Monday, March 05, 2007

And Speaking Of Vacations...

Lest you think that every time I travel things go bad, I've decided to tell you all about the time I went to Ohio for a wedding.

I was living in Boise and the phone rings. Turns out it was one of my college roommates and he was getting married. I often kidded him in school that I'd dance at his wedding. You know how it is... "Pass me that salt." "Here ya go." "Thanks... I'll dance at your wedding."

Well... he remembered and said I had to come to his wedding, and he was going to watch me dance. Crap. I usually don't dance. Not my thing. But alas, I was hoist on my own petard. Not only that, but the wedding was going to be where she was from, and that was Columbus.

So, another friend and I teamed up to head to Ohio. He lived in Salt Lake, so I drove down there and he secured us matching tickets to Cleveland via Chicago.

Our flight out of SLC took off at 6:00 a.m. the next morning, so we got up early and headed to the airport. This was back in the days before 9/11 so we basically got looked over and passed right to the gate. Checked in and boarded the plane, and we began to taxi out right at 6:00. The sun was just peaking over the Wasatch range, and the brilliant blue sky was clear and beautiful.

"This is your captain speaking... They're experiencing foggy conditions at O'Hare, so they're holding us here on the ground for a while. We ask that you just be patient, and we'll be airborne as soon as we can. Thank you."

20 minutes later, the engines fired up, and we got the all clear. The flight to Chicago was completely uneventful. About 20 minutes from Chicago, the stewardess came on the radio and told us all which gate our connecting flights were at.

Ummm... we grabbed the "in flight" magazine and looked up the concourse where we were going to land and where our connector was. Of course they were on opposite ends of the structure, and due to our "hold" on the ground, we were going to be nip and tuck to make the connection. We asked the stewardess if there was any way that they could radio ahead and have them hold our seats, because we were on our way. "Of course we'll do that." she said.

We hit the ground at about 9:00 running, and like O.J. Simpson, before the unfortunate calamity, made it to the gate on time. We went to check in, and the kind lady behind the counter informed us that we hadn't checked in 10 minutes ahead of time, so they'd given our seats away. We looked at the clock, and we were 2 minutes late, both of which we'd spent in line waiting to get to the counter. "Whoa babe. We're here now." "Sorry." *translation, "sucks to be you"*

Well, what now. I told my buddy that there were going to be hundreds of people just like us, so we'd better get in the ticket line and see what our options were. When we got there, the line was about 150 feet long and growing, so we queued up.

Kinda sucked, but we stood there and visited and before long, we were the next up to the reservation desk. The guy in front of us was just livid, and he was tearing this ticket lady a new one. "THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS YOU F*CKING B*TCH!!!" were some of the kinder things that he said in his tirade. Needless to say, my buddy and I were astonished at his little display. "Ok sir, I'm putting you on the very next flight out of here." she eventually replied, and sent him on his way.

We stepped up and I said, "Hello madame, we need another flight because we missed ours due to fog. I'll bet you haven't heard that once today." She laughed. "Nope... you're the first one." she smiled, "Where you headed?" "Cleveland." "Ok... there's 7 flights from now until midnight, so here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to book you two on every flight from now until then, so here's what you do... I can't guarantee you when this fog is going to lift, but if it does you might make it out. If that flight's canceled, just go to this next one and you'll be booked there too. If you happen to make it out of here, when you don't show up at the gate, they'll give your tickets to someone else. But either way, you guys will be covered." We thanked her profusely and as I was walking away and saw the line we'd just got out of stretching further than the eye could see, it hit me.

In order to teach that guy in front of us a little humility, she only booked him on the very next flight. That meant when that flight was canceled, he had to go to the back of the line and do it all over again, only this time the wait was going to measured in hours. Gotta love that. Talk about screwing someone with a smile. I'm still impressed, but I digress...

I think you can all see where this is going. We waited for the 11:00 am flight only to have it canceled at the last minute, then the 1:30 flight, then the 4:00 flight, then the next flight, and the next one...

Each time, we had to call the people that were meeting us at the Cleveland airport and tell them not to. Fortunately, the flight was slightly longer than their drive, so we were able to head them off before they left each time.

We got mighty familiar with the American concourse before all was said and done. The most tragic thing of it all was that every time our flight was canceled, we headed back to the bar, and we got a drink. Then we'd have to leave to go wait for the next flight, not wanting to miss it should it actually take off. Then we'd go back to the bar.

We spent 11 1/2 hours there that day and never even caught a buzz, but blew a lot o' cash. If I'd have known how it was going to turn out, we'd have just camped out in the bar and gotten plowed and just planned to stagger over for the 11:00 p.m. flight, otherwise known as the last flight of the day.

If the mood strikes me just right, next time I might even tell you about the journey home...

14 Comments:

Blogger fermicat said...

Your story reminds me of the many times I have done air travel on standby. My sister used to work as a flight attendant (calling her a "stewardess" will get you the Hairy Eyeball or worse) for a large airline, before she took their five-year furlough deal. One of the perks were a number of "buddy passes" that she could distribute to friends or family, allowing the recipient to travel on low-priority standby for a small fee.

Usually this would work out great -- as long as you planned carefully and traveled outside of peak hours. Once in a while, Ma Nature or some other force of evil would step in and screw things up. If even one flight before yours got cancelled, you were doomed. There would be a cascade of displaced paying customers bumping you to later and later flights. Meanwhile, the money you spend consuming liquor and beer at the airport more than offsets what you saved by flying standby in the first place. You could try sticking it out and hoping for the best, or try to fly somewhere else that might be easier to get out of.

I finally got tired of the hassle and just started buying tickets for most of my trips.

3/06/2007 9:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't mind getting bumped if I wasn't in a hurry. But the only times I've flown, I was on a strict schedule. But being rude to a airport employee is as dumb as being rude to a waitress. It'll come back on ya eventually.

trinamick

3/06/2007 10:35 AM  
Blogger LL said...

You need to log out and re-log into your account trin... that'll save you from being anonymous.

One trip I had absolutely nothing to get home for, and the flight immediately before mine was overbooked so they were looking to "bump" a volunteer. As compensation they offered $50 cash and a round trip airfare to anywhere in the U.S.

I said to myself... "Self, if they offer that deal to my flight, we'll be staying here for another 3 hours, and walking out of here with a round trip ticket." They didn't.

3/06/2007 1:44 PM  
Anonymous bc said...

You should ask Christy about her flight experiences. Seems that they are never ending. I have only flown into Atlanta Airport several times and what a hell that is to be in.

3/06/2007 4:27 PM  
Blogger fermicat said...

I think I am the only person in the world who likes the Atlanta airport. The layout is so logical - when they call out the arrival and connecting gates I always know exactly where they are. Other airports with serpentine layouts confuse me. Atlanta is easy.

3/06/2007 8:19 PM  
Anonymous bc said...

Its not the lay out that bothers me. Its just that it never fails that I land in A3 and my connector is in D40 or something like that. I know they have the trams but its still a run for the money when you have to make the next flight. Just my luck it seems. LOL

3/06/2007 8:41 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

I hate Chicago. Hate the airport too. Just one of the uckiest cities ever.

I think everyone has those terrible travel stories. Ever crash the car you were traveling in to move to your new house? I did. Totaled it with my son in the carseat next to me. This is what made me a believer concerning seat belts and kids' car seats. Not a scratch between us.

3/07/2007 7:15 AM  
Blogger NYPinTA said...

The one fear I had of airports was getting that one person at the counter that decided to go on a power trip and deny my seat on the plane for whatever stupid reason they could think of.
I don't really worry about that anymore.
Airports have a logic to them that I actually like, even if they look complicated and maze like. Except the airport in Philly. At most, once you go through security you can pretty much do whatever you want including shopping at the duty free shops and buy large bottles of liquor to take with you on the plane because the 3oz rule doesn't apply to things you purchase after you go through security. At the Philly airport, I got off the plane at one gate and ended up walking all the way to the end of the airport and going downstairs which takes you outside the secured areas and you have to go back through security to get to the other gates. If I had stopped and bought something I wouldn't have been allowed to take it with me despite never having left the airport. That would have pissed me off to no end. But I still would have been smart enough not to yell at an airline employee! That's just playing with fire.

3/07/2007 8:35 AM  
Blogger LL said...

I have nothing against airports per se...

But two security gates really chap me. There's no reason for that other than to make you run from one concourse to the other and stand in another line.

The only other thing is that statistically, these things shouldn't happen when I fly. I wish I could waste this kind of fortune on the lottery or something equally as tragic.

3/08/2007 9:15 PM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

You do realise that you could have driven to Cleveland from Chicago in less time than you hung around O'Hare?

I hate O'Hare, it's the only airport I ever get stuck sitting in. One time (Mom doesn't know this, and hopefully, she'll never know), I get to Midway for my flight home to Detroit only to be told that the flight wasn't going to be taking off for HOURS! It only takes five (tops) to drive to Detroit from Chicago, so I looked at the other people and said Want to rent a car? Two guys were up for it. I invited another woman, but she just looked at me as if I had lost my mind, as the two guys with whom I was renting a car and driving hundreds of miles were African-American.

One was Michael, the other Gabriel, so I figured I had two guardian angels with me. ;-) Obviously, I made it home unscathed and it was much more pleasant than sitting at Midway for six hours.

3/09/2007 6:27 AM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

Oh! Another O'Hare story!!! I was connecting and my flight landed in concourse A, the very last gate - literally, while my connecting flight was in the LAST CONCOURSE, LAST GATE. I think I had 20 minutes, so I was literally running the entire way carrying my carry-ons and cussing United the entire way. Thankfully they had not given away my seat.

3/09/2007 6:32 AM  
Blogger LL said...

Yeah Kath... we probably could have driven it, but then what would I have had had to blog about? :P

We thought about it, and a guy we met in the bar did just that. He was heading to upper Michigan to see his son play golf and told us that if the next plane didn't take off, he was gone.

We didn't know where we were going, and there was the possibility that the next flight wouldn't be canceled... and the fog did lift, eventually.

3/09/2007 7:14 AM  
Blogger fermicat said...

My former boss and I almost drove a rental car back to Boston, MA from Santa Barbara, CA after 9-11 closed all the airports. We were on a business trip when it all happened and we got stranded. We even had a route mapped out that would take us near some major airports along the way, so that if everything re-opened we could catch a flight midway through the drive. But they finally let people travel again that Friday and all we had to do was drive down to LA to get a flight out.

3/09/2007 12:13 PM  
Blogger LL said...

I'll bet that was fun.

One of these days I might tell you about where I was on 9/11... It was a completely normal day, but one I'll never forget.

3/09/2007 12:35 PM  

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