Wednesday, July 27, 2011

My Horrible Friday

I did not have a history-filled weekend.
Early this spring I found out about a workshop being offered through Burnley and Trowbridge, on making an 18th century fitted-back gown the proper 18th century way. Stephen and I have been doing more 18th century events but it is not my main area of research and here was a chance to learn from an expert and get a cool dress out of it! Stephen got me the plane ticket and hotel room for my birthday and I eagerly signed up, bought fabric and waited for the workshop date to arrive. The workshop took place this past weekend, from 2-5 on Friday 9-5 on Saturday and 9:30 – 3:30 on Sunday. I was not there. Here is my saga.

I took Thursday off from work to mow the lawn and pack, try to do some last minute sewing before the class. On Friday I left my house at 4:30 am for the airport and I arrived at 5 am for my 6:10 flight out of Manchester, NH on Sout West Airlines. When checking my bag I discovered that my driver’s license was not in my wallet. That was the thing that set the whole horrible chain of events going. I hauled my suitcase back out to the long-term parking lot, drove home roused Stephen, and tore the place apart looking for my license.  Found it in a rarely-used coat pocket, raced back to the airport.

I arrived back at the airport at 6:05. Since I could not get my bag on my original flight, and it was unlikely that I would make it, they agreed to try to get me out on the next flight. But that flight was at 6:30 and had a long layover in Tampa, whereas the 10:30 did not have a long layover and would get me to the Norfolk, VA airport a half an hour before the class started. With drive time etc included I would probably be an hour late, but I would have to live with that. I had a nice breakfast at the airport and finished the sewing I had not finished the day before.

When the 10:30 flight lined up I found out it was a full flight, I was on stand-by and there was another person on stand-by too. All the ticketed passengers showed up. There was no room for me. The guy at the counter who had been so friendly before the plane boarded was sullen after it was full and instead of being helpful just told me I’d have to wait for the 1:45.  I’d gone online when it looked like the plane was full and I’d seen a 3:30 to Norfolk but not a 1:45. He grudgingly agreed to tell me that the 1:45 went to Baltimore, not Norfolk but that almost all Southwest flights into Norfolk went through Baltimore and I was bound to find something then. So I was stuck with an unknown arrival time or a well past the end of the Friday class time. I called Stephen and he told me to go look for another airline with flights that could get me in sooner. None of the other airlines had flights that would get me in before class was over, so I waited for the 1:45.

I had an unsatisfactory lunch, listened to some audiobook, played some Plants versus Zombies, read some blog feeds. I was not far from the gate where the 1:45 flight was, and not too long after noon I noticed a lot of commotion. A flight to Orlando had just been delayed from 1pm to 7 pm. Folks were pissed. They were trying to re-route as many of them on to the 1:45 to Baltimore as possible! In a panic I went up to the counter and it was actually the woman who in the morning had been at the counter to witness me not finding my license, then to tell me I’d make it on the 10:30 even though it was a full flight. I explained that I had not made it out yet, she recognized me and I asked if there was really a chance of me getting on the 1:45. She said there was very little chance but that the 3:30 was a direct to Norfolk, the plane would stop in Baltimore but I would not need to leave the plane. She took me off standby status for the 1:45 and gave me a definite seat on the 3:30.

I went back to my spot, tried to nap, tried to concentrate on anything and just got more uncomfortable and desperate. The 1:45 was not full, but by the time I found that out they were making urgent leaving noises and since that flight only went as far as Baltimore with no guaranteed second flight, I did not change my ticket. At 2:30 they announced that the 3:30 was delayed. Twenty minutes later they called all passengers going on to Norfolk over to the counter and gave us new boarding passes because apparently the flight was no longer direct, but would go only to Baltimore, then we would transfer to a different plane going to Norfolk. I was positively sick to my stomach. At 4:30 they announced that the 3:30 plane was delayed again and that there were no more flights to Norfolk out of Baltimore that we would be able to make. They were recommending that we all spend the night in New Hampshire and then they would put us all on the first plane out, which would get us into Norfolk at 9:30 am. The workshop started at 9 on Saturday and I did not want to miss all of the Friday class and 2.5 hours of the Saturday class with travel time. I cried. I blubbered at the unsympathetic woman at the counter who said there was no alternative so I asked her to cancel my ticket. Because I had three different boarding passes she could not do it but told me to write a letter (write a letter!!) to the address she handed me and they would refund my ticket. I went home sobbing the whole way.

Stephen had been updated on my status every step of the way by text and phone so was waiting with sympathetic arms when I got home. He let me cry for a while and then asked me how badly I wanted to go to Virginia, I told him I wanted to very badly but was not going to drive at that late a time and could not see another option. He said there were two more flights out of Manchester that evening both going to Norfolk, from airlines other than South West. We called Norfolk to make sure my bag had arrived (it had) I still had hotel reservations, and United Airlines sold us a decently priced ticket for a 7:30 flight thru Washington, DC to Norfolk, Virginia. Stephen drove me back to the airport.

Back in line, this time at the United counter, they were talking about long delays in Chicago, and how there were a lot of planes that had not yet arrived in Manchester, so I was fairly prepared when I got up to the counter. Yes, the flight we had just booked had been delayed, no I could not get into Norfolk before 10 am the next morning. The United woman was much more sympathetic though and she said there was an 8:30 offered by American Airlines that was only slightly delayed what was going through Philadelphia and if I ran I could make a connection in Philly. I agreed so she printed me a voucher and sent me to the American Airlines counter. The craziest thing of the whole evening happened then. As I turned away from the United counter and paid attention to the endless announcements for the first time since returning to the airport I heard my name. Southwest was calling me to hurry and board or they were going to close the doors. I looked at my watch, it was 7pm. I guess the 3:30 was finally getting off the ground and no one had been able to completely cancel my ticket. I did not run to the gate, that plane could not get me to my destination, though it was the strangest thing, my name being broadcast over the entire airport letting me know that I was going to miss my flight.

At the American Airlines counter there were two nice women. One was not so sure I could make it, but the other one was confident since I did not have any bags and I was energetic that I’d make the connection, no problem. They printed me a ticket for the 8:30 American flight (now scheduled to leave at 9pm) and I went through security for the 3rd time that day. The airport had mostly cleared out by that point, there were no lines at security, half the restaurants were closed and only a few gates had upcoming flights listed. I went to one of the few remaining open bars and actually ordered myself an alcoholic beverage. I also got a sandwich (cold, the kitchen was closed) and ate half of the sandwich and a 3rd of the drink before heading to my gate. 2 more flights had departed and there was almost no one left. There were 8 people sitting at the gate. As I sat down there was an announcement that the flight was now delayed until 9:30 but the gentleman at the counter assured us we’d be off the ground by 9:10. Twenty minutes later I got an automated call saying the plane was now delayed until 10:10 pm. I asked the man at the counter if that was true, he said yes, our plane had not yet left Philadelphia to come to Manchester. I asked him to cancel my ticket. He did, I called Stephen and he picked me up at 9 pm.

I did not go back to the airport until Monday afternoon, and then only to pick up my suitcase, which had been in Virginia all weekend without me.

Not a successful historical vacation.