Friday, January 19, 2007

Swimming Against the Current

I find that in my life, the things that I am meant to do are relatively easy. Yes, there may be some hard work involved, but it isn't like beating my head against a brick wall. Things I am not meant to do are usually very evident. For example, I really don't think I was meant to go to Colorado this week. If the plane had crashed and I'd been killed, I would not have been surprised. Everything was going wrong. Everything. Short of landing into a cotton field or bursting into flames, it happened. I was just not meant to go. I should've stayed home, warm in my bed nursing my cold.

But alas, my two bosses asked me to make the trip. And its the time of year where they determine what our raises will be, so I got on a plane. I did the smart thing and went through Dallas instead of Chicago because O'Hare is always a mess in the winter. The nasty snow storm had already gone through Colorado, so we should've been good to go, right?

Eh, no. What no one realized, myself and my bosses included, was that the storm that dumped two feet of snow on Colorado was now hovering over DFW airport. My 8:05 flight got cancelled. My 3:30 flight got pushed out to 4:00. No big deal. I had a 2 hour layover, so that just made it an hour and a half. Then we arrived and there was a plane in our gate. Just a few more minutes they kept telling us. How about 45? We get off and the lady at the gate says my 7:25 flight is on time and should be boarding. Of course, its in another concourse, so I hop the train and haul tail only to find the flight has been pushed back to 8:10. I opt for the nearest food place and inhale some dinner (I didn't have lunch because our airport food court was closed for renovations). Then they announce the flight has been pushed back to 8:30. Then it moves gates (to another concourse) so back onto the train and find that it is now leaving at 9:30. Then we change gates again (yes, to another concourse) and wait another half hour for our pilots to arrive. (Did I mention there were no pilots this whole time?) Okay, we load up, get on the plane and finally begin to taxi. At this point, I'm totally relieved because I've been expecting the flight to get cancelled and have to sleep at a nearby hotel.

Then there's a strange noise. Was that? It couldn't be. We had a flat tire. A FLAT TIRE! We sit for two hours while they jack up the plane and change the tire just so we can return to the terminal and get on another plane. Wait, that one has an open maintenance ticket, so we have to switch to another plane. I touched down in Colorado Springs at 2:30AM, approximately 11 hours and forty-five minutes after my originally scheduled arrival time.

So, the rental car place is closed so I have to stand in 2 degree weather and wait for the airport to radio for some taxis to show up. I get into my hotel room, leave a voice message for my boss and set my alarm for 8:30AM, despite the fact that its after 3AM now and feels like 4AM to me.

I finish what I went out there to do, get mucho kudos from my boss and spend most of the following night in bed coughing. I get up early Wednesday and head to the airport, certain the bad weather had passed over Dallas by now. Oh, no. Now they had snow and freezing rain. My 11:15 flight turned into a 12:40 flight. My two hour layover gets shorter and shorter. I arrive and my flight is supposedly on time. I huff it to the other terminal and hope my bag makes it before we take off. That should never have been a concern. At 4PM, I realize my 4:10 flight should be boarding by now. I also notice there's no plane at our gate. Guess the ice in Lubbock has delayed the incoming plane. 4:15 becomes 4:30 becomes 5:20 becomes 5:45. I get home that night at 8PM. Considering my flight out, being an hour and a half later than I planned was no big deal.

I go to work Thursday for two hours, my boss apologizes, then I leave to go to the doctor. The night before I had not only been up coughing, but I'd taken some serious cough syrup that gave me a stomach ache to severe, I thought my gallbladder had grown back and was having a spasm. The doctor's verdict - my cold is now bronchitis. Great. On to Walmart for antibiotics and an inhaler (oh yay) and then home to sleep. Sleep is good. The plus side to all of this (if there is one) is that I got paid for that entire debacle and it allowed me to take Thursday and Friday off sick without burning sick time. Some of those poor people were just trying to get home from vacation or something. I also got to read two great books - Drop Dead Gorgeous by Maven Linda and Prince of Magic by Maven LJ - both awesome and highly recommended.

The lesson of all this...hell, I don't know that there is one, other than always carry granola bars and extra books in your purse. I guess another lesson could be not to fight your destiny too hard. Sometimes that relationship that falls apart or that painful R might be guiding you to where you're really destined to be. "God Bless the Broken Road" and all that. If you fight for something that isn't yours to have, you might end up stranded on a cot in the corner of the Dallas airport.
Share your worst airport drama with the group (we're talking minor drama, no plane crashes or burn victims, please). The story I deem the most pathetic will win your choice of a book to carry with you the next time you get stuck at the airport.


Playground Monitor said...

The DH and I lived in Germany for 4 years from 1976-1980. For our last hurrah before coming back to the states, we decided to take a 7 day, 3 continents cruise. We flew to Athens and spent a day and a half there. Then we got on a cruise ship (very small cruise ship -- only about 500 passengers) and went to Santorini, Crete, Egypt, Israel and Rhodes. I walked where all the great Greek scholars and writers walked. I rode a donkey to the top of Santorini, saw the palace of King Minos, rode a camel out to the pyramids, went to Jerusalem and Bethlehem and saw the buildings in Rhodes that date to the time of the Crusades.

Wonderful trip of a lifetime! So our time comes to fly back home and we get to the Athens airport and board a Lufthansa Airbus. The takeoff was smooth and then boom! I'm sitting just behind the right wing and I can see flames coming from the engine -- and this thing only has 2 engines. It dips to the left, all power to the cabin is cut and I'm seeing my life flash before my eyes. The Athens airport is near the Aegean Sea and you take off over it.

That brave and skilled Lufthansa pilot straightened the plane up (did I mention it was FULLY loaded?) and flies us back to the airport and lands just as smooth as you please. When we touched down, the entire plane erupted in cheers and applause.

So now what do we do? Well we get to wait in the Athens, Greece airport, which is a great cross-section of all the third world contries in the world. It was the first time I ever saw a woman in a burka up close. Lufthansa had to fly a 747 down from Frankfurt so they could not only fly the passengers but the blown engine from the Airbus. They bought us meals all day and kept us updated very nicely. I was SO tired but no way in hell was I falling asleep amidst all those creepy looking people. Mind you, I'm not anti-anyone-who's-not-American, but these folks were REALLY creepy. And the hostages were still being held in Iran at this time too.

Anyhoo, very, very, very late that night I forced myself to board that 747 and fly home to Frankfurt. They treated us like royalty. But do you wonder why I'm not real fond of flying?

Welcome home, Smarty Pants! Feel better soon.


Linda Winstead Jones said...

My husband has many more flying horror stories than I do, though I have run from one gate to another before (Literally run. Thank goodness for those rolling suitcases) through the Atlanta airport late at night so I could catch that last flight to Huntsville. When a flight is delayed, why is the next flight always at the far end of the airport????

But, my most memorable airport story is not bad at all. I was traveling with a friend who has a gazillion frequent flyer miles. We were going to NY for a week, so you can imagine the luggage. All red. It started when I was standing there with six or seven pieces of red luggage on a cart, waiting for my friend to park and meet me. A porter stopped by to see if I needed any help, and I said no. He was very friendly, and as he left gave me a nice, heartfelt "God bless." Then he gave me a hug. My friend arrived, and we went to the counter to check in -- us and our many pieces of red luggage. Again, the woman at the ticket counter was unusually friendly. After our bags were tagged she stepped across the place where you weigh your bags and *hugged us both* wishing us a safe flight. (somehow I think flying in the South is just different.)

Of course, all could not go well. There was rain, and we were delayed. We arrived in Atlanta just in time to miss our flight. All around us, other passengers were being sent to standby. (my husband has spent many days going from gate to gate on standby at the Atlanta airport. It's no fun.) But my friend was directed to a courtesy phone. We were to catch a plane in about 10 minutes. And we'd been upgraded to first class. Not too shabby.

So, we get to NY and gather all our luggage. I think maybe a piece was late coming off the carousel, or was on the wrong carousel, because by the time we had everything, most everyone else was gone. Again, a porter offered to help us with the bags, and we told him we were fine, and my friend -- looking out the window at the LONG taxi line -- said "Unless you know someone who has a car." The guy turned around and said, "Fred?" Ok, the guy's name was not Fred, but you get the idea. He was right there, ready to go, saving us probably 45 minutes of standing in a taxi line.

That trip was meant to be -- even though it was my red luggage's maiden voyage and someone stomped all over each piece with big, muddy feet. And the moral of this story is -- If ata ll possible, travel with someone who has a gazillion frequent flyer miles. :-)


Kathy said...

I'm glad you made it back safely, SP! Sorry your sick and that you had such a rough time of it.

Taking a hop to Hawaii for our delayed honeymoon, my DH and I rode an cargo plane sitting next to one of his college friends. All was going well until we started our descent to Hickham AFB. As the plane began to land, my left ear felt this incredible pressure. No amount of swallowing would release it. We landed and I felt like my head was going to explode. The pain in my ear was so excrutating. Finally arriving at our friend's house, she said she could fix my ear by pouring warm oil into it. (Do you follow where I'm going?) The oil was heated in the microwave. I laid down on the floor with my left ear facing the ceiling. A container, holding the very hot oil, was tilted toward my head. Oil began to pour in and screaming, I jumped about a foot off the floor. Needless to say, that is not something I ever want to do again. Fortunately, I was very young and my ear wasn't damaged for life. Lesson learned here. Oil does relieve the pressure in your ear. But do not! I repeat, do not heat it up too hot before applying it to the ear. I can still hear my eardrum sizzling!!!!

Last year, my son returned from a mission in the Persian Gulf on one of the planes he works on. Due to the sandy climate, it was in really bad shape and they'd worked hard to get it up in the air so it could make it back home. While landing in Nebraska, the landing gear malfunctioned, sparked and caught fire. He and 3 other men, put the flames out as the flames were crawling up the wing to the place where fuel is stored. I'm proud to say, my # 1 and the 3 other men just received the Air Force Commendation Medal for duty without thought to safety. Had the flames ignited the wing, the entire plane would have exploded. A very scary thought.

PM your story about the airport and VERY creepy people reminded me of a trip I made after 9/11. We were coming back from Orlando when we noticed a man in a turban sitting a few isles in front of us. In those days, we were supposed to be accutely aware of anyone who stood out. Even after traveling extensively throughout my life, and without anyone thinking I was racially/typecasting, I remember still being disturbed by that man's presence and I watched his every move during the entire flight. Fear is, after all, the toughest thing to overcome.


Rhonda said...

I don't have a creepy airport story, but I am glad that you made it home safefly, SP, and I hope you feel better soon.

Meljprincess said...

My ex is in the Navy and I decided to move to Hawaii with him in 2000. I knew I'd have to put my beloved cat in quarantine when we got to Hawaii and this upset me immensely. Believe me I'd NEVER do it again. Anyway, I love my cat more than life and we were told on the phone he could ride with us on the plane to Hawaii. However, when we got to the airport they told us he had to go in the hold. I freaked out. We stood there with only an hour or so before the flight with me trying to decide if I wanted to put him in a box and let them put him on the plane. Crying my eyes out I agreed. The flight was 12 hours long and I cried the entire time. I worried about him and prayed he would be OK when we got there. He was shell-shocked when I finally got to see him after the flight. It hurts me so much to tell this story now. And as I said I'll NEVER do it again. The whole experience broke my heart.

Maven Linda Howard said...

My airport story is a lot like SP's. First, I was in NYC on 9/11. My entire family and all my friends panicked, because I was staying at a Marriott and they didn't know which one -- and when the first Tower came down, it crushed the Marriott that was beside it.

Anyway. In November, I had to go back to NYC. This was just two months after the attack, so security was still tight as Dick's hat band. (Who is "Dick," and why did he wear his hat so tight? Flying up, I had no problem. Coming back . . .

My flight home was on the day that &*%$#!!! stupid Georgia football fan RAN AROUND SECURITY in the Atlanta airport to go back to where he was sitting and retrieve his camera so he could take pictures at the game. I have often wished I could get my hands around that man's throat.

The Atlanta airport shut down. Locked down tight. Do you know what happens to the nation's flights when Atlanta shuts down?

I had arrived at LaGuardia at 9 a.m. for an 11:30 flight to Atlanta. We sat there, and sat there, and sat there. The plane was at the gate, but they didn't let us board. Finally, at 1:30, they put us on the plane. We knew there had been a security concern at Atlanta, so everyone was patient. But what happened once we were on the plane? Well, we sat at the gate for an hour. Okay, that makes it 2:30. I was already supposed to be almost to Bham, but here I was still at LaGuardia. Finally they backed the plane away from the gate, we got on the runway, and . . . shut down. We sat on the runway for over four freaking hours. Well, excuse me, but I'd been much more comfortable in the damn airport, where I could at least walk around!

Finally, finally, finally, at close to 7 p.m., we took off. We arrived in Atlanta about 9:30, to find our plane to Bham wasn't there. Well, of course not; we were only about eight hours late! Another plane was on the way, I forget from where. It was supposed to be there about 10:30.

At 11 p.m., they announced our gate had been moved to the other end of the concourse -- and I mean the other end. We were at one end, and they moved us all the way to the other end. Those of you familiar with the Atlanta airport know this is a good hike. So we all trudged the half mile to the new gate. No plane arrived.

At 12:30, they announced the flight had been cancelled. The next flight would be at 9 a.m., and we were all on standby because, guess what, the regular flight, the 9 a.m. one, was completely full.

Now, I live only two hours from the Atlanta airport. If I could get a rental car, I was coming home.

Me and about a thousand other people.

So here we go, trooping downstairs to the train, riding to the main terminal, getting in line at the rental car agency. Most of the agencies were already out of available cars. They were assigning cars as people arrived to turn them in. I don't give up. I stand in line. It has now been 18 hrs since I arrived at the LaGuardia airport. I finally get a car . . they think. I get on the little bus that takes you to the rental car parking lot. I go to the numbered slot where my rental car is supposed to be, except the slot is empty. Two slots over is a car, the same make as mine was supposed to be, and the same color. By then, I didn't care. I got in the car and drove home. I had to stop for coffee to stay awake, but I made it. I pulled in my driveway at dawn.

Man, I wish I could get my hands around that stupid nitwit's neck.

Problem Child said...

I've never had delays like the ones y'all are talking about. (Knocks wood.)

We did get snowed in at Glasgow once. They managed to get us on a plane to Amsterdam, where they put us up in a hotel. It wasn't that bad, overall, as I got to go to the Van Gogh museum the next day before our flight.

But I do travel with AC a lot, and airports are not made for folks flying solo with a small child. You know how small the bathroom stalls are--it's a nightmare to pee because you have to take your luggage in with you or risk shutting down the airport. Me, AC and our carryons in one small stall. Yay.

Even before 9/11, I found the security in European airports to be much tighter than the ones at home. After living in the UK where the police dont' carry guns, traveling through Heathrow where the police are in full riot gear with BIG guns was slightly unnerving. When we came back through Heathrow, we were in one of those little planes that won't go up to the gate and we had to park on the tarmac. There had been a security threat of some sort and the path to the terminal was lined with army guys with BIG guns.

I can handle delays--as long as I'm in the airport. Sitting on the runway for hours would drive me insane.

Angel said...

Okay, whose idea was this anyway? Is this "Freak Danniele Out So She Doesn't Get On The Plane To Scotland" Day?!?! Are you sure they won't let you carry me on the plane unconscious?

SP, hugs on the frustrating trip. It's bad enough under regular circumstances, but I can't imagine all that stuff while I was sick too. I'd have probably sat in the airport floor and cried.

Luckily, I've never had an engine catch fire or an emergency landing, but I've never been a good flier (interpretation: terrified!). This fear was compounded by a short flight home from Houston where we visited my sister when Drama Queen was a baby. This was only my second flight and my husband's first. We boarded one of those little planes used for flights less than a few hours (i.e. the ones where you feel EVERYTHING) and took off with no problems.

DQ was only six months old, so I nursed her through the take-off. By the time we reached cruising altitude, she was asleep in my arms. Then all of a sudden, we do about a 30 second freefall (felt like forever, let me tell you!). Now, for someone who hates roller coasters or any drops of any kind, you can imagine my reaction, especially thinking we were going down with a small baby. I freaked out and screamed, of course.

I think that loss of control might have bothered me as much as the plane malfunctions. Apparently they couldn't get the cabin to pressurize, so they quickly dropped us below 10,000 feet. No warning. Thanks!

When we finally got back to the Houston airport, we sat forever in that plane before they decided it had been a computer malfunction and told us we would be taking off momentarily... in the same plane. My husband stood, said "No we're not", and grabbed all our stuff. We got off, leaving our luggage behind. Since there weren't any other flights leaving for home that day, we chose to rent a car and drive 13 hours home with a 6 month old baby.

I know. We're wusses. But what can I say? Now I simply pride myself on not freaking out on flights. Who cares if everyone around me thinks I'm anti-social? As long as I'm not screaming or bothering anyone else, let me become a blubbery mass of fear in peace. :)

ChristyJan said...

My husband and I were going on an Alaskan cruise to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. This was our first cruise trip. We were departing from Salt Lake and flying into Vancouver, Canada. Being the newbie cruisers that we are, we waiting in line for the domestic flights - only to find out that when we got to the front of the line, that NO! just because we were going to Alaska via Canada it was NOT domestic. We quickly got into the LONG international line - and, we missed our flight! I was heart-broken and crying. We were told there were no other flights with seats available and when there would be the cost was going to be dramatically more. I cried more - and more - and more. Either they took pity on us, or they just wanted us gone, but they generously flew us into another city were we caught a connecting flight. We arrived in Vancouver - BUT our luggage did not. I cried some more. There was a large tour bus of senior citizens who were going on the same cruise. Those lovely ladies were so nice. They were all offering me clothes, shoes, etc. (This only made me cry more - both from their kindness AND the fact that I had bought all these cute clothes and now I was going to be wearing senior citizen outfits!) lol After our ship set sail a knock came on our door - they had found our luggage! ALL OF IT! What started out so terribly horrible, ended up being the trip of a lifetime.

Pat said...

Sorry about your horrible experience.

I dont travel via plane much so I am lucky to say, I really havent had any bad experiences. And I hope it stays that way.

Carol said...

I have not horrible stories to tell either. I don't travel much and have been on a plane only a few times. The only thing that has happened to me is that my luggage was on a different flight and it got delivered to me the next day.

Mel, I don't blame you for being so upset. I would have been, too!
We love our kitties and hate to see them go through something like that!

readingissomuchfun said...

So sorry Smarty Pants. I am glad you made it back safely welcome home.

I don't have any plane sotry's. My fiance and I will be going to Las Vegas in June this will be my first plane ride and I am so nervous. Trying to figure out what I will do during the ride *G* I was thinking of bringing some books to read. Might just do that for the ride.


Anonymous said...

I've flown very few times, but the first time around, when coming home from Florida, it started getting very cold and ice was coming in, so we had to go back to our connecting airport in NC. However many hours later, we got going again, landed in Newark and everyone applauded. But the airline did feed us, I guess unlike nowadays where they cut everything. LOL :)


pearl said...

Mu husband and I were on our way home from a week in Florida. Winter was rampant back in Montreal so instead of landing in toronto as expected we had to land in Montreal and then take a train to toronto. No one gave us anything at all and it was another day until we got home.

ellie said...

When my husband went to Italy on a business trip for a week he was flying out of Milan. They received 18 inches of snow and it was foggy etc. The airport did nothing and everyone was stuck there for the entire day and night. Due to the weather they had to wait another day and finally got out of there and got home 3 days later.

joelle said...

I was travelling with my son on March Break. The airport was a zoo and lines stretched forever. We were going to meet my husband in S.C. since he was there from a N.Y. business trip. The plane was full and we would have had to be split up but someone volunteered so that we could be together. The trip was a nightmare since it was sleeting in Cincinnati and a small jet for that part of the trip to S.C. We arrived at our destination at 3:00 a.m.

sharon said...

When my husband nad I went to Israel we left N.Y. and then stopped in Hungary. Cold, miserable and awful place and the people were checking things slowly and carefully so it took forever to get on the plane to Israel. Finally we were allowed to leave. What a lengthy and difficult stop for everyone since the people are gray and as upsetting as the country.

catslady said...

This was clear back in Feb. '71. I had only flown once before and my husband got R&R from Viet Nam so even though I was scared to death to travel by myself, I wasn't going to give up the chance to meet him in Hawaii. I paid a fortune so I had a direct flight because I was petrified of transferring flights. I didn't realize the plane still had a layover and I was the only one that stayed on the plane lol. The person I sat next to asked which island in Hawaii I was going to. Like I had any idea so I worried I was in the wrong place for the whole flight. I was meeting my father in law who I had never met. He was stationed there. Things worked out but of course it was too short a visit. My husband's flight left at 4 in the morning and I had to wait 'til late at night. I went to the beach and got the first and worst sunburn of my life. Traveling back was hell. I was so miserable. Missed my husband, sunburn was making me ill, and then we hit bad weather and I was nauseous. I'll never eat a mushroom omelet again!!!