On the way in to the airport had a lovely sunrise drive through the hills and mountains of my area, singing with the gods, and loving all life anew.
It was wondrous.
I shoulda stayed there.
Departure was delayed for half an hour, which would leave me very little time to connect in Detroit with the next plane.
But we didn’t know that. Turns out the crew had gotten in late the night before and federal regulations require they get some rest before flying again. Seems to me, someone at Delta Airways would have figured that out hours before, and we could have been forewarned. They plum forgot to tell us, though. But at least the internet was free, and I could still take advantage of that sweet boon because they hadn’t lost my laptop – yet.
Boarding time came; they’re checking, stamping, barcoding our paperwork, then passing us through into the tunnel to the plane where somebody’s grandmother told us we couldn’t bring our stuff onboard; that we had to just leave it on those shelves to the side, which we did.
She neglected to tell us we’d need special pink tags for each piece if we ever wanted to see it again. Otherwise she’d be offering our stuff at her next cookie sale for the church.
On the carry-on I wasn’t allowed to carry on were my lap top with several novels in progress in its memory; my passport; the list of all those passwords I keep forgetting, but that we need for everything these days; my phone recharger; and all the vouchers, phone numbers, and confirmation numbers I would need to complete the rest of the trip. You know; the stuff you don’t dare put in your regular luggage because you can’t afford to lose it.
The plane was warm, stuffy, and uncomfortable, but at least the crew was sober.
The day was still young, though, and the pilot hadn’t yet realized he’d forgotten his meds.
I was not the only one whose carry-ons were missing. The fellow I told about mine took my info, peeled off the barcode from the end of the luggage tag he’d prepared, and went hunting. As I waited I chatted with the pilot who was getting ready to take the plane I’d just gotten off of, and I suggested he never let these guys handle his luggage.
He said, “Trust me; I never do. I’ve learned my lesson.”
Barcode guy finally warned me that I was about half a mile from my next flight, and it was getting ready to leave. So I rushed off.
Remember what I said about sober flight crews?
Well, this is where that part fits in.
I was sitting in the very last row, so I had no windows and couldn’t see what was going on, but as we approached, the engines (which had been loud and trying to shake us apart the whole trip) (plus this guy had also forgotten to put on the air conditioning, so we were all smelling a bit ripe) the engines kept surging to a much louder roar, and then back down to a quieter roar. Then up and down, and up and down … Just like a teenager in driver’s ed trying to learn how to work the gas pedal (while texting his friends that at the last turn around those cones, the instructor had fallen out of the car).
And the plane is going up and down, and up and down, and roaring and quieting, and roaring, and quieting …
And then all that racket just stopped.
And I’m thinking back to my own flying lessons, and remembering how challenging it could be to land in a crosswind, but I was pretty sure when you did park the plane, the unwritten rule was that you wanted it to be on the ground first.
Well then it goes back into its roaring and quieting and uping and downing thing for a while, and then SlamScreech!
The back tires hit, and it was loud.
And I’m waiting for the front ones to contact, as that might offer us all our first moment of hope that this hell ride might be just about over.
And I’m waiting.
And I’m waiting.
And I’m waiting …
Apparently this guy decided he’d had fun trying to park the plane in orbit, and he wanted to go back up and try again.
And again with the roaring and quieting and the uping and the downing and everyone in the cheap seats cussing out their St. Christopher medals.
And then all of a sudden, every one of our tires slammed into runway all at once; even the spares in the trunk. It was like an explosion, we hit down so hard, and I lost a couple more fillings. In the same instant, he screeled on the brakes full stop and slammed the engines into reverse, making one of the loudest sounds I’ve ever heard, and a couple of cows bounced off the windows.
I think. I don’t know. I didn’t have windows. But that sound or moo-ing in terror is unmistakable.
He careened off an ice cream truck in a schoolyard, but kid pilot must’ve had GPS because he found his way back to the airport.
I searched around for the lost luggage office, but someone had misplaced it. Once there, though, the lady working with my case did try really hard to work, but after a while realized we weren’t going to get anywhere.
Remember Barcode Bozo? Well, all he’d done, apparently, was hand me a barcode, but the other end had never made its way onto my briefcase.
I spent a long time with this lady. Missed my shuttle connection, was afraid I would lose my hotel, reservation, but all my phone numbers, confirmation codes and such had been on the lost luggage, so one of the ladies in the Lost in Space office got me the number for the hotel, at least, so I could tell them I’d be late.
I called. It was the reservation desk. She couldn’t help me. She also couldn’t connect me to the front desk, so she gave me a new number to call for that. I’d broken the earpiece off my glasses en route (probably during thatcrash landing), but held them on the best I could and dialed.
It was a hotel in a small town in the Carolina’s.
Is this the point where I say, “Trust me! I am not making this up!”? Well, I’m not.
– Next came the shuttle driver from hell.
It was hot in Newark. He crammed as many people as he could into his van, left the side doors wide open, and walked away. He never said why.
After a while, I started asking other passengers if anyone there could drive a stick shift, and got a couple of volunteers.
He came back, but it was only to retrieve his phone, then wandered off again.
We fried as we conducted little scientific experiments as to which people from which countries smelled the worst.
We didn’t compare notes.
The driver came back, said nothing, and rode the rest of the way in talking with a friend on his ear phone, but never even acknowledging any of us.
All the way through Manhattan, he was cutting off drivers by making sudden turns from a center lane, right across their bows, but blasting his horn at THEM!
At my hotel, finally, he made a scene, not accepting that my ride had already been paid for. He needed to see the voucher I had lost with my luggage.
This set me off the wrong way as I recalled the cheating taxi drivers in Rome, and I just stood there and told him I would NOT pay him again. The previous drop-off had had a similar row with him, and now I could see what that had been about.
Finally he dialed his company, and had me speak to folks there. I could tell from their exasperated voices when they asked me to put him back on, that they were tired of dealing with this guy.
Got to my room, cranked up the A.C, and realized I could only start feeling better about this day once I’d had a cold drink of water, a shower, and a call from my sweetheart.
But I had no charger, and thought the way things had been going, the phone would be dead. So I headed out to find a store where I could buy a charger.
By this time it was pouring down rain. Huge drops. Even bigger than that shuttle driver’s heart (which I guess isn’t saying much). Drops that could cause a concussion. Front desk lady told me where to look for such a store, but offered me no umbrella. So off I went. – And I found it. Bought an over-priced charger, a beach umbrella, and a lifeboat.
Got back to the room, but it hadn’t cooled down yet. Wanted a drink of cold water, but couldn’t find the ice machine. They had hidden it in an unmarked stairwell.
I needed a drink and a burger. I had driven this body as hard and as long as I could on two small packets of mini pretzels and pretend cookies. I ordered a strong Long Island, but the bartender told me he preferred them sweet. I got him to see things my way, though, and waited. He stood against the bar for quite a while, looking equal parts nasty, and bored.
He finally made my drink, but not until I’d ordered my burger. It was $20, the drinks $15 each, but dang it! I had earned it. If only by surviving that landing!
And I pretty much had to get eat in that over-priced hotel bar because I was not going out into that rain again without a helmet.
Lynden called then and all was right with the world.
I had two drinks, but still couldn’t sleep that night. My bones had been rattled loose. I had just started off on a three day sweat, and couldn’t get cool enough. My mind kept starting to land, but then kicking in the engines and going back up again.
Finally got to sleep, but then was awakened at 5 am as front desk told me my luggage had found its way to the hotel. Tired as I was, I went into the business center to send Lynden an email that it had shown up. The router was out, and there was no internet access.
I had given 7 copies of “The Mourning After” on consignment to the bookstore where I was doing the reading that day. When I got there I found they had only three left, but that no one had any idea what had happened to the other 4. I hadn’t been paid for any of them.
They also hadn’t advertised my appearance. I think the place may actually have been some sort of mafia link trying to launder money without anyone realizing they were there.
Return Trip from Newark Airport to Atlanta, GA:
They told us we had to check our carry-ons again. I told them if they lost mine one more time, the poor travel bag was going to start feeling very insecure.
Some bratty little kid just behind me (but at least I had a “behind me” this time) kept crying and shouting and bitching about everything (like I seem to be doing here, only louder).
When the plane took off, s/he really started screaming, “No! I don’t like going up!”
This went on for quite a while. I told the guy wedged in next to me, “Sure. – ME they made check my carry-on luggage, but they let HER bring that kid into the regular cabin!”
They gave us beverages. When we were done, one of the attendants came by with a big bag of discarded ice, and one for trash and cups. I told her, “No thanks; I already have my own trash.”
As boarding time for the final leg of the flight came – and passed – they kept announcing that we had to be there half an hour before departure but that they had no idea when that might be.
Then they finally shared some good news. They had found the crew, their pre-flight bar was now closed, and they think they had some pretty good leads on where the plane was.
They said they could have someone bring it to us, then coax or carry the crew on board, get them all facing forward, and some time after that we’d be ready for boarding. In the meantime, though, the flight insurance company had cancelled all our policies, and all bets were off. I don’t think she meant us to hear that she, however, had $20 riding on us coming down over water.
“And, as always,” she said, “Thank you for your patience, and thank you for taking a chance on Delta.”
I found my seat, but there was a large grumpy lady on it who was bossing one of her underlings over the phone and did not want to hear anything I had to say. Eventually one of her other employees tapped her arm from behind, advising her of the situation she didn’t want to hear about from me.
I squeezed in, and this became then the highlight of the whole air travel time because we flew home through a dark-cloudy lightning storm, and I had a window seat.
That was so cool.