So Trip is finally in Greece. Here's how he got there at all, considering they would not let him on the plane with his group the night he was supposed to depart.
The passport he carried--a valid US passport--was to expire in August; he is returning in early July, a full five weeks before the passport was up. But that was not good enough for American Airlines. They insisted that Greek immigration would return him on the next available flight...and maybe detain him in an unpleasant place until a flight was available. I know it's Greece, but visions of Turkish prisons danced in my head. So off went the group, and my mother who was traveling with Trip, sans Trip.
This was last Friday night. Of course, the passport agency was not open until Monday morning. Meanwhile, AA reaccomodated his flight for Sunday. What were they thinking? We tried to fix the flight over the phone, but a 51 minute phone call proved that we had to go back to JFK and fix the ticket in person. Don decided to do that at 3am on Sunday morning, since he figured there would be no line. Ha! But they did get the ticket fixed. Now, armed with a ticket for Monday night, we tried to get an appointment at the passport office down on Hudson St. Ha! No appointments available until July 9. That is the day he was supposed to leave Greece.
Surely, we thought, other people must have similar issues...what do they do? We decided we had nothing to lose but some sleep (and who could sleep anyway?), so Monday morning we got in a short line outside the passport office at 6:30, an hour before it opened. We were maybe 5th or 6th in line. IT was 66 degrees, the sun was shining, there was a cool breeze, and--get this--we got a free parking space in front of a school a block away. It was free because it was reserved for Board of Ed. members on school days. A quick check of the NY Dept. of Ed. website via our Google phone revealed that school was officially out, and parking was ours for the taking. That never happens in NYC; we figured it was a good sign.
At 7:30, they called people with appointments. The line, now stretching well past us and around the corner, provided only a handful of lucky appointment holders. The rest of us were on standby. We were promptly admitted, pushed through security, metal detectors, and information lines, and given the number 15. We were relieved. Now, as we told our sad story to the information clerk, the guy behind us asked, "Oh, Greece? American Airlines? Us too!" Hmm. So we were not alone.
Surprisingly, the passport office is much like Disney world. It is full of children waiting in line, and everyone is in a pretty good mood. I imagine that it gets rather grim towards closing time, but in the early morn, everyone is friendly and cheery. We met a couple on their honeymoon who had their passports stolen. I hope they made it to Barbados! We met the other couple heading for Greece, and a woman who was left behind, as we were, when her group went to the Bahamas without her. There was a 10 year old going to the DR for the first time with her parents. She was so excited! The woman who was handing out the finished passports even made a joke of not calling people up to the window, and everyone laughed.
We were processed in less than an hour, and had the passport in our hands by 11:30. No appointment. I am so glad we risked it!
Now his flight had a significant layover in London. Trip likes to explore, but we thought that it might be a bad idea for him to be off by himself in London--a city he has not visited since he was 4--for 9 hours. Luckily, Heathrow has Yotels. A Yotel is a mini hotel room with Internet, TV, shower, and room service, inside the airport. The rooms resemble berths on Star Trek. Trip made several videos from the room. Don't know if this link (update: link did not work) to his video will work, but try it!
So, three days late, Trip arrived in Athens and was delivered to his hotel. Today, the sleep-skewed boy, who missed all the rehearsals so far, has to practice, rehearse with orchestra, and play a concert. And he missed his side trip to the Parthenon. At least he gets to perform at all the concerts, especially the one in Sparta, to which he was most looking forward.
The good thing is that he had to do all this traveling by himself, and he managed quite well. Trip likes to do things by himself, especially if it involves travel or complex situations. An excursion to Greece is a bit of an extreme case, but he had no problems. The group, on the other hand, had a terrible flight, which left late, and missed the connection. they were divided up and sent to Athens on two different flights. It took 28 hours for them to get to Athens. In a way, Trip's trip was better.