I’ve traveled a lot over the years. And in all those years I was never ‘One of those People’. You know the ones. They’re the poor sods on the news during the holidays. They’re occupying every available space in an airport somewhere across the country in a snowstorm. They’ll be spending Christmas in Terminal X – eating Cinnabon for their holiday meal and enjoying the slowest WiFi that ever existed. Made slower still by the 100,000 poor souls trying to connect to it.
I’d come close in the past. Gotten the last flight out before the airport closed. Somehow securing the final hotel room in Denver when they shut down the airport after forcing us to land in Pueblo on a dirt runway. I wish I was kidding. Of course, that hotel room had ladies of the night working the lobby. Jeff had to push the dresser in front of the door as I advised Emilie not to remove her shoes while laying on the bed where I had laid towels so we wouldn’t touch anything. I never thought I’d miss those accommodations… until now.
Today, I flew from Valencia to London and then London to Dallas Fort Worth. It’s been a long day. My final flight was to be a 3 1/2 hour flight to Portland. Yes, I’d arrive after midnight but I’d be there – with my family. Exactly 20 minutes before boarding was to commence on my American Airlines flight (code share partners with British Airways, who I love – but I dislike AA with the white hot rage of a thousands suns) they cancelled the flight.
Sure, when my London flight landed it was in the middle of thunder and some serious lightening. We landed 40 minutes late as our pilot dodged dark scary storms. But apparently that storm meant our pilot to Portland – and half the crew – never arrived, even though we had a plane and could have taken off. Not good. I volunteered to be a flight attendant on the flight since I still remembered my training working for Asiana in my early 20’s, but I didn’t have any takers.
Luckily, I was just 9th in line to find out what American Airlines had up their sleeves to remedy this total cluster. Turns out, they don’t have any sleeves. And to top it off, they don’t even have a shirt. I’m on standby and they’re saying that it is probably Saturday before I can get out of here – today is Wednesday. Uh – Yeah!
It’s an interesting experiment in the nature of humanity in situations like these. There are the line police who are self appointed. These bold individuals police the line and stop the other much loathed type – especially for those of us at the front – the line jumper. We had just one sort of line jumper who happened to be sitting across from me on the flight from London – so we were familiar with each other. I was well acquainted with her particular style that included invading the personal space of everyone she came in contact with and her never ending attempts to breach First Class. The flight attendant was not her friend after 10 hours of continually bringing her back to her seat. In the line at the airport she became the focus for all the anger that each person had built up – and I must say she earned it.
Then, when it became clear that we weren’t getting out tonight, the search for hotels began. This was a futile exercise – but it took awhile before we all came to the same conclusion. But before that, small cooperatives began to form. 2-3 people Googling, Hoppering, Hotel Tonighting. Sure, I had already looked at Booking.com and Expedia but everything within 20 miles was sold out. NOTHING.
Then the realization that those of us who don’t live in Dallas and can’t just go home, would be sleeping in the airport and not just because of poor planning when we booked out tickets. We were now ‘Those people’. And tribes began to form.
An assessment of resources was needed. Chairs with power nearby was the first order of business. And against a wall where you can store your bag under your seat and it can’t be stolen. Several of us who had been chatting in line grouped together. Other tribes formed too. There were the friendlies – those we would share information with and resources. And then there were those who had already demonstrated they would take care of themselves before anyone else. It’s essentially Survivor. If some guy gets naked I’ll scream.
A mad dash to the Admiral’s Club was futile. It would have been worth the $50 daily pass to sleep on a sofa, but they closed at 10:15. Ugh. I guess even the First Class and Business class passenger is out of luck.
Then we started helping each other. All the restaurants are closed and American Airlines has done such a poor job helping people or even understanding that communication might help – just a tad. So circumstances required civilians to step into the void. Someone found blankets and I grabbed a bag and handed them out. Then someone else showed up with some chips and drinks telling us that there was a pile of them at a customer service area, so we sent a scout and she came back with some provisions. We’ve watched each other’s bags and electronics and found ways to make things a little less horrible.
We are all getting comfortable enough in our camps to get some shut eye. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. But in the space of less than three hours I’m sleeping with people I hardly know, but who I know have my back. Well, OK, at least they’ll watch my stuff while I go to the ladies room and they’ll make sure I have Doritos and water for breakfast. Today, that’s all it takes to be my BFF.