Tuesday, September 2, 2014

This week: Albany to Denver

When things go right

Nobody ever talks about when good things happen at the airport. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has a bad airport story. Stranded in Green Bay with the internet down. Stuck on the runway on a hot Phoenix day for two hours. Caribbean airport food that causes one to go through three air sickness bags. Yeah, we’ve been there.  The airport gods rarely smile on anyone and when they do, they can easily take it away. Hence, we all try to top each other with stories about the bad, but never, ever do we speak of the good, when things go right when they should spiral completely out of control. Well, I dare to talk about the best possible experience we could have had while flying.

We had just spent a wonderful week in upstate New York to celebrate my husband’s cousin’s wedding. The whole thing was beautiful. The outdoor wedding was bathed in sunlight under a clear blue sky. The children blew bubbles around the happy couple. The bride was gorgeous, the groom funny, the cake too pretty to eat. Alas, the whole fairytale had to come to an end and my husband’s mother drove us to the airport in Albany where we would begin the long journey back to Denver via Washington DC. The trouble began at check-in.

Unbeknownst to us as we feted, there had been a terrible afternoon storm front that ran all the way from New York City to Atlanta and our flight was unable to get to Albany. It would arrive well after our connection in DC left for Denver. The ticket agent said he would reroute us and began looking up other flights…all of them in and around Baltimore and DC, where it was still raining. All of them involved an overnight stay.

“Wait a minute,” my husband said. “Why do we have to go through DC? This is United. Why can’t we go through Chicago?”

“Oh, yeah. I didn’t even think of that,” said the agent. My inner voice screamed so loud at that comment I'm pretty sure the agent heard it. 

It took only a few key strokes to find the solution. A plane was flying was to Chicago and from there we had a choice of three connecting flights to Denver. However, the Albany flight was going to start boarding in 20 minutes and we still had to go through security. As we took our tickets and gathered our bags the agent said he would call the gate to let them know we were coming, but we ran to security anyway and then afterward on to the gate in case that call didn’t get made. Fortunately, we only had carry-ons.

The flight to Chicago had just starting the boarding process as we arrived so we made it onto the flight and it left without incident.

We arrived in Chicago completely unprepared for the chaos that was happening. The violent rainstorm on the East Coast had wreaked havoc on flights across the country and it seemed to me that the entire flying public was stranded at O’Hare. From the moment we emerged from the plane’s walkway the gate was packed with people. As we wove our way from the gate to head down the terminal to our connecting flight, we could see lines everywhere, at the gates, at pay phones, at the ticket counters, at the food counters. An endless sea of people and bags and cell phone charger cords to trip over. As we half walked, half jogged to our next gate we could hear people yelling in the distance over the steady drone of hundreds, maybe thousands of people talking to each other and to their cell phones.

We arrived at the gate of our Denver flight, which was at the end of the terminal where several gates came together. The place was packed. People filled the seats and spilled onto the floor or stood around the perimeter. Just then two people got up from a row of seats right next to us and left. We took their spots. Finally able to relax, my husband took the tickets out from his jacket pocket to examine them. He looked at the tickets, then at his watch and then at me.

“It says on the tickets that the flight to Denver lands at 9:30.” He paused a moment and looked at the tickets again. “That is a whole hour earlier than our original flight from DC would have been.”

I looked around at the crowd of people around me, all of whom were wearing weary scowls on their faces. 

“Don’t say another word,” I told my husband. “You don’t want to jinx this.” He nodded and put the tickets away. We sat silently for the next 30 minutes; my husband checked his emails while I read a magazine. Finally, our flight was called. I don’t think I exhaled until the plane was in the air.

The flight was uneventful, just how I like them. We landed in Denver at 9:30 PM, right on time. We were home in time to see SportCenter’s Top 10 Plays of the Day. We have never spoken of this flight since.