[Editor’s note: we’ve been a little busy the last couple of weeks; apologies for going quiet. We’ll be returning to some “how it came together” posts a little later, but the present is where things are really cooking at the moment so we’re going to set history aside for just a bit.]
Greetings from San Francisco! We’ve just finished a week-ish stay here to spend holiday time with portions of Lisa’s family. It was lovely, time well-spent, but today is *the* day. What about the house? Sold. Our stuff? Gone. Car? Somebody else’s. We’ll tell those stories at some point, but today is the new hotness. Heck, we’re even going to skip the story about how all our luggage was almost rendered invalid, the new luggage we did purchase from our hotel, and some last-minute airline prestidigitation. As the White Rabbit said, “No, no, no! No time! No time! No time!”
We arrived at SFO’s International Terminal at about 8:00AM for a flight that leaves at 1:30PM. Early, right? Well, we had two concerns. First, we needed to get COVID tested and, second, we needed to deal with our small mountain of luggage while waiting for our tests. You see, United doesn’t have any provision for HALF-checking in, and since we couldn’t check in without negative results on our COVID tests we couldn’t hand them the bags. Small bit of history: when we arrived in San Francisco last Tuesday we had inquired about the existence of “Skycaps” and had received polite chuckles from the folks at baggage assistance. An older employee even had to explain what I meant to a younger one. Fine. So when we arrived here this morning we were prepared to snag several luggage carts and figure out how to manhandle them to “ATA”, a service that will hold your luggage for you. Lo and behold, however, there is a large sign on the side of the airport with a friendly glyph of a person doffing a cap while standing next to a luggage cart, along with a phone number and the message “Luggage Porter, 8AM-10PM:”. Well then. We called for a porter. Our plan had been to leave our bags at ATA, then go to Terminal 3 (domestic) for our COVID tests at Xpresschex, where we’d made an appt for 8:45*. Our Porter, Javier, had different and far better ideas. Storing our bags was going to be $25 per bag, per hour, and he thought that was obscene. Instead, why don’t we just hang on to the luggage cart, and when our tests are done we just give him a call to finish the job? That seemed great, but still a long way to haul luggage, across multiple terminals and all. “Oh no, not at all” he says; turns out there is a testing facility at Aisle 6 – in this very International Terminal!
The Rapid Testing site opened at 8:15 (just a few minutes after we arrived) and there were about 20 groups ahead of us in the ‘no appt.’ line. John followed Javier to where he was parking the luggage, at the front of the queue, while Lisa held our place in line. Betty, one of the counter workers at the testing place, chatted Javier up for a minute, both of them chuckling about something or other, then she saw the pile and asked if we were flying 1k. John explained that we were not, but mentioned that we were flying Polaris (international business) and she said that was good enough, and started to process us right then and there. (Sorry folks, we didn’t mean to skip the line, it turns out Javier has worked at the airport since before the terminal we were in had been built (that’s 21 years, minimum) and he knows *everybody*. We turned over our passports, paid the $275 pp, and were swabbed by 8:20.
The porter fee is $30 and, needless to say, we highly recommend it. Hauling the bags is almost besides the point, it turns out a local guide knows all the ins and outs. We tipped well (of course) because Javier had saved us hours and hassle, as well as money.
On a different note, the International terminal is just beautiful. The industrial vaulted ceilings have bits of blue that refracts the light like prisms, and the feeling is of being in a flying, or sailing, vessel. Javier told us that the terminal is supposed to be earthquake resistant and pointed out how the columns have bits and bobs in them that will flex and shift if needed. Not sure about all that glass, though…
We checked our bags with no hassle. As I said earlier there will be a post that talks about this in more detail, but suffice it to say we’d been made very nervous about the size and weight of our luggage, and while we “thought” we had solved the problems it was still a relief to see our bags accepted with nary a glance. A painless scoot through TSA and we were in to the land of Duty Free! John bought 3 purses at Hermès and Lisa bought a delicious perfume by Dior with Julia Stiles’ face on it… ok, no, but those places do crack us up. In actuality, it was a short hustle to the United Lounge, where we are now ensconced for the wait before boarding. We’ll catch you up on some of the other details later today, knock wood.