Thursday, August 8, 2019
We needed to leave San Francisco first thing Thursday morning, because we had a flight out of Fresno at 4:02 that afternoon. We missed our final breakfast with our friends at Dottie’s True Blue Cafe, one of our favorite places, but work called.
We got home about 10:30 and threw one load of everything into the washer. The cat insisted he’d not been fed even once in the four days we’d been gone so we took turns feeding and petting him. As 2:00 our friends arrived to shuttle us to the airport and we were off again.
The ticket agent informed us that our connection in Denver was delayed due to storms. They couldn’t land and so our flight was impacted. Okay, not great news, but it would only make us half an hour later into Des Moines.
Well, that was only the beginning.
At our gate, we waited for the boarding call. And waited. And waited. Then came the announcement that the incoming flight was delayed. And delayed. By the time it finally arrived, and we were onboard, we still waited to take off, and we were grateful the Denver flight was delayed. Bottom line: we’d have about 30 minutes to make the connection.
In Denver, that’s risky. It’s such a huge airport. Even if you’re in the same terminal, it could be half an hour to walk to your next gate. But there was nothing we could do except try.
We landed. And we waited again. There was a problem with the jetway. If we’d been able to get off right away, we’d have made the connection. I’m convinced those ten minutes cost us that flight. We ran the half mile to the next gate only to be told we were too late. The flight hadn’t left the gate yet, but they wouldn’t let us on.
So we joined the line of roughly 200 other stranded passengers for customer service. I used the app to book us on a flight the next morning as standbys, but we needed to talk to a live person about other options and also where our bags were. It took two and a half hours to work our way to the front of the line. Because the delays were weather related, all the airline offered us was bottled water while we stood in line and a “Freshness” Kit, of an empty water bottle, toothpaste, toothbrush, etc. The rep also gave us three blankets instead of two, since we’d be sleeping in the airport that night and it was already midnight.
The best the agent could do for us was to get us on an 11 am flight to Moline, Illinois where we’d rent a car and drive two hours and forty minutes to Des Moines, pick up our bags at the airport, and then return the car and finally begin our fair time.
We hiked the mile from B Terminal to A Terminal to the gate where the 8:00 AM flight to Des Moines was scheduled to depart, hoping it wouldn’t be changed to a different gate (and that our standby status would get us on the flight).
Now I can say I’ve slept on an airport floor. And I actually did sleep for a couple of hours. The lights were bright, so I was grateful for that third blanket. Dave let me have it, so I was covered, toes to head, and the lights weren’t in my eyes. As close to heaven as one could get on the floor of an airport.
In the morning, we shared a breakfast sandwich and had coffee and prayed and hoped. Dave talked to gate agent. She said the flight had one empty seat, so we needed just one passenger to not show up. You feel bad hoping someone misses their flight, but … there could be lots of reasons they don’t make it. I think. Maybe.
As boarding began, we watched and waited. Then we gathered our things and hovered near the gate, hoping the agent would see us and have pity. She called for three passengers, “Final boarding.” One woman ran up, huffing and puffing. She swore her friend was right behind her. She squinted and pointed down the terminal to someone running.
The agent kept calling for one more passenger, “Barbara, final call.” She went out the door, closing it behind her and we thought we were headed to Moline and a rental car. I started searching my United app for its departure gate.
Then the agent was back and asking, “Were there standby passengers for Des Moines?”
“Us!” We rushed toward her.
“Come on! Hurry!”
She flung the door open and trotted down the ramp and onto the tarmac, waving at the pilot who was already going through his checklist and not looking up. The runway employees had pulled the stairs away. Dave shook his head. The plane backed away.
The agent jumped up and down, waving two fingers.
Finally the pilot saw her. The plane stopped. The door opened. Stairs lowered.
We dashed up, apologized to the flight attendant. “I’m sorry, they forgot us! We slept on the floor!”
I stopped at the first vacant seat. A man sat at the window. A water bottle and a small bag were in the seat. I indicated I needed to sit there. “Oh, sorry. Your seat?” He picked up the things. “This was my wife’s. I guess she didn’t make it.”
Oops. I guess his wife was Barbara. He had on headphones and it was obvious he did not want to talk, so we sat in silence for the hour and a half flight. Except when we deplaned. I had brought the blankets on board, just in case. Then I left them behind on the seat. As I stood and started to move down the aisle, he said, “Ma’am, your jacket.” I turned around. “Oh, no. It’s blankets from sleeping on the floor.” He nodded. So yes, we shared a moment.
Next, our bags. They should be on the plane with us. The agent last night assured us since they were tagged in Fresno to Des Moines, they would make it to Des Moines, even if we went to Moline. So we headed to baggage claim, and sure enough, first Dave’s bag came out of the slot, then mine! Finally, things were going right.
Now I called the hotel. I hadn’t thought to call earlier, but our reservation was confirmed for the day before, so arriving before official check-in time shouldn’t be a problem. We just needed to get to the hotel. I called to ask about a shuttle, but nope. So we Ubered to the hotel, checked in, and collapsed.
After naps, we looked around for a place to get an early dinner. Google maps said there was a BBQ place just a block away so we headed out. We found it easily enough, but it was closed up tight. At 4:00 on a Friday. Sigh. Later, we found out they were probably out at the fair with a booth.
There was also a diner right next to the hotel so we returned there, shared some grilled chicken and vegetables. Then we called up another Uber for a ride to a drugstore to buy a few supplies. We had a lovely driver named Veronica. This was definitely a God-ordained appointment. She drives Uber on weekends as a second job, putting the money toward a ministry she’s launching to bring electricity to Africa. She’s also a survivor of a workplace shooting. By the end of the ride, we were all talking super fast, trying to get everything said that needed to be said, before we had to get out of the car. Uber sets a limit on how much I could tip, or I would have given her more for the electricity project.
We had an early night and still fell asleep quite easily. Then Saturday we hit the Iowa State Fair!