I’m not sure I even remember why I was headed to St. Louis on Sunday night. By midnight, and when the connection was finally cancelled after loading the plane twice, all I knew was I was going back to my home in Jonesborough!
The reservation from Tri-Cities, TN to St. Louis was made on Delta. Delta, with all good intention I’m sure, booked me on flights as close to my original times as possible – very close; in theory. Reality however saw it much differently.
I was handed off to US Airways taking me to Charlotte and then American taking me on to St. Louis. There was just enough delay on both the part of US Airways and American to put me, and all my traveling cohorts, right in the path of the snow storm that had plagued my original connection point of Atlanta. I don’t know if you watch “Cash Cab” on The Discovery Channel. It is one of my favorite shows. When the passengers have won money and it’s time for double or nothing, I often find myself talking to them through the screen saying, “You’ve got 2 strikes. When you have 2 strikes, you never go for double or nothing.” I’m very often correct. Well, when your original carrier puts you on another airline, that is 2+ strikes and you will lose. I’ve now proven that for what I commit to be the last time.
Looking out the window on the parked American flight while talking to my daughter in Ohio, I commented on how it reminded me of my days flying in and out of Cleveland in the winter. It was a good (or bad) snow. The only difference – and a big one – is that the Ohio bunch knew how to serve in the game. The Charlotte-Douglas situation made me think about the Beverly Hillbillies serving possum and greens to guests around the “fancy eatin’ table” (in the billiard room if you remember). Well intended, but … well you figure it out.
Here’s the deal with the multiple airline thing: I feel as if US Airways suspected me from moment one – “I don’t think he’s one of ours – born of our own ticketing process.” But they did get me to Charlotte. Thanks … ? Read on. But American ‘knew’ I was counterfeit and tried their dead level best – through a tightly wired gate agent – to take away my seat on that plane. But I got on that flight to nowhere in spite of her attitude. And it was this gate agent that led the talk, overheard by all nearby would-be passengers, how our pilot was too afraid to fly in this weather … and constantly questioning the crew’s decisions, thus bringing some of the travelers into the discussion. Confidence was not running very high.
Once I decided I could see St. Louis at some future opportune time, both US Airways and American proved my ‘suspicious’ and ‘counterfeit’ status by pushing me off on the other. At daybreak, it was my originating carrier of Delta that even attempted to move at getting me home. But with only 3 daily flight chances, and the first 2 already cancelled at 5:30 a.m. – I saw no hope. After 21 hours in the Charlotte-Douglas airport, my wife drove 4 hours over questionable slushy roads at 3.700 ft. to save me.
Why did I write this?
There is the obvious therapeutic value of course. But I feel there is a lesson here of some sort. And while it may seem that lesson is going to be around the negative – like the TSA inspection sheet in my bag lying in the place of 2 of my 3 packed breakfast bars (I’m just saying) – I feel the lesson of this adventure is positive.
What I choose to think on comes from behavior I observed. There was the flight attendant on that going nowhere American flight; Julie. She was thorough and tended to each one of us with kindness. There’s the staff at the Starbuck’s in the ticketing area where so many of us were stranded with once checked luggage. If they had not stayed open all night we would have been left to eat stale machine snacks and washing them down with cold artificial sugar laden sodas. They placed our name on our cup of coffee and then used our name in talking us through the line, all while freely handing out beautiful smiles. There are all those precious families I saw with children patiently behaving as if wise to their parent’s frustrating situation. And there was the gentleman I saw befriend a teenager who had been crying steadily about being stranded all alone. He provided her safety and she laughed. It wasn’t long before the redness from crying was gone and she moved along in confidence.
These were the servants.
These were the leaders.