Warning: Tangential Rant Coming Up…

long-roadOk, so I have a Part II entry about all my diabetes experiences in Istanbul  that I want to get posted, which I would happily be doing right about now if my flight our of Turkey had not been postponed for 24 hours. Seriously. The following happened on Sunday, January 3rd, 201o:

We arrive three hours early to the Istanbul airport due to increased security measures for US-bound flights. We pass through no less than 8 various security measures. Board plane. Wait for an hour. Pilot announces flight is cancelled due to a broken part which must be flown in and the flight is rescheduled for the following day at 1pm. 200 passengers deplane. We are told we will be staying a hotel, and that our checked baggage cannot come with us due to security issues. I do a mental inventory of what diabetes supplies I have and silently thank the universe for my compulsive over-planning. I’ve got everything I would need for several days in terms of diabetes care. In terms of clothes…not so much.

Mayhem outside the plane ensues. We are herded like cattle into masses bearing no semblance to an organized line, passengers are told they will be staying at the “W” hotel, the Waldorf Astoria, and “for sure a 5 star hotel…” (None of those places will prove to be correct, particularly the Waldorf…don’t get me started), and the employees shout that there are absolutely no other flights we can get on. Since its Sunday and everyone needs to be at work Monday morning, the heavily accented Turkish Delta employees offer to “call our work or families to let them know what’s going on…” Uhhm. Right. No offense, but I think my work would be more terrified by a phone call from Turkey in broken English explaining what happened than by no call at all.We break out our blackberries and try to send some emails to families and bosses.

We are forced to go back through passport control, a process that Delta tells us will be quick and easy, as they have a dedicated line just for us. Two hours later, there are still passengers in line trying to get out of the airport. While we were waiting, a woman towards the front appears to be in bad physical shape and begins to wobble. Nearby passengers rush to her side just before she passes out, and they help her to the ground using her sweater as a pillow and elevating her feet. The Delta employees do nothing. They stare down at their checklists, and one employees continues walking through the passport control line calling for “Elite” members that should be expedited. Another passenger calls out to our line asking for a doctor, and one pushes his way to the front to examine the woman, now conscious but clearly not doing well. Some 30 minutes later, the airport EMTs arrive and begin taking vitals, laughing and joking with each other over this poor woman. I am completely horrified at this point. A reporter from NPR on our flight snaps a photo of the scene on her Blackberry, shaking her head as she walks back to line. When we passed through the passport checkpoint after about an hour of this fiasco, she was finally being lifted into a wheelchair. I hope she is OK today.

We retreated to the hotel, which was actually called the WOW Hotel Istanbul (notice its not the W…shocking…), which was located a few minutes from the airport in what can only be described as a shanty-town-like nieghborhood next to a dilapitated convention center. Not so WOWed with the hotel. With no Turkish Lira leftover from the trip, and no access to an ATM, a taxi into Istanbul proper wasn’t even a possibility.

We were told they would call our rooms with an update of the flight and when to be ready in the morning, but that never happens. We get a small sign in the lobby stating that the shuttle will arrive at 9 and that our flight is at 12. Beyond that, zero communication. We are treated to a bland “lunch” (at 4pm, 8 hours since my last meal – thank goodness for temporary basal rates…) of chicken and rice, and a similar dinner at 9pm. Delta will not pay for coffee, phone calls, internet connection, or extra food. Again, I am thankful for the extra GU I had packed that morning and my ability to adjust my insulin levels so easily from my pump. This could have truly been a disaster otherwise.

In the morning, we choke down a barely edible breakfast, board shuttles to the airport, and repeat all 8 security checkpoints. Our flight leaves a few minute behind schedule (well, schedule for that day, but technically we were already 24 hours late), but otherwise without a hitch. 10 hours later,  we touched down at Kennedy Aiport in New York City.

Our total compensation for a delay that cost most people a full day’s work, nearly caused a major health emergency, took away baggage and clean clothes for a day, limited passengers to forced food choices at specific times in accomadations without access to phones and internet? $200 vouchers to Delta airlines. FYI – I won’t be flying with Delta anytime soon.

This is not a great ending to an otherwise wonderful trip, but it certainly does not take away from the incredible city that I have just had the pleasure of experiencing for the past week. I am, however, exhausted and still in New York. I catch a flight home to San Diego soon and from there I will continue posting about amazing Istanbul and in particular, how diabetes fit in to this trip. But for now, I am exhausted and quite grubby, and in need of a meal other than rubber chicken. And I am also now done complaining….thanks, and sorry for that unfortunate tangent, but I had to get it off my chest…I am simply horrified.

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