Last week I got to fly and see my sister in Phoenix for free! Free doesn’t always mean easy or super convenient however. It was totally worth it, but the trip home was arduous, boring, frustrating, and long. My sis and I looked at the flights on the Internet and saw they were all full, however sometimes people sleep through their alarms or miss flights so there’s hope of getting on as a standby, especially if you’re early to the gate. It’s spring break and there were teens, kids, families, and college kids everywhere. I signed in and didn’t get on, I went to the next gate for the next flight and didn’t get on, I walked quickly to the next gate and signed in but it looked bleak so I left and went to the 4th gate/flight and signed in. I sat for a moment eating my cinnamon roll (hey, might as well eat something yummy while I wait right?). I thought I’d better visit the restroom before it got too close to boarding time but when in the restroom heard my name over the loud speaker, “Michele Klotz come to gate C4 to board your flight.” That was the 3rd flight I thought I missed! And it’s clear on the other end of this concourse!! I grabbed my two bags and big diet coke and started all-out sprinting, down the moving sidewalks, past slow-movers and standers, “excuse me, pardon me” I said breathlessly while silently praying God would help me not collapse before I got there. I made it, and presented my boarding pass while grasping the counter and bending over – my heart pounding. “I’m on a flight!” I thought as I happily made my way to a seat between two large people. When you fly standby and are the last on full flights, you get the squished-in the-middle seats. “That’s okay” I thought, “at least I’m outta here.” The flight was smooth and uneventful. As I walked out of the jet way into the airport I looked up at the departure signs for some idea of where to race next and try for a flight. Uh oh. I don’t see Indianapolis listed. Wha?? Oh no. I was in Nashville, out of which Southwest does not fly directly to Indy. In my haste to get on a flight, any flight, I didn’t check on that small but important detail! Now I’d have to get a flight to Chicago and THEN to Indy. Okay.
I settled in at the gate for the next flight to Chicago which was over an hour away. I didn’t get on that one. I waited for the next one to leave in two hours, which got delayed two hours and then an hour more. I must have walked that corridor and the next concourse 10 times, visiting every gift shop, bookstore, restaurant and store at least once each trying to pass the time. I sat, I stood, I drank diet coke, I got a frosty (YUM). I heard the same announcements over the loud speaker so many times I thought I’d have them memorized, “Welcome to Music City! I’m so and so from Rascal Flatts. Enjoy your stay in Nashville, blah blah…” When I found out the flight had been delayed the last time my heart sank. I was trying hard to remain positive but it is discouraging! I just wanted to get home. I enjoy time alone but I had had enough. By the end of my day in Nashville I would’ve given almost anything to see my hubby or someone in my family come walking around the corner to sit and eat dinner with me. I am more aware of how blessed we are by technology, too, having texted my sis and daughter off and on throughout the day and playing my daughter’s Nintendo DS. I had forgotten my phone charger, though, so I turned my phone off worrying it would die and I’d need it tomorrow in Chicago.
I kept reminding myself what a great time I had with my sis and her family and how special it was to see my nephews. It was totally worth it. Stop whining, Mimi. You’re safe. You will eventually get home. Surely you will. You will, right? Anxiety rose and fell as I talked myself throughout the day.
The flight that had been delayed for hours finally began boarding. I stood anxiously at the gate, holding my pass up to my heart with both hands, while the attendants processed everyone and then began calling the names of some standby passengers. They did have a few seats left on this flight! They called a man, then a woman, then another man. I started to lose hope. It had been a full fight so it must be at capacity by now. Then the attendant, with whom I had made friends since we spent the day together, looked at me and smiled, “Michele? Here you go. You made it!” She handed me the golden ticket and I practically leaped over moms and strollers to get to the gate.
Of course because we were so delayed, when we got to Chicago all the flights had gone for the day so I was going to be camping out. I explored this new airport which was suspiciously very similar to the other two, spent five bucks for 15 minutes on the Internet to check email and facebook, got a snack, then settled down in a comfy chair at one of the empty gates. It’s interesting being in a place like that so late at night. I saw another whole population – those that work the night shifts. It was dim and mostly quiet, except for the sound of the newscasters and commercials on TVs at each gate, vacuum cleaners of the custodial crew, conversations of other passengers stranded for the night – particularly a large group of teens sitting in a circle, laughing and talking. I pulled the hood of my jacket down over my eyes, slouched down, put my iPod earphones in and went to sleep. About an hour later I was awakened by a police officer who told me I had to move. He said there were cots set up in the next concourse! I grabbed my stuff and found the cots, happily laying down, pulling the stiff but warm blanket over me and laying my head on two tiny “chiclet-sized” airplane pillows. I was so glad I would actually be able to get some sleep.
The next morning I was awakened by another security guard hollering, “Good morning! Time to wake up! We have to put the cots away!” It was four in the morning! Oh well – I staggered to the gate where my flight was supposed to board in about four hours and sat down, falling to sleep again. This time when I checked in I actually got a boarding pass. No standby, no fear of not getting on – praise the Lord! The flight only lasted about a half hour, I had a window seat in a row all to myself and life was good! The sun was shining and my husband was there waiting for me at the curb. Ahhhhh… I’m home!
I appreciated my bed, family and home so much more by the time I arrived there. Looking back I thank God for staying with me. Not once did I feel unsafe. Except for one uninterested airline worker, all the people that helped me and answered questions, etc. were so kind. That truly made it all easier to take. I was reminded how much kindness matters, especially to someone who is lost, or frustrated, discouraged, lonely. One kind word or even just a smile goes a long way.
Next time I fly standby I think I’ll make sure it’s not spring break season and I think I’ll take my phone charger. 🙂