(Pod-people in Philly? No, these people were the lucky ones who stayed in the terminal – read on!)
So, I survived the earthquake, but not the thunderstorms. By far, the worst airline horror-story I’ve ever heard is my wife’s adventure back from Vietnam… maybe someday I’ll put pen to paper on that one (sorry – the tired cliché will make sense in a moment). I now have an interesting airport tale.
The story begins in Buffalo… dammit – I shoulda just driven there! Anyway, we were a little late leaving Buffalo because everything in ‘the east’ was delayed. No biggie, we still made it to Philly in time (barely) for me to make my connecting flight back home. As I was sitting at the gate, the flight got delayed by a half hour… no problemo. Then, as the new departure time came and went, I started to get nervous. The gate person mumbled something over the speaker that the flight is delayed another 3 hours and runs for the hills. Okay, midnight departure – still not the worst thing in the world. I wandered to a pizza place and watched the guy scrape the bottom of the metal sauce container for my chicken parm… *shrug* I’ve eaten worse.
After my nuked chicken parm with sauce dregs, I meandered back to the gate and notice my flight is now cancelled – and every US Air booth has a stationary line of people. I wait… and wait… and wait. The lines are going nowhere, but I overheard a bit of a conversation about another terminal with a US Air service desk. Risking my place in line, I dash for that terminal. The ladies at the customer service desk looked worn-down… it was a long day for them. Still chipper, I waited 30 minutes for them to help the 3 people in front of me and I asked about the next flight (I know there’s one on the board for 11:30pm). Without a smile or any trace of human emotion, she told me that flight was sold out and she could get me on a 6am flight… but I’d be sleeping in the terminal (the airport hotel was booked). I asked to be connected to the rental car counters, as I could drive home quicker. That’s when she tells me I need to leave the terminal and head to baggage claim to call them. (my cell was already dead from calling all-over and trying to call the rental counters too)
By now, that feeling was creeping into my chest – this isn’t going to end well for Matt.
So, I departed the terminal (thru security) and headed to baggage claim. I called each rental company – either they didn’t do 1-way rentals or they were all sold out. Damn! Okay, I’ll just head back to that US Air service desk and get that 6am flight. I hustled to security (which by now is basically closed) and they tell me my old boarding pass is no good – I’d have to wait until 4:30am to re-enter (if I was able to get a ticket).
(you should know by now that any link I post in here is probably not safe for work or general viewing)
Anyway, I found a US Air customer service desk in baggage claim and I managed to reschedule myself on the 6am flight. For the next half hour or so, I called every hotel on the “hotel board” in baggage claim – roughly 20 hotels. Each and every one of them was sold out. That’s when I almost lost it, but then I remembered – I’m tough!
All the chairs in baggage claim had armrests, so I couldn’t stretch out on one of those. So, I found a nice spot on the walkway from the terminal to the garage and opened my suitcase to make a pillow out of my clothes (they only hand out pillows inside the terminal). Whoops – all my clothes are sopping wet from the rain earlier in the day! *hands shaking* All-right… I take my dirty clothes bag and roll it up nice and tight – awesome pillow! I think a Philadelphia hobo walked by me and said “good night” as I curled up on the hard floor – he looked like he felt sorry for me. Through the ~3 hours I was on the floor, I kept moving from side to side – my old bones just can’t take a hard surface anymore… bah, I’ve always been a pansy – I don’t think there was a point in my life where that floor would have been comfortable.
At 4:30am, my phone alarm went off and I dragged myself to the bathroom to brush my teeth and curse my “man-voice” that told me before I left – “you are not a girlie, you don’t need an extra pair of underwear.”
The ticket counter told me the 6am flight was cancelled – at that point I was numb. I was rescheduled to the 7:35 flight and I get to Hartford and my car just in time for CT rush hour…
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