Thursday, October 13, 2011

I am stoopib (but lucky)

Ok, the plan was clear enough: 1:00 pm flight, Hobby to Tulsa; direct flight, meaning the plane stopped in Dallas but I didn't have to get off.

I am an A-list passenger on Southwest, so I can now arrive at the airport only one hour ahead of flight time (remember when we complained about that? The lines now can easily exceed 1 hour; the only way I can get away with it is by being A-list, which gets me in the "First Class" line.

So an hour for security. Probably need to allow 15 minutes or so to park, and it takes 45 minutes to get from my house to Hobby.

Logic would dictate that, if I have a 1:00 flight, I need to leave the house no later than 11. Add (subtract) 15 minutes if leaving from the office.

So, this morning, I had all these plans about leaving on time. I started working (I work from home when I've got an early call at the airport). One of my clients had "this problem", another had "that problem", and I'm sitting there in my shorts and t-shirt (nothing packed yet) working on them.

I look up at the clock: 11:15. Uh-oh. I haven't packed; I have neither showered nor shaved; I have not fed and watered the dogs; the trash is sitting there to be taken out, and I'm officially 15 minutes late leaving if I get in the car RIGHT NOW.

So, my trusty laptop to the ready, I go to Southwest's website to find the next available flight. 7:15pm. NOTHING SOONER. ALL SOLD OUT.


"The Professional Insurance Adjuster SWINGS into action!" (Liberty Mutual training film, ca. 1963). I started throwing things: threw clothes into a suitcase, changed my mind and threw them into my new rolly-garment bag (that exactly fits a Southwest overhead bin), threw the dogs into their crates, threw dog food into their bowls, threw myself into the shower (having given myself a fast swipe with the razor and the teeth a fast swipe with the brush). Slammed it together with amazing (for me) speed and was out the door by 11:47.

By the time I was on the Beltway speeding--er, flying--er, drivng the LEGALLY POSTED SPEED -ahem- around the curve at the Southwest Freeway, it was 12:00. 1 hour to flight time. NEVER going to make it.

But, the traffic was light and I made it to Telephone Rd. without mishap. The lights on Telephone seemed synchronized, there were no cops, and practically no traffic ("Miracles happen every day!" --Oral Roberts).

12:10pm. Swerve off Airport Rd. into the main entrance and curve around to the parking deck entrance. "Parking Deck Closed". All levels "FULL".


Not going to happen.

12:17pm. I go to my favorite Remote Lot. They have two tiers: if you park on Level 1, it's more expensive but you don't have to lug your bags down the elevator to get to the shuttle. So I'm driving around Level 1. Nothing. Almost head-on with a dude in a Nissan SUV. He swerves into a side area and I smirk: "You'll have to back that thing out!" Smirked too soon! He pulled directly into a parking place! There were 3 back there I'd never seen. I swerve into the next spot and start grabbing my stuff (he's got his and is sprinting for the shuttle). Get my stuff and head for the shuttle. As I pull within visual range--she drives off. Dude had made it, running in his suit and dress shoes. I hate running.


Now it's REALLY not going to happen. But, I've come this far...

12:27pm: Next shuttle comes 'round; he listens to my sad tale, gasped out. He drives me directly to the door of the airport.

12:35pm: Through the main door at William P. Hobby Airport.

12:36pm: Arrive at TSA line. Not terrible--I'm A-list, so I go to the "First Class" line. There are about 10 in front of me (as opposed to the 100 or so in the "regular" line. However, a curious thing is happening: the "regular" line is moving at a smart clip; the "First Class" line is stopped. We are informed TSA is opening a new line just for us. We watch them go through their -amazingly slow even for them- motions and FINALLY go through the new line. I have both a laptop and cpap to take out and run through.


Oh, well, I'll go through, try for the gate. If the plane is there, great. If not, I'll beg the nearest Southwest person to take pity.

12:51pm: Through TSA, walking briskly -in flip-flops- through the airport dragging rolly bag and lugging briefcase. Make it to the "Rotunda", where the flights are posted. Gate 24, good (closer). Flight 92, "Boarding". Time on clock on flight posting board: 12:58.

12:58pm: I huff my fat ass down to Gate 24. About 3/4 way, I decide that having a heart attack, asthma attack, or stroke at the airport would cause me to miss the flight anyway, and slow to a walk.

12:59.30pm: I arrive at Gate 24 as the gate agent is walking toward the door to close it. "Wait! I'm on your list! I'm here! I'm here!!!"

She takes my boarding pass and says, "Hurry". I can take a hint.

1:00pm: I am at the door of the plane, which miraculously is open. Flight attendants grimace and pilots smirk, but here I am!

Two seats (middle) left on plane--in the back. NO room for the rolly bag; I ask the lead flight attendant if she wants to gate-check now; "No, just go on back there." So I get to the back of the plane and -unbelievably- they make room for my rolly in the overhead.

They shut the door and off we go. I'm still trying to decide if I need to holler, "I'm comin, Elizabeth!" a la Fred Sanford.

Have a delightful conversation with the nice lady sitting next to me; we comment on the great view of Houston as we depart and then talk all the way to Dallas.

Ah, Dallas.

We land. The Dallas passengers depart. Southwest's method on Direct Flights is to have everyone remain in their seats till they get the count right; when they do, all the "through" passengers move to the front of the plane.

They can't get the count. They can't board the plane till they get the count. They're off--by ONE. Uh-oh.

Gate agent (exasperated): "Ok, I'm going to call your name; when you hear your name, shout "here" so I can count you. If I don't call your name, you're not on the list!"

Guess whose name he does NOT call...

SO, he makes me deplane and take my belongings. Out to the counter I go. The nice man at the counter insists that I'm on the wrong plane! I tell him, "but here is my reservation (thank God for Smartphones), and it shows this flight!" He says, "Look, I'm not lying, come look at my screen!" Nicholas Jones. Of Conroe, Texas. "THAT'S NOT ME! I'M NICK-ALAN JONES of HOUSTON!!!" He looks again. "Well, there was a Nick-Alan Jones scheduled for this flight, but he was a no-show." "Um, sir? I am here! Here's my TDL: it's me! I just got off yonder plane from Houston, on which I was transported. I handed my boarding pass to the nice lady at the gate."

(Grumble grumble) "Well, since you no-showed ("We are here, we are here, We Are Here, WE ARE HERE!!!" --the Whos, "Horton Hears a Who"), the whole reservation cancelled out. You're not on the roster for Tulsa."

"Sir, I need to go to Tulsa. I obviously used an airplane--yours--to get here from Houston. I have a confirmed, paid, and ticketed reservation which you can view on my phone." (I was remarkably calm; I displayed NONE of my usual tendencies. I was practically Spock.)

(Grumble grumble) "I know what happened. She just didn't ding you in when she put you on the plane!" (Aha! Dawn Breaks!). "I'm sorry, sir, it'll just take me a second and I'll get you reinstated."

He hands me a "C" boarding pass. "A C? That's the best you can do when you pulled me off the airplane?" "You're right, sir; just come with me." And with that, he marched me back to the gate and told the gate agent to interrupt the line and board me.

So, I arrive back at the airplane. Pilot asks, "Uhhh, didn't you just get OFF this plane?" I must've looked pitiful, because he patted me on the back. "Where are you going?" "Tulsa!" "Ok, we'll take you to Tulsa right now." "Thank you!"

At last. I make my way to my favorite seat, 5A, which is open. I put my rolly in the overhead (lots o room!). I make the large guy in the aisle seat (turns out he's from Ft. Smith) move so I can get to the window. Sit down. So far, so good.

Flight Attendant: "Ladies and Gentlemen, be sure your carry on luggage is either in an overhead bin or under the seat in front of you."

Carry on luggage.

When I deplaned, and went to the counter, I swung my briefcase up on the counter. When I was marched back to the gate, I left it there. Not only the company's computer, BUT: My enrollment stuff for next year (figured I'd look at it during downtime); my $600 watch; my billfold featuring TDL, debit card, hospital cards, and about $300 cash; my cell phone--everything I need to sustain life as we know it.

I start to try to swim upstream but the onrushing B's and C's are in a hurry. I catch the flight attendant's attention. "I left my briefcase at the desk!"

She--Jasmine--stops boarding, gets another FA to help, and swims upstream, retrieves the briefcase--intact--and delivers it to me at my seat.

3:15 on the dot: We arrive in Tulsa, I sail out to get my rental car, which transaction goes flawlessly (though nothing quite screams "rental" as much as a white Dodge Avenger...). Got to Stillwater in time to meet the girls for dinner at Mexico Joe's (Eskimo Joe's Mexican relative), where I had an amazing concoction: Fajitas--made with chorizo, beer soaked brats, and peppers, topped with sauerkraut and german mustard, accompanied by two very nice beers.

I have to give props to Southwest: They did everything they could to make my flight (that I screwed up by being late) as good as possible. The lovely Jasmine; the kind pilot; the unflappable gate agent in Dallas--all worked to take care of my screwups.

People in Stillwater are very friendly, and our waitress was tops.

Sometimes, it's just better to be lucky than good.

Never heard of this one...

Never heard of this one either--but it was DELICIOUS!

1 comment:

  1. I'm worn out just reading that. Did you remember to pack your Okie State stuff?