Belated Merry Christmas, or Happy Hanukkah, or Winter Solstice, or whatever holiday you may or may not celebrate. I hope you had a good one. Now, I’m not sure if it’s because of the holidays, or because of all the traveling I’ve been doing lately… or maybe it’s just me getting older… or my brain not firing on all cylinders. Maybe it’s a combination of all of the above. For whatever reason though, I truly thought today was Wednesday.
So yes, here’s another Website Wednesday post going out on a Thursday. Late on Thursday, at that.
Now, I’ve not posted a lot over the last two months anyway. I mean, three “weekly” posts in two months is hardly a reliable schedule. But like I mentioned in the first few sentences, there’s been a lot going on.
I mentioned back in WW93 and WW95 that the contract work I was doing had me traveling. What I didn’t mention was just how much I was traveling. For five weeks, my schedule was something like this… Monday morning at 3:30 AM, MBH and I would get up, get ready for the day, and get me to the airport between 4:30 and 5 so I could catch a 6 AM flight from Tulsa to Atlanta, Georgia. With the time difference, that put me arriving in Atlanta at roughly 9 AM. From there, the company I was working for had arranged for me to rent a car, so I would travel the two trams from the gates to the rental facility, get the car, then drive from Atlanta to Columbus Georgia… about an hour and a half drive. Now, this sometimes meant some absolutely beautiful sunrises from the plane.
Of course, there were some pretty nasty mornings, too. As you can imagine, during the winter months, the weather was somewhat less than reliable. As a matter of fact, my last day on the job was December 8th, the day an unseasonably bad winter storm rolled into Atlanta. You remember me mentioning Atlanta, right? The airport I flew in and out of for the job?
Yeah, that’s the one. That storm on December 8th was bad enough that Delta alone canceled more than 600 flights. And of course, mine was one of them. My initial flight from Atlanta to Tulsa was supposed to leave at about 4:30 PM. I got there at about 2:30, returned my rental, rode the tram back to ticketing, and found that my flight had already been changed. My 4:30 ticket was rescheduled for a 10 PM flight. About 5:30, they announce that my 10PM flight was canceled. As a matter of fact, that was when Delta decided to cancel just about every flight out of Atlanta. So thousands of other people were also finding out that their flights were canceled, too.
That meant there was a mad scramble of people who were A) trying to book alternate flights out for the next day, and B) trying to find hotel rooms for the night near the airport. Yours truly got extremely lucky in both regards. First, when the gate attendant announced that all those flights were cancelled, customers were instructed to line up at some desk so that booking agents could get them booked on flights for the next day. I saw that line folks. Within the first couple of minutes, it was hundreds of people long.
So I went to the gate attendant who had made the announcement. And while he explained that he wasn’t supposed to do it, he did put me on standby for a flight leaving at 8:30 the next morning. He warned me that there wasn’t much chance of my actually getting on it, since it was already full, but that it would almost guarantee that I made a later 2 PM flight.
Then I sat about trying to find a room. It needed to be someplace nearby with a shuttle service to the airport. I got on my phone and searched for “lodging near me”, then refined my search by making sure they had shuttle service to and from ATL. Unfortunately, hotel after hotel let me know that they had just filled up. Like I said, there were thousands of people in the same boat I was in. As that occurred to me, it also occurred to me that those people were likely looking at a search list just like mine. So I stopped searching from the top of my list down, and moved to the bottom of the list and started working my way up. After half an hour of phone calls, I got lucky with a Howard Johnson’s. The conversation went like this:
HJ: “Howard Johnson’s. Can I help you?”
Me: “Yes, ma’am. Do you have any rooms available?”
HJ: “Yes, sir. It’s a single, non-smoking room with a King sized bed. It costs-”
Me: “I’ll take it!”
So I got my room, got a decent night’s sleep, and made it back to ATL an hour and a half before the 8 AM flight that I was on stand-by for… me and forty-one other people. Yep, there were forty-two of us on the standby list for that flight. As several of us sat around talking about the situation, we found out that the order in which they chose who got the stand-by seats was a matter of who got on the list first the night before. That meant that I, by virtue of the gate attendant helping me out, was number six on the list.
As the flight time approached and the flight crew began gathering information, we found out that there were five cancellations. So I was number six, on a flight with five open seats, and I resigned myself to waiting for the 2 PM flight to Tulsa.
Ten minutes before they were going to close the cabin door, they began calling for a David Williams. Five minutes later, they announced the final call for Mr. Williams, letting him know that if he didn’t get to the gate immediately, his reservation was going to be canceled. One minute after that, they called my name. David Williams had just freed up seat number six. Woot!
Thank you, David Williams!
Of course, we still weren’t out of the woods. Because the weather was so unusual for ATL, the airport was still running behind. Our plane pushed back from the gate, taxied a short ways onto the tarmac, and promptly announced that we were in a line of fifteen to twenty planes waiting for clearance. It was an hour later that we moved once more – this time to another group of jets – all of us waiting to be de-iced.
Ever had the opportunity to see the wings on your jet getting de-iced? It looks a lot like this picture. As a matter of fact, it looks exactly like this picture… some guy in the freezing weather, on a cherry-picker, with a high pressure hose, spraying what looks like a mixture of water and sand at the ice and snow that’s caked on the wings.
And then we went back into line for the runway. Twenty minutes later, we took off, and I don’t think I have ever been so glad to be in the air. It was a day late, but I made it home.
It was the end of the job… the end of having to travel every week, living out of a suitcase, and missing MBH. You would think I was done with flying around for a while, wouldn’t you?
Remember me mentioning a while back that Baby Bird had been accepted into a Master’s program in Santa Fe, New Mexico? Guess who went to help her move? You got it. I flew from Tulsa to San Antonio, where she had made arrangements to get a moving truck. Of course, my flight was three hours late, so she had to move the pickup time back. But luckily, she had gotten some of her friends to help us load the truck. The bad news was that she was on the third floor. That was forty-two steps up to her apartment, forty-two steps back down. Eighty-four steps for each trip to the truck… or to the dumpster. By the end of that day, my legs felt like rubber. To top it off, her internet provider, who was supposed to send a tech out to pick up the router “sometime between 8 AM and 9 PM” still hadn’t shown up by the time she was supposed to go to a goodbye dinner that her employer was throwing for her.
So I stayed in her apartment, waiting for the tech that I was pretty sure wasn’t ever going to show up. Baby Bird left to go to her dinner at 7:30. At a few minutes before 8, she texted me asking if they had come for the equipment. When I told her no, she said they had sent her a receipt, indicating that they had completed the service request. Just to be safe, I stayed until 9, so we could honestly say that someone had been with the equipment for the entire service window.
Next morning, I drove the moving truck, and she drove her car from San Antonio, to Santa Fe. We got there late, but the apartments she was moving into had arranged for the head of their maintenance crew to meet us. He let us in and helped us move in her bed and a few other essentials before we called it a night and she drove me to my hotel.
We spent the next few days getting her moved in and mostly unpacked. Then on Christmas Eve, Baby Bird drove me to Albuquerque airport, where I once again got to catch a delayed flight. I have to say this though… they’re smart about it in Albuquerque. They have dogs that they walk through the place with “PLEASE PET ME” printed on their vests (the dogs, not the walkers.) But I got home in time to spend Christmas with MBH. And as much as I love Baby Bird, and spending time with her, I also didn’t want to spend Christmas away from my wife.
It occurred to me recently, that out of the six weeks of flying, I think there was only one flight that actually left on time. Five weeks to and from Atlanta is ten flights. Add to that the two flights involved in getting from Tulsa to San Antonio, and the two from Albuquerque to Tulsa, and I only recall a single flight that actually left when it was supposed to. I don’t remember flying being such a problem in the past.
Oh well. It’s done for now. And more importantly, I got carried away with this post, so an already late post, has just gotten even later. So stay safe, and I’ll talk to you later. Next year, even.