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Travel Saga Part II - cellophane
the story of an invisible girl
renniekins
renniekins
Travel Saga Part II
Today I was telling a woman I work with about my travel saga, and she said at one point, "You seem like you're treating this more as an adventure than a catastrophe, which is good."

I agreed. "Well I might as well, what's happened has happened. Oh sure I was stressed out at the time, but it got to the point where I had to just roll my eyes in amazement at what was going wrong! It seems better to laugh at it as a great story, then to let things I can't change upset me."

And I was thinking about this, and thinking about adventures. Adventures aren't easy or comfortable -- that's what livingrooms are. Not that there is anything wrong with relaxing in a livingroom; I often enjoy it. But adventuring generally involves getting dirty, stressing over complex situations, persevering through crazy odds, and coming out of it with your head high and a great story.

A plane flight between Detroit and New Jersey is an unlikely place to find an adventure, that's for sure. But I'd say in the end that it WAS an adventure, albeit an unexpected and stressful - not to mention exhausting - one. I didn't plan for it, but since it happened, I'm glad I am able too look at it that way now.

So, I'll skip over saturday for now, and proceed right into sunday morning. (Dave probably should stop reading now.)

I had booked an evening flight back to Detroit from Philadelphia, leaving around 7pm. Once again my sister and I had planned to drive together, then head to our respective homelands. After the chaos of friday, I was sure to check my flight status early. When I arrived back at my hotel late saturday night (sunday morning), I got online -- as feared, the flight was canceled. Arrgh!

They had me scheduled for something on monday, but I really wanted to be back sunday night. After some efforts at rebooking online, I realized I was simply too exhausted to take care of it then. I went to sleep, determined to fix it the next morning.

Sunday morning Sis and I got up, packed up, and checked out. We had a family brunch to attend. I worked on calling NWA while we organized and packed, but the 800 number kept disconnecting me. Obviously I was only one of thousands of displaced passengers trying to find their way home.

Eventually I got in my cool convertible (we had put the top down on saturday, but it was rainy sunday so we didn't), and Miss Sara navigated me to the brunch location. I'd passed my cell phone over to my sis while I drove.

Amazingly, she got through to a representative! Less amazingly, there was nothing going to Philly. She started asking about other airports and other airlines. After a lot of effort, they managed to find me a flight on Continental out of Newark. It didn't leave until 8pm, which left me with plenty of time. Hooray!

I had a good brunch and spent some good time with my family. Eventually I drove Sis back to our ex-hotel, so she could collect her rental car (we were stuck with two, of course, since we didn't end up flying into the same airport). We stopped at Friendly's for ice cream, then we went our separate ways.

It was 4pm, and I still had four hours until my flight. I drove to Newark, returned my car, then took the shuttle over to terminal A. I went to the ticket agent and collected my boarding pass. I practically floated through the line for security, light on my feet. I was feeling positively jubilant, with all this extra time and lack of stress! I found my gate, still with well over two hours to spare. I sat down, got comfortable, and started reading Potter again.

This was all quite lovely for almost an hour. Until they announced that they were canceling the flight.

Ack! This wasn't even Northwest, so we couldn't blame it on the pilots! Turns out there was some sort of big storm in the way. All kinds of flights were being canceled, and mine was just one.

The agent at the gate told me I could either wait around the corner in the "line that looks like it's for a rock concert", or I could use a courtesy phone that would do the exact same thing. I headed toward the empty phones.

Continental was willing to give me a flight out on tuesday. They were very sorry, but the weather had caused cancellations galore. After I raised a bit of a fuss, they found something for monday afternoon -- but they were unwilling to give me a hotel room, because it was due to weather.

I really didn't want to stay until monday. I had a job to return to, no more rental car and no hotel, and I'd already spent more than enough money. I had family somewhat nearby, but it would have been a huge inconvenience for somebody to drive an hour to fetch me, put me up for the night, then take me back to the airport. I wasn't going to call them except as a last resort.

I decided to call Northwest. After all they had canceled my flight for reasons that were NOT due to weather, and they were the ones who'd gotten me into this pickle. Once again their line was very hard too get through. I persisted though -- after all I had nothing else to do. I just kept pressing redial until, finally, I got through to an agent.

He felt really badly for me, once I explained that my flight in Philly had been canceled, so I drove all the way to Newark, and now this one was also canceled. He really wanted to help me, but what with the storm and the pilot slowdown there was nothing.... then he found something. A NW flight that had been supposed to leave at 7:30 had been delayed, but would be leaving at around 9:30. It was currently a little after 8pm.

"Where are you?" he asked. I said I was still in terminal A, the Continental area. "Get to terminal B and go to the gate! You aren't on the flight yet, but I'm going to do my best to get you on it. Or at least on standby. Go to gate 31b, talk to the ticket agent, and tell them what I told you!"

Okay! I gave him my phone number and begged him to call me back when he knew more. I picked up my bag and started hurrying toward the terminal entrance. To get from terminal A to terminal B, you have to take the shuttle. Which means you have to leave the secure area.

I hopped on the shuttle, got off at terminal B. I found the sign for gates 31-50, and hurried that way. A security agent asked me for my boarding pass. I gave it to her. She pointed out that the pass was for terminal A, not B. She couldn't let me through.

"But... the guy on the phone told me to go to the gate! He was going to get me on standby!" She said she couldn't let me through without a boarding pass. "But I have one! And I don't have one for this flight, because I'm on standby -- and he told me to come here."

She said there was nothing she could do, and I needed to go to the ticketing agent upstairs. "If they're open," she added dubiously. Oh great. I hurried upstairs and found the NW counter. It was darkened, and just one person was back there.

I hurried up to him and explained I needed to get past security, the NW agent on the phone had told me to, but I couldn't get in. I was wielding my cell phone like a sword or a lifeline of some sort, clutching it as though the silent device would somehow rescue me. He looked me up in the computer and I wasn't on the standby list. "I'm sorry," he told me, "if you're not here there is nothing I can do."

I explained that Kyle, on the NW line, was working on it, and he'd told me to come here while he did it. I needed to get to the gate, so if he got me on standby I'd be ready. He was going to call me back as soon as he succeeded.

"Well I can't help you until you show up on the computer. Let me know when he calls you back." I stood a couple of steps away from the counter, fidgeting from foot to foot, staring at my phone. He distracted himself with some other task, not noticing me, or at least pretending not to.

Finally, it rang! Kyle had come through for me! He told me he'd gotten me on standby, and I told him I couldn't get through the gate. I said the ticket agent couldn't find me in the computer, and Kyle said I was there and he should refresh it. The guy (Kent) did so, still nothing. It was weird because I kept telling the other what was going on, and I tried to get them to just talk to one another, but they wouldn't.

Finally Kent found me in the computer. Kyle said that was all he could do, so he wished me good luck and hung up. Kent said he needed to go get something, and he hurried to the back.

Meanwhile, another guy had stood behind me in line. Kent told us both he'd be right back. We stood there waiting, exchanging stories. He wanted to go to Traverse City, but since his Detroit flight was delayed he had already missed the connection. He planned to try again the next day, so he needed his flights rescheduled.

We quickly realized that he was giving up his seat on the flight I was trying to get on! "Can I have your seat?", I said, only half-joking. He cheerfully agreed, and even offered to give me his boarding pass and ID get through. We joked around about the changes I'd need to make in my appearance to look like him. Then we joked about the fact that Kent still hadn't returned, and he was probably sprinting for his car as quickly as he could, hoping we'd fall for the distraction.

Meanwhile, other weary travelers had lined up behind the two of us. We were all chatting about travel horror stories, where we wanted to go, and so on. I told my tale of two cities, and they all sympathized. We became quite close, as desperate people will tend to do in desperate times.

Finally Kent came back and he gave me my very own beautiful boarding pass! It was just a standby pass, but it would get me through security. As I gathered my bags and headed back to the gate, all of my new friends waved and wished me luck. "You're an inspiration to us all!", one of them called. I think he was joking, so I laughed and waved at them all as I pulled my little wheeled suitcase into the sunset. (Well, the escalator)

I went through security again, and the woman recognized me. "It's just a standby pass," I said, "but I'm going to give it a try." She wished me luck.

I got to the gate, and it looked pretty empty. This gave me hope. There were a couple of other people standing by also, and we were all thinking it looked promising. Then they announced that the flight was boarding.

People came out of the woodwork! Which is surprising, since the airport really didn't have any wood. But all of a sudden the gate was mobbed. "Where did all of these people come from?" Things got complex as the boarding was ending. A few people were called from the standby list. A couple of first-class passengers were bumped into coach. Two people were called onto the plane, then one was sent off again because she didn't have a seat after all. Then this blond girl walked off the plane in tears. I don't even know where she had come from.

I continued to stand hopefully at the counter. It wasn't looking good though. They had said I was next on the list after the woman who had gotten on, but then she had been pushed back off the plane. But I didn't have anywhere else to go, so I just kept standing there.

Slowly the gate area cleared out. Eventually, the gates closed. I continued to stand at the counter, waiting. They gave the crying girl a ticket for the next morning at 7:10am. They told me they could get me on a 9:30am flight. I asked what I was supposed to do until then?

They said I couldn't be comped a room, because it was weather-related. I pointed out that my original flight had not been canceled due to weather. They said it didn't count because I'd been rebooked. I pointed out that flight hadn't left anyway, and I'd driven all the way here instead of Philadelphia since they'd told me I should. They spent a lot of time talking to one another and looking things up on computers.

A supervisor came up and told me she felt really bad about the whole thing. All the hotels were booked, due to the storm cancellations. I kept standing there. A really nice older man, the one I'd been talking to, kept having discussions that I couldn't follow, typing, and then making another girl make phone calls. I wasn't sure what they were trying to do, but I was getting pretty certain that I was going to be spending the night in this waiting area. I started scanning the seats, looking for some that didn't have fixed arm rests separating the individual seats. But I kept standing there. Persistence was the only tactic I had left.

Finally the nice older man called the crying girl, the only other person left at the gate, back to the counter. "Everything is booked," he told us, "but we were able to find one room left at the Days Inn. We can comp it, if the two of you are willing to share it."

I looked at her. She was about my age, and looked nice enough. Just a bit teary. She shrugged, as did I. It was this or sleep here at the gate. "Sure."

He printed out a hotel voucher and some meal vouchers, gave us our tickets for the next morning, and warned us to arrive early. They had actually bumped people on our flights to give us seats, because of our situations.

The two of us struck out to find the Days Inn. We got on the shuttle, and I told her how to do it. "I'm an expert now, this is my third time today." We found a hotel van, and it took us to the Inn.

I checked in at the desk, giving her my voucher. The woman apologized and said that all of their two-double-bed rooms were booked, all they had left was a room with one king. Was that all right? We looked at each other and shrugged again. What else could we do? "Sure, I guess."

She gave us our room keys. We went to the bar. We each had a drink and a snack with our meal vouchers, then headed up to our room. So I not only spent the night with a complete stranger, but I shared a bed with a complete stranger! (Although no rude comments; we both hovered far apart on our separate sides of that king-size bed. The situation was already plenty weird enough.)

It was midnight. She set her alarm for 4am, so she'd have plenty of time to take the shuttle back to the airport. I decided to join her and attempt to go standby on her flight. We got there, and I went through security for the third time. Then we were back at the same gate area where we'd first met about eight hours ago....

The conclusion of the story isn't as exciting. I made it onto her flight with little drama, somehow managed to find a place for my suitcase in the full plane, read my book, dozed a bit, and landed at about the scheduled time.

By the time I'd filled my car with gas and driven home, it was about 10:30am and I was exhausted. I called my office (I'd already text-messaged my coworkers the night before), and told them I wasn't coming in. I spent the day sleeping and finally finishing Harry Potter. The next day (that would be today, for those playing at home), I dragged my still-bleary body into work. Now I'm feeling practically myself again, and it's time for bed again.

That's enough adventuring for now!

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Comments
jebra From: jebra Date: August 1st, 2007 04:20 am (UTC) (Link)
And yet, there are people who wonder why I'm willing to drive to the east coast.
tammylc From: tammylc Date: August 1st, 2007 08:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow. That's an amazing story. Wow.
lizerati From: lizerati Date: August 1st, 2007 12:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Holy crap. I'm impressed with your persistence and ingenuity!
dagibbs From: dagibbs Date: August 1st, 2007 01:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Gah! I've had flight trouble, but rarely like this.
jeffreyab From: jeffreyab Date: August 1st, 2007 02:35 pm (UTC) (Link)

WOW

This reminds me of "Plains, trains and automobiles" except it really happened.

Did you ever consider driving home in the Mustang?
bowmaniac From: bowmaniac Date: August 1st, 2007 03:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Holy cow. You're a saint to keep up that cheery attitude the whole time. Wow.
renniekins From: renniekins Date: August 4th, 2007 05:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ha! No sainthood here. I definitely did not keep up the cheery attitude the whole time. I was pretty stressed! Although I *did* try to avoid directing my frustration at innocent bystanders.
mbumby From: mbumby Date: August 1st, 2007 06:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'd have probably wimped out and slept on the floor. Especially if there were going to be food within reach. (I would probably have overslept had I tried to deal with a hotel.) Glad things worked out mostly-ok. (Welcome home.)
cannibal From: cannibal Date: August 1st, 2007 08:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think the Harry Potter book caused you bad luck. Should've been reading project gutenberg etexts like me. Or perhaps my flights were uneventful because they were both direct on Mesaba, which is a nice little red-tail feeder airline.
From: writerwench Date: August 1st, 2007 10:34 pm (UTC) (Link)

From: writerwench Date: August 1st, 2007 11:33 pm (local) Delete Track This (Link)
Bloody hell! That weekend is worse than anything I've EVER experienced, and I've been flying round the world since 1962. I'm very relieved you got home in one piece and are recovered now.

It's tales like that - and my experiences with a hurricane in 2004 - that make me really appreciate how interesting and pleasant my own country is. And how nice it is to explore it by car.
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