PART I: THE DEPARTURE
It was with great anticipation that I boarded the plane leaving from Portland last week. I was heading to Muskegon to visit with friends who live in the shadow of Lake Michigan. Having made the decision to close one chapter of my life and open a new one, this trip was planned for the purpose of finding a home for me and my canine kids. My flight would take me to Chicago where I would change planes, board a puddle-jumper and finally land in my destination city.
All was going well as we neared Chicago. The Captain announced we were on approach and I dutifully stored my iPad and awaited our descent. I sat patiently waiting, but nothing seemed to be happening. My ears didn’t go snap, crackle, and pop and there was no sensation of sinking lower in the atmosphere. We just continued flying and now the Captain was being ominously silent.
About a half an hour later – around the time we were supposed to land – the Captain announced that we were landing, but not at O’Hare! Oh no, we were landing in South Bend, Indiana! He blamed our re routing on that old mischief-maker, “Weather”. Seems that wily old devil had kicked up a ruckus over Chi-town making it impossible for our little plane to land. So, we had aimlessly circled until, running out of fuel, we were diverted to South Bend to gas up.
As we sat on the tarmac waiting for the plane to be refueled, we were allowed once again to use our electronic devices and I decided to check on my connection. I wasn’t really worried – I had a 3 1/2 hour layover in Chicago and I planned to spend it in the United Club, drinking free wine and working on a new story.
WRONG! To my dismay, my flight had been cancelled! Shaking off my shock, I hunted furiously for another flight and found one to Grand Rapids, but was unable to book myself on it because the Captain then announced we were taking off again for Chicago and all those pesky electronic devices had to be stowed away.
Weather cleared, we finally arrived at O’Hare. As we taxied in, the stewardess kept assuring us that there would be an agent at the gate to help us with our connections. The little airplane map you access online when you book your flights showed me there were only 3 seats left on the flight I wanted. Needless to say, I was feeling anxious and stressed. I phoned my friends and let them know of my situation and that I would try to get on the next flight to Grand Rapids.
Rushing off the plane, I accosted the agent at the gate. I showed him the boarding pass for my cancelled flight and told him the number of the flight I hoped to get on. Then I asked him if he could check to see if there were still available seats. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “NO.”
I was astounded! He told me that to get seating information, I had to go to the flight’s gate, F7. Now, we had debarked at C7 and, unfortunately, the F concourse is about as far away from the C concourse as you can get at O’Hare.
Yes, my friends, it was truly the “F” concourse.
Luckily, I had my running shoes on so I began booking it over to “F”. O’Hare was a mess – that old bastard “Weather” had messed around with a whole lot of other people’s lives that day, too. Exhausted and awfully sweaty, I finally arrived at my gate and, to my dismay, was put on the standby list. And was I at the top of that list? NO, I was # 8.
Now, this flight was my last chance to get to Grand Rapids that day, so I called my friends and told them of my plight. Marge, my best friend, had already booked me on a flight the next morning in case I couldn’t get out. Resigned to the fact that I was probably going to spend the night in Chicago, I sat down on the floor (there were no seats available in the waiting room either) to await the standby outcome. To my chagrin, I was now #9 on the list, having been bumped down a slot for reasons that, to this day, remain a mystery.
They began boarding. One standby got on – then two. We, who were way down on the list, waited eagerly, hoping against hope, that somehow that mischievous trickster, “Weather”, had delayed another flight, leaving the plane half full. We waited. No one was called.
Then, suddenly, a rash of names echoed throughout the room: “Smith, Brown, Jones, Johnson, Murphy, Yang, O’Reilly, ——— WATKINS!!!
I jumped up and hurriedly boarded the plane. I called my friends who were as surprised as I was that I had gotten a seat. We left about a half hour late and finally I arrived safe and sorta sound at my destination! I had survived re-routing and cancellation – I figured I was now invincible! Boy, was I wrong.
PS – Watch for “Flying the Friendly Skies – One Women’s Misadventure in Aviation – Part II: The Return”