been 1/3 the price.

There was still plenty of time before our flight so we decided to take a walk. We went below to where the trains take passengers from one concourse to another. Instead of taking the train, however, we walked. When we came to the moving walkways, Mandy rode the walkway whilst I walked next to her. We began at Concourse B and traveled to Concourse E. We took the escalator up to concourse E and stopped at a Delta information counter to attempt to get seat assignments for our flight from JFK to Athens. The woman at the counter stated that the local gate had already taken control so we would have to obtain our assignments when we arrived at JFK. With that lack of information, we began our return walk to Concourse B. On the way back, we found that one walkway was not working but we had no trouble with it.

We made it on board our flight from Atlanta to JFK Airport in New York. I immediately tested the new headset and found it to work wonderfully. I was very happy with the purchase even though it was a bit pricey. A few minutes before the flight was scheduled to take off, a flight attendant told me that I would have to remove the headset during takeoff. I thought that the request was a bit odd, especially since I noticed that it was just as easy to hear a person talk with the noise cancellation as it was without. I had already turned off the device prior to her making the statement since I thought that there might be a problem. As I pondered the situation, the flight attendant came by again and said that I must remove the headset now. I decided that I would look up the rules about electronic devices in the back of the Sky Magazine.

I found the sound cancellation device clearly listed in two categories. One category of devices was allowed when the airplane was at cruising speed. An engaged noise cancellation device was permitted at this time along with computers and other portable devices. This was consistent with the flight attendant’s statement. The second category listed items that were permitted for use at all times. This included pacemakers and noise cancellation devices in the off position. Mine was in the off position before I was approached the first time. Of course, I could not let this one go so I kept my place in Sky Magazine and waited for the flight attendant to walk by again.

Less than a minute later, I was able to garner the attention of the attendant and proceeded to present her with the proof that my position was correct. She looked at the page, had a brief, puzzled look on her face and then began to explain why her position was correct. She stated that it is difficult to tell who is in compliance with the off switch and who is not. I showed her the red light that is displayed when the device is in the on position but she was not persuaded. She indicated that some people would not follow directions. So I asked, “Then I have to pay the price for the bad people.”  She responded, “Good people sometimes have to pay for the bad ones.”  I shook my head and she walked away. A few minutes later she stopped by again to say that she would let me know when it was OK to begin using my device. I gave her a very subtle acknowledgement as I continued to study the page in Sky Magazine that discussed the electronic devices. I tilted it toward her just to be sure that she noticed that I was still interested in this particular topic.

When we climbed to cruising altitude, the seatbelt sign went off, the use of approved electronic devices was cleared and my new noise cancellation device went on. During the flight, Mandy and I watched the first part of a dumb movie that included a scene where a guy got in trouble on a flight because he was arguing with a flight attendant. The remainder of our flight went well and we landed at JFK on time. I did opt to remove the noise cancellation device before landing because I did not want to get dragged off of the plane like the guy in the movie.

After disembarking from the plane at JFK, we went straight to the gate for our flight to Athens. We did not have seat assignments for that flight, and when we arrived at the gate, the counter was not yet open. We found some seats near an electrical plug and I began keyboarding some thoughts of our experience. Mandy went to the restroom and when she returned, another couple had joined us on our row. The gentleman was enjoying a snack and used the one chair between him and me as his table, leaving no room for Mandy to sit with me. Mandy decided she would rather wait at the counter so we did not worry about the lack of seating. After 30 minutes, the line at the gate counter was quite long but Mandy was the first person waiting.

With about one hour remaining before takeoff, a person showed up at the counter. Mandy was right there with our confirmation slips that included the phrase, “Awaiting Seat Assignment.”  Mandy spoke to the person for a short time after which the nice lady took our confirmation slips and told Mandy that she would take care of us. During the next 30 minutes, we learned that there was an earlier flight that was canceled and that there were 20 more people on our flight than there were seats. Finally, there was announcement for volunteers to come forward and receive 400 Delta dollars that could be used toward a future flight. There were some takers but not very many. I had the urge to go up there but knew that Mandy would not appreciate that so I just stayed in my seat.

Boarding began with no indication that our seats were assigned. There was a computer display visible to the waiting area that provided information to those waiting for the flight, including those passengers waiting for seat assignments but received seats. There were directions that instructed the people whose names appeared on the list of received seats to take their confirmation slips to the boarding area and that the slips could be used as boarding passes. The announcement was made for all passengers to board the plane but we had neither a seating assignment nor possession of our confirmation slips. There was still a line at the gate counter, and Mandy had already made one trip to ask about our seat. Just as we thought that we were going to join a number of others who would have to wait six hours for the next flight, the nice lady at the counter called our names. We hurried to the counter, collected our boarding passes and rushed to the gate to embark on our trip.

When we found our seats, Mandy was very happy to find that we were assigned to the bulkhead, which was exactly what she requested. We settled into our seats and waited for departure. As we waited, we noticed that the wind was picking up. Sand and debris were drifting across the tarmac from the fierce, blowing wind. Further in the distance, I noticed some very dark clouds. Flight attendants were busily counting passengers and empty seats and then allowing a few more passengers on board. They repeated this counting and allowing process a few times until, apparently, they were finally able to fill every seat. I am not sure why it was so difficult to make an accurate count, but I was concerned about the inclement weather that appeared to be approaching very quickly. I mentioned to Mandy that if we did not take off soon, we might be stuck here because of the weather.

Finally, the pilot turned on the seatbelt sign and the flight attendants were asked to prepare for departure. Our relief lasted for only a few minutes when the pilot explained that all air traffic was changed to another runway. He mentioned that it would be like redirecting a heard of elephants and that it might take some time. A few minutes after that, our hopes were dashed to the tarmac when the rain started, the engines quieted to a soft hum and the pilot mentioned that all Europe-bound air traffic was grounded until a line of thunderstorms passed.

Only 90 minutes after our scheduled departure time, we were finally on the way. We were now concerned about our connecting flight from Athens to Santorini. Based on the pilot’s estimated arrival time, we had less than one hour to get our bags, go through customs, re-check our bags and board the next plane. We knew that we were just along for the ride so we tried to get settled. Soon, they brought us dinner and then we watched an in-flight movie. After the movie, we did our best to get some sleep. We decided that we each probably received about two hours of sleep during the flight. It was very interesting to see both a sunset and a sunrise on the same flight in less than four hours.

We arrived in Athens with 65 minutes before our next flight. We were able to get our bags and did not have to go through customs. We got in line at the ticket counter and checked our bags with no trouble. The main security check in Athens occurs before arriving at the ticket counters so we did not have to wait in what appeared to be a very long line. We quickly located our departing gate and heard an announcement for boarding as we approached. The only disappointment was that they confiscated my nice, large, Smart Water bottles at the gate. Smart Water makes the largest bottle that will fit into the pockets of my fanny pack. They provide an ample supply of water or Gatorade and I was sure that I would be unable to find a suitable replacement in Santorini. The bottles were empty but for some reason the agent felt that the empty, plastic bottles still posed a potential threat. The person took the bottles and disposed of them as I watched with a sunken heart. I felt just a little victory because I still had the caps to the bottles in my fanny pack.

We boarded the plane and sat in our seats. At least, we thought that they were our seats. Mandy was in the correct seat but I wrongly assumed that I was seated next to and adjacent to her aisle seat. My seat was next to her but across the isle. The woman who was assigned the seat in which I sat seemed quite bothered by the silly American who could not read his ticket. A little embarrassed, I sat down next to a couple, looked at them and smiled nicely. They gave me a cursory smile and then went to sleep until the plane landed. I was a little frustrated because I would have loved to be in the window seat so that I could see the island as we approached but mister sleepy head had to waste the opportunity. In fact, he had the window shade closed so that he could be more able to get some rest but I could not even look across the seats for a good look.

We landed in Santorini, collected our baggage and once again, did not need to go through customs. We went outside and looked at each other with a gaze of, “now what.” on our faces. We decided to hire a cab and asked a driver to take us to Manos Villas. He said, “Wait wan mine-ote,” got in his car with two other passengers and drove away. We walked back toward the exit from which we came with hopes that there was some information inside of the terminal that might help us. A nice Greek lady with fairly good English asked us if we needed a ride and we responded in the affirmative. She directed us to go inside to the information counter and indicated that someone would call the hotel on our behalf. We found an information counter and Mandy began to describe the agreement we had to call the hotel 24 hours in advance and how our cancelled flight in South Carolina made that impossible because we planned to call when we arrived in Paris and since we did not know if we were going to make our flight in Athens we did not feel right about calling. To this the lady with very broken English asked, “Could you please start over?”  I interceded with two words, “Manos Villas,” to which she responded with an acknowledging head shake, dialed some numbers on the phone, spoke to someone in Greek for about 20 seconds, hung up the phone and informed us that someone would collect us in 10 “mine-otes.” We thanked her, and we went back outside. The lady who suggested that we go inside asked us if someone was coming for us. When we responded in the affirmative, she suggested that we watch for a small, white mini-bus. In what seemed like a very short time, especially compared with our waiting for other things to happen on this trip, the lady came to us, pointed to a white mini-bus and said that it was from Manos Villas.

The driver turned out to be the husband of the manager and took us to Manos Villas. It had been quite an ordeal to get to our destination but we were delighted to arrive at what would be home for the next 6 days.

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