I showed up at the airport on Thursday afternoon after working a couple of hours at the office. I was to fly from Philadelphia to Detroit with a brief layover and then move on to Chicago Midway. All told the trip would be less than 6 hours, and that included an hour drive from Midway to LaPorte. I guess now would be a good time to admit that I despise flying. I am terrified to do it, despite the fact that I purposely took two jobs in the past that required a ton of travel. It was my hope that those jobs would force me to not be
"Hey June. Do you remember what you're supposed to do if I crash on this flight?"
"Yeah--where do you keep it again?"
"Oh yeah--just so you know. Mine is in my craft basket."
After that call was placed, I sat and stewed until boarding time.
I wasn't really upset when the plane didn't arrive on time. I felt it was delaying the inevitable and I was really enjoying my Vanity Fair. I didn't want to die before finishing it. When it finally showed up 30 minutes later, I was the only person who didn't appear outwardly annoyed. I sighed, put my sweating hands together and said a quick prayer to God, Allah, and Oprah and boarded.
The 757 was completely full and took forever to load. Once we were settled in, I got my magazine out and pretended to read. For a really long time. After about 20 minutes, the captain got on the intercom:
"Good evening, passengers. We, uh, have a broken instrument, an altimeter, that needs to be replaced. A plane like this has three of them and we can't take off if one is broken. We are finding out right now if we have the means to fix it. I'll give you an update just as soon as we know something."
Forty-five minutes later, the pilot got back on the intercom and said that the part would be arriving in 15 minutes and that we would get going.
Thirty minutes later, a flight attendant got on the intercom and said that those of us who were hoping to catch our connecting flights in Detroit would probably miss them and that we should probably get off the plane, where there would be gate agents to help us make alternate arrangements. About 1/3 to 1/2 of us got off the plane and rushed the counter. The two gate agents could not have been more irritated with the current situation and made sure that their faces showed it. Since I was pretty far back on the plane, I was automatically pretty far back in the line. We all tried to make the best of it by joking around and telling our sob stories about how we were trying to get where we were going.
When the line didn't move an inch in 30 minutes, someone got the idea to call the customer service line and make alternate arrangements that way. About ten of us did it all at once. After all of us had been on the line for 15 minutes, each and every one of us was mysteriously disconnected while we were on hold. When we all called again, the same thing happened. I was officially pissed. After an HOUR in line, the female gate agent told us that the plane was finally leaving and that we should get back on the plane. When several of us yelled, "What are we supposed to do if we've missed our connection?!" the gate agent replied, "Well, we don't have no flights leavin' Philadelphia anyways tonight. You're better off goin' to Detroit anyways."
So back on the plane I went. The guys who had been sitting in my row were nice enough to keep my seat open. Once we all got back on the plane, I opened up my magazine and pretended to read again. For a long time. The Captain got BACK ON THE INTERCOM and said he was delayed AGAIN and would leave the gate as soon as he could.
After another 20 minutes, we finally left the gate and took off. I was tired, irritated, hungry and really thirsty. When the flights attendants came by with the beverage cart, they made an announcement that they were out of the complimentary snacks, but for $3 we could buy a Barbie-sized bag of trail mix. Apparently they had quite the little fiesta while we were in line in the airport. The guy next to me kept wanting to buy me a beer, but I knew that if I drank one, I wouldn't stop.
We arrived in Detroit a little before 10PM and were told to go to another gate and the agents there would help us. At this point, I was ready to just rent a car from Detroit and drive home. It was about a 2 1/2 hour drive, and I was perfectly willing to do it. I stood in line for another hour, hoping that they would have car rental vouchers. When I finally got to the front of the line and told the gate agent what I wanted to do, she said she didn't have any car rental vouchers, but that there was one more seat left on the 9AM flight to Midway the next morning. I took it, but I had it in my head that I would be getting a rental car after leaving the counter. She gave me a hotel voucher, a dinner voucher, a breakfast voucher, and a coupon for a discounted ticket I could use the next time I flew with NWA. I told her she could keep that.
I ran to the first level of the airport to go to the Avis desk, except there wasn't one. Instead I had to pick up a phone.
"Hi. I have a reservation to pick up a car at Chicago Midway tonight, but I'm not going to make it. Could I get a car here instead?"
"Oh, I don't do that."
"Then why am I talking to you? Who do I call?"
"You need to call reservations."
So I called reservations. I spoke to a nice young man who understood my dilemna and told me it would be no problem to change my reservation and that it would just be a little bit more than the $102 rate I originally had.
"OK, how much is it?'
"Um, it's going to be $412."
"FIRST OF ALL, DO NOT tell a customer that the rate is going to SLIGHTLY change when it is, in fact tripling in cost. Forget it."
I called Herr, practically in tears. He told me to just go to the hotel and get a good night's sleep. When I got to the Day's Inn shuttle, there were about 30 people from my flight trying to get on. After it was full, there were still a lot of people who needed a ride. The driver said he would be back in about 45 minutes. I took a cab.
When I got the the Days Inn, I handed the hotel voucher to the lady behind the counter, at which point she said,
"I'm sorry, but we don't have any rooms left."
At that point, my head exploded. I am quite impressed that I was very calm when I told her that a hotel should NOT give vouchers to airlines to give out to stranded passengers if they don't have the rooms to give. I told her that I wasn't going back to the airport and that she was going to have to find a room for me. While I glared at her, the phone rang, and she was informed that a quickie had just left and that there was suddenly a room available. Actually, I don't know if it was a quickie or not. All I know is that one minute there wasn't a room and the next minute there was. Draw your own conclusions. The lady behind the counter told me that they would need about a half hour to clean the room and that I should use my meal voucher in the restaurant/bar.
I was quite grateful that this hotel had a restaurant. I don't think I have ever been to a Days Inn that had one. It was totally what you would expect from a restaurant that has a specials board featuring "Chicken Casadillas." To my surprise, the elderly man who had been in line with me in Detroit was sitting at the bar with 3 martinis lined up in a row. He saw me and shouted, "Come here, Honey--I'm buying you a beer!" So I sat next to him, had a beer and ate a grilled cheese sandwich. And it was lovely. Life is always better after eating a grilled cheese. After I finished, I went to my room. I didn't care that the carpet hadn't been vacuumed since the Regan administration. And for people who know how uptight I am about hotel rooms, that should surprise you. I called Herr back to tell him that I had a room and that he should call me the next morning super early so that I could get to the airport.
At 5:15 AM, my cell phone rang. It was Herr, telling me that NWA had just called and that my flight to Midway was cancelled due to unscheduled maintenance and that the soonest they could get me to Midway was Saturday afternoon. I told him that I had no choice but to drive from Detroit and I asked him to reserve a car for me online. It turned out that reserving the car online was more than $150 cheaper than what the Jackass had quoted on the phone the night before. I took a shower, ate some breakfast and headed to Avis.
Once I got to Avis, I had no problem getting my car. While I was sitting in the car looking for I-94 on the map of Detroit, I saw a car quickly coming toward me. You guessed it--an Avis employee hit my car with another rental car. After an accident report was filled out
I guess it should come as no surpise to anyone reading this post that Herr called me at 7:15 AM Sunday morning to tell me that, you guess it, NWA had called to say that my flight was cancelled due to unscheduled maintenance and that they had booked me on a Delta flight that went to Atlanta and then I would catch a flight to Philadelphia. And it was leaving earlier than my original flight. While I was freaked out that I had to haul major ass on I-90 to get to the airport on time, I was relieved that I was on a completely different airline. There was no way that lightening could strike to that degree again. And it didn't. My flights home were uneventful. The best part was that I had my choice of a full size bag of Sun Chips, a granola bar, cookies, or crackers for a snack. And I didn't have to pay for them. Actually, the best part was the simple fact that I got home.