Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hawaiian Negatives

Ocean tower of Hilton's Waikoloa Village on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.It’s time to write something about our Hawaiian vacation and I can’t really think of a good place to start. I have mixed feeling about this particular trip because of a number of events, but I think with time all the bad memories will fade and only good ones will stay.

Yet I can’t seem to be able to proceed without talking about the bad experiences and getting them off my chest. So excuse the negativity of this post and the general lack of pictures. The upcoming posts will be better, I promise.

I will start with our flight there and then I’ll jump right into the middle of the story to Monday, the 23rd — our anniversary.

Flight to Hawaii

I don’t want to dwell on the sad part of the flight, so I’ll try to lay it out in as few words as possible. We got to JFK some 2 hours and 30 minutes before the departure. When none of the computers recognized any of our cards, confirmation codes or names we were directed to a Delta representative.

She was unable to check us in because our 2nd leg of the trip was with United and there was some issue there. She was kind enough to call United1 instead of sending us there. United couldn’t help either because Expedia held the rights to the tickets and Expedia needed to reissue them.

You see, the whole thing was booked through Expedia. They kept rearranging the flight and royally screwed something up. I was forced to call them and was placed on hold. Once somebody picked up they tried to fix our problem by putting me on hold yet again. There was only 5 minutes left before we could check in when they came back and said that they need to transfer me to yet another department.

At about that time Delta agent told me to hang up as they manged to work the issue out together with United. You can imagine our general mood by this time — standing in the front gate of the terminal for roughly hour and 30 minutes and being unable to proceed and see time dwindle away from us. And thanks only to the Delta rep who was willing to stay on the phone all this time trying to resolve it we made it onto the plane.

The flight itself was great. The plane to SFO tuned out to have a lot of empty seats so Alёna got 3 seats for herself on the right side of the row and I had 3 seats for myself on the left. We basically slept through most of the flight and then for the last hour we just watched some TV shows in built-in TVs.

Time in SFO flew by rather quickly, not counting another incident with Expedia when they sent me an email that our flight was canceled2 . On our Kona based flight we lucked out with ending up in an emergency exit row with a lot of legroom, partially thanks to yet another one of Expedia’s screw ups.

And this gradually brings me to my next point of dislike.

Price Insanity

A one feeling that hasn’t failed to leave me through this trip was a feeling of us getting ripped off left and right. We got ripped off any chance anyone had on a daily basis. It started with us renting a car. I had a reservation, yet somehow we ended being charged $200 more.

Hotel had several restaurants, yet the prices were insane and food was not good. I don’t mind paying a high buck for good quality food, but it just simply was not the case. The price was higher than a lot of high end places in the city and the food was nowhere near. However thanks to Zagat and some references from Maruk we did find several really good places that even though were still expensive gave us a couple of nice dinners.

Same can be said of our luau experience. For $90 a person we had a mediocre buffet and an extremely primitive show. And then they wanted to charge us $55 for photos taken by a bad photographer who lacks any sense of a good composition or any lightning techniques.

And I could go on for a long time, but you get my point.

The Eye

By now I have arrived to the so called peak or culmination of our bad luck during this short trip. You see, it started on our very first Hawaiian evening. We just have checked into the hotel and were carrying our bags into the room.

I had one of those said bags hanging on my shoulder by a strap. Well, at a certain moment that freaking strap decided to get ripped off from the bag, and a heavy metal hook that was holding that strap in place, propelled by a motion of this heavy bag falling down to the ground swung around my shoulder and flew full speed into my left eye before I had a chance to blink.

After about 20 seconds of excruciating pain I thought I was OK. I was wrong.

By Friday evening I started to see a lot of bright flashes and on Saturday my eye started filling up with dots and clouds — the so called floaters. We decided to wait for a day or so and see if it gets better, but on Sunday evening I got yet another big cloud in the bottom of my eye.

Needless to say, this was very bothersome and worrisome and on Monday morning I started looking for an ophthalmologist to make sure there is nothing bad like retina detachment is going on.

After calling a couple of numbers and finding out that the doctor is either out of the office or the number is just plain wrong I was referred to some place where they set up an appointment for me in 30 minutes or so. When we got to the car we realized that I could actually just call my insurance and get a couple of references to places that would actually take it.

First number was a dead number, second — the doctor is gone, third was on wrong island at all. However they did mention that on this particular day they have a doctor on the Big Island, but on the very opposite side of the island. At least 2 and a half our drive. So we figured we’ll just go to the one that is relatively close by and will just pay.

When we arrived to this office we came to a sad realization that the doctor was not an ophthalmologist, but a simple optometrist. I asked if they were qualified to diagnose this correctly and I was assured that they do this all the time and that they most definitely are.

The doctor turned out to a 20-something girl that while giving me an initial examination told us a “funny” story. Just last week, you see, she had a patient, who also spoke Russian and was from New York, that got hit by a bag that fell out of an overhead compartment in a plane. But, she said, he didn’t even have to go home because he got hit so hard that he retina got completely detached and there was nothing a doctor could do at this point anyhow. I’m not really clear on where the “funny” part comes in, but I don’t think you tell something like this to a patient who comes in to check for retina detachment.

Anyhow, she put something into my eyes to open up my pupils that made me see everything blurry. All this was accompanied by “go wait until we call you back” episodes and was in its 3rd hour by now. When she called me back again she started looking into my eye over and over and over again. Then she concluded that everything looked somewhat OK for now, but I really shouldn’t move much or do anything and I specifically should avoid going to the mountain and taking a flight home was not a good idea…

Then she proceeded to say that even if I don’t do any of those things there is a chance that my retina that is fine at the moment will detach and then I’ll have to get a surgery, where they will put me on my stomach, put an oil bubble into my eye and I will have to lay face down for several weeks. And in conclusion she noted that even though retina will reattach the vision will probably not return.

At this point Alёna pointed out that she needs to lie down. In the next few seconds her face and lips proceed to turn completely white and she slid out of a chair. Her eyes just went in different directions and stayed open and she was gone. I haven’t been so scared in a long time. I started to uncontrollably cry, not knowing what’s going on with her, the doctor ran out to call 911 and all kinds of crazy things were racing through my mind. I had no idea if she’ll wake up or not and I just kept crying.

Within a minute or so she woke back up feeling very disoriented. Apparently she fainted when she started imagining parts of our doctor’s colorful description of what could or would happen to me.

She kept lying on the floor, while I didn’t really know what to do now. We will have to pay over a $100 without getting any kind of definitive answer from the doctor on the eye and Alёna is in a bad shape.

The doctor girl said that I really should see a retina specialist, but they have none on this island and maybe I should book a flight to Oahu. Then somebody realized that there was a visiting doctor on this island today and it turned out to be the guy that was on the other side of the island that I should’ve gone to in the first place, and they take my insurance to top it off. Now in retrospect I think I should’ve refused to pay, but that was the last thing on my mind at that moment.

So I barely got Alёna into the car, put her down on the back seat and took on a 2 hour drive to another doctor with my fuzzy vision. On my way I stopped in a deli and bought a pair of sandwiches, so Alёna could eat something. But she felt so bad that she couldn’t sit up and couldn’t think of food at all.

When we were 2 blocks away from the office of the doctor we were coming to see, Alёna sat up and grabbed the bag with sandwiches. Looked at them and proceed to throw up right into the same bag. I guess the sandwiches appeared particularly appealing to her at that moment in time. The good thing is that after that she started feeling OK.

As for myself, I spent about 40 minutes in the doctor’s office. They put the same thing into my eyes and made my vision even more blurry, but after being looked at by 2 doctors I was told that they see some gel detachment from the injury and that’s what causing my floaters. They also said that retina is fine and I have nothing to worry about. I was told that I could do anything I want, including going to the mountain and should just enjoy my vacation. They suggested that I should just be on the look out for some changes in the eye and in the unlikely event that it gets worse I should see my doctor when I get back to NYC.

As you can see it turned out to be one memorably anniversary, just not in the way we expected or hoped it would be.


It’s time to get off my soap box now. Sorry for all the melodrama, but I wanted to get it out of my system. Overall I’m still happy with our vacation and we do have a lot of good memories about it. But more about that in the upcoming posts.

  1. They are located in a different terminal and it would be a huge hassle for us to get there. []
  2. Luckily for us the flight was not canceled and Expedia just screwed up yet again, but it cost us some nerves. []
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