My friend Jeff and I were recently invited to attend a department Holiday Party at the corporate office in Pennsylvania. Weeks before the party we brainstormed and thought we agreed on a relatively sane travel plan. After expressing my aversion to getting out of bed before the birds, we decided to take an afternoon flight from Grand Rapids (Michigan) to Detroit; then Detroit to Allentown, PA which involved a layover of a few hours. No problem, we thought, we’d have time to enjoy some dinner and hop back on the plane. Arrived in Pennsylvania late, but on time (10 PM), then got to the hotel by 10:30.
No big deal.
The “fun” began on the return trip, however. We spent the night after the party; to be rested and fresh for the flight home. Slept in a bit and had breakfast, but shortly afterward we got a notification from Delta that our 12:30 PM flight from Allentown, PA back to Detroit would be delayed. Awesome. No big deal, we hung around in the hotel right up till checkout; then headed toward the airport. Returned the rental car, went through security, already had boarding passes on our phones. This gave us time to have a leisurely lunch.
After eating, we sat near the gate; and got another delay notification. Goody!! Now we are leaving at 2:10 PM. Went to the nice lady at the ticket counter to see what was happening. “Oh looks like a maintenance issue, the plane will be repaired and should be here shortly afterward.” OK… Then here comes yet another delay notification. Nice!!! Back to the ticket lady. “Is the plane still coming?” “Oh yes, sorry but it is still going to come.”
Then here comes an announcement that the plane couldn’t be fixed, so a “rescue” plane was being dispatched to cover the flight. Yay!!!! Meanwhile, time is clicking along, and the delayed flight’s arrival time is fast approaching the departure time of the 5:15 flight. Oh wait, here comes the plane now!! Cool!!! Everybody gets on the plane, and of course all of us are worried about our connecting flights. Jeff and I had visited the nice ticket lady several times to see if we needed to change anything, but she said no. Well that was no longer true of course, but much to our amazement she came into the plane after we sat down. She handed each of us a “seat request” ticket for the late flight out of Detroit so we could get back to Grand Rapids.
OK!! We’re in the plane!! Ready to go!! Wait… what?? The Captain made an announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, I truly apologize but we cannot take off because our coffee pot is not secure.” Huh?? “We really do apologize… a maintenance man has been dispatched and is on the way.” Oh boy. We sit. We sit. For about 30 minutes. One of the passengers asks the flight attendant for an update. The Captain comes out again, “I’m sorry folks, but the maintenance man is stuck in traffic but is doing his best to get here.”
So what… the dude lives in New Jersey? Or is “stuck in traffic” actually code for “I just sat down to dinner, then I’ll need a nap” or something?? The young man in front of me (maybe 6 or 7) speaks up for all of us: “just pull the broken coffee pot out for heavens sakes!!” And yes, I’m pretty much quoting him verbatim. Then he goes back to his portable game thing which is beeping and blooping rather audibly.
My legs are getting a bit stiff after the first hour of waiting, so I started bouncing my knees up and down to keep the circulation going. The lady behind me gently taps my shoulder and says, “sir? Are you alright??” “Yes,” I said, “why do you ask?” “We thought you were having a seizure!!” she replied. Then I mentioned why I was bouncing my legs. “Oh, OK!!” she said with relief. After a couple minutes, she tells me, “tell that kid to turn his Gameboy down!!” Well, the boy’s parents sat right next to him. I replied, “ummm, no, I don’t wanna get in the middle of that, thank you!!” ‘
After almost 2 hours, the maintenance man finally entered the plane and was greeted by enthusiastic applause. He had some trouble getting the coffee pot to stay put; and it looked like he managed to finally win; but not without “red tagging” the coffee pot so nobody would use it.
Off we go to Detroit, and when we land, it’s after 9 PM. The gate in which we entered the airport had monitors of course, and the only reference to a flight to Grand Rapids showed that flight had already taken off. I asked the nice Delta Lady, “are there any more flights to Grand Rapids?” “There are none,” she said. “None??” I pleaded. “None,” she replied. Then I looked at our seat request tickets. Flight says it leaves for Grand Rapids at 10:40. I looked at the other set of monitors on the far wall. Yep, there’s a flight for 10:40 PM, and we can make it.
Little did we know, there was yet one more helping of “fun” in store for us. We go to the gate, ask the nice lady for a seat, and she says, “these are standby tickets. I can’t release the seats until 30 minutes before departure.” I wanted to roll on the floor and foam at the mouth, but instead I said calmly, “does it look like we’ll get on??” “Slim chance, but yes, right now it looks OK.”
Not very reassuring.
Hungry, downtrodden, and frustrated, we had about 40 minutes to kill so we went to Chik-Fil-A (the only place open) for something to eat. The young lady behind the counter looked as tired as we were. “We only have 1 and 6,” she blurted out before we could order. Huh?? Oh… OK, I look at the menu and the choices were, 1) a chicken sandwich or 6) nugget things. We both took Door #1.
Now the pre-boarding begins, so after a few lucky souls got on the plane, we hovered in front of the ticket desk again. “May I help you?” the nice lady asked. “Just hoping for standby seats,” I replied. “Oh yes… I got you.” “We need two,” I interjected. “Yes,” she said, “I got you.” She handed us each a boarding pass and I’m pretty sure she was unaware that I wanted to give her a big giant hug at that moment.
I know that in each phase of our “interesting” journey, the staff all did their best with what was in front of them. However, for some strange reason, I’m not really eager to fly any time soon. On our way out to our cars, Jeff turned to me and said, “which do you think will be more memorable, the party or the flight??”
Thank you Jeff, I needed that.
Could’ve been worse… we could have had gremlins!!