My flight to Philadelphia was quite uneventful. Up....Straight....Left a little...Down. But as I was speed walking through the airport on my 45 minute layover, my shins began to ache from curling my toes up in my shoes. At least I thought that was what it was, but it turns out it was my psychic shins warning me that trouble was a-brewin'.
As I walk up to the gate, which is on ground level because I am going to have to walk outside and up a set of stairs to get on the microscopic puddle-jumper, the ticket lady is telling all 20 passengers that the flight is overbooked. She is generously offering a free flight to anywhere in the U.S. for the kindly soles who give up their seats. As I am going to see my ultimately frugal friend, TJ, who will certainly understand the value of this undertaking, I walk up to the counter and ask Ticket Lady what I need to do. And note here that Ticket Lady is so kind she will even secure seats for us on the next flight--no stand-by...honest to goodness seats! Ticket Lady is a very sweet but harried, slightly plump African American woman. She appears to be around 30 give or take a few years, and is obviously concerned about the overbooked seats, and her inability to open enough of them up. (This I will later find, is not a rare instance for this airline--U.S. Airways--who appears to be headed for bankruptcy, yet again.)
As I stand there, I notice there is one other person who had just accomplished the task of reliquishing his seat in trade for a free flight. He appears to be near my age, but could be as young as 18. He has his hair shaved close, is wear shorts and a t-shirt and is carrying a small carry-on bag, but has no luggage. After I have informed Ticket Lady that I am willing to give up my seat, Shaved Head Guy (who I soon find out is named JA) and I wait for Ticket Lady to board all of the other passengers. But there is a hitch. She was unable to open up enough seats and she has to bump two passengers; A young woman with nondescript blonde hair pulled into a ponytail, and a man in his 50's with long gray hair pulled into a low ponytail--hippie style--and a scruffy beard. He is about 6' 4" and towers over Ticket Lady with a menacing bend in his stance.
As she looks up to him to tell him he has been bumped and there is nothing she can do, he begins to get angry. First, he deepens his voice. Then he begins raising it. Then, all of the sudden, with a thunderous clap he slams his palm down on the counter and begins yelling at Ticket Lady. The noise is so loud JA and I both jump, look at each other, and comment on the idiocy of yelling at Ticket Lady. As we are talking, Ticket Lady walks back across the gate area toward us and the check-in counter with a calm yet frightful gaze. She walks behind the counter and calls for her supervisor over the P.A. then she calls for security. She is obviously a bit shaken and leaves Yelling Ponytail Man standing on the other side of the gate area fuming at his inconvenienced position. While we wait for security, she begins to write up our food vouchers. "One voucher for both of you?" she asks with a quizzical look on her face. JA looks at her with wide eyes and responds, "that's awfully presumptive of you! We just met 10 minutes ago!" Ticket Lady laughs and apologizes and writes up two separate vouchers. But as we obviously both have the same amount of time to kill and have the same place to be, we decide to get a snack with out vouchers together. Before we leave the gate though, we watch as the supervisor promises Yelling Ponytail Man something and cancels the call for security. We figure he has been promised a seat on the next flight, but not given a flight voucher.
We head off in search of food and a beer and find it in a small bar and grill squeezed into a corner as an after thought. The bar was a nice size, but because of it's girth it was difficult to maneuver to a table whilst carrying and dragging luggage. But we made it to a table without knocking over too many things, each order a beer and some food and began to talk.
Here is the creepy part. I was on my way to Cleveland to meet up with TJ and then drive to Columbus the next day for the bachelorette party. JA was on his way to Cleveland to spend the night with family and then drive to Columbus the next day for a Bachelor Party...weird...what are the chances?? And on top of that it turns out both parties are planning to go to the same area of bars, so we decide we should have our parties meet up. As we do this we both start wondering..."What's the name of your Bachelor's Bride?" I ask. "What's the name of your Bachelorette's Groom?" he asks...But they weren't apart of the same couple...Whew...That would have been just too weird. We had three hours to kill before our next flight so we just chatted and basically told each other our life stories, then we headed for the gate.
Everything looked in order. There were people patiently waiting for the flight which was suppose to board in the next 15 minutes or so, and there were employees behind the ticket counter...this looks good
. So we wait.
Our flight is supposed to take off at 5:40. It is 5:30. Why haven't we boarded?
Nothin' doin'. We will leave 5 minutes late.
It's 5:40 now. Still waiting. Then another Ticket Lady gets on the P.A. and informs us we will be delayed to 6pm. The monitor behind her has changed to reflect this. This Ticket Lady is also African American. She is quite attractive and has a wild frock of hair that appears to be very curly but it has been brushed out a bit to create a soft Afro and she has deep red highlights in it.
So we wait.
Ticket Lady 2 is now asking for volunteers to give up their tickets for the 10:30 flight. JA and I confer about this. We decide it would be a bad idea as we would be making our friends and family pick us up at midnight.
So we wait.
I buy a deck of cards and we begin playing Gin Rummy. We played and we played and we played.
And about every 20 minutes or so we would receive new word via Ticket Lady 2 that our flight had been delayed again.
The reason for the delays was the most amusing part though. They couldn't "find" the first officer. Let me repeat that. They couldn't FIND the first officer. How do you lose a first officer?? At one point, they thought he was on another flight on his way to Philly and would be there shortly.
Then they informed us, no he wasn't on that flight. The flight arrived and he wasn't on it.
Oh, Lord--the incompetence--bankruptcy, here we come.
Finally, at about 7:55, I looked up and noticed that our flight was no longer on the monitor. This is no good
, I thought. So, I went up to the counter. I wasn't sure what I was going to ask, maybe, can you get me on a different flight? But, I had no plan. Then, after a minute or two of waiting in line, there was only one person in front of me, and Ticket Lady 2 was getting off of a phone conversation that sounded like this:
TL2: You didn't tell me that.
TL2: Well, I think you should have told me sooner.
TL2: Yes, it's already off the board. Shouldn't I have known first?
TL2: Ok, fine. Thanks.
This was not good.
Next she gets on the P.A. and calmly (too calmly--she should be upset about this with us right?? This isn't a common occurrence, is it??) tells us our flight has been canceled and we will be given accommodations for the night.
I AM STUCK IN PHILLY!!
Thank goodness I am making friends. I now have three. JA, the guy in front of me in line JI and his coworker RO. We are all being put up in the Ramada Inn and given a $10 food voucher.
Here's the rough part. Poor JA had no luggage. He had sent it on the first flight where he gave up his ticket. He had nothing. No toothbrush, no contact case, no pants. His luggage was already in Cleveland. RO had a similar problem. He had checked his luggage on this flight--the supposed 5:40 flight. It was still in the airport. But when he asked if he could get it back, the ticket agent told him it would be just be "too hard". TOO HARD. What too hard?? All RO was going to have to do was sit and wait, he saw nothing hard about that. But Ticket Agent insisted, and RO had no luggage. He was wearing pants though. This is important because it was about 55 degrees outside. So we all left the terminal and went to catch a shuttle to our hotel. Thank goodness JI and I were at the front of the line. The shuttle only held about 10 people. We were the only ones on it the first time it came around. And we had to wait a good 15 minutes--outside. Where it was cold--in August...But eventually it came. The driver was about 110 years old and a Philly native with the attitude to match. About 10 minutes later we arrived at the hotel and checked in, all delirious from the situation.
To be continued...