Back in my cockpit

This entry is bound to be long, so sit back and get comfortable or bookmark it so you can finish it later. 😉 Finally, after a nearly 24-hour odyssey, I am back blogging in my cockpit (aka my desk). The desk and office are clean, thanks to my last-minute cleaning frenzy before vacation. Aaaaah. It is SO good to be home.

Lisa and family dropped us off at the airport around 6:30pm Monday, right on time for early arrival. Howie and I had our pre-printed boarding passes all ready and headed for the curbside check-in when we saw how long the Northwest Airlines line was inside. The guy there tried to access our information on the computer, but couldn’t get it to come up right for him. He had us follow him inside to the regular check-in and instructed us to wait at the side while he had someone there print our luggage tags. It was not to be…Our 7:00pm flight out to Memphis was delayed, so our boarding passes were useless and we had to wait in line. It was a long line. Howie sat things out on the sidelines, guarding our carry-on luggage, and I pulled the two large, wheeled suitcases behind me, two great teal canvas dogs on short leashes.

Flash forward about 20 minutes and several chapters of my Dean Koontz novel. The NWA clerk, Paul, tells us the chances of our catching our connecting flight in Memphis are slim to none, that we can either spend the night here in New Orleans, or spend it there in Memphis. I asked if the airline would provide lodging, and Paul told us they would not – it was weather-related and not mechanical. We would get distressed traveler’s rates, however. Not cool, but it could be worse, we thought. We were trying very hard to make lemonade with the lemons, you know?

Waiting for the plane, we spoke with a few other passengers and actually had an enjoyable time. One couple, Jody and Emily, is expecting a baby in March AND getting ready to move to Africa next summer; Jody is in seminary, and they are going to be missionaries there. We traded e-mail addresses and look forward to hearing how they do.

Our flight finally taxied out the runway and into the air about 8:15pm. By the time we got to Memphis, our connecting flight to Columbus had left. Making our way up to the ticket counters at Memphis, we waited in line to make arrangements for our overnight stay and flight home Tuesday. The lady in front of me had many, many piercings and a really interesting hair-do with little braids scattered around her head. She was in bohemian sort of clothes and had funky glasses. When she learned I was from Ohio, she told me she’d just bought a car from someone on eBay, and had flown to Dayton to pick it up. She was on her way to Amsterdam this night, but like us, had missed her connecting plane due to the delay.

She said she’d been told the airline would not cover the rooms, too, but she said some people were told they would. So, armed with that information, I walked up to the next available clerk, smiled, and said “some of us were told in New Orleans that Northwest would pay for our hotel room here.” The little clerk, Norma, couldn’t have been more helpful and friendly. She arranged for us to stay for free at the Marriott, and gave us $26 in dinner vouchers and $10 in breakfast vouchers. When she saw the 8:20am flight only had one seat avaialble, and that the next available flight wasn’t until 9:20pm, she scurried off to her supervisor and got permission to book us on the two emergency row seats (normally not assigned until just before the flight) so we would definitely have seats in the morning.

Within a half hour we were on our way to the Marriott in their shuttle van, with Clarence at the helm. He was really outgoing and friendly with everyone, a great ambassador for his employer. When we got to to the hotel, it was nearly 11pm and the restaurant was closed. We’d not eaten since about 2:00pm, and we were hungry! Knowing we had meal vouchers, Clarence took it upon himself to call a restaurant within walking distance and ask if they accepted the airline vouchers. When he learned they didn’t, he went up to the hotel’s bartender and found out we could still order dinner from the bar for another five minutes.

When you are hungry and tired, nothing tastes quite as good as meatloaf, garlic mashed potatoes, and steamed veggies at 11:15pm. Especially when it’s free. We ordered a couple of draft beers, thinking they’d be maybe $3 or $4 each, and were flabbergasted when we saw they were $7.50 each. We could almost get our two complete dinners for that much in Ohio! But they went down sweet and helped us untangle the knotted muscles in our shoulders and backs. The room was beautiful, complete with an attractive wooden TV armoir/dresser combo, desk, reading chair with ottoman, and desk with an executive chair. The hotel definitely caters to business travelers, and it was nicely appointed for them. When we’d checked in, the clerk asked if we wanted phone service, and we declined, thinking it meant voicemail and all of that. Turns out you have to pay a $30 ammenity fee to even be able to dial toll-free numbers from the rooms, and there is a per-call charge on local calls and a $1.00 per-call charge on modem calls. I can’t imagine what the average room tab ends up being there!

We stretched out to sleep around midnight, each of us sprawled in a full-size bed and more comfortable than a human being has a right to be. Howie slept well, but I was coughing all night and five o’clock came around far too soon. This was supposed to be the morning we slept in late, dogless, in our own bed at home, remember? That’s what ran through my mind when the phone rang for our wake-up call.

We made coffee in the little complimentary coffee pot and watched some local news, showered and dressed in the previous days’ clothes again (yuck!), then headed downstairs for the 6:30am shuttle back to the airport. Another friendly shuttle driver loaded up our little band of displaced passengers and drove us through the beautiful sunrise to the awaiting planes.

We made our way back to the gate and waited for our 8:20am flight to begin boarding. Then came the announcement that the flight had been oversold. Considering us displaced folks who missed our flight last night, this didn’t come as a big surprise, I guess. We were bumped from the flight, but it wasn’t such a terrible thing…They gave us each a voucher good for free round-trip airfare anywhere in the continental US! We also received $20 in meal vouchers since we’d be at airports all day.

They were able to book us on an 11:50am flight to Cleveland with a 5:05pm connecting flight to Columbus. It was a pretty round-about way to get home, but considering we’d still be home by 6pm and now held vouchers for travel anywhere we want, we dealt with it. We caught our last two planes, on time, and with no problems. When we got to Columbus, our suitcases were waiting for us by the baggage claim office (remember, the suitcases went to Columbus back at 8:20am!).

Mom and dad took us to Pizza Hut for dinner, and we brought the dogs home from my BIL’s house an hour or so after we got back in town. Dogs and bedding bathed, new TV in its cabinet, Howie headed to bed about 2:30am. I’d been snoozing since midnight, too zonked to stay up with him, especially once I took some NiQuil.

So, that’s the saga…24 hours in airports and two round-trip tickets ahead of the game, we’re home and happy!

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