Sunday, September 4, 2016

Holiday in DFW or Moscow?

The one good thing about not blogging very often is I get to save up a lot of stories/incidents to blog about later. If I can just remember them all. This travel story happened last December.

On December 28, the last day of my Christmas holiday family visitation trip, the weather forecasters predicted 27 inches of snow at home. As usual, they were completely wrong; we only got 24 inches. But I was far away and unconcerned in unusually balmy weather in Tennessee. With two days to clear the snow from the runway and with the airport within walking distance of home if necessary, I didn't worry.

Amazingly, on my last night away, with humid conditions and a 68 degree temperature, we had a perfect night to sit by the hotel firepit without even a jacket. Two of my brothers were there along with assorted other hotel guests as we relaxed and eventually closed down the bar which proved to be my first mistake as hotel bars generally close at 11:00 or midnight, and I had to get up at 4:00 a.m. to catch a 6:00 a.m. flight home.

One of the other hotel guests opened up a travel bag and pulled out a bottle of whiskey for just such an emergency. When he asked us if we wanted some, my answer of "sure" became my second mistake. We enjoyed conversation late into the night, and I had become completely oblivious to the time. As we staggered back into the hotel, my brother said, "I can't believe it's 3:00 a.m." Crud.

At that point, I decided if I went to sleep I'd never get up for my flight so I just sat on the bed watching tv for an hour trying to stay awake. Finally at 4:00 a.m., I got up to get in the shower as my phone buzzed with a voicemail.

"That can't be good," I thought as I grabbed the phone and played the message.

"Hello, this is We Don't Fly in Snow Airlines. We regret to inform you that your flight from Dallas to Antarctica has been cancelled. However, we have booked you on a later flight which departs on January 2."

"January! That's next year!" I fumed to no one. "Four days? I can't get home for four days?"

I settled down and decided not to panic. I've been in these situations before; I'm sure I can get a flight via standby. I also realized that I could just stay in town for another day or two and at least visit family and catch a flight later in the week.

I checked in at the airport and told the agent that if I could book a later flight, I'd just hang around a few days. She glanced at the long line behind me and suggested that all flights were booked up forever and ever and that I should be happy just to get to Dallas. I figured she might be right, and at least St. Pauli Girl could always drive to Dallas to pick me up. So I headed toward the gate.

I finally collapsed into my seat on the plane ready to sleep for a solid two hours during the flight. An older man in jeans and a straw cowboy sat next to me (normal attire on a flight to Texas). I quickly closed my eyes to signal him not to bother me.

The plane finally took off, and I tried to get comfortable for my nap. I heard a slight buzzing sound and a light rap that slowly grew louder. I opened my eyes and noticed the man next to me humming some sort of chant while patting out time with his hands on his thighs. Then the chant went quiet and suddenly got loud again. I decided the best plan of action would be to ask him about it and see if he could keep it a little quieter.

"That's a lovely hymn you got going there," I said. "What does it mean?"

"Thank you. It doesn't really translate to English. But it basically means, 'hope the plane don't crash.'"

"Keep up the good work," I said as I turned back to the window and closed my eyes.

Thanks to his chanting, we made it safely to Dallas and I was now running on about 20 minutes of sleep in 24 hours. I decided I would treat myself to breakfast plus coffee before my next flight. I liked my chances; with the snow two days old, surely they had plowed the runway by now? As I finished my eggs, my phone received another voicemail.

"Hello, this is See You Next Year Airlines, your 9:30 flight has been cancelled. We booked you on standby on a 2:30 p.m. flight but don't hold your breath. And remember we still have a seat saved for you on that January 2 flight. Have a nice day!"

By the time I had paid my check, and left the restaurant, I looked up at a departures screen to see the 2:30 flight had been cancelled already. I called St. Pauli Girl to relay the good news. Originally, we had planned to drive back to Dallas on the 30th anyway to celebrate my birthday and spend the weekend there. We came up with a brilliant plan that I could just spend the night in Dallas, and she would drive out the next day like we had planned.

I decided I had better talk to a real airline agent to get everything straightened out. After an hour, I made it to the front of the line and spoke to an agent.

I said, "Look my wife is gonna pick me up tomorrow, so just keep me on that January 2 flight just in case. I'll just spend the night here."

Relieved that he didn't have to think or that I wasn't the typical angry psychopath airline passenger, he said, "Would you like a discounted hotel room?"

"Why yes, yes I would. Of course, I suppose I can't check in until this afternoon..."

"Nonsense, an airport shuttle will meet you over there by exit G."

Finally, things were looking up for me... ( to be continued)