I want to thank everyone for their suggestions of other travel agents, Orbitz, etc. Here's what happened:
1-Rivki, the travel agent, should win an award for patience in the face of adversary in the form of a very annoying client (me). She found me a very cheap flight to New York and back so I could research my Orbitz options, which I did. In the end, while Orbitz was a bit cheaper, the scheduling was ridiculous for various reasons (ie flights with a 34-minute layover in Phoenix and therefore a 90 percent chance that I or my luggage would miss the connection; arriving in California at midnight, necessitating my sister having to wait up for me; getting to Cleveland at 6 am, which is a pain for my parents, etc.) Meanwhile, Rivki had formed an itinerary for me that avoided both Miami and Paris, and has more acceptable connections than before.
So I went with the slightly more expensive, but moderately more convenient, option, and paid Rivki $1585 (for the ticket, taxes, and fees, only, not the other stuff like cab fares) to go like this:
- Tel Aviv-Paris-Dallas-California
- California-Chicago-Cleveland (so much more normal than going through Miami! Oh my God!)
- Boston-New York
- New York-Zurich (for 2 hours, not a whole day. Thank God!)- Tel Aviv
2- I got the most incredible call last night. I'm not writing too many details because I'm not sure of them. But basically, 3 of my friends in New York, upset that I was planning to spend only 1 night there (because, after all, Chayyei Sarah kind of has to work sometimes to pay her bills, and the trip just to see family was already almost 3 weeks long, which is financial suicide for a freelance writer, but she wanted at least one evening to see her old buddies), made up some sort of arrangement and one of them called me and offered to pay for a huge chunk of my ticket, on the condition that I'll stay in New York for a few extra days.
You cannot fathom how amazing it felt just to get that offer. The idea that there are people who love me so much that they are willing to pay to have more time with me is just . . . well, I cried, actually.
At first I refused, because how ridiculous is it to accept money from my friends? It's so gauche. And she said "You have to take it, because I promised my kids that you were coming for Shabbos, and because I'm going to spend it on you anyway. If you don't accept it for the ticket, I'm going to buy you a fancy cherry bowl or something."
Well, what would you rather have? A few days with a friend like that, or a cherry bowl?
And also, I was crying because I was so moved, so I wasn't really thinking straight enough to come up with a good enough reason to refuse.
Then I realized that by extending my trip those few days, I'll be able to attend the upcoming New York wedding of acquaintances of mine who met at my Shabbos table. To which my friend responded: "And that's a mitzva, so it's really so you can do a mitzva."
This friend, by the way, is the "former Lubavitch" friend hailed by Miriam and me as "Orthodoxy Done Right." Note that I felt that way about her even before she offered me a plane ticket or a cherry bowl. (And Miriam, of course, is one of the "posse" members who apparently is making this possible, the third being Jessica Q.)
::sniff:: sniff:: I'm the luckiest person ever.
Au revoir, Pierre. Bonjour, New York!