Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A funny thing happened on the way to Chicago...

I was supposed to leave on Wednesday at 3:30.

At 3:00 the gate attendant announced we would be boarding shortly only to come back on the microphone a few minutes later to say we would be delayed because maintenance was still on the plane. Ok, I thought, some kid threw up and they need to clean a bit more. No problem there. At 3:30 we were informed that the flight would be delayed one hour.

Finally, the gate attendant informed us that the problem was the plane's brakes. They were going to work on them and then take the plane out for a taxi test. Fine with me. I'd certainly rather they test the breaks without me on the plane, thank you very much! Well the plane failed the taxi test. The flight was delayed again to 5:45 and we were told that we would either get new brakes or a new plane.

Instead the flight was cancelled.

So we all trooped down to customer service and most of us rebooked on the 11:00 p.m. flight. There had been an 8:30 flight but that was full. The irony of this part of the story is that the 3:30 flight was overbooked and at 2:30 they offered us a free ticket if we would give up our seat voluntarily and take the 8:30 flight. Most of us decided leaving in an hour was better than leaving in 5 hours. Little did we know!

I had Dave pick me up and take me home for a few hours. I arrived back the airport about 9:30. Went through security (AGAIN!) and up to the gate. Already the flight was delayed to 11:30. At 11:00 a very confused looking airline agent came to the gate kind of looking like "Why are all you people here?". A few clicks of the keyboard and a phone call or two and finally the gate attendant announced that the plane was here - it had been since 8:40 - but the flight crew was delayed by weather. They were in the air however and as soon as they arrived we would get going. The flight time was changed to 12:30. The flight crew arrived and went down to do their pre-flight 'stuff'. The pilot came back up the ramp - definitely not a good sign - and we were told that the plane had a flat tire.

They located another plane and about 75 very tired travellers followed the gate attendant - pied piper like - to the gate where the new plane waited. We boarded and finally pulled away from the gate at 1:30 A.M.!!!

I arrived at the hotel a littel after 3 A.M. Chicago time. The desk clerk said, "I have good news and bad news". I said you can't possibly have worse news. He said, I have to charge you for Wendesday night even though it's now Thursday. No problem, I get that. The good news was that there were no rooms left at the rate I reserved so he was giving me a suite at the same rate. At 3:30 a.m. I put my head on the pillow. I had to get up at 6:30 a.m.!

My conference was good and well worth the trouble so far. Chicago was experiencing bad storms all Wednesday night and into Thursday. Some believe it was a tornado that went through on Thursday. I crashed in bed at 10 p.m. only to be awakened at 4 AM by a drip-drip-drip. The roof was leaking! Not on me thank goodness. I moved a chair out of the way of the drip and went back to bed. At least it wasn't my drip to fix!

The conference ended at noon on Friday and I headed to the airport for my 4:30 flight home. I was early but I wasn't taking any chances of long lines and traffice caused by the weather. I passed through security for the third time in as many days. The flight was delayed several times and finally cancelled as the plane coming to get us couldn't get there due to weather. At the service desk they told me I had to wait till Sunday to get out of town. I persisted and they were able to get me on a flight with another airline at 10 am on Saturday that would take me to Washington DC and connect to Philadelphia from there. I managed to get a hotel room that night - one of the lucky few.

I arrived back at the airport at 7 A.M. - again knowing that there were a lot of stranded travellers and not wanting to get caught late waiting in line. At the check in kiosk the computer would not accept any of the information on my e-ticket. I picked up the service phone and was informed that my 10 am flight had been cancelled. (are you lauging yet - wait - it gets better). They had already booked me on a direct flight to Phildelphia leaving at 4 p.m. (It was now 7:30).

I got my boarding pass and went in search of breakfast. At the security gate (which if you are paying attention you know is my fourth try) I was randomly selected for an extra security search. The only thing that kept me from laughing out loud was the fear of being pegged for a strip down search by a TSA agent with no sense of humor!

I stopped by the service counter and received a stand by ticket for a 9:30 flight and got lucky (?) and was home in my house by 1:00 p.m.

This is a picture from the Tribine Building on Michigan Avenue. The story is that reporters were encouraged to bring back pieces of historically important sites throughout the world. The pieces were imbedded in the walls of the building with their place of origin engraved as well.


Katie said...

Wow! That beats ANY of my travel stories for the last year at least. Even driving through a foot and a half of flood waters in Houston doesn't compare! Glad you're home safe (and that you didn't get pegged for the extra-extra security search!)

Nate's Dad said...

I've trips that bad but never in the US! Gotta love summer travel compounded by O'Hare Airport. I had a trip through there onetime where we were delayed for a couple hours because all the planes on the runway had to turn around due to a wind shift. It was like elephant ballet. Glad you got through it safe and had a sense of humor about it.

Paula said...

An elephant ballet... interesting visual!