Part I: United We Wait
Most people have a horror story to tell about air travel. Until a couple weeks ago, I had none. But June 11 (and 12) took me through an outrageous string of events while trying to travel a mere 2 states away. This is the first installment of my attempt to chronicle the bumps and blessings of that very long, very bizarre experience.
1:00pm Kind friends drop me off at Salt Lake City International Airport. I bid them a cheerful goodbye, blissfully ignorant of the tumultuous 32 hours ahead of me.
2:20pm I board United flight 6296 to Denver. Still planning to be in Wichita, Kansas by 7:30pm and at my folks' house by 10:00.
3:10pm Still sitting at the gate. The captain announces that the hydraulic is leaking into the engine and this aircraft is not air-worthy. We 60-or-so passengers deplane and return to our gate in the airport. Praying: "Father, thank You for protecting us from a mechanical breakdown in the air. But, um, I'd really like to get home." (If nothing else, I am a candid pray-er.)
3:15pm I call my parents with the news, catching them just before leaving on the 2.5-hour drive to Wichita. They have no cell phone. They would have gone all the way to the airport before finding out I am still sitting in Salt Lake. Praying: "Thank You for sparing Mom and Dad a wasted trip. Now isn't there a Bible verse You could show them about the necessity of cell phones?"
3:25pm I begin to wait in line for the customer service desk by the gate. A Frenchman in an incongruous red plaid jacket is in front of me; he's trying to get to Europe for business. A Denver guy is behind me. He complains that he might be late to watching the Rockies trounce the Twins in Denver. I try to act sympathetic even though I was raised a Minnesota fan.
4:00pm Still waiting in line, and no closer to the desk. Commenting on the relatively peaceful passengers, despite United's lack of action or answers, French Guy says, "People are so nice here. In France, we would have had a revolution by now." I tell him, "A revolution sounds good. You lead us. I've got tweezers, and we'll find somebody who smuggled in a fingernail clipper or two." He declines and edges away from me. Later I realize I could probably have been arrested if someone reported me for saying that. Praying: "Thanks, God, for protecting me from my own stupidity."
4:30pm I decide to try checking out of the secure area and getting help at the ticket counter. When I arrive, the line seems slightly shorter there, so I stay.
5:15pm This line is not moving, either. Like not at all. I read my book while standing.
6:05pm I agonize over the decision whether to stay in this line or return to the original one at the gate. I do not want to miss any announcements at the gate, so I go through security again and head back to the gate. The TSA agent says, "Oh, weren't you through here a few hours ago...?" I force a smile and nod.
6:15pm United announces that they have "found another aircraft" for Flight 6296. What, an airplane was hiding? A jet had been overlooked like a misplaced penny? Right-o. There is no announcement of when the aircraft will arrive and when we will board. It is 7:15 Central; I should be buckling up for a smooth landing in Wichita.
6:45pm W-a-i-t-i-n-g. Haven't eaten since noon, but nervous to leave the gate area and miss the flight when the plane finally arrives. Praying: "Lord, I have no idea what's going on, but You're in control. Open my eyes to opportunities to please You even though this pretty much stinks." I knew He'd do it, but I'm still amazed at the extent.
Coming up next... Part II, including the opportunity God gave me, more bumps and blessings, and a bag of pretzels.