Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Fly the not-so-reliable skies....

Our little misadventure begins on Wednesday morning. We rise early, shower and prepare for what we hope will be a non-eventful day. We were sadly mistaken.

It started at the airport. We check in at the US Air booth and the attendant directs us to our gate number. We’ve packed lightly so we don’t have to check our bags. What we did not know was that you could only carry up to 3.5 oz containers of shampoo, toothpaste, etc., and that it had to be in a one quart plastic bag, which should be put on top of your carry-on when being run through the x-ray machine. Now had this been listed in some special section on our itinerary, or even somewhere BEFORE the security checkpoint, we could have been prepared. But alas, it wasn’t.

So we go through security, then they pull our bags aside and inform us that they will have to search them. No problem, though I don’t particularly like the idea of my undies being rummaged through. They pull out my gallon zip-lock bag that contains my almost full bottle of shampoo, ½ full bottle of body wash, and my hair spray. At the same time they are removing toothpaste and shaving cream from my husband’s bag. (I almost laughed when they picked up his hemorrhoid cream. She noticed what it was and dropped it like it was on fire!) We were informed we would either have to go back and check the bags, or they could throw these items away. We had no intention of going back through all that hassle again so we told them to toss the stuff and we’d buy more in Vegas. Drat! Our evil plot to hold everyone down and brush their teeth has been foiled!!

At this point I’m a bit miffed. Not because they had to throw those things away, even though it cost me money. I understand Security are doing all they can to keep us safe, and I appreciate it. But it really would have been nice to have known what was and was not allowed before we got there. Yes, I guess I could have looked it up online. But silly me, I didn’t think it had changed much since the last time I flew a couple of years ago. I was wrong. It’s changed a lot!

So we get to our gate and sit...and sit…and sit. Our plane arrived late. We finally boarded and found our seats.
After getting settled we wait for take off. But it seems to be delayed for some reason. After about 30 minutes we taxi from the gate and stop. We sit for another 10 minutes while listening to these strange grinding sounds. I glanced at my husband and then said, “What was that noise?” He just shook his head. The pilot then announces that we are returning to the gate because they are having computer problems. Nothing like a little computer trouble to instill confidence in the machinery you are about to entrust with your life . We sit another 15 minutes. Then they announce that the computer is reset and we can leave. Meanwhile my husband notices that a woman several rows ahead of us is knitting with a 2 foot long knitting needle. I'm sure there is no way that could be considered as dangerous as our toothpaste.

We were packed in like sardines. And not all us sardines had bathed that day. Now we usually fly Southwest, and while it’s not first class seating, it’s not horribly uncomfortable. These seats were awful. I spent the whole flight leaning on my husband, so I wouldn’t have to lean on the man sitting on the others side of me. My husband was unfortunate enough to have a bouncer, as Dr. Mike calls them, in front of him. He didn't sit in his seat - he fell into it. He bounced through the whole flight, effectively brusing my 6' 3" husband's knee-caps. During the flight he felt it necessary to recline his seat as well, which would have made a rather sweet picture had my husband not been scowling at the man cuddled in his lap. The man behind him was almost as bad, but not by choice. He was a very large man and couldn't help but hit the back of my husband's seat when he moved.

We were supposed to have a 55 minute layover in Phoenix. It was more like a run over. We landed, got off the plan and literally ran to our next gate, which was a good distance away. Thank goodness for those moving walkways or we would never have gotten there on time. We approached the counter just as they were calling our boarding group.

We sat down in more sardine seats and prayed for a quick flight. Thankfully this flight was fairly uneventful. We arrived in Las Vegas safely and found our shuttle to take us to the hotel.

Our shuttle driver decided to be humorous and give little known facts about Las Vegas, all the while cursing and telling dirty jokes. Now this might be acceptable to some people, but we were not amused. (No... we really don’t belong in Vegas, we hate it there, but it was business and we had no choice.)

Our 3 days in Vegas were tiring and pretty boring. DH worked the trade show and I walked around with some of the other wives. The only upside was the photo opportunities I had. I was able to get some amazing shots while we were there. The most excitement I had was the taxi ride back from one of the outlet malls. The man did not know how to ease into the gas or the break. It was more frightening than any roller coaster I’ve ever ridden.

On Friday morning I have breakfast with the other wives, and then go back to my room to pack. The weather channel is going on and on about the horrible weather expected in Dallas, TX, which is where we were supposed to have a layover later in the day. They are expecting large hail, high winds, rain and possible tornadoes. I pray for protection, and then call the airport, or more precisely, American Airlines, to see if there are any delays. We are told all flights are on schedule.

We arrive at LAS very early, due to the insanely large lines to get through security. We check in and find that they have moved us to an earlier flight, which will actually leave about 15 minutes later than the flight we were scheduled on. Alrighty then. We head to security knowing this will be a long day.

This time we have the proper size toiletries in the proper size bags. We lay them on top of our carry-on bags and zip through the detectors. After getting dressed again, we head to our gate.

After sitting for about 30 minutes, they announce that our flight will be slightly delayed. Somehow I wasn’t surprised. After the delay we board the plane and wait for take off. After we sit for another 45 minutes, the pilot announces that the weather in Dallas is rough and we will have to wait for clearance. People get up and move about the plane. They seemed to especially enjoy congregating around the bathroom.

An elderly gentleman sitting in front of us stands up to get out of his seat, and then suddenly comes crashing to the floor. Naturally we are all alarmed and are trying to help him up. He’s not moving well and it takes two guys and a stewardess to get him back into his seat. They start asking him if he’s ok and he seems to be shaking a lot. So much so that we fear is in going into seizures. The EMT’s are called and on their way. He stops shaking, looks around… and then vomits all over himself and the seat in front of him. I’m suddenly very thankful I’m not sitting in front of him. I’m trying not to gag while the stewardess is cleaning him up. After a bit of questioning we learn he ate some bad salmon the night before and hasn’t kept anything down since. They convince him to leave the plane and let the EMT’s check him out. He was embarrassed and I felt very sorry for him. I do hope he's ok now.

The pilot again announces that we should be clear for take off in about 15 minutes. Those minutes quickly pass by and nothing happens. I'm starting to wonder if airports use a different time system than we do. Maybe airport minutes are longer then everyone else's minutes. Then we are notified that the DFW is being evacuated due to tornado warnings and they have no idea when we can take off. (Now I don’t blame the airline for this – they can’t help the weather, but it was annoying to sit in that cramped plane for so long.)

After 2 ½ hours of delays, we finally take off. It was an extremely bumpy flight. In a seat across the aisle, and back one row, was a man who kept talking about his book. The lady sitting next to us pulled out her lap top and looked it up. Sure enough, there he was on the cover. He seemed a bit eccentric (I kid you not, he carried a walking stick with a long grey haired braid hanging from it), but was also very interesting. We soon found out that he grew up near the same area we did in Oklahoma. We discussed familiar places for a few moments then settled in for a landing.

When we taxied off the runway we pulled aside and just sat there. The pilot informed us that all the gates were full and we’d have to wait about 30 minutes. By this point just about everyone on the plane is complaining. The other planes had to be inspected for hail damage and could not leave the gate until declared safe. People were yelling things like “I don’t care... just get me of this @!$#%$# plane!” Then they started throwing trash on the floor and acting like 4 year olds. I felt ashamed to be sitting anywhere near these people. My motherly instincts kicked in and I was shaking my head at grown men and doing the whole *tks, tsk* thing with my teeth. Then my husband’s phone rings and we are informed that a sick co-worker of his has died. Not the best ending to an already rough day.

After sitting on the tarmac for 1 ½ hours, we were allowed to leave. My husband heard one of the stewardess’ radio for security to be on standby because people were getting out of hand. I was a bit concerned for the safety of the airline employees as well. Most of the people were acting like idiots.

We stepped foot in DFW around 11:45 p.m. We had been in the airplane for almost 8 hours. Hubby and I had not eaten in 10 hours and I was starving. All I cared about was getting something to eat. Non-food items were starting to look tasty. But at nearly midnight, all the restaurants were closed. When I found out we couldn’t even get anything to eat, I almost cried. I was too tired to deal with it all. My husband walked further down the terminal and finally found a vending machine that had sodas, chips and sandwiches. Not ideal on a low-carb diet, but I didn’t really care.

We quickly gulped down our food and then got in line at the counter to find out when the next flight to St. Louis would be leaving. We learned that it would be around lunch the next day. An elderly man walked by complaining to his wife that they had no cots, blankets or pillows left and that the employee suggested they find some chairs to sleep on. I thought. “Great! We are going to have to sleep on the floor tonight!” Thankfully, AA put us up in a very expensive hotel for the night (Westin Hotel and Resort - $319 a night). I’m not sure why the elderly man didn’t get the same, but then he wasn’t on our flight either. As for our luggage, I’m glad we went with carry-ons. Three men behind us were complaining that their luggage was loaded on to another flight to St. Louis earlier in the day, and then they were bumped to our flight. Now they are stuck in Dallas and their belongings are in St. Louis.

Saturday morning we eat an expensive breakfast at the hotel – to the tune of $38 for a buffet style meal, and head to the airport. We arrive to find they have not only changed the gate, but the terminal as well. Once again our flight is delayed. This time because AA can’t find someone to pull the plane to our gate from the hanger all the way on the other side of the airport. I'm sure someone just forgot that there were about 100 people waiting to get on the plane and it slipped their mind to actually have it in place at the correct time. After 45 minutes we are finally on our way home. The flight was only about ½ full so we were allowed to move to more comfortable seats just behind first class. On the plane we had a wonderful talk with two Army soldiers on their way home from Iraq. Heroic men who blushed and pushed away compliments as we thanked them for their service to our country. It was an honor to speak with them and was the highlight of our day.

Before leaving the hotel, we had picked up a Dallas/Ft. Worth paper and learned that there were 6 tornadoes on the ground in the area on Friday, which explains a lot. We also found an interesting article about AA employees protesting at DFW on Friday over huge bonuses earned by upper management. That ALSO explains a lot.

So all in all, it was an awful trip, and one I never care to repeat. Next time, assuming there will be one, I’ll be flying Southwest and praying for fair weather.


Fat Victoria said...

Dr. Eades had the same problems with US Air.


katiep said...

Welcome back. I missed you!
Sorry to hear it was the trip from hell! but you're home safe and sound now.
K xxx

Sparky's Girl said...


I saw that post a few days before we left and got a bad feeling about the whole trip. Guess I was right.

Glad to be back! I missed you too!