Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Roswell has never been so beautiful

On New Years Eve I told you that I wanted to not be in an airport when the old year went scratching, biting and clawing into the night.

I made it, but just barely. Let me tell you about the rest of the 3,000-mile, 39-hour trip from Charleston to Roswell. (Fun fact: Charleston is 1,500-mile, 22-hour drive from Roswell. And the weather would have been better.)

Anyway, I last left you while sitting at a gate waiting for a flight to Houston to then route me to Albuquerque, putting me in the ABQ at 10:30 p.m., nine hours later than planned. I wasn't happy about it, but there wasn't much to do about it, and quite frankly, while it was really annoying and inconvenient, I am not so busy right now that all of this really disrupted my life. It had been snowing in Chicago pretty much since the flight that I did not get a standby seat on left. However, 45 minutes before my plane was scheduled to leave, it was listed as on time. If we left on time, I would have an hour between landing and my next plane taking off. An hour in airport layover time is an eternity.

I was first in line in my boarding group, ready to get on the plane and get out of Chicago (I irrationally hate people, places and things that I associate with bad experiences. It's what went wrong with Prague.), when the flight crew walked out of the plane with their things. This could not be good. Apparently the windshield wipers on the pilot's side were broken.

OK, that's kind of a big deal.

The gate agent waited a few minutes, then announced that there was a mechanical problem and he'd get back with us. A few minutes later the flight was pushed back 20 minutes. Twenty minutes was OK. It would mean airport power walking, but I have done that before and I'll do it again.

Then it was 30. Power walking became running. I've run through an airport.

Then I realized that the only way I was going to make my flight to Albuquerque was if I was the first person off the plane and my departing gate was right next to my arriving gate. I gave up my spot in line to get into the customer service line. Again. Almost an hour later I was at the front of the line and asked if I could stay in Chicago for the night and get a direct flight from Chicago to Albuquerque.

"You need to get out of here tonight," he told me. "It's going to keep snowing."

Ugh. I did not want to be stuck in O'Hare during a snowstorm. He put me on the first flight from Houston to Albuquerque and I ran back to my gate, five minutes before my delayed flight had last been scheduled to leave.

The gate was completely empty. An airplane sat outside, but the door was shut. Apparently they shut the door 10 minutes before the flight leaves. I'd missed my flight. I was screwed. I got back into the customer service lane and cursed everything that was going wrong, not just for me but for the dozens of us that were in these lines. What is wrong with United?

Well, the good news was, while I was standing in line I got an email from United that said as of 6:27, my flight had been moved to another gate (the same one I was sitting at first) and delayed until 6:45. It was 6:32. I charged out of the line and ran, wishing I had my Europe backpack instead of my unwieldy duffel bag and wondering why on earth people are so amazingly slow. I was the last one on the plane. I had to check my luggage to Albuquerque. But I was leaving Chicago.

Except we sat on the tarmac for an hour for de-icing. Fortunately, by this point I had nothing else to lose, provided we actually made it to Houston that night. We did. And the airline, realizing that they had a potential mutiny on their hands, prequelled it with American opium -- they gave everyone free DirecTV. And after getting in my fourth customer service line that day, I heard a gate agent holler, "Anyone going to Albuquerque?" It was 11:30 when I stuck a key into my hotel room. I have never been that happy to see a bed.

Granted, my bag was still checked, so I had only the clothes I was wearing and next to no toiletries. (Toothbrush and toothpaste were a go, thank goodness.) I did not smell good this morning when I put on my dirty airplane clothes and went back to the airport.

All's well that ends well, however. I, and my bag, made it to Albuquerque on time. I got my car, I got gas, I got on the road and I came home. I ate vegetables for the first time in 36 hours. And I talked to Mark, who three or four times said "Bye," but I heard "Why?" and kept answering his questions. His aunt is so weird.

Isaac was on the fence about ice skating. He'd skate around once, one hand on the wall and the other holding mine or Jennifer's hand, then he'd sit down until he got bored and then go another lap. We were sitting down when he got up and headed toward the ice. I started to follow. "No, Aunt Heidi! I want to go on the ice by myself!" I agreed to skate near him instead of with him.

Mark needed the wall for a bit and then hand holding for a bit, and then I sort of took away my hand against his will, and then he was skating off by himself all Ohno-style.

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