I was scheduled to leave friday at 9:30pm. It was my friday off, so I took care of a few errands in the morning. I planned to leave my house at 7:30 or a bit before so I could stop at the ATM. Around 5:00 I was leisurely finishing up with my packing, deciding what wedding outfits to bring.
I decided too check in online, so I went to the NWA website -- only to find that my flight had been canceled. What?! They had me rescheduled to leave on saturday, late enough that I would miss the 2pm wedding. Not good enough.
Searching the website, I noted that there was a 7:30 flight to the same airport. The original plan was that I was to meet my sister in Philly, we would share a rental car, and drive to New Jersey where we already had a hotel room booked. If I hurried, I could make it in time for 7:30 and keep the original plan.
I began frantically throwing random things in my suitcase. I called NWA as I did so, waiting on hold as I splashed water and catfood in the kitchen for the kitties. I raced to my car, still on hold, hoping to change my reservation to the 7:30 one at least for standby.
I got ahold of somebody as I drove, and she said there was nothing she could do. Everything was either canceled or full - other airlines as well, not just NW. I talked to her supervisor who told me the same thing. She dubiously agreed that I could TRY standby for the 7:30 flight, but it didn't sound hopeful. She suggested I go to the ticketing agent when I got to the airport.
I got there and parked in the expensive garage so I could move more quickly. I found the ticketing agent, and got in line. And stood in line. And stood. I quickly realized I wouldn't even get to the front of the line before the gates closed on the 7:30 flight.
There were lots of people trying to rebook canceled flights, and apparently there was nothing available anywhere in the Newark, La Guardia, JFK, Philly, radius. I called NWA again, and nothing was available. Finally in desperation I suggested Baltimore.
"Actually yes, there is room on the Baltimore flight at 9:30." So the booked me on that, scheduled to arrive at 11pm. It is a 3 or 4-hour drive to my NJ hotel from Baltimore, but it seemed like my only option.
In relief, I accepted my ticket and went to the security line. That's where they confiscated my little keyring pocket knife, because in all the panic I'd forgotten too leave it in the car like I usually do. The security woman tried to encourage me to leave it with a friend, but I told her I was all alone. Then she tried to get me to go back to the garage and leave it in my car, but I shook my head, defeated. Yeah I might have had time, but I just couldn't the thought of more stress and more hurry. So I let her take it.
I found my way to my gate and sat down. I was very dubious about this Baltimore idea, but it seemed like it was the best option. Still, the more I thought about it the less I liked the idea. Oh well, here I was. What needed to be done? Rent a car. Figure out how to get from Baltimore to my hotel.
I started browsing the net for directions and car rental. I hadn't brought my laptop, so all I had was my Treo for assistance. After all the phone talking and internet, its battery was very low. I pulled out some paper and wrote the important things by hand. Confirmation number, hotel address and phone, rental place numbers, and a full set of quickly scribbled directions. They were much to long for me to follow write down and follow, but I expected to get a map at the rental place -- they were just a last resort.
My phone was now dying, so I went to a pay phone. I called a few rental places and discovered that it's pretty expensive to rent a car in Baltimore and drop it off in Philadelphia. Then it was time to board my plane, and I still didn't have a car. To be honest right up until I got on, I was kind of hoping it would also be canceled. I was beginning to think this wouldn't be worth it. But I really did want to make it to my cousin's wedding....
The flight wasn't canceled. I got on the plane and got settled. My seat mate seemed nice, so I asked her an odd question. "Do you have a cell phone I could borrow briefly? My battery is dead." Much to my relief, she let me borrow hers. I was able to make a car reservation before the doors closed and the plane departed. One step closer to success!
We flew, and I was able to relax because for the next hour and a half my fate was out of my hands. I read Harry Potter, borrowed from Dave, and noted that three other people in my line of sight were also reading it. Very amusing.
When we landed, I headed straight for an ATM. I had only $3 cash in my wallet, because I'd been intending to go for ages but never quite got around too it for various reasons.
The ATM denied my card. Apparently the damn thing had expired in June! I must have set my new card aside, not realizing what it was -- I've been behind in reading my mail, so I've only opened bills recently. It was a stupid mistake, but had it not been for the snowballing series of other things going wrong (suddenly having to leave early, the flight cancellation, ending up at a different city than planned with a long drive, not being able to share the car with my sister) it wouldn't have been an issue. The cell phone's loss of power was another such error, something that should have been minor but became a big deal on top of everything else.
So there I was with a dead cell phone and $3. It was midnight, I was in a strange city, and I had no idea where I was in relation to my hotel other than that it was about 4 hours away.
"But I'll make it work," I thought. "I'm an Intrepid Adventurer, and I can do this!" Fortunately I still had a second credit card that worked, I just didn't have a code to use it in an ATM. No problem.
I made my way to the rental shuttle, then got in line for the appropriate company. I gave her my credit card, she gave me my keys, and I was good to go. At this point I once again sought mercy from strangers, and asked if there was a computer behind her counter with an available USB port. The only cell phone charger I'd brought was the one that plugs into a computer (because it's smallest). She charged my phone for a half hour while I sat and read more Potter.
It then had a very small charge, but enough to use in an emergency. I also sprang for a GPS unit in my rental car, because I knew the drive would be tricky. I subsequently named her Miss Sara, though I don't know why. She was a huge help.
Knowing I'd be exhausted, I sacrificed $1.50 to buy a diet coke for the drive. Now I was down to $1.50 left... but really once you're that low, $3 is no better than 1.50. Anyway, got in my new car -- it turned out to be a Mustang convertible! That was a nice surprise at least, apparently they were out of the cheap model I'd reserved. So there's one thing that actually went better than planned.
So I get in the car, and Miss Sara explains to me how to head to New Jersey. My next disaster occurs as I discover a toll road. It costs more than $1.50! I tell the guy at the gate that's all I have. He can't take a credit card. But he tells me to go through, and they will take a picture of my license plate and send me a bill. I drive through the red light, and a loud buzzer sounds.
I get off at the first exit, hoping against hope that I can find somebody to turn my credit into cash. Instead I find myself in a closed industrial area with nothing. So I get back on the road. Somehow the way the entrance ramp loops around, I find myself once again facing the same toll booth I'd just gone through!
Shaking my head in disbelief, I go to the same booth guy. I pull up, leaning with my head in my hand, pulling at my hair in exhaustion... "Hey it's me again. How much does it cost if you do it TWICE?"
He stares at me. "What did you do??"
I just started babbling at him. "I wanted to get money so i took the first exit but everything was closed so i turned around and got back on again..."
He interrupts. "Where exactly are you trying to go?"
My overstressed babbling continues. "I don't even know somewhere in New Jersey but I don't know where I am I was supposed to fly into Philadelphia but my flight was canceled and the ATM didn't work so I drove...."
He puts his hands up and stops my barrage of words again. "Look, go up to exit 10b, there is a service plaza where you can get money. Then take 95 North and you won't have to deal with this again."
So I stop at the plaza, and of course none of the poor staff people there at two o'clock in the morning are allowed to give me any cash off my credit card. I give up and hit the road again. After Miss Sara and I exchange some firm words, I convince her not to send me onto any more toll roads.
She always shows me estimated time of arrival on the screen. Initially it was reading 4:11, but when I switched to no-tolls she switched it to 4:58. Probably out of spite. (Okay probably not.)
Actually the back-roads drive is very pretty, all misty and curvey roads through trees. It's a pleasant drive, or it would have been if nothing else had gone wrong. I get turned around a few times, and Miss Sara blames it on me but I blame it on her. We exchange more strong words. I stop for advil, but manage to drop one of them into the seat cushions while driving. I find myself too sleepy to drive, so I stop for jumping jacks, a walk, some sugar, and some string cheese. (I don't know why I thought cheese would help)
Finally I'm heading into town, and I hear a weird chirping sound. I think at first that it's my car, then I realize: it is the sound of birds chirping. The sky is lightening. It is morning now.
Despite our bickering, Miss Sara gets me to the hotel. I stride in at 5:30am, and they are setting up for breakfast. I wish the clerk a good morning, collect my room key, and wake up my sister. I've made it! I crawl into bed, read Potter for a bit while I wait for all my keyed-up energy to un-key. Finally I sleep until 11am, when it is time for lunch and then a wedding.
[this was long enough that I'll save sunday's return trip for another entry]