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Homeward Bound?

Tuesday, 2 May 2006

At some point around midnight, (my cousin) Raven suggested that it might make sense to stay up all night rather than risk missing our 4:30am wake-up call. It seemed a little crazy at the time, but as I was putting the finishing touches on my article for the Jewish Journal, it wasn’t long before I too realized that going to sleep would be a tremendously-risky move. Taking a break around 3:00am-ish, I sat down on my bed to watch “Philadelphia” – a movie that I hadn’t seen in years. Not too long after that. I realized that despite her best efforts to pull an all-nighter, Raven was fast asleep – with remote firmly in hand.

I figured that once the movie had ended, we’d have just enough time to finish packing up and grab a taxi. By some lucky stroke, I happened to glance that the clock only to notice that it was 4:53 and we needed to be in a cab no later than 5:10am. I jumped up and tried to rouse Raven from her deep, deep slumber. Not an easy task, let me tell you. And even once she was up, it was slooooooooooooooow going. I had sudden insight into how she almost missed our flight out to DC just 45 hours earlier. This girl moves like molassess!

The traffic was in our favour and we were safely deposited to Washington Dulles International Airport 2 hours, 23 minutes before our flight by a taxi drive whose radio entertained us with Contemporary Gospel music. Early? A bit. But security really did take a while. And my 14 year-old cousin seems to require a Starbuck fix every few hours – and it was a very long line. (Incidentally, I didn’t start drinking coffee until my 4th year of Rabbinical school.)

After jaunt into the Borders (she apparently required a bookstore fix every few hours as well. Sound like anyone you know, PC?), we made our way to Gate D24. And we sat. We sat and we sat. And then at about 7:55am, we boarded our flight. It would be of little surprise that only moments after inflating my travel pillow, I was fast asleep. A gift really. About 90 minutes later, I foggily became aware that we were still at the gate. Or, more accurately we had returned to the gate. Apparently we had gotten as far as the runway when the pilot noticed an illuminated light on the dashboard (or the airplane equivalent) indicating that one of the jets was having an issue. Back at the gate, the mechanical technicians had just corrected the problem and were performing a diagnostic check to make certain that we were “good to go.” So I called PC, DadGiraffe and Raven’s mom to inform them of our delay. And then I went back to sleep. A really hard, deep sleep too.

So deep that I was truly surprised to hear the arrival announcement. It seemed like just minutes ago we were sitting at the gate at Dulles and here the captain was making the “check, cross-check” announcement. Well, as it turns out, it was just minutes ago that we’d been at the Gate D24. Flight 149, it seemed, needed a new part – and the part was at National International Airport. Isn’t that a funny name? National International? Good thing they’ve renamed it Reagan International. Anyway, once they got the part over to Dulles, it would take about an hour to get it into place.

“Not to worry,” the kind customer service representative at Gate D12 told us, as she handed us a slip of paper with an 800 number on it. “Just call this number to get on the next flight out.” Call the number? Isn’t that what you, my kind customer service representative, is supposed to be doing? “Or you can stand on this really long line.” Now that seems like a lovely way to stretch my legs after sitting on a grounded plane for 180 minutes. How thoughtful of you. “But if you aren’t trying to make a connection” – and we weren’t – “you might as well wait since this flight is definitely going to go.”

The word ‘definitely’ should have been the tip-off. Nothing about this day has been definite. It was now 10:30am and we were now tired and hungry. A dangerous combination. We went to an eating establishment that was masquerading as the Golden Arches. Given my vast experience with McDonald’s both domestic and international, I can say without hesitation that the poor customer service was matched only by the poor food quality. What a disappointment.

Back to Borders. Though I had resisted the ever-present urge to make a literary selection (yeah for me) during our first Borders venture this morning, I reasoned that the travel delay now required some new reading material. There are always dozens and dozens of books that are of interest, but after being steeped in all things Darfur this weekend, I wasn’t in the mood for anything light and fluffy. I chose Paul Rusesabagina’s autobiographical account of the Rwandan genocide.

So tired was I that after about page 24, I had to close my eyes for just a few minutes. Around 12:30pm, I awoke with a start. Women’s intuition? Sixth sense? Whatever. It was a darn good thing I did because apparently Flight 149 – the one that was “definitely going to go” – had been cancelled. No one around me had heard any announcement. Word was just traveling by word of mouth…

I approach the ticket counter with some other disgruntled customers. The “kind customer service representative” was getting less and less kind. Though she claimed to have made an announcement, not one of us sitting at Gate 12 had heard said announcement. But not to worry. She had already booked us on a flight scheduled to depart at 3:26pm. Unfortunately we would have to stop in Dallas as “all the direct flights have either left or are already booked.” Bummer!

So Raven and I hauled our stuff down to Gate 19 and sat. We sat and sat and sat and sat. And then, we overheard someone say that this flight was delayed. Something about mechanical trouble. We checked the board at the gate, but no change had been made and no actual human was at that counter. So we checked the big board in the hall and sure enough, new flight scheduled to leave at 5:00pm. Again, no announcement.

I’m all for postive thinking. A positive attitude can make the difference, sometimes, between success and failure. However, sometimes a situation calls for a realistic attitude rather than a positive one. Case-in-point — the inbound flight from Dallas was only first scheduled to land at 4:36pm. Now I realize that American is a new airline and doesn’t have much experience in this department, but even I know that the likelihood of a 24 minute turn-around (and no, I didn’t do that math myself. Raven did it for me.) is slim-to-none. Furthermore, we were now scheduled to arrive in Dallas just 35 minutes before our connection.

To be continued…

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