Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Sometimes Long Road Home

It's late on a Friday afternoon, good Friday to be exact and today I find myself in Lafayette Louisiana. So if it's late on a Friday, that means I must be on my way home. Which really means I'm stuck in an airport probably waiting on an inbound plane. The large plate glass window in front of me gives way to the concrete runways and then just beyond that lies fields of green grass and tree lines were all of natures critters live.
Glancing over my shoulder I check the board to see if my delayed flight has moved any. It hasn't and just to be sure I'm not boarding anytime soon I level my gaze across the terminal and onto the gate agent. A semi attractive black woman stands firm with her feet shoulder width apart. She's gesticulating wildly with her left hand and with her right, her fingers punching the keyboard of their own volition. The man standing in front of her had placed both hands on the counter, with his fingers digging into the faux wood. His expression stands in stark contrast to that of the ticket agent. Both of them have staked out their positions with neither giving ground.
Sighing heavily I turn back around and stare longingly out the plate glass window. I wonder again what would have happened if I had just driven the six hours to Dallas and then caught the plane ride home as opposed to what I'm doing now. Which is something I've become all too familiar with. Earlier that morning I had waffled back and forth about whether I should stay or go home. There is more than enough work to justify it however, it's Easter weekend and I would like to enjoy my quality time at home. But now that bulb seems to be dimming and the prospect of my actually getting home today is sliding off a cliff.
Blowing out my breath I turn around and do the only thing I can do, which is to pace back and forth and then pretty soon I'm walking in circles. The only good that comes from this is getting my 10,000 steps in. This brings very little in the way of consolation and is really a poor substitute for what I would really like to do, which is to scream or rant... loudly.
Picking up my phone I thumb through the call list and then to my contacts. But then it really kinds of hits me. I don't really have the energy for it. Playing the conversation in my head, I think through how it will go until my own will defeats my need to yell. I have a lot of passion, just not for this. And the older I get, the less I seem to have for the things in life that are fleeting or passing.
There was a time when I would sit and study my fellow travelers. Try and determine what they did as a profession or better yet what brought them to the airport for this flight. At times it seems obvious. The business traveler whose here for the same reasons I am. Or the college kid going home for a quick home cooked meal and some good ole fashion motherly pampering.
But other times its harder to figure out. How about the woman over there in the corner whose age is tough to define. The golden tresses piled high and fashionable, her face has just enough of a tan and just the smallest hint of crows feet to place her in the early thirties bracket. But the breezy and flowing sun dress that reaches just past her knees could put her, maybe north of 40 or maybe south of 30. Either way I ponder what brought her to the airport today. Business? Easter weekend with the family? Maybe to the arms of her amore? The opportunity of a lifetime? I watch as she checks her phone for what I assume to be the time. She scowls which is not a good look for her, turning in a slow circle she heads towards the exit with a smile touching the corner of her mouth. Whatever brought her to the airport isn't enough to hold her here through a lengthy delay.
Turning my attention to the plane, which is still supposed to whisk me towards home, I watch the flight attendant and pilot stand closely on the jet bridge and share what appears to be a moment. I could be wrong here, but their shared body language tells me otherwise. The pilot pushes his glasses up and then leans back. His arms sliding back to the railing until his weight rests on his bent elbows. Its a cavalier stance and speaks volumes about their shared familiarity. I do the honorable thing and give them their privacy.
Now it's my turn to do a slow tour around the terminal, I allow my eyes to rake the faces and bodies around me. Nobody stands out at the moment, so I take a minute to check the status of my flight online. No change as far as the delayed departure goes. I debate whether or not I should call the wife or not. She'll be mad as per usual and she has every right to be but for now I'm not up to it. Not finding anyone of interest to watch or study I decided to find a quiet spot somewhat removed from my new neighbors.
There is a spot near the United counter that looks enticing. The last flight to leave from this gate took off almost forty minutes ago. So no passengers or United gate agents to worry about. A slow thirty minutes slide by. My perch is centered in a manner I can watch both the plane and the gate. I see the door to the jet bridge open and a man wearing a green safety vest step through the vestibule. The gate agent turns and I see their eyes lock for just a second and then both of them turn away from each other and in that moment I know my luck is about to change.
The man in the safety vest has moved back through the open door, pulling it shut behind him. I see the gate agents hand moved down to the microphone and then watch as she moves the mic so she can speak into it. "Now announcing American flight 2125..."
Almost 2 hours later I am in Dallas. The flight home, however departed about the time we were taking off from Lafayette. Because I don't have any status with American I am on my own for rebooking. However, unlike United or Delta. American doesn't have a service center in the airport. Which makes sense because if they did, I'm sure the carnage of destruction left in the wake of pissed off passengers would make the job of customer service agent about as popular as the homeless guy under the overpass whose looking for some of your loose change.
So now I go in search of an agent whose not engaged in the dispatching of a flight. Which isn't hard because, well, this is Dallas and American flights don't do a lot of on time departures. It doesn't take long before I find a gate agent not working. Well, at least not on anything flight related. No this guy is busy searching in the eyes of a woman for what could very well be answered to the worlds toughest problems. But somehow I doubt it.
Moving forward until I am standing front and center of them both, I strive for the collected cool, I need so my request for another flight will net me a ride home sooner than later.
"May I help you?" He asks
So I tell him my woes and thankfully he takes the time to help out. After a couple of back and forth about where I came from and where I am going he does what I believe to be impossible in just a few short keystrokes.
My ears are rewarded with the happy and thankful sounds of paper being printed. Reaching down, he deftly swipes the paper from the printer and presents me with a boarding pass for tomorrows flight and a coupon for two meals. The real payoff though, is the hotel coupon. So now I have a place to rest my head and money for some free food. Time to go find me a shuttle.
An hour later I have checked into the Wyndam hotel. Its a nicer version of the Holiday Inns I normally stay in but its still a hotel. After dumping my stuff off I wander down to the hotel bar and order some food and a beer. Then I engage in some childish yet needed twitter feud with American airlines.
My rants manage to get their attention. Pretty soon they're responding. But it's nothing but platitudes and less than heartfelt apologies. All they've managed to do is fuel my anger and frustrations. Pushing my phone aside, I settle into my dinner when it arrives and pretty quickly my frustrations begin to melt away.
Three beers later I have mellowed out enough to see the folly of my actions. When it comes to the airline nothing changes and after 17 years on the road I should know better. I signal for the check and after signing it, I head to my autonomous room for some rest.
Tomorrow I will enter the beast again and if the travel gods smile upon me, I will arrive home a little earlier than expected. If not, well what can I say that's the way it goes when your The Road Warrior.

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