Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Coast to Coast: The Endless End

Getting home after being gone for seven weeks proved to be much more difficult than I had anticipated. 

I got to LaGuardia airport yesterday with plenty of time to catch my 4:05 pm flight to Dallas that would connect me to Phoenix. While I was waiting in line to check my bags I got on email from Southwest saying that my flight was delayed and would now be departing at 5:30 pm. Not a big deal and not unexpected. I finally boarded my completely full flight around 5:45 pm. After we were all on the plane the pilot announced that LaGuardia was at full capacity and were the 25th plane in line waiting to take off. Nearly an hour passed with us just sitting on the plane waiting to leave the ground. Then the pilot announced that we were number six in line, but there was some electrical problem that he needed to have checked out before we could take off. Frustrated groans were heard everywhere as we returned to the gate. The pilot assured us that the mechanics would take a quick look at everything and we should be gone in about 15 minutes.

I heard the women sitting next to me use some colorful language with every successive announcement after that. First it was taking longer than usual to diagnose and fix the problem. Then they had to turn off power to some of the aircraft which resulted in a very hot, muggy plane. Then we were allowed to deplane and return to the terminal. Then they had us all get back on the plane. Then they announced that we would all miss our connecting flights. Then we were also told that because there were some conventions going on in Dallas there would be no hotels for the airline to put us in. Oh, and one more thing. They gave us the option of not flying to Dallas that night and booking a later flight with the caveat that there were no available flights out of LaGuardia for three days. No one took that last option.

Each time the flight got pushed back I got more and more anxious. I just wanted to get home and since I had no idea when I'd be arriving in Phoenix I didn't know how I would get to Tucson. But once I knew that I had no viable options but to fly to Dallas and sleep in the airport the situation switched from being stressful to being an adventure. I mean, why fret when I had no other options? I might as well enjoy the adventure, right? We took off around 10:00 pm, six hours late.

When we landed in Dallas they gave all of us who had missed our connections new boarding passes and $200 vouchers. All the hassle was suddenly felt worth it as I held $200 in my hand. My new flight was supposed to depart from Dallas at 8:00 the next morning. However, right after the customer service agent gave me my voucher she said, “Wait, where are you going?” I said I was going to Phoenix and she said, “Honey, there’s a flight to Phoenix leaving right now at the next gate.” I said, “Can I get on it?” and she replied, “If we hurry.” It turns out that I had the same pilot on both flights so my connecting flight was also delayed six hours because they had no pilot. That really sucks for everyone on the plane, but it was great news for me. So I got on my original connection and got $200.

As the plane made its descent into Phoenix I was so thrilled to be so close to home after being gone for seven weeks. Then something happened that I hadn’t experienced in the dozens and dozens and dozens of times I’d flown before. The plane was about to touch down when suddenly the engines roared and we pulled up again. The pilot decided he wasn’t going to nail the landing so he pulled up, gave us a quick tour of Phoenix as we circled it one more time, and then landed very roughly on his second try. It was such a jarring landing that the woman in front of me puked a bunch. I felt bad for her, but was mostly just glad we had made it safely.

When I got to the baggage claim obviously my luggage wasn’t there. I mean, that would have been too simple. So I filed a missing luggage report with a really nice lady named Que (pronounced like the letter Q). I asked her how to get a shuttle to Tucson and she gave me a card with a number to call and even let me use her office phone. My conversation with the shuttle company went like this:

Me: “I’d like to book a seat on the next shuttle to Tucson, please.”
Agent: “The last shuttle today left at 12:30 am.”
Me: “It’s 12:28. Can I still make it?”
Agent: “It’s 1:28, sir.”
Me: “Oh…”

So I booked a seat on the first shuttle at 4:30 am, bought some food at the only open restaurant in the Phoenix airport, and camped out for three hours. It was so cold in the airport that I eventually went and sat outside. I got dropped off at the shuttle stop in Tucson and walked to my house. I thought about calling a friend to pick me up, but it was 6:15 am and I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone when it would only take me 25 minutes to walk home. I hadn’t slept all night and my body was still on east coast time so I was mentally and physically exhausted. Walking up to my house felt so very good. I was thrilled to be back. And then I walked into my bedroom and my friends had made me a welcome home sign with a pun on it. It’s perfect. I knelt down and said a prayer and then promptly went to sleep.

I got home two days later than expected, but I made it. Now I just need my bags to show up so I can wear clean underwear again.

My campsite for three hours in the Phoenix airport.
The man sitting next to me slept the entire time.
The sunrise as my shuttle pulled in to Tucson
My walk/tired stumble across campus this morning
Home! Also, you can see my reflection the window
I have the raddest friends

4 comments:

Amy Smith said...

That is a crazy adventure! Next time if you need an early morning ride, call Eric :) He loves mornings! He was probably already awake at that time haha.

Dan Ritter said...

I had to fly Southwest last week for work. Ended up having to drive from Sacramento to San Diego because my flight on Friday was cancelled. I was glad I was only an 8 hour drive from home, otherwise I don't know when I would have made it.

Laura Eley said...

YOU SHOULD HAVE CALLED ERIC FOR A RIDE! Now you got the better deal on Southwest! I only got 50% off my next flight, you got $200! What crazy travel experiences! Did you get your luggage yet?

Dan Ritter said...

If you send Southwest an email detailing your harrowing journey home, they will probably send you a voucher, too. I had to email them to get a refund for my ticket and they gave me a $200 voucher on top of the refund.