We were planning on Romaine driving me to the airport at 9 am for me to catch my 11:47 am flight to Minneapolis from whence I was to link up with my flight to Columbus. But at 7:15 my sister called up to me with a request to haul elbow: she thought we’d be wise to get on the road ASAP with the storm due to start any minute. I began rushing to finish up my packing as the first drops began tapping against the skylight.
After checking to see if my flight was still scheduled - it was - we came up with a plan B: Rather than having Romaine drive me to the airport I’d take a taxi to the train station a few miles away and hop a train to the airport.
But the taxis weren’t running. The streets were already so bad that the taxis were venturing out only for emergencies, among which a plane to catch was not counted. But it was just as well; we learned that the train had also suspended operations due to ice on the tracks.
But my flight was still on and still on time. I continued checking my airline’s website every few minutes to see if it had been cancelled yet but it was still good to go every time. Outside on the steps, sidewalks, and streets the layer of ice was thickening.
So there I was in the situation of having a plane to catch and no way to get there.
But surely I wasn’t the only traveler in this pickle? The trains weren’t running and if the taxis wouldn’t pick me up then they wouldn’t pick anyone else up either, right? I mean, nobody was gonna make that flight, right?
I pulled up the Portland International Airport website. Dozens of flights had already been cancelled. But not mine!
At around 8:30 am I called the Delta customer service line to find out what I should do. I was connected to a friendly machine who strongly suggested that I seek to resolve whatever issue I was having online as all the customer service representatives were busy and that the wait for the next available rep was more than two hours. However I was welcome to stay on the line or I could leave my phone number and wait to be called back. I left my phone number then went online to the Delta website to try and find a sympathetic web page that would understand my plight and let me change my flight without charging me.
But the Delta web page wasn’t having it. I tried several times to change my flight due to bad weather but each time I tried the web page refused to acknowledge my efforts. The one time it let me start the process of changing my flight to the following day it threatened to charge $1,100 for the new flight.
“The website’s probably being slammed,” my sister concluded. “Better just sit back and relax and wait to talk to somebody from the airline.”
But I couldn’t sit back and I couldn’t relax.
At around 11 am my phone finally rang and as I checked out the screen I recognized with a rush of relief the number of the Delta customer service. “Hello?” I said and was answered with that insidious beep indicating that the call has been lost.
“Maybe they’ll call back?” my sister tried to console me, but of course they didn’t.
So I called the Delta customer service again and it was back to the end of the more-than-two-hour -wait-leave –your-number line for me.
As time went by I watched the online the progress of my flight: Now it was boarding without me. Now it was awaiting take-off without me. Now it was in the air, flying over North Dakota without me. And I asked myself, over and over, how the heck did everybody else get to the airport to make that flight? Because obviously enough people showed up for the flight to take off, right?
Now, I knew, or kept telling myself that I knew, that I really had nothing to worry about. I had a place to stay. I was bound to miss at least a day of work but I could make it up. I’d get home eventually. Even if I lost my ticket I could buy another one. Mine was truly a first-world problem of the most rarified kind. But myself wasn’t listening. Myself was in a state of anxiety. I felt lost in a shuffle within which I might never be found.
At around 3 pm my number came up again and I received another call from Delta customer service. This time I managed to speak with a cheerful youngster probably calling from the other side of the planet who listened to my tale of woe and then got to work finding me another flight. What he came up with was a flight the following night, Monday night, which left Portland at 6:37 pm, had two changes, and arrived in Columbus the following morning at 9 am. And for this 14 ½ one-way ordeal I’d have to pay only $487 on top of the $207.60 I’d already paid for the flight I missed. Sensing my unhappiness with this arrangement my sympathetic service rep said he’d go ask his supervisor if he could help me out.
After about ten minutes of waiting for my rep to return the call was lost.
“No!” I cried, “Oh no!”
“Aw, don’t worry,” my sister again sought to comfort me, “he’ll call you back.”
He never did.
Dejected but not knowing what else to do, I went back to the end of the line and once again waited my turn. Only this time I wasn’t given the option of leaving my name and number and waiting for a call back. This time I was told I had to stay on the line to wait for the next service representative, who would be with me in more than two hours. I wished I’d just agreed to pay the $487 dollars for the trip from hell and been done with it.
But in the meantime Romaine came up with an idea: If I was going to have to pay so much for a replacement ticket with Delta, why not just go to a discount flight and seek a cheaper, better flight from another airline?
This is why my sister has a job teaching computers to be smarter.
I took her advice and went on Travelocity and found a flight on Tuesday morning with one lay-over for $418. I grabbed it. Meanwhile I noticed that I’d been cut off from being on hold with Delta.
Even though I was out hundreds of dollars on this new ticket which would get me home two days late I felt a great warm wave of relief wash over me.
But shortly after I purchased my new ticket my wave of relief rushed back out to sea when I received an email notification from Travelocity, the site from which I’d purchased my original Delta ticket, that the flight that I had supposedly missed hours earlier was now rescheduled, though it wasn’t clear what day or time it was rescheduled for.
So, with a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach, I called Travelocity. When the friendly recording informed me that my wait would be two minutes I almost teared up in gratitude.
However when I told the service rep who was soon on the line about the ice storm, my missed flight and the mysterious email that followed hours later, she seemed to have no more idea than I did what it all meant and asked me to hold while she looked into it.
Thirty-eight minutes later – during which time I was not, thankfully, cut off – my rep returned and said she was going to call Delta airlines for me then hand me over to their rep.
I will now shorten this overly long story by cutting to the ending: Delta got me on the next available flight which was Tuesday - two days later than my original flight but hey, I was a happy camper – and I was able to cancel the new ticket I’d bought from Travelocity. By 5:30 pm my
flight and my head were finally squared away.
Too bad anxiety doesn't pay by the hour.
The ice covering the streets of Portland finally began to melt when the rain started late Monday afternoon,
I just received this text from Romaine: "12 inches overnight and up to five more today. The city is pretty much shut down."
I got out just in time. Thank you, Lord.