2800 miles/4 days: Part I- Airtravel

6:00 AM is not a time that I should be anywhere but in the shower or still in bed. Yet there I was at Midland International Airport ready to board a plane to Dallas where I would switch to a plane heading for Cincinnati where I would switch planes one more time to head for South Bend, Indiana. All places that I enjoy being less than Midland, Texas. Yet there I was out of love, kindness, familial obligation to fly to South Bend to help my sister in-law move from Niles, Michigan to Midland. I had made the foolish statement that I would help my wife’s sister and family move down to Texas in any way I could and now I had to live up to it.

So I walked into lovely MAF and was immediately greeted by the display indicating that my 7:10 flight was delayed until 8:10. I had an hour and a half to change planes in Dallas so I should still be fine. I checked in, went through security, wandered around the one little store, and found a seat to vegetate for a bit. Around 8:00 we started boarding the plane. Seated on the single-seat side of the aisle, I settled in for a short flight that I knew would be followed by a dash to my connection in Dallas. The pilot came on the P.A. and explained that our delay was due to the crew having a late night because of bad weather the night before and needing to get required rest before flying again. As I wasn’t up for dying in a plane crash, I accepted the need for a rested pilot as valid.

We pulled away from the gate, turned towards the runway, and stopped. We sat for a few minutes in silence waiting for our turn to take off (at least this was the reasoning in my head.) After what was obviously a longer than normal wait, the pilot came back on announcing that the delay was because of a fuel imbalance. Apparently the plane had more than 100 lbs more fuel on one side than on the other and we could not take off until it was within a certain limit. The pilot explained that there was a couple of ways to take care of this issue, but the fastest and easiest was to burn it off. So we sat there with the engines going for twenty minutes or so while I pictured Al Gore banging his head against a brick wall screaming about inconvenient truths.

Finally we started moving again. I glanced at my watch and did some quick calculations. If we went without any more problems, we would land in Dallas 10 minutes before I was supposed to get on my next flight. With not a thing I could do to help the problem, I looked out the window and waited for the flight attendant to come around with the coffee.

When we landed, I looked at my watch again. My connection was scheduled to take off right now. By the time I deplaned, I was 10 minutes late for my flight. There was some rain in Dallas, so I took the chance that there may have been a delay and rushed via terminal tram/train thingy to the gate to find a display that showed a flight leaving for New York. I gave a quick rundown to the man behind the counter at gate 12 who brushed me off saying I needed to go to the ticket counter. Looks like I get to talk to the nice airline ticketing people, which is always a pleasure. I went out through security to talk to a nice Delta Agent. He scratched his head a lot and finally said it didn’t look like he could get me to South Bend today. Wonderful, how close could he get me? A few more mouse clicks and some puzzled looks and he told me to hang as he reached for his radio.

“This is Mike from the ticket desk. Is Cincinnati still on the ground?”

Could it possibly be that Cincinnati was moved off of the ground? This could make things considerably more interesting. Oh, he meant the flight to Cincinnati. I really should have slept more last night.

 “Yeah, Mike. It’s setting in gate 13 right now about ready to taxi.”

Silly me; I had went to gate 12 where it was supposed to be. Mike gave me some quick directions and I started running towards the security check. As I got in line for security, I heard the final boarding announcement for my flight. “That’s my flight” is all I said and two people in front of me stepped aside so I could go through the metal detectors, collect my stuff and do a sock-foot hundred-yard dash to my gate. Running up to the gate, the nice attendant asked if I was Justin Smith. I said “yes” as I pulled the boarding pass from the pile of belongings in my arms.  I continued to hurry down the jet way to emerge into a very crowded plane where I received looks of several passengers that seemed to say “we’re 45 minutes late and you just made it.” I gave my best imitation of a flustered idiot, which wasn’t hard functioning on minimal sleep and bad airline coffee, nodding and mumbling “excuse me” as I brushed more than a few arms and shoulders with my belongings as I pushed back to the only available seat.  I gave a brief explanation to the guy in the seat next to me, as he was looking at me as if I owed him that much at least, and he still continued looking at me like I was an idiot as he told me about haw the plane had left the gate but was sent back to a different gate because of condensation in the ventilation ducts. This was the second time the plane had been boarded by these passengers. No wonder I was getting looks.

I was only supposed to have an hour in Cincinnati. That leaves me with 15 minutes to find my gate and board. Considering I managed to check my gate, talk to a ticket agent, and get back through security in 35 minutes to board a flight in Dallas that was scheduled to take off 10 minutes before I arrived, 15 minutes to catch a connecting flight should be a cake-walk. In Cincinnati, I arrived at my connections gate shortly after boarding started, blended with the crowd (as much as I ever blend) and walked to my seat like I knew exactly where I was going.

At the end of my air travel for the day, I started an hour and a half late, chalked up 2 delayed flights, 2 passes through security, 1 mad dash in my socks across Delta’s Dallas terminal and landed on time in my final destination of South Bend, Indiana. Not bad, now I just had to pick up a 17’ U-Haul with a car hauler, load it and drive it almost 1400 miles back to Midland. And I should probably get something to eat. I was going to do that during a layover, but, well, you know.

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4 Responses to “2800 miles/4 days: Part I- Airtravel”

  1. I just flew American Ailines for 600 miles from Killeen to Dallas to New Orleans. It was a nightmare of delays, layovers and standbys. I feel your pain brother. American is paying for my next vacation. -antiwasp.wordpress.com

  2. darefamily Says:

    Awesome description. I flew for a one day trip to NYC back in November and what an experience it was! That was the first time I had flown since I’d been out of the Army so my first exposure to all of the post 9/11 security. Now it’s even more of a different world after the Christmas day underwear bomber!

    Happy driving back. Are you pulling a car carrier behind that truck too? That’s a terrifying experience, let me tell you. 🙂

    • I should have clarified that this trip started on January 29th and ended on February 1st. I’m just slow in posting as I get a bit OCD with revisions and editing.
      But I was in fact pulling a car hauler behind the U-Haul on the return trip. Fun times.
      More to come.

  3. judith willis Says:

    i must say that the start to your new series “epic journey” is quite intriguing. I must say that even though you havent enlightened us with next part im sure i will find it even more humourous than this part. Maybe that has to do with the fact that i will probably be dying with laughter by the time i get done reading it….all i have to say is “… See MoreCRANE ON THE WATER” ( sang to the tune of smoke on the water as we drove into the tunnel under the water that didnt really exist….im so nieve : / ) thanks for the good times and great memories brotha!

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