Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Adventures in airlines....

I'm back, alive and well from the monstrosity of a trade show that is NeoCon. This is a long story so fasten your seat belts. And no, the long story is not about NeoCon. It's about getting there....

My flight was scheduled to leave at 11.50 on Sunday morning for Chicago. Brad dropped me off, ever the dutiful husband, giving me extra kisses good-bye and wishing me well at the trade show. With a heavy heart I checked my bag, passed through the terminal security and plopped down to read a book as I waited for the boarding call. It's very easy for me to get lost in a book (especially a story about 30-something shopaholics), so I wasn't really listening to anything going on around me. When I finally re-surfaced to consciousness, I noticed we were ten minutes until our take-off and people were running around asking "What's the number? What was that number to call?" Completely clueless as to what was going on, I looked up at the agent's desk and saw our flight had been cancelled. Luckily a nice gentlemen noticed me sitting in my seat like a lost Kindergartner. Next thing I knew he was giving me an 800 number to call in order to reschedule my flight. He even patted me on the back and looked at me sadly as if to say, "It's okay that you don't know how to listen to important announcements."

I immediately dialed the 800 number, still confused as to the circumstances of the flight cancellation. I picked up on snippets of conversations about "weather in Chicago" and "severe storms are wreaking havoc". As I listened to the bad elevator music on the American Airlines hotline, I began thinking about the consequences for my cancelled flight. I was supposed to attend a dinner with my company that evening and learn all about the new products we would be showing on Monday and Tuesday. I was going to miss this vital information. In addition, I would have to find the dinner location all by myself instead of going along with everyone else. I would be all alone in Chicago! Flashes of "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York" started firing through my head. I pictured myself dragging my suitcase through the rain, getting mugged and beaten and never arriving at my hotel. No one would ever know what became of me. Perhaps I would even inspire an Oprah show about the dangers of women traveling alone. By the time the American Airlines agent picked up my call, I was so worked up I could barely explain to her the situation. After several minutes, she rescheduled me for a 5.45 flight, putting me in Chicago at 7.15 that evening. Night. Darkness. Big city. Small city girl. Bad with directions. Not good.

I phoned Brad who immediately came to pick me up from the airport since I had 4 hours to kill. We went to a leisurely lunch and then back to the house, where I took an hour nap to calm myself. Apparently the gossip about bad weather had been accurate, Chicago had been rocked with storms Sunday morning and flights were being cancelled across the board. My cancellation was nothing special. At 4.00 Brad re-dropped me at the gate, giving me fewer good-bye kisses this time. Deja vu all over again. I re-checked my luggage, re-ran through security, and re-sat down in the exact same spot, waiting for take off. This time around I didn't even get my book out. I was going to be on top of announcements this time around.

At 5.05 we were delayed until 5.30. At 5.30 we were delayed until 6.15. At 6.15 we were informed that a severe storm was headed into Kansas City and therefore we had exactly 20 minutes to get in the air or it would be a no-go. I have never seen flight agents herd people onto a plane that fast in my life. There was no time to be checking boarding passes. If you were on the wrong flight, too damn bad. I boarded quickly and found my seat to be the last row, middle seat. Is there a worse spot on the plane? I think not.

The engines fired, the flight attendants sped through there safety lectures and we were headed to the runway. I felt the engine rev, and braced myself for take off. Suddenly the engines slowed, then stopped completely. The *DING* of a captain's announcement rang overhead and we were told we missed take off by three minutes. I glared at the children that sat in front of me. If they hadn't gone to the bathroom....

The storm had arrived in full force and we were just going to have to sit through it. In a plane. In our seats. And there were no drinks or snacks on the flight. Sorry for the inconvenience. 65 mph winds rocked the plane for over an hour. Babies cried. People whined. I contemplated trying to sleep and immediately gave it up. Finally at the one and a half hour mark, the engines started up and everyone cheered. *DING* "This is your captains speaking, it appears we are in a bad position on the runway. We're just going to move the plane up about 20 feet; not going anywhere yet. So sorry for the inconvenience." Did you know if 75 people collectively sigh in an airplane it sounds like a wind storm? Well now you do.

Fifteen minutes after the "movement" on the runway the captain came back on. He explained in his best indoor voice that this line of storms reached all the way to 35,000 feet. Lucky us, our airplane was only equipped to fly at 30,000 feet this evening. Apparently the piece of equipment that allows the plane to get any higher was malfunctioning. Thus, American Airlines flight 1412 was delayed until 6.30 am Monday morning, and we would now be headed back to the gate. They appreciated our patience.

At this point every person on the air craft was so frustrated and tired that were was no reaction to the announcement. We exited the plane like cows being led to slaughter. Our shoulders hunched low, an occasional tear was wiped from our eyes and we re-entered the Kansas City airport with heavy hearts. Waiting at baggage claim for a suitcase that never went anywhere was the weirdest feeling I've ever had.

By the time Brad picked me up (this was now 125 miles he'd driven in one day) I looked like a limp, wet noodle. I didn't even care that I was getting rained on. When we arrived home, I felt like I had traveled to Chile and back with no sleep. And I still had the airport at 5.30 the next morning to look forward to. What a trip this was stacking up to be.

Monday morning as I watched Brad drive away from dropping me off, I was tempted to run after the car screaming, "Don't leave me here!!!", but I knew I had to go. I re-re-checked my bag, re-re-went through the long line at security and re-re-took my seat. The people waiting with me all looked very, very familiar. Most of them were in the same clothes. No one spoke, no one laughed. We just waited. Amazingly enough, we boarded on time and even landed 3 minutes early. I found my bag with no issue at all, got a cab with ease, checked into the hotel and arrived at the Bolyu showroom at 11.35. Everyone was glad I made it and assured me that all the information I missed could be easily learned in five minutes. I am, back in KC. I made it to Chicago and back alive. For once in my life, all the mishaps encountered along the way were not my fault nor were they anyone elses. God sometimes decides to put us in situations we'd rather not be in, but something tells me there was a reason for my adventures this weekend. If I'd have left on Sunday as scheduled, I would have gone out with all the Bolyu sales people on Sunday night. From what I hear, things got pretty crazy that evening. I don't think I could have functioned properly after a night like that. Instead, I got to stay one more night in my own house, in my own bed - right next to the greatest airport chauffeur in the whole world.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

loved the post. please rest assured chicago is not a scary mugging city like you might think. i'm a single woman and jet across all areas of the city every day - alone. you can do it, and you did it!