A Tale of Two Planes

Or was that three?

Anyway, it wasn’t that difficult early this morning to head out of the door with a plan. Take the “L” to O’Hare, get a nice cup of coffee, take my flight to BWI. But then, this weekend reminded me that no plan survives its first contact with reality.

The first change was welcome. As I headed for the down escalator to the Red Line, one of the workers stopped me and asked if I was headed to the Airport. When I said yes, he mentioned that there is no escalator or elevator at Jackson Street – the change point to the Blue Line. Oh- that is right. Dani had carried my suitcase up the stairs – bummer. Instead, if I head up the escalator and take any train headed around the loop, I could change at Lake&Clark where there are both elevators and escalators.

And that she wrote, was the last smooth bit of my travels. I hadn’t been watching the weather. Of course there was some dampness on the street as I walked the couple of blocks, but nothing new there. My ignorance certainly didn’t do anything to protect the flight patterns at O’Hare, but then I often think that the flight controllers at O’Hare are just looking for excuses to mess with people’s heads anyway.

So, first there was rain. I am sitting down at the far end of B – Gate 22 sipping my coffee watching the rain come down and listening to the thunder. No sweat, look out the window – it sucks to be out in the rain, especially if you are booked – St Louis and Sioux Falls – on puddle jumpers. The kind where your trip includes dragging your suitcase down a set of stairs, going outside in the rain to hand it off plane side for gate check. This, of course is followed by a wet mad scramble up a set of slippery, wobbly outside metal stairs as you attempt to hold onto both your dignity and smaller possessions.

All is still right in my world….no, wait! The plane I am to take to BWI is still on the group in Grand Rapids. Admittedly, the flight over Lake Michigan is not far, but small planes don’t really like lightening and apparently neither do air traffic controllers.

All flights are now on hold; all of the small ones anyway. Thirty minutes of flash boom bang later, they start landing all those planes which had been circling the airport like buzzards and allowing the closer small airports to dispatch the flights on hold. I don’t have any connecting flights – I am ok but start making phone calls warning people that I might be a few minutes late.

A few minutes? My flight rolls in 45 minutes late and I am starting to get concerned. Did I mention that I had a board conference call at 1000 Pacific Coast whatever time? By my careful calculations, that would make it 1300 on the East Coast. With a flight landing at 1137 I should have plenty of time to collect luggage, sit down (airport, car, coffee shop – who cares) pull out laptop and participate over my handy-dandy pay as you go cell phone.

I watch my comfort margin dribble away over the next 40 minutes as we taxi here, there and somewhere else in the plane rearrange dance. The wind had changed, necessitating a different runway and direction. Landing planes take priority over those of us burning fuel on the ground and we were about 12th in line.

Just as I am thinking it can’t possibly get worse – the pilot comes on the speaker system and announces that we are headed back to the gate. He doesn’t think he has enough fuel left on board to safely dodge weather and have a nice margin to get to Baltimore. It is now under 60 minutes to my phone call.

After a major search of my laptop for phone numbers I call Rich who, it turns out, is in France to report that I may have a problem. I then call Carmen to let her know that it is going to be a while. She, because of the on-line system listing us on the runway, was already at the airport. We taxi back and I am one of a number of people who get off. Third in line behind a couple of business types (one get re-routed directly to Newark. I don’t have a clue why Grand Rapids to ORD to BWI to Newark, but he is pleased, the woman gets changed to a direct flight to Philly). The lovely person who is supposed to be handling the Charlotte flight puts me on the 1319 flight to BWI.

Did I mention that we left B22 and are now at F10? My outbound gate is C10…. my luggage is still on the plane and I am simply not going to worry. When I call Carmen back, she is concerned because my flight is listed as cancelled on her end. Time? This morning -flight number was highjacked from an earlier cancellation.

End result is that 10 minutes and a shuttle ride later I am sitting on the extremely hard floor of O’Hare with my laptop open, phone plugged in so that it doesn’t die in the middle of the call. Dialing in – we have a quorum and can discuss projects, software and budget projections for the next three months.

After gathering my things back together and practically crawling to the gate with a numb leg (maybe I am getting to old to sit on the floor) I am just in time to board. We pull back and start taxiing just in time to be told that the winds have changed. Once again we will be waiting till the runways are swapped and the planes in the air land in the new pattern. I turn on the phone, txt Carmen to give her a heads up. 45 minutes later we area finally off the ground with an ETA more than an hour later than planend.

Any bets on my luggage?

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