Last week was rather adventurous for me when it came to travel. Like 10,000 other travelers, I was stuck at the DFW airport due to bad weather. It was quite an interesting experience foreshadowed by my arrival in Greensboro a few days prior as we were a bit late landing due to lightning storms in that area. Tuesday began in a hurried rush to finish as many things as I could before leaving Greensboro and going back home. The first leg of the journey was rather normal – I boarded a smaller American Eagle and made my way towards DFW.
God had other plans, however. Nearing DFW we ended up in a holding pattern. Just like Sunday, I could see lightning out of the window include one amazing display that lasted 5 seconds and blazed across the sky. It was quite a sight to see but I was glad that it remained off and in the distance. Turns out that distance was basically the DFW airport. We ended up going into a holding pattern for about an hour when the pilot decided it was best to divert us to the tiny airport in Tyler, Texas.
Seriously, that airport is small. Two gates and only a handful of flights a day go in and out of that airport. It was almost a blast from the past since, upon landing, we walked down a roll-up ramp instead of a Jetway. While there I had to walk out of security to grab some food. They had a wheel of death (a name Mike Jennings coined at Rackspace for one of those vending machines with the rows of food in a cylindrical tower thing that offers things like sandwiches and the like) so I ended up getting a french bread pizza thing. While they didn’t lax on security, they were actually extremely polite and even cracked a few jokes and make sure my sandwich was safe going through X-Ray.
All in all it wasn’t a bad stay there. I had a pretty good cell signal which meant I had Interwebz while I waited. There were about 4 aircraft total but I think ours was the only one that ended up leaving that night. We set off for DFW, ironically, with our original course being to fly over San Antonio to get around the storm. Turns out they found a way to go a more direct route and in less than thirty minutes we were back on the ground. It would figure, though, that after all this, the Jetway wasn’t working right so we had to sit there another 10-15 minutes or so until that was fixed.
After that, I was in DFW in the game with many others of trying to find the way home. Lines at open ticket counters were long and I was tired but things could be worse. I settled on a line and waited things out. Fortunately more attendants showed up to help rebook people so the line went reasonably fast. There was one rude lady, however, that was just in a tizzy over not being able to go home the next day, holding up the line and making a scene all the way back to her chair at the gate. I was mildly annoying because by then it was already past 1am and the rest of us were basically in a similar situation. After all, I’m guessing she probably has a house to go home to (more on that later).
Really, it’s not like the guy trying to help her out caused the storms. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t God. Though he did have a fair amount of patience to deal with her. I wonder how many unrealistic people those folks have to deal with everyday. It has to be a hard job sometimes for sure – I’m not sure I would have the patience for selfish people like her. In fact, part of me wishes I had told her off.
In any event, I ended up getting a flight out at about 11:30am that morning. Not ideal but not bad since I did not have to play the stand-by game. After having a ticket, I walked around looking for a place to spend the night. There were tons of cots and blankets all over though I was unfortunately unable to score one and ended up having to leave on the floor instead. It was not all bad, though. I used my extra pants as a pillow and a t-shirt to block the lights shining in my eyes. I even changed into my sweat-pants. The only thing that really sucked was that it got COLD throughout the night and I ended up only getting maybe 2 hours.
At about 4:30-5:00am I woke up and started casing the airport, mostly as a means to get warm. Starbucks wasn’t open though McDonalds had some signs of life. Turns out they opened at around 6:00am and, being one of the few places that was open, ended up having a long line. I waited through that to end up getting an Egg-McMuffin and a coffee, though they forgot to put cream in it. At that point, it was warm and I was hungry. I later ended up grabbing up Starbucks latte and a bottle of juice for a post-breakfast snack. No complaints so far (except for the cold).
Turns out, my problems were nothing as one family staying in the same terminal apparently didn’t have a home to go back to. It was destroyed by the numerous tornadoes across the United States, though I don’t know which one it ultimately was (I was really just over-heading the conversation while trying not to pry). I never really thought I had it rough – storms happen, planes get grounded. Better that than planes crashing, particularly given the tornadoes and hail to plague the area. Still, it put it in perspective, though made me even more angry at the rude lady the night before. She is the one that needed perspective.
I went back to the gate I slept in a few times just to chill out as it was close to the actual gate I was supposed to be flying from. As a brief aside, the CNN morning show is terribly lame. I don’t know who that woman anchor was, but someone needs to get her off crack. It was a trainwreck of terribleness and made the morning go by even slower. In any case, after downing food I decided to take another stroll, in part, to change back into my jeans. While walking back, I overheard a flight to San Antonio get cancelled. "Oh shit…" is what I recall thinking to myself. Turns out, those fears were accurate as my flight was also cancelled having never left it’s departing city (or was diverted).
So I had to play the game again. First I went to the same gate I slept in and talked to a gentleman to say go two gates down. So I did. It was a San Antonio flight that was boarding. Following directions, I waited at the counter but as soon as it was my turn, the attendant simply asked if I was on the departing flight. I said no and tried to ask about getting another San Antonio flight when she just ended up ignoring me and rudely announcing on the PA some terrible options for myself and anyone else in line. I understand she had her hands full, but her job is customer service and I honestly felt like she was being a raging bitch. Not as bad as the lady from the night before, however, but still bad enough to put me in a slightly foul mood by that time.
Well, I followed her directions. I went to an AA booth phone. It was broken. Of course. So I waited for the next one which didn’t take long. The guy before me told me that the wait to rebook a ticket as an hour by phone, though. So I waited for about 5 minutes and gave up. I had thought about exiting the terminal and going out to the main ticket booth but I ended up trying one more gate. Turns out, this lady was amazingly nice and polite, understood my problem, and we both joked about the situation in a light hearted way. We both knew that ultimately it was no one’s fault and we were both trying to make the best of it. My biggest regret the entire trip was not getting her name so I could put in a good word for her. I was too stuck on the previous horrible lady that I didn’t think of it until it was too late.
My next flight left at around 1:30pm. Not bad and I still avoided the Stand-By list. w00t! Now to occupy myself for a few hours. That was not too hard as my flight kept switching gates so I ended up having to walk around a good bit and see the indoor sights. When I would camp out for a bit I used the Internet which by then was spotty on my phone (so many people were using their phones at the time is the likely case) but it was usually good enough tethered to answer e-mail and chat online.
While waiting I saw more people so annoyed at the situation, but I remembered that family without a home and greatly appreciated my situation greatly in comparison. My flight ended up being delayed 3 or 4 times but eventually departed at around 4:00pm or so. I rode home next to a recently enlisted Air Force serviceman going to basic training in San Antonio. We talked about this and that for a while and had a good time. I finally had the chance to say thanks to a traveling serviceman for the job they do. In his case, I could tell he was both excited and apprehensive.
The landing was a bit bumpy due to the weather I guess. Even the Air Force serviceman seemed a bit nervous, but we finally landed and my trip was finished. All told, with all the work I had to put in plus the travel home, it had already been a long week and it was only Wednesday. But, I did get some important stuff done at work. Not everything, but almost. I had an adventure, and a refreshed perspective.
Part of me is disappointed in the human race. Or at least Americans. We sometimes lack such perspective on things and are set in our selfish ways. I’m glad that through this I kept things in reasonable perspective. All in all, while I don’t want to have to do that again, it was an adventure I’ll remember and it made finally going home all the more sweet.