Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Ed’s Adventure in Aviation

Wednesday was pretty much a nightmare day. I was originally scheduled to leave Washington DC at 6:45, connecting through Cleveland to get in to Grand Rapids around 10 pm. But then it became clear that DC was going to get a major storm just before my flight out of there, so we decided it was a good idea to catch an earlier fight or I would likely have to spend an extra day or two there.

So Aubrey, our wonderful administrative assistant, got online and found a 2:45 flight that would route through Chicago. The only problem is that there would be a long layover in Chicago, but it would still get me home around the same time. No big deal, I said; I can just spend the time getting some work done from O’Hare. And then hell began.

It started out okay. In fact, I dodged a big bullet. The 1:45 flight out of DC to Chicago was delayed for several hours but my flight left on time. The only bad thing about it was that i was in the very back row, since I was a last minute addition to the flight, and that’s the worst seat on a plane — the seat back won’t recline at all. But it’s only about an hour and a half flight, so not that big a deal.

So I get to O’Hare around 3:30 local time and make the very long walk to get to the new terminal from which I’ll be leaving a few hours later. I spend those hours catching up on emails, editing articles, eating dinner, etc. My flight is supposed to leave at 7:45 local time. So around 7 I wander down to the specific gate I would be leaving from — only to find that the gate has been changed.

So I went to the new gate. And after a while they announce that the gate has been changed again, so off to that gate. Around 7:30, after saying that the departure would be on time all day long, the boards suddenly say “delayed.” People begin to groan. Then one of the gatepeople gets on the PA and tells us that this is only going to be a very short delay, only a few minutes.

The reason for that short delay? There was too much fuel on the plane and they had to take some out. But don’t worry, she assured us, once that’s done they would begin boarding and we’d get underway. Then about 5 minutes later she gets on the PA and tells us that our gate has changed yet again, to one way down at the other end of the terminal. Lovely.

So we all trudge down to the new gate, where there is — surprise, surprise — no plane. Great, more waiting. The board now says the departure time will be 8:15. I know damn well that isn’t going to happen because it’s already after 7:45 and there’s no plane for us to board. After a while, the board suddenly changed to indicate an 8:30 departure. Still no way. Then later it said 8:45. And people are grumbling.

So a plane finally arrives at the gate around 8:30. But there’s no ground crew there to meet it, so the skybridge doesn’t move to let the passengers off for a good 15 or 20 minutes as the plane just sits there — as do we. Finally they get the passengers off, send on the cleaning crew and we begin boarding.

After we are all in our seats, the captain comes on to announce that the plane was “broken” and they had a mechanic working on repairs, so we can’t leave yet. Lovely. I’d certainly rather have stayed in the terminal while they did those repairs rather than jammed into a seat that only an Olympic gymnast could fit comfortably in.

By this time, I’m beginning to wonder if there are hidden cameras and if we’re all part of some grand social psychology experiment. Somewhere, I thought, psych grad students are taking notes on our behavior, evaluating our state of mind, waiting to see how far we could be pushed before we all went postal and dragged a high-powered rifle up the nearest clock tower.

So I finally did make it home, after midnight. I left DC 4 hours earlier and got home 2 hours later than originally scheduled. My back is tighter than a Great Depression survivor with a nickel.

Oh, and when I got home all of the fire alarms in my house were going off simultaneously, blaring so loudly that I can’t believe the neighbors hadn’t called the police about it. I have no idea how long they’d been going off. There was no fire, one of the alarms just had a dead battery and they all go off when that happens, apparently.

And did I mention the $4 bottles of water?

Fly the friendly skies, my ass.