Friday... Wow... If I had one word to describe that day it would be "Worst travel day of all time." What? Not one word? It was such a bad experience that describing that day can break all the rules.
So as I blogged last Friday, I said that I was worried about the security experience. As worried as I was the experience went fine so I made my way to the gate and continued reading the book, "Damned to Eternity: The Story of the Man Who They Said Caused the Flood." An hour or two passed by and with about 30 minutes before the scheduled flight was to depart a lady on the intercom said, "Folks, just got word that we are in a FAA hold right now. All flights are delayed.
That message confused me because when I looked outside there were planes leaving and landing. I looked at the radar on my phone and looked towards New York because that's where my lay over was and I saw that some storms were in the area, but all flights?
The scheduled time came and went and then they said we would leave about 2 hours after the originally posted time, but then the worst words to hear came, "Folks, the FAA has cancelled this flight. That is all."
I hopped into line to see if I was going to be able to get to Boston as I did have the USAC Generation Next race to flag so I was getting highly worried that I wasn't going to make it.
The line I was in moved at a, well, it didn't move. Then James, the director of the Generation Next series, told me to call the 1-800 number. I had thought about doing that but I hate using the phone, but with his encouragement I did so and I was told I was automatically booked onto another flight headed to Memphis and that I needed to report to another gate.
I went to the other gate to find a long line of people at the counter. This flight was headed to JFK and the amount of people trying to get on was long. I sat and I just listened at the humanity going on around me. This was an odd and sometimes depressing thing as typically I love that feeling, but being confined to one gate I just wasn't passing people but rather I was hearing their stories as they figured out what they were going to do. There were three men, all IT guys from the conversation they had, for some major company that was never named, trying to get back to New York. They were all on the phone and somehow they knew exactly what the other wanted, such as where to get a hotel, what type of car to rent, how angry each person's wife was going to be. It was teamwork at its finest and that was something I don't know if I'll ever do. If anything I was sure I was a witness to normal.
Being a witness to normality continued on as a woman was furious she was going to miss a wedding and more and more people called loved ones to tell them that arrival would not be happening on that day. I kept hoping that I was going to make it as the line still hadn't moved so I couldn't confirm if I was actually going to get out.
About 100 minutes before my new departure time I finally made it to the counter and got a "seat request" boarding pass. Now, this wasn't an actual pass, but sometime between 10 and 45 minutes before the flight left I would be given an actual pass. To me, this felt like counterfeit money as what I was holding was essentially worthless in my eyes. So, once again I continued to read and at some point in time I figured a hot chocolate out of season would be a great thing so I went and I got one.
As I got back to the gate I was lost in my book when I heard an announcement that I had to go to another gate and tell them where my bag needed to go. So off to another gate I went and waited, and waited, and waited in line when finally I made it. The asked where my bag looked like (aren't things electronically tracked?) and I said, "um, it's black and it has wheels." to which she said, "that's what they all are, can you tell me anything more?" I then said that I thought it had some red on it and a minutes passed and she said, "okay, they said they got it." So back to my gate I went.
Reading became even more intense and I didn't notice the passage of time nor the fact that the only humanity around me was a lacrosse team. I looked at the clock and it was 20 minutes before the scheduled flight time of my new flight. "Odd" I thought "isn't this when we normally board?" I went to the counter where the lacrosse team captain was arguing some point and I waited. I needed an answer and I needed it right then, but I couldn't simply ask a question, "Is this plane going to Memphis?" and then I looked out the window and saw that there was no plane. I waited, and another few minutes passed, and I waited some more when a person who barely spoke English came up to the counter and said, "Memphis?" to which the lady at the counter said, "Nope, it's over at that gate over there."
Over there? But everyone said this gate! Why wasn't I told this? I was waited exactly where everyone had told me and the person working the counter I was standing at knew I was on that flight, but there was no time to wonder why this had happened so I scurried over to that gate and waited in line yet again.
There were three people in front of me and I needed a non-counterfeit boarding pass. I was petrified that I was too late, that this seemingly way overbooked flight was too full and that I would be left in Saint Louis with no chance to make it to the race. I began to physically shake in fear as well as the fact that all I wanted to do was ask if I had a seat. That's really all I needed to know but I couldn't cut in line.
Then, the boarding process began and the lady at the counter stopped talking to us in line and I began to shake even more so. I was fidgety, scared, and becoming angry. Person after person got on the plane as if it was nothing, as if they hadn't spent seven hours in an airport wondering if they were going to make it to a place that they waited all week to get. Okay, maybe that had waited, but they hadn't waited for seven long hours dwelling on the fact that it might not happen.
I decided to break the rules. I cut in line to board the plane and I tried to board with my request slip to which the gate attendant reached over and grabbed an actual one and said "thank you" and that was that; I was on my way.
When in Memphis I learned that a fire in the FAA tower at La Guradia had caused the air travel clog up and when I made it to my gate I was handed a boarding pass and that was that.
I made it to Boston and awaited my bag so Ryan and I could make it to Thompson. I waited, and waited, and waited and no bag. I found my original boarding pass that had my claim ticket so I went to a scanner machine and it said it was en route to Atlanta. Atlanta? Yes, Atlanta.
Confused, tired, and in the process of giving up I stumbled into the bag loss office and they said my bag had never left Saint Louis and that they could deliver it Sunday, or maybe Monday. I gave them Ryan's address and eventually, finally, I was in Ryan's car headed to Thompson anxious to get my 3 or so hours of sleep.
Just to cap off the day; when we stopped at McDonald's at about 1AM and I ordered my burger it was made after a lengthy time, we went on the road, and then I found out they made my order way wrong. So, what was supposed to be an easy, six hour journey turned into 14 hours now with no luggage for the weekend and to finish it off a wrongly made burger. What a day that was!