Three Good Things About the Worst Travel Day of My Life

Photo of all 7 boarding passes from my travel day.
March 13, 2019 stephhwilliams 1 Comments

I had intended on blogging this week about our Captain Marvel viewing from the weekend.

But then yesterday happened.

Even though I’m an adjunct rather than full-time faculty, there’s this annual teaching/writing conference that I like to go to, whenever I can get grant money to cover my registration, that is. It’s the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC), also known as Cs or, this year, #4c19. This year, Cs is in Pittsburgh. I made arrangements to fly out of Little Rock at 7 a.m., which meant leaving my house before 5 to allow for drive time, baggage check and security. I was supposed to board a plane that would make a stop in Dallas then continue on to Houston where I would get on another plane to Pittsburgh. Given the cold, rainy forecast for Pittsburgh, I packed a larger suitcase to include my heavy coat and rain gear and, thus, had to check it.

All told, I was to land in Pittsburgh by mid-afternoon, giving me time to settle in before an all day Wednesday workshop and official conference kick-off on Thursday. I often say that I don’t travel well; I stress easily and don’t like being so helpless, dependent upon others. But I like this conference, and I thought I had everything planned out.

You know what they say about best-laid plans

We boarded on time in Little Rock, taxied to the runway and received clearance for take-off. Then, the flight attendant announced that the pilot noticed a generator issue and we needed to return back to the gate. Back at the gate, he further announced that it was going to take maintenance about an hour to get to us so we needed to de-plane. I had a feeling then that the day was going to suck; I really had no idea how badly.

The gate attendants worked diligently to get many of us with connections re-booked. At that point, my arrangements were altered so that I was to get on a new plane in Dallas; that plane would stop-over in Houston before continuing on to St. Louis, where I would change planes to go to Pittsburgh. For the departure from Dallas, there was yet another delay, but given that it was less than an hour I thought things might be looking up.

When we landed in Houston and local passengers got off, the flight crew allowed me to move to a seat closer to the front and brought me a soda while I waited for new passengers to board to St. Louis. However, as passengers began to board, a gate attendant came to remove me from the plane – he said that they determined that I would not make my connection from St. Louis to Pittsburgh if I stayed on that flight. A second gate attendant in Houston (I think; at this point, my brain starts dying) re-booked me on a flight to Chicago Midway with a connection there to Pittsburgh. At this point, I asked, “Are you sure I’ll make that connection?” His response, “Oh yeah, it’s already been delayed a couple of hours.” What the what?

Did I mention I don’t travel well?

Indeed, when I landed at Midway, I learned that the Pittsburgh flight had been delayed 3 hours already. At this point, I had about an hour to kill. Fine, it was dinnertime anyway. But then boarding time came and went with no news from the gate. About 10 minutes later, the gate attendant announced that boarding would begin shortly so people could start to line up. Given all the changes to my flights, I was in a later boarding group; so I sat and watched as people stood in line for 10, 20, 30 more minutes before the announcement came that we had a plane but no flight crew. Various delays throughout the day had meant that neither our flight crew nor our “backup” flight crew had arrived. Again, we waited. Finally, at about 8:20pm Chicago time, I was boarded on the last leg to Pittsburgh. With the time change, we landed at about 10:40pm Pittsburgh time. Hallelujah, I had arrived.

So there I stood, at the baggage claim carousel, almost 20 hours after leaving my house and via a route that looked like it’d been drawn by an angry toddler, and my bag wasn’t there. No one knew where my bag was, but it wasn’t in Pittsburgh. At this point, I was exhausted and on the verge of tears. After filing a lost baggage report, I took a shuttle to my hotel, walking in at about midnight to a very understanding colleague/roommate. And I cried myself to sleep.

To say that yesterday was a terrible travel day would be the understatement of maybe the century. And I was definitely physically and emotionally spent as a result. But … But! There were positives throughout the day.

Here are 3 pretty awesome things that came out of yesterday:

1. I survived.

I’m alive. Yes, it sucked. But I made it. Things could have been worse. Also, Reilly’s Daughter Irish Pub at Midway makes a good bloody mary.

My dinner treat: not too spicy and with extra olives.

2. I got free travel.

Southwest kindly gave me some travel vouchers for my trouble. Now, I may never fly again, but, hey, they’re transferrable.

View of the plane’s wing and the night’s lights from my window seat.

3. People are generally nice.

From the various airport workers to the Southwest employees, to the other travelers – I promise you, there are still nice people in the world. Even in terribly inconvenient circumstances, people can be good.

Bonus: I saw Superman.

Of course, I could have been dreaming. What is it they say? Pics or it didn’t happen? Well, I couldn’t get my phone camera going in time, but as we neared Midway (I think; seriously y’all), I looked out of my plane window and saw a waving Superman landscape design (“crop circle”?). I wanted a picture so bad but my brain, fingers, and phone weren’t cooperating at the time. I spent way too long today (while still waiting for my luggage), trying to find an image – a trace – on the internet to no avail. Side note: don’t Google “crop circles”; it’s a rabbit hole you don’t want to go down.

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