Friday, September 1, 2006

Delay Itinerary

6:20 – I meet a co-worker in the hotel lobby to grab a cup of tea and a taxi to the airport.

7:00 – We arrive at the airport and get in line to check in, fighting a bit of disorientation because the line is so long that we mistake it for the security line. We confirm with others that we’re in the right place, and check that our separate flights are on time, which they are.

7:30 – We emerge out of the security lines grappling with shoes, computer, jacket, and carry-on with time to chat before our boarding times. I check to make sure I’ve retained my boarding pass, after last time’s misplacement fiasco in the restroom (it was turned in to my gate, thankfully), and I stow it safely in my carry-on.

8:15 – My co-worker and I part ways to head to our respective gates. My flight is now listed with an hour delay, to depart at 9:45am, so I decide to go grab breakfast in the interim. An hour delay doesn’t bother me too much because I’m hopeful that the ride home will be lighter as far as traffic goes. I end up with a disappointingly tasteless orange poppy seed muffin cap, and a guilty-pleasure Entertainment Weekly (Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn were on the cover!). I leave JG a voicemail to let him know about my later arrival back home and then get to work on my muffin and magazine, staring out at the gray landscape of airport, planes, and tarmac.

8:35 – Someone triggers an alarm on an emergency door at the adjacent gate, resulting in a high-pitched, shrill noise in a continuous, piercing tone. Children shriek, older men plug their ears, and an airline representative announces on the loudspeaker that the alarm can only be turned off by the San Francisco police, and they’re on their way. She adds, “Please keep small children away fro the emergency door because … well, please just do that.”

8:50 – The police arrive to shut off the alarm. Harried travelers applaud.

9:15 – I look up from a story on Idlewild and notice on the screen in my gate that the departure time for my flight has magically and silently changed to 10:45. A woman nearby inquires at the desk and brings back news that Tropical Storm Ernesto is imminently pounding the east coast, including Philadelphia, and there’s something going on with air traffic control. We hear an announcement that the air traffic control people have restricted the number of flights that are allowed to land per hour. If the storm lets up, the quantity of flights may increase, but each airport with flights to Philadelphia will now be notified as events warrant. In short, I will be waiting here indefinitely while air traffic control decides whether we can land, with a possibility that the flight could be cancelled.

9:30 – I call my office to form the beginnings of a contingency plan and get assurance that charging a hotel room to my company card in this situation is okay, but I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that. JG calls me and commiserates on my delays, assuring me that he wants me to get home soon, but not at my cost of my sanity. I appreciate.

10:05 – The flight departure time changes to 11:45am, arriving after 8pm. An airline person finally announces a boarding call of 11:15am for this departure time. More applause from Gate 68.

10:07 – A more to-the-point representative announces that because of other weather issues around the country, “anyone traveling to Philadelphia will need to remain on this flight. Do not ask us to reroute you, because we cannot. I repeat, you are stuck on this flight.” Recent applause dies out in favor of indignant murmurs and cynical chuckles.

11:15 – We board the plane as planned, and I find that my whole section of the plane has been taken over by a gaelic football team from San Francisco, and sentences like, “Dude, this sucks, dude” dominate their conversation. I hunker down for the flight and start to doze off before the safety video.

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