Sunday, July 29, 2007

the longest flight I never took

Seeing the clouds and thick air outside my hotel window this morning, I questioned my decision to fly home rather than take the train. Pushing these doubts aside, I packed my suitcase knowing I was over the FAA's requisite amount of liquid with my 4.6 ounces of contact solution (must be in a 3 ounce bottle!) and I thought I probably had too many lip glosses and lotions to fit in a single plastic bag. In retrospect, I should have tossed the contact solution. . . The train would be easier but three and a half hours is longer than a 45 minute flight so I stuck with the original plan. My flight wasn't scheduled until 230 but I was tired of the sub-par food at the Ritz Carlton (seriously, it wasn't that good) and in desperate need of some veg out time in my own apartment after a full weekend of meetings with co-workers, so I checked out at 11 and headed for the airport assuming I would be able to get on an earlier flight and be home before 3 at the latest. Normally, there are shuttle flights between DC and New York every hour, I didn't think that Sunday would be different.

Another mistake. At 1130 I discovered, despite the listing of a 1230 flight on the airport departure board, the next flight wasn't until 130. So I bought a new book at Borders and waited patiently. Just before 1 the sky turned dark and the rain began to beat insistently on the terminal windows with intermittent flashes of light and low to roaring thunder. The announcement was made that the 130 plane was circling but could not land due to the lightening.

Then the announcement came that the airport was shut down. SHUT DOWN! No one allowed outside with the lightening.

I continued to read my book and listen to my ipod, all the while regretting my earlier decisions that resulted in me sitting in front of this gate without my suitcase.

The next announcement was around 200 when the gate area was bursting with anxious passengers clutching bags and hunting for a place to wait out the delay. We were told the 130 would leave first. Crowds of people from the 130 and 230 shuttle crowded into two clumps not resembling lines. We were advised that the plane was on its way back (from wherever it was sent during the rain). I bought a bottle of water and a croissant to tide me over and continued reading not seeing the point of standing in the herd, even though the shuttle doesn't have assigned seats I didn't feel anxious to get a primo seat for a 45 minute flight, especially when it was leaving first.

Finally, after the lines were clarified and I saw an actual airplane at the end of the silver walkway out the window, I lined up at Gate 20, wondering why all the 230 passengers at the next gate were nearly all on board when the 130 was supposedly leaving first. The door to my gate shut without passengers.

No announcements were made.

But passengers at the front of my line were being routed onto the 230 flight.

No announcements.

People were restless, I read and re-read the same passages in my book, unable to concentrate as people explained their predicaments around me. It was then that I learned the 1130 flight boarded, may or may not have taken off, then unloaded and some of those displaced passengers as well as a growing number of 330 people were all milling around my line forming a mob of very impatient New Yorkers.

The 230 door shut and the crowd speculated. Rumblings of cancellation fluttered through the line. I approached the desk and waited for answers. A very short tempered gate agent explained on the intercom that everyone who wanted to go to Laguardia needed to put down their cell phones, take out their ear phones and LISTEN because she would only say this once. The 130 flight was canceled, we could go wait for the 330 at Gate 15.

The herd of us, bonded by our new common enemy, rushed to Gate 15 to wait.

At Gate 15, nothing happened. After a bewildering wait without communication, just weary and restless passengers waiting for direction and the gate attendants refusing to make eye contact, an angry old man demanded information and turned to share his precious news with everyone in a booming voice -

"THEY HAVE NO CAPTAIN FOR THE 330!!! WE AREN'T GOING ANYWHERE!!"

More speculation, more re-reading of paragraphs until the announcement shortly after 3 that the people on the 230 flight would be on the runway for at least 2 hours and when they boarded the 330 flight we would be facing a similar wait. For those who did not feel they could handle this, we could get a refund or reschedule for tomorrow.

After inquiring about the location of my luggage and being reassured that it would be delivered to my home because it was already on board the 230 flight, I left. I exchanged my ticket for a refund voucher and caught a cab to Union Station and took the 400 pm Acela train to New York without incident. By 730 I was walking home over the damp New York streets from my subway station.

It wasn't until I was home that I realized the woman who issued my ticket this morning did not give me an envelope with the baggage claim number, instead she stuck it on the back of my ticket. So although I made it home, my cell phone charger, toiletries (including daily asthma medication), MAKE-UP!, shoes, toothbrush, dirty laundry and other sundries, did not.

With one red bar on my cell phone I am sitting on hold with Delta's baggage claim after 36 minutes . . . excuse me I have a live person again. I was just interrupted and told that I could either go to the airport and pick up my luggage or pay for COD for them to deliver my suitcase tomorrow! I did not yell, I did not scream. But I very calmly explained that this is not acceptable. I was told my suitcase would be delivered. Not that I would have to pick it up or pay for it to be delivered. So now I am back on hold to see what can be done to retrieve my small red rolling suitcase that should have accompanied me on a train at 1130 this morning instead of taking its own solo plane ride to end up sitting in a musty back room with countless other lost, unclaimed bags hoping to be reunited with their owners.

46 minutes and counting . . .

still no final word at 1 hour 2 minutes. . . this is precisely how I had hoped to spend what little time I had left in my Sunday evening.

While I'm waiting, I should share some good news. I am going to see the Police Wednesday night! I am really excited. So while I have been on hold I downloaded some classics which include:

Roxanne
Message in a Bottle
Can't Stand Losing You
Don't Stand So Close to Me
Every Little Thing She Does is Magic
Invisible Sun
Every Breath You Take
King of Pain
Wrapped Around Your Finger
Murder By Numbers

I'm pretty proud of my little red battery for holding in there, here is what else I've done on hold:

  • written this post
  • caught up on my blog reading/commenting
  • browsed Target's website for an inflatable mattress
  • finished off my bottle of water from the airport
  • gone to the bathroom (had to, sorry, I was on hold at least!)
  • watered my plants
  • did a couple of pilates roll downs to stretch out my back
  • followed by a couple of twists
  • removed my contacts
  • charged my spare toothbrush
  • turned my a/c off and back on again
  • made a list of things to get for my upcoming vacation
At 1 hour and 12 minutes, I hung up. I was told my bag is at LaGuardia. They cannot reach anyone at LaGuardia but it should be delivered, COD, to me at my office sometime tomorrow. Unless I could just go to the airport and collect it myself - which would include a minimum of two hours of travel time and at least $60 in cab fare. Plus a guaranteed runaround once I am there. Bottom line, I just spent over an hour on the phone to be told to call back tomorrow.

p.s. I went to DC on the train Thursday night without incident. Spent both Friday and Saturday in meetings from 830 to 5 each day followed by 45 minutes or so of "free time" and dinner with the group. Yes, I spent all day Saturday with work people in a hotel conference room. . . I deserve another weekend.

1 comment:

tiff said...

You've had a bad streak of weekends lately. I can't believe the frustration.

I hope your next weekend is better--since you'll be spending part of it with my husband! :) He really is a lot of fun.

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