Sunday, November 22, 2009

Adventures in Air Travel

I'm finally home! Hallelujah! After a total of 32 hours in cars, airplanes, a hotel room, and airports, nothing was as sweet as coming home to my husband and puppy dogs. My adventure began on Thursday morning for what should've been a nice easy day of travel. My sister picked my mom and me up at 6:30am and drove us to the airport. We checked in quickly, grabbed a coffee (decaf for me) and a muffin, and boarded our plane with plenty of time to spare. And then the announcements began...

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, due to a nationwide outage of the FAA's air traffic control system, we have been delayed at the gate until it is up and running. At this time, we do not know how long it will be."

*Groans from the cabin*

"Good morning again, this is the captain. The system is still not up and running, so please be patient while we wait for the next status update. If you are wondering why other planes are landing, they were already in the air when the system went down and still need to land somewhere. All in-state local flights have also been cleared to fly. All other flights nationwide have been grounded. Please be patient and we will let you know what we find out."

*More groans and a few choice words*

"Hello again, this is your captain speaking... the FAA has asked that we update you every five minutes, but I'm afraid that you will begin to throw things at the flight attendants if I do that. But with that being said, we're still delayed until further notice. If you would like to get off the plane, please feel free to do so and we will reboard as soon as we have clearance to take off. Please make sure to bring your boarding card with you."

Uh-oh... that can't be a good sign.

So what did almost everyone do? They got off the plane. What did mom and I do? We decided to stay on-board since we had one of those sweet planes with mini-TV screens... which turned out to be a great decision. Our stellar captain, being the sweet dude that he must be, bought everyone left on-board donuts and they handed out free headsets to those who needed them. So I may have caught some sort of illness now (hopefully not... in fact I feel fine) from the stale airplane air, but hey, I'll go for a free donut anyday!

Two and a half hours later we took off. The flight was smooth and they assured us that most connecting flights were delayed as well. Good news. So when we deplaned in Atlanta, we went to the nearest "Departures" board and our flight (nor any other to our destination) were listed. Awesome. We were directed to customer service, and while I waited in the very long line of disgruntled passengers, Mom went from gate agent to gate agent in search of answers. Before I even made it halfway to the counter, she physically yanked me out of line and said we needed to high tail it to Terminal C. My dreams of eating a Chick-fil-a sandwich (located in terminal A, where we were) were dashed as the two of us hurried through the crowds of people, only to find that our airplane was not at the gate. So far, as my mom pointed out, the free donut was still keeping us both in good spirits... I really should write Delta a letter about that guy... who knew a donut could keep someone so calm?

Not knowing what to do next, a helpful passenger (who had obviously been through the same thing that day) told us to scan the bar code on our ticket at any kiosk and a new itinerary would print out. We followed directions and voila! our new itinerary had us on confirmed seats the next morning at 8am. WHAT??? Isn't there another flight home today??? A wave of panic washed over me, so mom suggested that we go bug another gate agent for more information. I'm sure they were all having a lovely day at work.

After a little more research we did find that our names were on a standby list for the 4pm flight and that if we did not make that one, we could use our confirmed flight the next morning. We technically did not have to wait around, but we just wanted to be home and didn't really want to spend the night in a hotel. So we ate Moe's, read our books, and waited some more. And when that plane boarded, we were not on it again. This is at the point at which my pregnancy hormones began to kick in and a mixture of missing my husband, frustration, and exhaustion almost brought on a fit of hysterics. It could have been bad, people, but I managed to hold it together. The gate agent then told us that we could wait around to see if we could make it on the 9:00 flight that evening, but we would be on stand-by once again. This is when I told her where she could shove her little microphone. Okay, so that part didn't really happen, but I definitely thought it. The magic happiness of the free donut was gone.

Seeing that my face now had a dazed look on it and that I was clearly not going to stay sane until that evening, Mom made the executive decision that we should definitely get a place to stay for the night. Smart woman. Even though we spent the rest of the evening doing more waiting, reading, and watching TV, at least I could stretch out on a luxurious double bed rather than sitting in an airport terminal for the rest of the day. It was definitely a good decision seeing that I was asleep before 9pm and would not have been awake to wait around for the evening flight anyway.

The flight the next morning had absolutely no complications, and after a decaf white chocolate mocha at the airport I was in good spirits again because I was finally going home! After retrieving our luggage from the little glass display box it had been held in overnight, nothing was sweeter than seeing my husband pull up to give me a big hug and welcome me back. I may have looked like a raggamuffin, but it was so good to see that smiling face after the entire ordeal. It truly was the icing on the cake.... errr, donut.

And just because every not-so-great experience should teach us a lesson, here are a few things that I learned from our fun trip home:
  • No matter how excited you are about showing your husband the cute baby clothes and gifts you got on your trip, do not pack them in your carry-on bag. Surely he can wait until you are physically in the house and can unpack them from your suitcase to see them, and an infant-sized sleeper will be no help to you if stranded overnight.
  • Just because your visibly pregnant does not make you any more of a priority on the standby list. Clearly the lady was willing to risk her life by not bumping me up.
  • If your flight is delayed due to a "nationwide problem", the airline probably won't do squat for you. Although, one lady did get a free t-shirt to sleep in. Wow, how generous.
  • Lunch at Moe's will fill you up for the rest of the day. I already knew that, but was reminded when for the first time in 5 months, I was able to skip dinner without feeling like I was going to die or possibly hurt someone if I did not get some food RIGHT NOW.
  • If you ever pass by one of those in-airport manicure/pedicure places and wonder who has time for that kind of thing, bite your tongue. We used to think they were dumb, too, until we realized that we could've spent a nice relaxing hour getting pampered rather than the hours we spent just sitting. You live and you learn.
  • Thank God for my mom... she's wonderful. Thankfully she had decided to fly back with me since she was coming for Thanksgiving anyway and I couldn't be more grateful for the company.
  • Dorothy said it best when she said "there's no place like home." Oh how I truly agree now more than ever. It doesn't matter where home is for you, what it looks like, or how big or small, home is where you can find the person you love the most. And man, it's good to be home.

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