Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Longest Day of Travel

On Sunday, I was traveling from Rollins College in Orlando, FL to University of Iowa in Iowa City, IA. Traveling this distance requires two flights: Orlando-Chicago and Chicago-Cedar Rapids. My first flight was scheduled to depart at 10:15 AM.

At 6:45 AM, I rolled out of bed to get ready for breakfast and leaving. The girls assigned to take me to breakfast ended up oversleeping, and I was a little frustrated that I had woken up so early. I grabbed a granola bar and waited for the Vice President, who was taking me to the airport at 8 AM. I ended up being at the airport way too early. However, I'd rather be early than running late. After my fiasco in Pittsburgh, I never want to feel that rushed again!

I boarded my flight and immediately rested my head against the window. Plane time=nap time for me. Always. It is a talent I am lucky to possess. And I always request a window seat so that this is a real possibility. I had been dozing, assuming we were flying somewhere over the country when the pilot came over the speaker, "I apologize for the delay, folks, but we are having some issues with braking and steering. The mechanic has been working on it out here, but we need to go back to the gate." "What?! We're still in Orlando?" I thought. I was shocked.

When we got back to the gate, everyone was grumbling about their connections and the delay. Children were getting antsy, and there was an unfortunately large number of children on the flight. As much as I love children, I hate them on planes. Half an hour later the pilot came over the loud-speaker again, "Well folks, the braking looks alright, but the steering is going to take at least another 2, 3, 4 hours to service." Everyone on the flight gave a nervous laugh. Is he serious? "This plane is out of service. We will begin de-boarding briefly." Now people are really grumbling. I have to admit, I was frustrated that my flight was canceled, but did I want to be on a plane with braking and steering issues? Absolutely not!!

I was near the back of the plane, so by the time I de-boarded, everyone was gathered around the gate attacking the Customer Service Rep. with questions. Bless her heart, this older black woman working for the airline was so calm and patient. I should write a letter to United praising her attitude.

It had been decided than an empty plane would be flown down from Washington DC to take everyone to Chicago. Orlando is a surprisingly small airport. I shouldn't say its small, but it is definitely not a hub. There is no way they could have re-routed everyone on my large flight any time in the next three or four days. The plane would be arriving around 3 PM, so everyone scattered to go entertain themselves.

In my concourse, there were a few restaurants, but only one sit-down restaurant. It was a Ruby Tuesdays. By the time I got there, there were at least 40-50 people waiting to be seated. It was noon by this time, and my granola bar was not holding me over very well. I turned to the man next to me and simply asked, "How long do you think the wait is?" "Oh," he responded, "at least an hour people are saying, but not if you join me. I'm next in line."

Wow. Smooth.

Let me describe this man to you. He was a 45+, balding, very overweight, Native American, truck-driver. He was wearing grungy shorts and a t-shirt, carrying a pillow and a book bag. I, on the other hand, am 22; too cute to be with a man like this; wearing a blazer, skinny jeans, and cute flats (my favorite travel outfit); and carrying my black leather briefcase and my carry-on suitcase.

I was taken aback. Is this man asking me on a date or is he just being nice? Afterall, he is old enough to be my father. In a moment of naivety and starvation, I accepted his invitation.

Sure enough, we were called to sit down 2 minutes later. People were literally staring at this bizarre couple I had become a part of. My waiter was approximately my age and very attractive. I kept trying to send ESP signals to him and let him know that I was not with this man. Surely no one thought so?

My date was very chatty. He told me his whole life story, and it was more interesting than I would have expected. He had gone to undergrad and majored in Chemistry, then gone on to medical school at the University of New Mexico. (He shared all of this without me mentioning my education and career plans at all. Therefore, I choose to believe him.) He had to drop out after this third year of medical school because of personal issues, then moved to Vegas to deal cards. After years of that, he got too old and started driving trucks. He has worked on some interesting projects, including the Alaskan pipeline! I'm not exactly the open-up-and-share-deep-stories-with-random-strangers kind of person, but he liked talking and didn't seem to mind my silence.

My date kept calling me sweetheart and insisted on paying for my meal. This was a subject we argued back and forth about for a solid five minutes. As we were leaving lunch, my travel agent returned my phone call from earlier, which was the perfect excuse to end my date.


We eventually ended up flying out of Orlando at 4 PM and arrived in Chicago around 6 PM. I had been placed on standby for multiple flights to Cedar Rapids that evening. I have never flown standby before, and it is the most disappointing thing ever! You trek back and forth through the airport trying to get on a flight, only to learn that the flight is full and you were just a few people away from getting on. At least I got some exercise!

BUT I did end up making it to Cedar Rapids that night. I was number 4 on the standby list for the 10:20 PM (and last flight of the evening) to Cedar Rapids. By some miracle, two people didn't show up. Guy number 1 got off the list, people number's 2 and 3 didn't show up, and then I got on with my number 4! I literally screamed I was so excited.

Its good to be back in the Midwest and at the University of Iowa.

1 comment:

  1. I'd have to agree-the window seat is the best nap spot on the plane! I hate sleeping on planes though. Do you usually sleep at the chapter house during the visit, are you put up in a hotel or alum house? And I'll have to call you soon :)