I wrote this short story some time ago - it is a true story about one of my longest days ever. Everyone has flying nightmare stories so if you are tired of hearing about them, don't bother reading. If you have a better one, let me know and I will see about posting it - send in MS word (preferably) to firstname.lastname@example.org .
“It’s not unusual to be loved…” sang Tom Jones; I jumped quickly to silence the alarm before it woke up my wife or child. 4:00 am, March 9, 2002. I had a 6:30 am flight to catch out of Madison, WI to St. Louis and then to meetings in Phoenix.
As usual I was showered, shaved and dressed in 17 minutes exactly. I usually wake up at 4:01 am for whatever reason, but allowed myself an extra minute today to pack my toiletries into my garment bag after I used them.
It was drizzling at the airport and upon arrival I chose the surface lot long term parking rather than the garage parking as it costs $2 less per day in exchange for a longer walk – and I am a cheap ass. I found a spot, locked the Explorer and set for the terminal. Immediately it started to rain – nothing like a nice run in the morning to get the blood pumping.
Now in the terminal I set myself upon the task of checking in. I had not flown since 911. Checking in is much more interesting than it used to be. The line was sooooo long (at 5:00 am mind you) and unmercifully slow. Oh well, I said to myself, I have worked super hard the past 6 months and really deserve a little down time so I will put a smile on and just read my paper. Just ahead of me were five loud men that were heading to Vegas on a golf trip that clearly had been out the night before and, I believe, were still out. They all smelled of smoke, booze and body odor…just read the paper.
45 minutes in line and I finally made it to the ticket counter. The agent informs me that our flight would be approximately 30 minutes late departing as “according to FAA regulations the flight crew must have a certain amount of rest and that they got in late last night”.
“Were they out with those guys?” I snapped.
Cold stare from the agent. Then I thought about this situation. My connecting flight to Phoenix leaves from St. Louis only 1 hour and 15 minutes from the time I land there – and I am already 30 minutes in the hole. No matter – I will roll with it. Read the paper.
Security is so much tougher now. I was the lucky chosen one on my flight selected for the full body metal detecting wand search. Eerily enough the woman asked me if it was OK if she took me aside for the search. Am I really supposed to have a choice? Anyway, the woman was a fairly good looking Mexican and asked me “is dis OK that I am a woman”
“Is dis OK that I am a woman?”
“Yea, you look all right to me!”
“No, no sir – do you have any problem getting searched by a woman?”
What the hell?! I said “no”, hoping that was the right answer; apparently it was. I was searched high and low, in and out for bombs and the like. She even made me take my belt off – I guess it was better after all that it was a woman.
I need coffee. To the little airport café I go and wait in another line for 10 minutes watching overweight stereotypical Wisconsinites purchase danishes, donuts and other unhealthy treats for breakfast. My turn.
“One large coffee, black.”
“But sir, we don’t have coffee here.”
“No coffee here.”
“We don’t serve coffee in this café.”
“Did you know that café means coffee in several other languages?”
My new years resolution was to try to be kinder to people and I was doing so well until this moment.
On the way to the gate I passed a coffee machine – Hosanna in the highest! For the outstanding price of $1 I received what the machine had labeled “espresso” but should have described it as “smaller portion of regular coffee”. Finally I got to the gate and sat down to read the rest of the paper.
Waiting to board the plane, underneath the din of the golfers singing Viva Las Vegas over and over and over I hear:
“Click…buzz…Due to the van being late picking up the crew from the hotel, our flight will be delayed 30-45 minutes.”
Late van? What happened to the crew not getting enough rest?
I knew something was up. Eventually they loaded us on the plane and we left 45 minutes late. There was no hope of meeting my connecting flight to Phoenix. The stewardess, who was a guy, (steward?) let me know that upon my arrival in St. Louis, I needed to proceed to the ticket counter and they would help me out. Oh, they helped alright.
“Oh, Mr. Koonce, I see you missed your flight connection to Phoenix.”
“I didn’t miss anything, your people were all late.”
“We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused, let’s see what we can do.”
Tap, tap, tap on the keyboard – “Ah, yes, we have a flight here to Dallas, leaves at 12:40.”
“Uh, not going to Dallas, I’m going to Phoenix.”
“Well, you of course connect in Dallas to Phoenix.”
“Of course I connect in Dallas to Phoenix. If that is the best you can do, I don’t really have a choice so lets go. By the way, where is the nearest coffee stand?”
The flight to Dallas was uneventful, but the trams between terminals in the Dallas airport were broken. I needed to get to another terminal. They were running these open air buses that they must have lying around for just such emergencies. It was an interesting ride – nothing like the smell of burning jet fuel to keep you alert.
16 long hours after hearing the beautiful pipes of Tom Jones I arrived in Phoenix – my bag was waiting for me, crying out to me to pick it up from the “pen” of misfit bags in the Phoenix airport. I asked the nearest airport employee “where is the nearest place I can get a beer?”