Sunday, January 1, 2012

Day 6 ... The Looooooong Ride Home

It was just too perfect: Business Class, our hotel (a little small ... but so comfortable), the great food, the great company ... our New Years' Eve ...

It was bound to happen. And, of course, when it all fell apart ... it was old faithful: Delta Airlines.

This morning ... as we checked out of the hotel, we ran into an old friend of USF someone that I have recently gotten to know. Small world ... it was Cliff Gibbons, son of Sam (Gibbons, that is). He and his family were staying at the same hotel ... and ... they were flying stand-by on our flight (his wife works for Delta too).

We exchanged pleasantries and business cards and hurried into taxis to get to the airport.

A cold chill went down my back as I reached into my pocket to find that I was missing a very important item ... my passport. Debbie calmly said that we should unpack everything quickly and make sure it wasn't in one of my other pockets. She also gave me the evil eye and said ..."Hmmm. If I forgot MY passport, I'd never hear the end of it."

I grumbled a few quiet obscenities and proceeded to tear apart my suitcase. There it was ... my passport was nestled in my dress pants from the night before.

HA! It was going to be a good day after all.

Well ... not so fast. There were a few other problems. For one we were standing in the wrong line to check in. The real line was about 3 miles in the other direction. We hauled it down the other end when Debbie stopped suddenly as she looked at her IPad in horror.

"We are not going to get on the flight to New York."

"Sure we are," I said confidently. "We have another hour and a half until we board."

"It's not the time. It's the space."

"What?"

"There were 4 people who came in just this morning at a higher stand-by priority code. They took our seats."

Down ... but not beaten, Debbie checked connections through other cities like Detroit, Tokyo, Juneau, Fargo ... as we finally got in the right line ... And there ... in front of us ... smiling and waving ... was Cliff and the Gibbons family of ... FOUR.

"They are the ones who took our seats." Debbie said without moving her lips and smiled and waved.

"I'm sure they didn't realize it ... just our dumb luck." I said softly.

But ... no worries. Debbie found a better flight. Cincinnati had lots of empty Business Class seats. We got through the security, and customs lines and headed to the Cincinnati terminal and ... guess what?

WE MADE IT! Business Class again. The same seats as the flight over. We were ecstatic until we found out that the flight was going to take 9 hours instead of the original 7 it took on the way over.

Headwinds or something.

It's okay ... we connect to Detroit and still have an hour to get to the gate.

So ... we drift off to the world of comfort.

Our story doesn't end here my friends.

You see, the flight took 10 and a half hours instead of 9. The Detroit flight was long gone. When we got to the Cincinnati Airport to recheck our bags ... they disappeared into a Delta black hole somewhere to reappear (if we are lucky) in Tampa in the next few years or so.

Okay ... only one thing to do. Get a new connection. We checked the Delta desk.

"There's a flight to Atlanta leaving in the next 15 minutes ... you can make it ... it's right around the corner."  The ticket counter lady said.

We hustled over to find NO ONE at the gate. There was only one Delta lady with a walkie talkie. We grabbed her. "Excuse us. Do you know if the flight is gone? There are 15 minutes left to takeoff."

"Hmmm. I don't know." She said.

"Well ... can you maybe call someone or knock on the door or something?" I asked. (What the hell does she use the walkie talkie for?)

"Oh I think she's doing bags."

"I don't know what that means. Is she still there?"

"Maybe."

Suddenly, the Delta bag lady came through the doorway. She looked at us as we ran up to her with our standby papers.

"Oh ... late are we?" She said.

POLITELY I said ... "Delta was late. We are on time."

She kind of chuckled ... the kind of chuckle that says: "Right bucko ... you are lucky I am nice enough to let you fly with us."

We rushed in with our slips as the passengers sighed and rolled their eyes ... I thought ... "What is it with you guys ... you are 15 minutes ahead of schedule?"

We finally found the last two seats in the back and looked out the window to see ... The jet engine!

"I don't care ... really ... it's okay." I told Debbie. "At least we are on and now we can go home."

Debbie looked at me and shook her head.

"Well ... there is another problem."

Oh no.

"The only other flight out of Atlanta to Tampa is oversold and it left 10 minutes ago."

I am writing this from my bed at the Doubletree near the Atlanta Airport. I may be home tomorrow. If anyone from my office is reading this ... See you real soon.

Footnote: One other observation we made as we waited for the airport hotel shuttle to pick us up. THEY LIE. They never pick up when they say they will ... and none of the hotels listed on the courtesy shuttle board even come there.



BUT ... It's a new year ... and ... We DID get a Doubletree chocolate chip cookie when we checked in.

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