Thursday, July 8, 2010

Part III: A Tale of Two Vending Machines

(Read Part I here and Part II here.)

9:45pm  My bladder is about to burst.  I finally give in and use the airplane restroom.  It is every bit as foul as I fear.  I stumble back to my seat and force myself to think on roses, mountain breezes and the innocent laughter of small children until the nausea passes.

10:00pm  Begin the taxi to takeoff.  We'll try to arrive in Denver between storm fronts.

10:20pm  Still taxiing.  Just when I begin to wonder if we are in fact driving this plane all the way to Denver, the captain announces that right before we were cleared for takeoff, the wind reversed directions and we had to taxi to the opposite end of the airport to get on the other runway.  A few of us bravely attempt a chuckle at this news.

11:15pm  We're in a holding pattern over stormy Denver for the second time, waiting for clearance to land.  Fuel is low.  Spirits are even lower.

11:30pm  Landing in Denver?  Not gonna happen, cap'n.  Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's back to Grand Junction we go!  I can't decide whether to laugh or cry, so I just turn and ask Tom if he's ever played a bouzouki.  He has not, but the question leads into a fascinating discussion of instrumentation and alternate tunings.

12:00am  (Saturday)  Landing again in Grand Junction.  I have nothing against this pleasant, outdoorsy little town at the foot of the Rockies—but I do not want to see it for the second time in three hours.  This is beginning to seem surreal, like I'll never get home.

12:10am  We are allowed to deplane.  It feels glorious to step into the fresh night air (no thunderstorms here!) and walk inside the tiny airport.  The last time most of us ate was twelve hours ago; we swarm the lone vending machine.  When a passenger discovers one-half of her Little Debbie covered in green mold, the rest of us think better of it and ignore our grumbling tummies.

12:30am  Back on the airplane, it is announced that the aircraft has taken on the very maximum fuel load.  We'll circle Denver as looooong as we gotta!  Flight attendants, in a sudden gesture of generosity, pass baskets of small pretzels packages and bottles of water.  It is amazing how a half-day of mind-numbing, meal-less waiting can change one's perspective about the otherwise-laughable airline "food service."  I take the pretzels meekly, gratefully; I savor ever bite.

1:00am  We have landed!  In Denver!  A mere nine hours tardy.  As we taxi, a flight attendant announces a website url, where we will find a gift from United Airlines, a "token of appreciation for your extended patience."  My seatmate, Tom, grumbles, "They'll probably give us—what?—a toaster?  I don't want a toaster, I want to go home."  It's a good-natured sort of grumble; I laugh.  Everything is much more cheerful with the Rockies to the west.

1:15am  Inside the Denver airport, we are greeted with the news: customer service closed fifteen minutes ago.  Tom and I frantically search for a desk still open.  Our search pays off: one agent is just beginning to leave.  We all but grovel at her feet, pleading for help to rebook our long-ago missed flights.  She reluctantly agrees.  But I am not out of the woods, not by a long shot—there are no seats open to Wichita for two days!  Kansas City?  Not there, either.  I wrack my brain for the next-closest airport.  Omaha? I ask in a small voice.

1:45am  I clutch a ticket to Omaha; Tom has one to Pittsburgh.  We throw mold-caution to the wind and go in search of a celebratory vending machine snack.  A fellow stranded traveler helps us hunt one down in a forlorn niche of the terminal.  Tom treats me to a package of Twizzlers.  We step around the scattered bodies of fitfully-sleeping travelers and find a couple of empty seats, confident that this nightmare is nearly over.  Not quite...

Next: Part IV, including a reunion with French Guy (see Part I), a farewell to Tom, and a panicked search for a suitcase.  (I promise—no, I hope—it will be the overdue conclusion of this drawn-out travel saga.  This thing is like the Energizer Bunny or the Democrats' spending: it just won't stop.)

1 comment:

  1. Someday you'll look back and laugh. Even as you're making your readers do now! Thanks for sharing the funny/ could-it-really-happen? story!


Your turn. What do you think?