My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (on Airplanes)

I am posting this story before I know the ending. I just got off the plane in Sacramento. I don’t know how the story ends yet…

This post is about my experience with U.S. Airways this past week.

In order to make this post as interactive as possible, I wil invite you to insert the adjective of your choice at opportune times.

Please select from the following list: asinine, moronic, imbecilic, rude, ridiculous, troglodytic, stupid, silly, needless, blasted, cretinous, half-witted, daft, insane, lunatic, maniacal, lousy, disgusting, crappy, ignorant, dense, wooden-headed, stinky, pea-brained, half-baked, piece-of-junk, cheap, poorly-made, defective, shoddy, deficient, laughable.

You may imagine other adjectives, such as “good.” Or even others–very colorful adjectives. That’s what America’s all about: freedom.

Did I say that this was about my experience with U.S. Airways?

A dear relative passed away suddenly this week. I love him and his wife very much, but I don’t want to mingle my emotions for them with my emotions for U.S. Airways right now.

I immediately booked a flight to Chicago. On U.S. Airways, the only option that worked with my schedule. Tuesday through Friday. Sacramento to Chicago. Sacramento is a 2.5 hour drive from where I live.

Tuesday: flight boards and leaves only about 10 minutes late. Crowded, but I’ve come to expect that. Flying used to be fun. Now it’s nothing but [insert adjective] Greyhound in the sky. Terminals and all.

Connecting in LasVegas. Flight delayed two hours… This causes me to miss most of the visitation, my very reason for flying on Tuesday in the first place. Can’t help it… weather. Nobody to blame.

Fast forward to my return flights.

Leaving Chicago: Flight screen has the ominous message: Flight Delayed. No explanations are forthcoming. Why doesn’t the [insert adjective] gate attendant give us a clue?

Finally we board, about 15 minutes late. We sit on the plane for about 20 minutes before we are informed: “Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a mechanical problem. One of the overhead bins won’t close, and one of the seats is lose. The mechanic is on his way right now, and will fix it soon. We should be able to leave in about 15 minutes.”

Okay, I can live with that.

Twenty minutes later, no [insesrt adjective] mechanic.

I realize that my layover–this time in Phoenix–is only about 40 minutes. I will miss the Phoenix-Sacramento flight.

I make a suggestion: why don’t you guys just empty the overhead bin, and fly with it open? And why don’t you just bribe somebody to get off the very full plane, and fly with a jiggly, but empty, seat?

“Because of [insert adjective] [insert adjective] [insert adjective] FAA federal regulations.”

Now I will definitely miss my connecting flight. I ask an attendant what to do. She suggests I go talk to the gate agent. “You mean I can leave the plane?” “Yes you can.”

So off I go. I reach the open door, and talk to the attendant there. He too says that I can leave the plane… But wait a minute–who’s that outside, banging on the door, trying to get our attention? The mechanic. Hallelujah. ]

Wait a minute… that was premature praise.

Let me clarify: the ramp that smushes up against the plane–the one on which we walk onto the plane–has a door that opens to a stairway that takes you down to the tarmac. This is for authorized personnel only. Of course.

There was the mechanic, banging, and no one was letting him in. Why, you ask?
Because none of the [insert adjectives] U.S. Airways attendants knew the [insert adjeective] SECRET COMBINATION to unlock the [insert adjective] high security door.

I kid you not: 8 [insert adjective] minutes later, somebody comes to open the door.
The mechanic does a technical repair on the open overhead bin. He slams it shut and tapes it closed with [insert adjective] FAA official, magic, [insert adjective], tape.

Meanwhile, the nice attendant says, “Why don’t you just call on your cell phone and reserve the next flight? That’s all the gate agent will do.” Okay, I can live with that.

“Do you have the number?” “I’ll get for you.” “Here you go.”

I happily return to my seat, grab my cell phone, and dial.

Another fellow sharing my predicament asks the number, which I also share with him.
After a couple of minutes of pushing numbers and working my way through the [insert adjective] automated answering system, a real person answers. I tell him my story. He is puzzled. “Sir, this is the number for U.S. Airways CRUISE LINES. I can’t help you.”

[Insert all adjectives here.]

Meanwhile, the mechanic is fixing the wobbly chair. We have to hurry!
He had given me the wrong [insert adjective] phone number.
“May I have the correct number please?” I get number and dial. Wrong number–this time, my mistake. I call the [insert adjective] cruise lines back again to get the number again.
This time, I say it out loud to my fellow travellor, who dials it as I speak. Then I dial. He gets through. I’m still in [insert adjective] automated answering service land. He followed a different [insert adjective] path. Aaaarrggh…

Other fellow is talking to a live person.

My [insert adjective] MOTOROLA cell phone dies.
I can’t even call my wife.

[insert adjective] Chair’s almost fixed. We really have to hurry!

I focus on the other fellow’s conversation. He’s having a heck of a time getting the [insert adjective] person on the other end to understand his predicament. He gets put on [insert adjective] hold. I ask him if I can talk to his agent when he’s thru. He says, Okay… but can he use my cell phone to call his grandmother so she’s not waiting for him?

Umm, no. My cell phone’s dead.  Dejection.

My very wonderful neighbor sitting next to me says, Hey, you can use my cell phone. Later on I will offer her two slices of Lou Malnati’s pizza that I had stuffed in my briefcase for this kind gesture.

He says, “Mam, I’m going to give you to another passenger who has the same problem as me…. No… Yes… Why should he have to call back? We’re about to leave? Yes… Why not?
[insert adjective] [insert adjective] [insert adjective] [insert adjective] [insert adjective] [insert adjective] [insert adjective] [insert adjective]
Okay, here you go. So, he finishes, and uses my neighbor’s cell phone… I use his cell phone.

“I’m sorry sir, but that’s our last flight to Sacramento tonight.”
“Then put me on another airlines.”
She checks. All full. I’ll have to wait till the next morning to fly out on [insert adjective] U.S. Airways.

Now, without cell phone, and about to taxi away, I try to email my wife about my predicament. I can get a signal, I compose the letter fast, I click send–it doesn’t go. “Sir, you have to shut that. We’re leaving now.” Okay. After a couple of tries, I give up. I’m defeated.

We departed 2 [insert adjective] hours late.

Fast forward to Phoenix… “Ladies and Gentlemen–please allow passengers with connecting flights to exit first.” In a remarkable show of human goodness, people actually cooperate.

I look at my boarding pass: I have three minutes till my flight is scheduled to leave. Open the doors! Open the doors! Open the [insert adjective] [insert adjective] doors!
We’re moving. People are letting us move! God is good.

I run down the ramp, check the screens, find my gate, run to the gate. Plane is there. Door is shut. Area is empty. One lone attendant.
“Oh please, [puff, puff] my flight was late–mechanical [puff] failure in Chicago [puff] please let me on. It’s the last flight [puff] out.”
Okay–I’ll check if the door is closed.

The door isn’t closed! Run! I run. I want to kiss her.
Just take any open seat.
An aisle seat! My favorite! God is great. God is good.  I sit.  I hear…

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have a slight mechanical failure, and we are waiting for the mechanic. We should be off the ground in about 15 minutes.”

I am not making this up.

My spirits sink. I’m crestfallen.

Then it hits me. There is no [insert adjective] way that my [insert adjective] suitcase with my [insert adjective] [insert adjective] CAR KEYS made it onto this [insert adjective] airplane.  So even if I do get to Sacramento, then what? It’s a 2.5 hour drive in a car that I don’t have the keys to!

I get out of my seat to discuss this with a flight attendant. “Actually I don’t know what they’ll do.” the [insert adjective] attendant says. “Why don’t you talk to the gate agent. He’s right here.

I ask again. The [insert adjective] attendant doesn’t know. “But sir, I can’t talk to you now. I have to close the door.” He was irritated with me. Honestly, I was nothing but polite. And I didn’t ask to talk to him. I was DIRECTED to talk to him by one of his [insert adjective] colleagues.

I sit back down in my aisle seat. Dejectedly. I rehearse my speech for when I get to Sacramento.  We take off. We’re in the air right now. I’ll let you know what happens.
This is part one of my [insert adjective] experience with [insert adjective] U.S. Airways.
Which is perfect timing, because I’m preaching a series of messages about dealing with Other People’s Craziness (OPC). And sometimes, it’s not only people that are crazy, it’s the system. I’ll let you know what lessons I learned and how I did tomorrow. Right now, my [insert adjective] batteries are about to die.

I’m shutting down.


One thought on “My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (on Airplanes)

  1. James said, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” But I think what he really meant was, “if you are the person telling people how to live, be prepared to show them…

    …in the worst possible circumstances.”

    I hope your adventure in becoming-your-own-sermon-illustration-land wasn’t too painful…

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