Friday, June 27, 2008

Another Flight Delay

I’m not accustomed to writing without a deadline.

By that I mean, of course, that I have another flight delay, so I find myself with some unexpected time on my hands – that, and I was able to locate an available outlet to keep my laptop juiced up for an indefinite period while I wait for clearance for my plane to depart. So we’ll see how this goes.

For this week’s business trip to Charlotte I booked Delta going up and US Airways coming back – the outgoing flights were at the same rate, but the return trip was $100 cheaper.

The saying “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” is axiomatic. So, too, is “You get what you pay for.” I’m still waiting for the expression “Wisdom is the combination, of experience, knowledge, and fatigue” to pass into common use.

For my return a severe thunderstorm prevented an on-time departure. We were boarded for the 6:00 PM flight an hour late, then were left to pursue various individual diversions for two hours before being told that the flight was cancelled because we’d reached the flight crew’s work limit for the day. I’m a little vague on the details, but my understanding is that somehow this still technically qualified as a matter “out of the airline’s control,” so they were not obliged to put folks up for the night.

I booked a new flight for Friday morning through an impatient corporate travel agent who treated my call as an interruption of whatever it is that corporate travel agents do when they’re not assisting travelers, then reserved a room at the airport Best Western. At the airport’s Kiss ‘n Ride I joined the queue at the hotel shuttle pickup port – which was actually something like a mob with all the passengers-in-waiting jockeying for the spots safe from the numerous cascading rivulets that found their way through the roof of the staging area.

I hopped on the first Best Western shuttle that arrived – which, it turns out, was not the shuttle for my Best Western, but for another one a bit further down the road. The night clerk at the end of the ride greeted me with a scowl: “We don’t accept vouchers!” After a brief exchange I realized my error in destination. “You have to go back to the airport and take the other shuttle,” she said with a second scowl to bookend the exchange.

I tipped the shuttle driver to take me to the Airport Best Western instead of the airport and so arrived at last at the correct link in the hotel chain. This night clerk greeted me immediately with an apology for having to make my own arrangements for getting to the hotel, explaining that their shuttle driver is not allowed to drive on nights with severe thunderstorms. Thus, though mine was a circuitous route, it ended up being the optimal one – which reminds me of another axiom: “Sometimes the longest way around is the shortest way home.”

I bedded down, and managed my normal routine of not being able to sleep in a strange room (the periodic sounds of nearby airplane departures were part of the equation). By midnight I finally managed to nod off, and I woke only half a dozen times before the room’s alarm clock – which had been set by the previous occupant – went off at 5:00 AM.

“At least I won’t be late for my morning flight,” I thought. I checked out, ate breakfast, and made it to the airport in plenty of time for my 8:00 flight. The flight check-in kiosk didn’t recognize me, so I waited a bit longer until a counter agent could assist me. It was then I learned that my morning flight had been delayed 50 minutes.

The security line was long; the lady in line in front of me was ill and vomited into a trash can. The pass through security had no glitches – which was a welcome contrast to the evening before, when I’d been delayed by the metal detector that didn’t like the Ace bandage I was wearing for my wobbly knee (also, after getting through the check point the seat I was about to take so that I could put on my shoes was claimed by a TSA gate agent who’d decided at that moment to sit down so she could eat a cup of ice cream).

And so here I am, waiting for my 8:50 (previously 8:00) morning flight to commence. The time is now 8:17, and my plane is not yet at the gate. I’m not down at all, of course: I know full well that if this flight has a glitch, I can always just rent a car and make the five-hour drive home.

I just hope that if it comes to that, the roads aren't backed up.


Rose Blue said...

You're beginning to look a lot like Indiana Jones.

Sean said...

That's my traveling hat. It was actually chilly in Jerusalem the day that picture was taken, so the hat was a practical concession and not just a wardrobe accessory. In that shot I'm sitting just outside the church in Bethany built on the site of the home of Sts. Lazarus, Mary, and Martha.