Nice picture, right? That’s me with two guys who, collectively, I’ve known for about 65 years. We got together recently for the first time in… I’m gonna say a couple decades at least. I’m the one on the left. We had a wonderful evening: talking, laughing, reminiscing, and perhaps sharing a beverage or two. Then, that poor sap in the middle, we’ll just call him Lucky, embarked on one of the worst trips home I’ve ever heard of. He lives in North Carolina. I live in New York. When Points A and B are that far apart, planes often become involved. Airline travel is a crap shoot at best. And this time of year in particular, it’s a good bet the dice are loaded.
If you’ve never experienced a bad flight, you’ve either never flown or you lead an exceedingly charmed life. Thanks to a nasty ice storm, my wife and I once spent a luxurious night on the floor at the Charlotte airport. Talk about romantic. On another trip, after being bumped from a flight we’d shown up in plenty of time for, we eventually reached our destination a good nine hours later than planned. No worries. We had a hotel reservation and confirmed a late check in. They gave our room away anyway, even though it had already been reserved, confirmed AND PAID FOR! We raised holy hell and eventually got another room. It just lacked some of the basic amenities… like a bed. On the plus side, we had pre-filled ashtrays and garbage cans, and someone had gone to the trouble of leaving skid marks in the toilet so we wouldn’t have to do it. That all seemed pretty horrible at the time, but I know now that it could have been a whole lot worse.
We took my dear old friend to the airport this past Sunday morning. The forecast called for one to three inches of snow, and we had all of that before we ever left the house. We still got Lucky there safely and in plenty of time for his flight… which was eventually cancelled. He was supposed to fly to Philadelphia. After a roughly six hour delay, he departed for Detroit instead. Meanwhile, the snow continued to fall–here, there and everywhere. We were somewhere north of eight inches before it finally stopped.
I’m not sure what time Lucky landed in Detroit, but he was greeted with more delays and cancelations, and at around 9:30 Sunday night, he was back on a plane and very ready to get the hell out of there. He got as far as the de-icing stage, and that’s when someone decided certain members of the flight crew had put too many hours in that day. It was subsequently decided they could not work the flight. Why they were assigned to that flight in the first place is beyond me. After much discussion, and another ridiculously long delay, they returned to the gate. Passengers didn’t actually de-plane until around 1:00 AM. By that time, all the hotel rooms were full. Lucky was given a few square feet of cement floor and told to have a nice night. I’m not sure what his mental state was then. He’s one of the most level-headed people I know but had to be about ready to tear someone’s nipples off.
I wish I could say the nightmare ended there. It didn’t. He was booked on a 7:30 AM flight to Raleigh. His vehicle was waiting for him at a different airport entirely but that was his problem. At that point, I’m sure he was thrilled with the prospect of just getting back to his home state. No such luck. The new plane had a defective luggage compartment. “There will be a brief delay while maintenance makes repairs and files all necessary paperwork.” Over an hour later, it was announced that a special tool was required. There apparently aren’t enough of these tools to go around because the closest one was in Santa Fe or maybe Santa Barbara or San Salvador. It damn sure wasn’t anywhere near Detroit. For the second time in less than twelve hours, he-deplaned without ever having left the ground. Another plane was found and, blessedly, it actually lifted off a short time later. Lucky is home now sans luggage. That will be delivered sometime between now and Independence Day.
We’ve all heard about trips from hell but this one takes the cake. It’s about 575 miles from my driveway to his and it took over 27 hours to complete the journey. That works out to roughly 21 miles per hour. In other words, Lucky probably would have gotten home quicker and with far less stress and discomfort had he biked the whole way. Of course, he was well compensated for his time and trouble. In addition to free lodging in Concourse B at the Detroit International Airport, he was given three packs of gourmet nuts at no additional charge. I’m sure he’d say it was all worth it. That’s assuming he ever speaks to me again.
If you have a story of a trip from hell, your own personal Planes, Trains and Automobiles, I sure would like to hear about it. Please post a comment or send me an email. And if you’d like to read more on the subject, I invite you to read my Turn the Page book review of Plane Insanity by Elliott Hester. I normally don’t post reviews until Friday but, since this one is so timely, I put it up a couple days early. Enjoy. And if you have any flights coming up soon, GOOD LUCK!
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