A mechanical disturbance in the aircraft scheduled to handle my connecting
flight Saturday night derailed my one-hop progress from San Francisco to
Syracuse and instead left me sitting in Chicago’s O’Hare for the better part of
the past twenty-four hours. Initially, United Airlines delayed my
connection to Syracuse from 8:55 p.m. CST to 9:30 p.m. CST, then re-delayed
until 11:00 p.m., then cancelled altogether. Impatiently and inexpertly,
the cranky customer service staff strained against their own wishes to cut out
for Saturday night plans (expressed again and again via cell phone calls while
servicing the long line at snail’s pace) to accommodate us one by one with obligatory apologies, $14 worth of food vouchers (not to be used on alcohol, but what difference would it make?) and shuttles to area hotels where folks would lodge for the night.
I was awarded a pass-card to the Doubletree in nearby Des Plaines, Ill.
After riding the shuttle from O’Hare to the hotel, freezing the whole way
because it was 35 F and my jacket was stowed away in my luggage (which they said
they had to keep at the airport), the Doubletree checked in another long line of
stranded travelers, heartening everyone, albeit unsuccessfully in my case, with warm chocolate chip cookies. It was 11:30 p.m.
on a Saturday night. I skipped the cookie and the line; gulped a quick MGD in
the empty hotel bar instead, wishing silently it would induce restfulness.
The best United Airlines could do last night was to switch me to stand-by
status for the six flights from Chicago to Syracuse today. I took a 5:00
a.m. wake-up call, hopped back on the shuttle (sans change of clothes,
toothbrush, etc.), and returned to the airport in time to miss the cut on the
6:40 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. flights home. No seats were available for me; I
was 14th on the waiting list for already-full flights. So I went to the customer
service line, considering whether to invoke a sugar rhetoric or a vitriolic
rhetoric, then waited for a half hour behind an Oswego State student who sobbed
as she pleaded with the agent for some kind of solution to her bind–a bind much
like my own. All six flights to Syracuse today were oversold; for a
guaranteed seat, the soonest flight would be Monday at 1:25 p.m. The agent
suggested flying into a nearby airport; the same option last night, however, was
qualified with the condition of paying–ourselves–for a rental car to complete
the final leg of the trip. But today, probably because of a greater force
of frustration exerted by smelly, tired, irritated customers on the airline
staff, the zone manager offered me a 5:55 p.m. flight into Rochester along with
a voucher for a taxi to run me the 79 miles from there to Syracuse’s Hancock
International where I could pick up my bag and complete the trip by calling D.
for a drive home from the airport. The best of bad options, so I took it.
And although I’m missing a cake and ice cream social for Ph.’s 14th birthday
(actual b’day is tomorrow), and missing his Sunday afternoon soccer match,
and spending yet another day away on this exhaustion-making trip (due to a mix
of lag and overstimulation, not more than five hours of sleep any night in the
last three tries), a call to my older brother J.–who travels all the
time–reminded me that 24 hours in O’Hare beats the hell out of plummeting
headlong into Lake Michigan in some clunky jet-plane. And the $14 of food
vouchers–11-plus of which were swiftly spent up on an airport breakfast–is
something. And more than enough time for reading Vygotsky so I can lead a class discussion in
seminar Tuesday morning. Bright spots? Not so many.
I liked to think I could fill the day by watching a few basketball games in
one of the airport bars or that I could drop $10 on a day-long wifi session.
Ten hours with basketball and blogging would have made O’Hare almost tolerable.
But have you been in O’Hare on a Sunday in mid-March? Stupid crowded.
And I’ve asked four different agents about wifi and they’ve pointed me to Laptop
Lane in another concourse–a place I checked out only to find the Lane wants
$.65 per minute for sitting in an Ethernet-connected office-closet. Wifi?
No luck. I might’ve walked three or four miles around O’Hare, tried five
or six different not-so-hot spots, pried the agents for expertise, prayed to the
airline gods whose Wrath of O’Hare I’m enduring, and finally quit. No
basketball, except a few walk-by glimpses, and no wifi. Just tired-reading
Vygotsky and wishing for a nap (why can’t I sleep with this un-padded armrest
jamming my ribs?) and listening over and over and over again to CNN Headline
News piping into my site between the "last call for Moline" and "final boarding
call for Philadelphia" who can tell which is interrupting which?
So I have a thick stack of folded sheets with miscellaneous CCCC notes I
thought I’d have the time and concentration to give to coherence today, and I’m
overdue now to respond to emails and reground myself for the return from spring
break. This is my excuse and my decompression. It’s the best I could
do under the duress of a few unfortunate conditions.